The Professional: The ProfessionalThe Player by Rhonda Nelson

The Professional: The ProfessionalThe PlayerExpected Publication Date: November 1, 2012

Publisher: Harlequin

Available at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million

Synopsis: Ranger Security Investigational Files Case #125: A Retirement-Home Robber?

Notes: Jeb “The Professional” Anderson is sent undercover to investigate thefts at a seniors residence. But what happens when a sexy suspect steals his heart?

Former military man Jeb Anderson accepted a job at Ranger Security to regain some control over his life. But when he goes undercover to investigate a series of thefts at a retirement home, his number one suspect completely unravels his control…and sends his libido sky-high!

As far as massage therapist Sophie O’Brien is concerned, Jeb is infuriating. Still, she’d like nothing more than to find out just what’s underneath Jeb’s reserved exterior—and his clothes! Because if he’s half as talented as his nickname implies, letting him uncover all her secrets will be very, very satisfying….

Rating: 3 stars

Review: Just so you know this is two stories in one book and both were good.

First it starts of with Jeb and Sophie and the case of the stolen jewelry in The Professional. Now this one was very entertaining. Jeb is a retired Ranger who has some demons to deal with and Sophie is a nice girl with a painful past that enjoys taking care of her retired clientèle.

When these two meet it’s instant lust –  very palpable and very HOT. Try as she might Sophie can’t help to be drawn to Jeb and Jeb just goes with it, since he has never had that reaction to anyone. I’m not a fan of the insta-love scenario, but this is a short story and it fit and let me tell you that once you experience these two together, it won’t make a bit of difference. It also helped that it was a very funny read. These senior citizens were hilarious and very enjoyable. All in all, a hot, funny read with enough sizzling romance to makes you want more.

Then we meet Jamie and Audrey in The Player. To say that Jamie was a player is an understatement. He had a well known third-date rule and his reputation for seducing the ladies preceded him so much that his ex-Colonel called in a favor for precisely this reason.  His mission: to seduce his granddaughter Audrey and separate her from her current boyfriend.

Audrey runs a retreat for stressed professionals and it is here that the Colonel sends Jaime. Which fits, because Jaime needs to heal some wounds from his past.  Audrey has strict orders from her grandfather to treat Jaime personally and that is how these two come to be. Their interactions were very funny and their chemistry was very hot. I especially enjoyed the watercolors scene. It was too much!!!

I later found out that this book was the first in the Men Out Uniform series, but I enjoyed it so much that it didn’t make a difference. All in all, this was a sizzling, good read. I am curious to read the other books in the series.

I received this book through NetGalley and I would like to thank Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review this title.

My Kind of Christmas (Virgin River #20) by Robyn Carr

My Kind of Christmas  (Virgin River, #20)Published: October 23, 2012

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Available at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: The Riordan brothers may have a reputation for being rough-and-tumble, but Patrick has always been the gentle, sweet-natured one. These days, his easygoing manner is being tested by his high-octane career as a navy pilot. But for the Riordan brothers, when the going gets tough…the tough find the love of a good woman.

Except the woman who has caught Patrick’s attention is Jack Sheridan’s very attractive niece.

Angie LeCroix comes to Virgin River to spend Christmas relaxing, away from her well-intentioned but hovering mother. Yet instead of freedom, she gets Jack Sheridan. If her uncle had his way, she’d never go out again. And certainly not with rugged, handsome Patrick Riordan. But Angie has her own idea of the kind of Christmas she wants—and the kind of man!

Patrick and Angie thought they wanted to be left alone this Christmas—until they meet each other. Then they want to be left alone together. But the Sheridan and Riordan families have different plans for Patrick and Angie—and for Christmas, Virgin River-style!

Rating: 4 stars

Review: A very heart-warming Christmas story that will surround you with warmth and comfort, just like a big, soft, fluffy blanket you love snuggling into.

This is the story of 23-year old medical student Angie LeCroix and Navy pilot Patrick Riordan and their journey to overcome their insecurities and reach for what they really want. After recovering from a life-affirming car accident Angie decides to visit his Uncle Jack in Virgin River for the holidays. And if you have read any of the other Virgin River books, you know who Jack Sheridan is and how Virgin River welcomes those who are on a quest to discover themselves.

Patrick decides to spend his medical leave after the accident that caused his best friend’s death in his brother’s cabin in Virgin River. He is conflicted to say the least. He feels guilty that he survived and his friend didn’t and in an attempt to make amends he has gotten it in his head that he needs to take care of his wife and son and that maybe his life in the Navy is not the kind of life he wants to pursue anymore.

Their story was one of trust, of giving into their wants and just letting go and living in the moment. They’ve both been through awful events that in one way or another changed the way they saw themselves and their life. From this common ground is where their relationship blossoms. Through their laughter and humor they connected with each other easily. Neither of them went looking for love and it was a great to see how they found it, ignored their circumstances and embraced it in the end.

What I enjoyed the most was how easily they connected. I am not a fan of the ‘insta-love’ scenario, but I don’t think of their connection as such. They started this because they were attracted to each other and their chemistry was palpable from the very first moment they spoke. They had an easy way about their relationship, they knew what to expect from each other and I think it was that acceptance that made it easier to believe their story. I loved their banter and humor. Their dialog was very enjoyable and my Lord, their chemistry was off the charts.

The writing was very good, although the change in points of views included some of the secondary characters. Not enough to affect my rating, but enough to cause me confusion. Mostly, I think I forgot that in Virgin River the secondary characters have a voice too! Regardless, I enjoyed how it all played out like a soap. Where everybody got together and helped each other.

I admit that I drifted from Virgin River at the end of book 11. But after reading this title I will be going back. I forgot how much I enjoyed the sense of community, the camaraderie between the citizens, their banter and their welcoming hearts. And this book had that and more.

I received this book through NetGalley and would like to thank Harlequin for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of an honest review.

Power Play: Awakening (Power Play #2) by Rachel Haimowitz, Cat Grant

Power Play: AwakeningPublished: July 11, 2012

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Available at: Riptide, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Brandon McKinney is a man reborn. Newly awakened to the notion of consensual power exchange and the submissive urges inside him, he begs for a second chance from the man who opened his eyes to this world: Silicon Valley superstar Jonathan Watkins. But no birth is absent pain, and Brandon’s is no exception. He fears he’s not strong enough to see it through.

Jonathan knows better. He’s seen the iron core inside his new submissive, and the wounded heart inside him too. He means to teach Brandon to heal the one with the other. They have five months left on their contract, after all, and Jonathan has done more with less before.

It’s tough to stay objective, though, when you’re falling in love. Shame Brandon doesn’t feel the same. He’s only there for the three-million-dollar payout at contract’s end–a fact that Jonathan, nursing his own wounded heart, reminds himself of each day. For even as Brandon’s barriers break and his mind expands, even as he grows to love his place at Jonathan’s feet, he’ll never love life with a sadist–especially one who cannot escape the public eye.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: heavy kink.

Rating: 5 stars

Review:  So here I am. Still grinning like a fool although it’s been more than half a day that I finished reading this book.

Once again, I was riveted, emotional invested and totally riding the high while reading this book. The hurt, the hardcore scenes, the lust, the shame – all of these finally lead to the acceptance, the connection and the love that I so craved for these characters.  I cried, I laughed, I was expectant, I was angry. These authors poured all this to the page and like an addict, I’m was left still wanting more.

“I want you to fix me!”

In this book, which picks ups right after the ending of Power Play: Resistance, we get to see a different side from both characters. For once, Brandon is honest with himself and really tries to do better. He finally accepted that he had changed and that Jonathan had a hand in that and he needed his help to get through it so that he could finally let go of all his anger, his hurt and accept himself and live.  And then there’s Jonathan, finally accepting that he made mistakes. That he didn’t go about it the right way that first time and that he needed to really dig into himself and find another approach to get through to Brandon.

“It takes a strong man to fight, Brandon. But it takes a stronger man to strop fighting. Let me help you stop fighting.”

To say that they were apprehensive when they resumed their contract is an understatement. Hell, I was apprehensive myself and I was cheering for them to get it right in book one. But could Brandon learn to let go? Could he trust Jonathan enough to do that? And did Jonathan have it in him to do what was best for Brandon? All these questions were in the back of my mind. Yes, they agreed to be honest with each other, to communicate and give it their best try.  But I couldn’t help the doubts. I really didn’t see Brandon as a submissive, but then again, what the hell do I know?! I just threw myself into the book and hoped for the best.

“Don’t you know by now that I will never let you fall?”

I so loved Jonathan in this book. He gave his best to Brandon and even when he failed he acknowledged it immediately, without hesitation. I had to admire that about him. He took the lead and guided Brandon in a way that helped him become comfortable in his own skin and accept things that in the weeks prior he would have protested about. He was with him every step of the way, through the hurt and the tears, while riding the high and drowning on the lows. He melted me in ways that no other Dom I’ve read about had ever done. And I fell in love with him a little more with every passage I read.

“You make me happy, and you make me a better man. There’s no shame in that.”

Brandon, Brandon, Brandon. What can I say about him? He proved me wrong. He gave his best and in the end he won my heart. I admired his strength and perseverance throughout this journey. He fought himself every step of the way. There were times where he might have been doing all the right things outwardly in an attempt to please Jonathan, but inside he had a ranging war of emotions where shame had a starring role. It was when he accepted his needs and his desires that he really shone. It was beautiful to read how he gave himself to Jonathan. How he gave himself to the unknown and trusted Jonathan to be there to bring him out of it a better man. He gave of himself to Jonathan – for Jonathan – and it was exquisite. I cried when that happened. He went deep within himself and gave everything he had and my heart just opened up to him and accepted him in. Such strength and beauty. It was wonderful!

“Yeah, life could hurt, but it could also blow your mind, bring you more joy than you could even begin to contain.”

The writing, once again, was brilliant. The authors really put me through the ringer and left me reeling. They took each and every emotion and put in on the page in a way that I truly could connect to these characters –  feeling their pain, understanding their insecurities and needs and forgiving their failures. I got my happy ending and I still want more.

I received this title through NetGalley and would like to extend my appreciation to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book in exchange of an honest review.

Power Play: Resistance (Power Play #1) by Rachel Haimowitz, Cat Grant

Power Play: ResistancePublished: April 9, 2012

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Available at: Riptide, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Give me six months, and I’ll give you the world.

Brandon McKinney has scraped and sacrificed for what little in life he’s ever had. Though it’s been fifteen years since he escaped his father’s abuse, the damage remains. Trust seems as far out of reach as his dream of becoming an architect, and though he’s come to accept being gay, he can’t deny the shame and confusion he feels at other urges–the deeply repressed desire to submit.

Jonathan Watkins is a self-made Silicon Valley billionaire whose ex-wife took half his money and even more of his faith. Comfortable as a Dominant but wary of being hurt again, he resorts to anonymous pickups and occasional six-month contracts with subs seeking only a master, not a lover.

When a sizzling back-alley encounter cues Jonathan in to Brandon’s deep-seated submissive side, he makes the man an offer: Give me six months of your life, and I’ll open your eyes to a whole new world. Brandon doesn’t care about that; all he wants is the three million dollars Jonathan’s offering so he can buy the construction company he works for. But he soon learns that six months on his knees is no easy feat, and shame and pride may keep him from all he ever wanted-and all he never dreamed he had any right to have.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains heavy kink. While consent is clearly established and frequently reaffirmed, some moments in Power Play push hard against the outer edges of consent.

Rating: 5 stars

Review: First off, this is not a book for everyone. Do keep the publisher’s warning in mind if you’re considering this book. It is certainly not a light read. It is positively not a romantic read. It is an amazing, overwhelming read. It touched me in ways I never thought a BDSM book could. It grabbed me from beginning to end. It was intense, emotional, utterly fascinating and everything in between.

In no way do I consider myself a knowledgeable person in anything concerning the BDSM lifestyle so keep in mind that what you are about to read are only my opinions and thoughts on this book, its characters and its writing. Does it depict a fair and realistic view of the lifestyle? Hell if I know! It’s fiction and entertaining, at least for me. So here I go.

“The world sucks. It hurts. It swallows you fucking whole, pukes you back up and does it again.”

Brandon has had a hard life and has made something of himself all on his own. He keeps to himself, works hard and tries to work on his dream. So when the opportunity to make that dream come true arose, he went full out to get it. Did he think it through enough? Did he fully know what he was getting into? These are some of the questions that have been coming up in review sites. But for me, it doesn’t matter. He knew what he wanted. He went after it no matter the cost. Was it fair? Consensual? Abuse? Torture? The answers vary from reader to reader. For me it was what it was. Brandon was not misinformed. He had the opportunity to educate himself, ask questions and set limits. He consented. Be it in the form of a signed contract or just by not using his safe word or walking out. For me it was not abuse nor torture. Yes, the scenes were hardcore. He was beaten and humiliated and a whole other set of things. But he was given the choice. And he kept making the wrong one.

“Learning to trust someone like that, so deeply, so completely. Learning to move past your strongest barriers, face your deepest fears…It would change your life, Brandon. And not just because of the money waiting for you at the end.”

As for Jonathan, I think that he suffered also. A self-confessed sadist who tried at every turn to get Brandon to submit to him, Jonathan’s part in this journey was very complicated. He has been painted as an abuser by some, unrecognized as a Dom by most. But was he? I don’t know if he was a Dom or not. It’s not my place to say. But he was not an abuser. He was very clear on what he wanted from Brandon – total submission. He saw something in him that he felt he could enhance and bring to the surface. Was he mistaken? Most likely. I don’t see Brandon as a submissive person. Just like I don’t see Jonathan as an abuser. Yes he took great pleasure in inflicting pain, but he was very tender and very caring to Brandon, when Brandon pleased him. He also questioned himself and wanted Brandon to experience the best of the lifestyle. He wanted him to let go, to trust, to open himself to a new world and just LET GO.

“It’s all right to let go, Brandon. It’s all right to want. You don’t have to be on guard all the time.”

In all honesty, I cried and laughed throughout the book. Yes, laughed. Brandon knew what he had to do yet he kept being stubborn and doing his damndest to test Jonathan. Did he suffer? Hell yeah, he did. But he could have avoided it. Was it painful reading what he went through? Of course it was. I DO have a heart. I cried with him, I laughed at his outbursts and his inner rants and in the end I was yelling for him to safeword, to get out of Dodge. To claim his dues and get on with his life if he could. But he was so proud. So unwilling to let go of that hard won pride, the one he had to build for himself alone in the world at such a young age, he held onto it, time and time again. And that pride was what brought in the shame – in himself, his desires, his needs. For me, it was the shame, along with his pride that made it all so hard and painful.

” Shame has no place in these walls. This, here, now? Is all about your pleasure. Embrace it. Let it wash over you. Be strong enough to be helpless to it, to succumb to it, to revel in it.”

The authors, Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant, outdid themselves. I thought the writing was excellent. Every scene carefully thought out, every word deliberately placed, every emotion described for its utmost impact. The characters were complex and exactly what the story demanded. The reactions, the outbursts, the submission, the sex and the dialog worked seamlessly together to bring this story of need and want and pain and hurt to the page.

It left me reeling, apprehensive, anticipating – it made me want more. Yes, I wanted more. I wanted them to get through this, stay together in this journey of self-discovery and acceptance. I wanted them to connect, to find what they both were looking for and to find it with each other. Am I willing to continue to see Brandon being beaten and broken down? In a heartbeat. Because when he went there, when he first let go and accepted it, albeit for the wrong reasons, it was beautiful. Can you imagine how it could be if Brandon truly let go? If he gave himself to the unknown and trust Jonathan to catch him and guide him through it? I think it would be an amazing read. So with that being said, I bid you farewell and happy reading. I’ll already be immersed in book 2 as you are reading this.

“Submission is strength. Willpower. Iron control. It’s trust, and relaxation, and rest, and pleasure.”

I would like to thank NetGalley and Riptide Publishing for allowing me to read and review this fascinating title in exchange of an honest review. I truly appreciate it.

Need by Todd Gregory

NeedPublished: October 30, 2012

Publisher: Kensington Books

Available at: Kensington Publishing Corp (print), Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: On the sultry streets of New Orleans, you can indulge every desire. Even when what you crave is blood.

As far as the mortal world knows, Cord Logan died two years ago. In reality, he stalks the French Quarter, searching for victims. Cord knew that coming back to New Orleans would be risky now that he’s broken with the fraternity of vampires who first claimed him. But a chance encounter with an old friend triggers unexpected desire, and reveals a lethal curse that endangers not just his kind, but all of humanity.

Cord’s quest to break the curse leads him on a journey of carnal self-discovery and deep into the bayous. Here, where magic reigns unchecked, Cord must tap into his dark, unpredictable abilities and all his seductive powers. And if he fails, he’ll have all eternity to regret it…

Rating: 2.5 stars

Review: First, I love, love, love the cover. It’s essentially what drew me to the book in the first place. However, I am sadden to say that this time it did not work as well as so many times before. This was a hard book to get through and I am sorry to say that I even considered shelving it as ‘Did Not Finish’. What really saved it from my ‘DNF’ shelf was the addition of some new characters and a very interesting ending saved it from a 1 star rating.

I will go a different route on this one and just make a list of the Pros and Cons, since I don’t want to give too much away and there are some things that are best kept quiet:

Pros:

1. A very interesting storyline that involved a fairly new made vampire who struggles with his place on his new world and distances himself from his maker and the discovery and journey into the breaking of a curse.

2. The addition of Nightwatchers Rachel and Nigel who come in to help Cord out and point out that he is cursed.

3. Great supernatural world of witches and curses at work in New Orleans.

4. Cord’s characters develops from a young, naive vampire to a more matured one at the end of the book.

5. Very interesting ending that has the potential for a series. There were events that gave me the idea that there will be more books.

Cons:

1. Cord’s voice can be too much at times. He goes on and on to the point where I wanted to skip ahead.

2. This is not a Romance, although it it categorized as such. Which is why I picked it in the first place.

3. There is A LOT of sex. Much of it was unnecessary since I didn’t think it added to the story of Cord’s journey into the breaking of the curse.

4. Cord comes off as very immature. He makes rash decisions and thinks about the consequences after the fact. That is why his development made a difference to me.

5. The narration constantly shifts from present day to past events without a clear distinction between the two. I tried to keep up but it became too overwhelming at times.

6. A lot of my confusion could have been avoided if the blurb would have mentioned that this book is based on a previous short story of the author, Todd Gregory, where Sebastian makes his appearance and from where some of the backstory came from.

The book was not a total loss, actually it had a lot going for it. I am curious to see if there will be more books to come. I have read many a series where the first book was good enough to pique my interest and then the others were great follow-ups. I hope that is the case with this one. The writing was good, even if the pace and some of the narrative dragged in places. There was action and a very interesting world of witches and curses that made up for the romance I was expecting. Like I said before, the sex was excessive but at least it was hot. I just missed the connection of the participants.

I think that without my expectations of romance and my lack of knowledge that this was based on a short story I could have enjoyed it more. But all in all, an okay paranormal read with enough of an interesting storyline to keep you guessing and a good ending to pick up another book if there were more to come.

I received this title through NetGalley from Kensington Books in exchange of an honest review.

One Small Thing (One Thing #1) by Piper Vaughn, M.J. O’Shea

One Small Thing (One Thing, #1)Published: May 4, 2012

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Available at: Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: “Daddy” is not a title Rue Murray wanted, but he never thought he’d have sex with a woman either. Now he’s the unwitting father of a newborn named Alice. Between bartending and cosmetology school, Rue doesn’t have time for babies, but he can’t give her up. What Rue needs is a babysitter, and he’s running out of options. He’s on the verge of quitting school to watch Alice himself when he remembers his reclusive new neighbor, Erik.

Erik Van Nuys is a sci-fi novelist with anxiety issues to spare. He doesn’t like people in general, and he likes babies even less. Still, with his royalties dwindling, he could use the extra cash. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of manny—and even more reluctantly, he finds himself falling for Alice and her flamboyant father.

Rue and Erik are as different as two people can be, and Alice is the unlikeliest of babies, but Rue has never been happier than when Alice and Erik are by his side. At least, not until he receives an offer that puts all his dreams within reach and he’s forced to choose: the future he’s always wanted, or the family he thought he never did.

Rating: 4.25 stars

Review: Sweetness! That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this book. Just a great pile of gooey sweetness sprinkled with a few nuts along the way to make the enjoyment ever more worthwhile.

This is the story of Rue, a bar tending cosmetology student, who dreams of making it big in West Hollywood. He is an admitted slut, who only tops and leaves his lovers behind without another thought. One night he gets an unexpected visit from his “girl-periment” and finds himself accepting custody of his baby girl. After all is said and done, Rue finds himself in a bind. How is he supposed to go to school during the day and bar tend at night while caring for his baby? In comes Erik,  the new tenant in Rue’s building. Adorable and totally reclusive Erik who you just want to wrap up in your arms and shelter him from the world. He is a 27-seven year old Gatorade-guzzling, Star Wars fan who writes for a living. Can they be more different?

When I first read about Erik, my mind wondered how in the hell the author would bring these two very different guys together and make it work. They were total opposites. Where Rue was outspoken, Erik was shy. Where Rue was flamboyant and a slut, Erik hadn’t been kissed EVER. Their only common ground would have to be Alice, and that only happened after Erik accepted the babysitting job.  So I was skeptical, to say the least.

Well, kudos to the authors. They managed to bring it all together nicely. My only concern would have to be that both Erik and Rue could have been developed a bit more. I would have loved to know the cause of Erik anxieties and Rue’s reason for never having a relationship. However, this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. I loved how they eventually got together. They really bonded as friends first, which put Erik at ease and made it easier for me to accept the fact that he went ahead into a relationship with Rue even though he was lacking experience in the romance department. It also helped that Rue questioned his all consuming attraction to Erik. He second guessed himself about his feelings and tried to forget about it which made their getting together all that more believable.

Aside from Rue and Erik there was Dustin. He has been Rue’s best friend for years and makes a great addition to this quirky family. He was adorable and funny and totally had the best of advice for both Erik and Rue. I really enjoyed getting to know him and I am definitely looking forward to his story.

The writing was very good,  filled with humor and banter and some angst and drama to make it a well rounded story. All the elements that make a great read for me. The characters were amazing, their dialog was interesting and the tender moments shared by them were great. I enjoyed their interactions with Alice, since it showed a different side of each character. I really enjoyed the intimate moments between Rue and Erik because they showed their connection. For me, those moments weren’t just about the physical, but more about the emotional connection these two guys had found with each other. Yeah, I’m a sap. I know.

This was a great book to read and I’m glad that I don’t have to wait long for the next book to come out. I enjoyed Dustin a great deal and I think his HEA is overdue. Just a couple more days to go!

I would like to thank NetGalley and Dreamspinner Press for the opportunity of reading and reviewing this title.

Who We Are (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #2) by TJ Klune

Who We Are (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #2)Published: April 26, 2012

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Available at:  Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis:  Bear, Otter, and the Kid survived last summer with their hearts and souls intact. They’ve moved into the Green Monstrosity, and Bear is finally able to admit his love for the man who saved him from himself.

But that’s not the end of their story. How could it be?

The boys find that life doesn’t stop just because they got their happily ever after. There’s still the custody battle for the Kid. The return of Otter’s parents. A first trip to a gay bar. The Kid goes to therapy, and Mrs. Paquinn decides that Bigfoot is real. Anna and Creed do… well, whatever it is Anna and Creed do. There are newfound jealousies, the return of old enemies, bad poetry, and misanthropic seagulls. And through it all, Bear struggles to understand his mother’s abandonment of him and his brother, only to delve deeper into their shared past. What he finds there will alter their lives forever and help him realize what it’ll take to become who they’re supposed to be.

Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.

Rating: 5 stars

Review:  What a roller coaster! I loved every single word I read.

Bear, Otter and the Kid have settled quite nicely in their new home and are trying to adjust to their new life as a family –  living and loving together. Bear continues being the same old Papa Bear. Insecure, funny, adorable, with crazy ass ramblings and totally dedicated to the Kid. Otter is even more lovable with his tender words, his understanding and devotion to Bear and the Kid and his strength and fierce protectiveness of what he considers his. And the Kid? Hehe! He was hilarious, opinionated, vulnerable, sarcastic and a joy to read.

“For better or worse, this is us. For all of our wrongs and for all of our rights, this is us.”

Once again I got sucked into this family’s story. Bear’s ramblings, as only he could do, were filled with every little thought imaginable. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at some of the most outrageous ones. My favorite includes a girl named Tiffani, the ‘MMMBop’ song and the Kid going to college – need I say more?

And Lord how I cried FOR him when he had doubts about himself and the world around him. And there was a moment when I cried WITH him, when I felt his pain and his sorrow. But from that moment forward I came to admire him even more. He was determined to be the strong one, to be there for his family and he stood for himself and his family beautifully.

I also enjoyed his talks with ‘It’, which made me feel even more connected to him since some of those negative thoughts have been in my mind also at one time or another. Those dark thoughts of expecting the worst, that you don’t deserve to be happy and that you’re not good enough. I’ve had them at times and I’m sure some of you have too.

The writing this time around didn’t surprise me and truthfully I embraced it, since it added to Bear’s state of mind. The emotions were easily palpable and the humor was hilarious. The connection between the characters was a joy to read. Mrs. Paquinn, Anna and Creed were a treat to revisit. Only Mrs. Paquinn can refer to sex as “catching the the ol’ kielbasa in the bun” at the dinner table and get away with it. I even enjoyed the new additions, Dominic and Isaiah, they brought out a different side to the Kid and Bear.

There was drama, romance, banter, humor and angst – I felt pulled in all kinds of directions and I loved it. I hope that TJ Klune continues with a spin-off with the Kid’s story because I enjoyed these characters too much to let them go without another word  and dammit the Kid deserves his very own happy ending especially after that Epilogue!

“If I could have you remember anything from our time together, it would be that it’s not about where you come from. It’s about who you are.”

I would like to thank NetGalley and Dreamspinner Press for giving me the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange for an honest review.

Bear, Otter, and the Kid (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #1) by TJ Klune

Bear, Otter, and the KidPublished: August 12, 2011

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Available at: Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Three years ago, Bear McKenna’s mother took off for parts unknown with her new boyfriend, leaving Bear to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson, aka the Kid. Somehow they’ve muddled through, but since he’s totally devoted to the Kid, Bear isn’t actually doing much living—with a few exceptions, he’s retreated from the world, and he’s mostly okay with that. Until Otter comes home.

Otter is Bear’s best friend’s older brother, and as they’ve done for their whole lives, Bear and Otter crash and collide in ways neither expect. This time, though, there’s nowhere to run from the depth of emotion between them. Bear still believes his place is as the Kid’s guardian, but he can’t help thinking there could be something more for him in the world… something or someone.

Rating: 5 stars

Review:

– February 13, 2012.

I loved it!!! I loved the Kid (everyone should have a brother like him!), loved Otter and I adored Bear. Of course, the whole cast of characters were amazing and the story full of emotions and twists and… just amazing! I laughed, cried, yelled and even at times just stopped reading. I was that pissed!

– October 17, 2012 (re-read)

This is the story of Bear and Otter and the Kid. It’s filled with humor, drama, inner ramblings, heartache, bonding, family, friends and everything in between. I cried, I laughed, I was angry and in the end I was grinning from ear to ear. AGAIN!!!

My heart went out to each of these characters and I loved them as if they were a part of my family. Bear, so young yet with so much weight on his shoulders. How can you not feel for him when at 17-years old he finds himself caring for his brother? Not because of any tragic accident or horrible turn of events. No, simply because his mother ran off, leaving behind a badly written note, a power of attorney and a couple of hundred dollars. My heart broke for him. Being a single mother of three I cannot imagine how scared he must have been and I admire the courage he found within himself to make it work and raise such a wonderful little boy as the Kid.

Of course, Otter was adorable and amazing too. His strength and his devotion to Bear even when they weren’t together said a lot about his character and I think that is why I liked him from the get go. What he goes through to finally get together with Bear and the events afterwards, just about killed me. And the Kid, well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t mind a little boy like him. Smart and outspoken in his views, but so vulnerable and and fragile too. He has seen to much and been through too much for me not to want to hold him close and shelter him.

All the secondary characters were amazing too. I don’t even want to consider them secondary because they really added to the story. Anna, Bear’s girlfriend, was a very understanding young woman who understood what Bear needed and when. Creed, Otter’s younger brother and Bear’s best friend, was everything you would expect from a brother. And well Mrs. Paquinn, she was the grandma you always wanted. She would come up with the funniest things at times as well as be very supportive and understanding at others.

The writing was very good. I got a bit confused there at the start but then caught on the author’s, TJ Klune, writing style and didn’t mind at all. Like I mentioned before, this book is filled with a wide array of emotions that had me reading it all in one sitting. I enjoyed Bear’s voice. It felt real and helped me connect to him even more. The Kid’s dialog was outrageous and funny as hell. And Otter? Well, his words were so tender and emotional that I melted every time.

This was and continues to be an awesome read. I can’t wait to read the next book, Who We Are, which is the reason behind this re-read. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the characters and the writing style so that it doesn’t take me by surprise again.

Soul Seducer by Alicia Dean

Soul SeducerSynopsis: She spent her entire life fighting death. Now she’s falling in love with him. . . .

Audra Grayson became a nurse in order to help save lives. But one night after a brutal beating, she almost loses her own. The near-death experience opens a door between the world of the living and the world beyond. Two Grim Reapers invade her life. One is charming, with the angelic blond looks of a saint and the black soul of a psychopath. The other is dark, dangerously attractive and, in spite of her distaste for his reaper duties, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to him.

When Audra’s patients begin to die unexpectedly and her loved ones are threatened, she will risk her life—even her soul—to save them. But can she risk her heart to an inhuman being whose very purpose is to take those she is trying to save?

Rating: 2.5 stars

Review: This was a hard read for me for the sole reason that I could not connect with Audra at all. To me, she came across as a demanding woman who did not know what she wanted. First, she was in love with her ex-husband, then she’s in lust with Dimitri but still goes out with Shane who is clearly interested in her. What’s more, she doesn’t want to ‘see’ Dimitri and dismissed him, but then is calling for him and expects him to run when she calls. Really?

Anyway, I could easily connect with Dimitri and even felt sorry for him in a couple of scenes. He was such a tortured soul and he really cared about Audra. I even liked Gaylen. He was interesting in a evil sort of way. I understood where his hatred for Dimitri came from and why he wanted revenge. Except for Cassie, another reaper, I really did not care for the other characters. Even Audra’s best friend was selfish and demanding!

I found the pace to be a bit slow, especially since Audra’s inner ramblings sometimes tended to go off point and didn’t add anything to the story. There were a lot of other side stories that made it hard for me to concentrate on the main plot. Some added to the story, others took away from it. The plot resolution was nicely handled but I think that the ending came a bit sudden. I would have loved to read an Epilogue if only to know how these two went about living their life together.

The romance side of the story was just okay for me. There was this one scene that was really hot and went with the story nicely. But of course, Audra had to go and ruin it for me. Sometimes I couldn’t see the connection between Audra and Dimitri, there wasn’t anything overtly emotional in their dialog, no humor and other than that first scene, the chemistry wasn’t palpable to me.

I really wanted to like this book since the concept the author, Alicia Dean, came up with was different and very interesting. It could have gone in a lot of directions and well, at least for me, it didn’t live up to my expectations. It is not a bad book or poorly written, I just think that Audra could have been presented in a more likable way and the romance explored further. All in all, an okay book.

I received this book as part of the R2R (Read to Review) program in the group Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Fanatics! and would like to thank them for giving me the opportunity to read and review this title.

Babycakes (Cupcake Club #3) by Donna Kauffman

Babycakes (Cupcake Club, #3) Published:October 30th, 2012

Publisher: Kensington Books

Available at: Kensington Publishing Corp  Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Books-a-Million

Synopsis: Molten Chocolate…Cinnamon Spice…Gingerbread…Old-Fashioned Vanilla…You can’t stop at just one.

And the women of the Cupcake Club love to indulge…

Kit Bellamy was raised on pie. Mamie Sue’s Peanut Pies, to be exact, the family company her scheming brother-in-law sold out from under her. Now Kit needs a new recipe for her life—and sleepy Sugarberry Island is the first ingredient. Running mail-order cupcake business Babycakes is a chance to get her baking on again—until she meets tall, dark, and adorable lawyer Morgan Westlake. New to the island to raise his goddaughter, he’s as mouthwatering as any of Kit’s creations. It’s just her luck that he’s the spawn of the very law firm that helped crush her dreams…

Fortunately, Kit’s new friends can assure her that Morgan is no typical Westlake—and that even lawyers, not to mention single dads, need romance. If Kit can just be persuaded to follow her appetite—and set another place at her holiday table—her sweetest dreams just might come true…

Rating: 4 stars

Review: I picked this book because after reading the blurb I thought this would be a great, light read and it was. However, I failed to notice that it was the third book of a series. I figured it out while I was reading the book because the author kept giving a lot of back story into the two previous couples. You really don’t need to read the two previous books in order to read this one, but the characters involved in those books are very interesting and I’m sure I would have liked reading their stories. You see, I have a mild case of OCD regarding series and their order, so I am a little bit disappointed but not enough for it to affect my overall rating. I just wanted to let you know in case you are a series freak like me. 😉

The story started slow. Very slow. It took me a couple of days just to get past the first chapter. I’m sure the author, Donna Kauffman, was just trying to let the reader know about the past events in Kit’s life and how she got to be in the situation she was currently in, but to me it felt a bit much. And the same can be said about Morgan’s first narration piece. It was overwhelming for me to keep up. The only difference was that in Morgan’s case I was already invested in the story, so it was easier to bear.

That said, the interaction between these two was great to read. They were amazing characters. Kit was your typical apprehensive young woman who wanted to make something of herself first before getting into a relationship. And Morgan was a funny, caring uncle who suddenly found himself as a single dad to his niece and instantly charmed by Kit. Their connection felt real and believable, which helped the story a lot. There were doubts and hesitation as well as moments of complete abandon between them. What I enjoyed the most was their dialog. It was very amusing, filled with a lot of banter and flirting. The secondary characters added to the story as well. I especially liked Franco and Lily, they were adorable.

The romance side of the story was very good too. When these two first kissed it was amazing. I could feel their passion and their hesitation. And when they finally came together it was everything I imagined it would be. The author really did time it perfectly and wrote it beautifully.

“I want to revel in you.”

Again, it felt very real – there was humor, passion, lust and hesitation. Making their first time together very believable. And after that? Uff, just excellent. There was this one scene…Well you will just have to read about it for yourself. I’ll just say that it was hot and funny and totally unexpected.

This is the first book I read by Donna Kauffman and I think it will not be the last if her others are anything like this one. Light, funny and filled with great characters and amazing romance.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange for an honest review.