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review 2015-03-31 19:05
Review: Red Handed by Shelly Bell
Red Handed: A Benediction Novel - Shelly Bell

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

Anyone who follows my reviews at all knows that I’m not a big fan of serials, but one of the best romances I read last year was Shelly Bell’s four part romantic suspense serial, WHITE COLLARED. So naturally I was excited about reading her full length follow-up novel, RED HANDED. The previous story introduced us to the super exclusive BDSM club Benediction, and now in RED HANDED, we get to see that club’s mysterious owner Cole DeMarco find his own HEA with a woman we meet at the worst time in her relatively short but turbulent life.

Danielle Walker was still in shock after her father had gone to prison and died there soon after, apparently by his own hand. But now that Danielle’s seen her own stepmother kidnapped by the same people who’d helped send her father to jail, she has only a few short days to infiltrate the BDSM club of the only man she’d desired but could never have, Cole DeMarco. The kidnappers want whatever Cole’s hiding in his private office safe, and the kidnappers want her to get there by offering herself up to Cole as a sexual submissive trainee. So off Danielle goes into certain danger, never suspecting that what she’ll find along the way is her one true love.

Cole had known Danielle as the lovely but off-limits daughter of a man who’d gotten over his head with a dangerous crowd. Now that she’s old enough to be naked and under Cole’s control, he’s the one who’s over his head in what is definitely overwhelming sexual attraction but could also be the love he’s tried to avoid his whole life. With the impending danger to them both, there’s no time to take things slowly, and when everything Danielle believes in gets turned on its head, it’s Cole and Danielle’s love that will ultimately see both them and the reader through.

I love this author and this new series, but I’ll admit I was seriously put off by the initial premise of RED HANDED. Romantic suspense is always a bit tricky for me, as there’s only so much violence I can handle as a reader, so the opening scenes involving Danielle’s stepmother and the kidnappers’ threats were almost too intense. The idea that Danielle was being forced to participate in a 24/7 BDSM relationship under duress really didn’t sit well with me, but I continued on, trusting that the author would get me to the place where everything made sense. When that moment arrived, my relief was palpable, and my enjoyment of the story unconditional. Cole and Danielle are more than equally matched in both body and spirit, and as the story progresses, we see how their romance was inevitable in spite of the evil forces that had brought them together. The twists and turns are never too over the top, and the final HEA is well earned. If you love romantic suspense with a BDSM flavor, Shelly Bell’s Benediction series, including RED HANDED, is a must read.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=790
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review 2014-11-23 19:52
Review: Intrusion by Charlotte Stein
Intrusion: An Under the Skin Novel - Charlotte Stein
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

I have been struggling with how to write a review for Charlotte Stein’s new book INTRUSION, the first in her new Under The Skin series with Avon Impulse. It’s her first foray into romantic suspense, and if this book is any indication, the rest of the series will be more of her best work yet. Stein’s gift with combining confusing emotions with passionate and often non-traditional sexual encounters has always made her erotic romances a special delight for me. But with INTRUSION, she’s included an undercurrent of impending danger that adds a sharp edge to each and every scene even as we know something terrible is going to happen before we can enjoy its promised HEA.

There’s not much of an initial backstory for Beth or Noah, though we can sense the shared nature of their individual traumas. Each has retreated from the world in their own way, although Beth still goes out and works at a job every day, returning to an empty home she doesn’t quite trust as safe. And it’s Beth who makes the first contact in a way that’s unconventional as every other part of this mesmerizing story. What follows is easily the best romance of any subgenre that I’ve read this past year, with a perfect title and a heroine who saves both her hero and herself in more ways than one.

My struggle with this review is how to convey why this story was so amazing for me without giving away exactly what Charlotte Stein has done here. INTRUSION really needs to be read cold, without any previous indication of where it will go or how it will get there. All you should know is that any biases you might have about romantic suspense, erotic romance, or even first person present tense should be set aside, however temporarily, so you can be totally open to what Charlotte Stein offers here. And then if you’re like me when you’re done, you’ll say “What did I just read?” and “When can I have more, please?” Because I just can’t imagine reading anything better right now.
Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=742
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review 2014-09-15 01:50
99¢ Challenge Day 14 ~ Hard...to put down
Flashes of Me: An Erotic Novella (Red Avon Impulse) - Cynthia Sax

*Book source ~ Purchased at Amazon

 

Katalina is the new intern at Blaine Technologies and Henley is the Head of Security. Before Katalina even knew who he was she spied him at the local coffee shop and was immediately smitten. He was just her physical type and she wanted him, oh so bad. But it was her first day in a new city at a new job trying to make a new start. When he disappeared with his coffee she hoped she’d see him there again. She had no idea how much she’d be seeing him and as his job was Head of Security she feels bad lying about who she really is.

 

Holy shit, this is going on my favorites list! My interest was caught from the very start and didn’t wane the entire time. I resented having to put it down to go cook dinner or do anything else for that matter. That tells me more than anything else about a book and this one delivers. It is not perfectly written. There are issues with repetition. I lost track of the number of times Kat refers to Henley as scarred and a behemoth and how scary he is to everyone except her. And the character development is very shallow, there’s not a whole lot of depth to these guys to really sink my teeth into. But this story just works for me. It’s more about Katalina dealing with her grief (and her avoidance of it) than anything else. She runs away from NY to LA and unexpectedly meets Henley, a man who is perfect for her. There is grief, yes, but there is plenty of humor and steamy sexiness, too. I love it. That is all.

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2014/09/99-challenge-flashes-of-me.html
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review 2014-09-14 21:38
Hard To Hold On To by Laura Kaye
Hard to Hold On To: A Hard Ink Novella - Laura Kaye

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

HARD TO HOLD ON TO continues the story of a group of men once proud to be a part of their country’s Special Forces who were forced out under a cloud of suspicion thanks to betrayal by their own company commander. Now they are trying to clear their names while under siege by a powerful street gang determined to stop their efforts and silence them for good. Each installment in this HARD INK series advances the overall story arc while providing a romance and HEA for each member of the group. And although this particular story is much shorter than those which have preceded it, Easy and Jenna’s romance still packs an emotional punch as they discover both love and solace within each other’s arms.

Easy may have been Edward Cantrell’s nickname, but his life so far had been anything but that. The Army helped him escape the mean streets of his childhood, but when that was taken away from him the hard way, all he had left was the Ravens motorcycle club and survivor’s guilt bordering on suicidal. When he helped rescue Sara’s sister Jenna from where the Church gang had held her prisoner, he never expected it to mean more to him than helping out the woman of his good friend, Shane. But now that Jenna needs him, Easy might finally have a reason to live again, and find the love he never thought he’d deserve.

Jenna had grown up mostly ignorant of all the terrible sacrifices her sister Sara had made to keep her healthy and safe. But after being held in the same awful place where her sister had been tortured after their father’s death, Jenna isn’t taking anything for granted, especially where it concerns the man she credits for her rescue. Maybe she and Easy aren’t the most likely couple to succeed, but after her near-death experience, Jenna realizes that life’s too short not to take a chance on love. 

HARD TO HOLD ON TO upholds the great precedent of the HARD INK series with another well-written romance under pressure, made believable in spite of the otherwise implausible time constraints and reliance on an insta-lust trope. In HARD AS YOU CAN, we saw Jenna learn just how awful her sister’s life had been while she herself had only had to worry about finishing college and keeping her epilepsy under control. So when Jenna turns to Easy for support in the aftermath of her rescue, it makes a strange sort of sense in that Jenna feels like she’s already been too much of a burden for Sara. What nobody counted on, however, was the spectacular sexual chemistry between Jenna and Easy, least of all themselves. And while insta-lust may not be the best reason to pull back from the cliff of self-destruction, Laura Kaye made it work for me, with some scenes so heart-wrenching that I would have allowed the characters anything they wanted just to see them happy again. 

As much as I always want more of something good, HARD TO HOLD ON TO works well at novella length, whetting my appetite even more for the next full-length HARD INK story to come. It’s a must-read in the series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=682
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review 2014-06-25 22:51
Review: White Collared (Parts 1 - 4) by Shelly Bell
White Collared Part One: Mercy - Shelly Bell
White Collared Part 2: Greed - Shelly Bell
White Collared Part 3: Revenge - Shelly Bell
White Collared Part Four: Revenge - Shelly Bell

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist

If you read my reviews with any regularity or follow me on Twitter, you’ve already heard how I’ve soured on most serial romance novels, especially when some seem to go on forever, with a total cost well beyond the price of a comparable full-length novel. But as with so many other romance trends I claim to dislike, there is always another writer out there who can prove me wrong and make me love the thing I’m convinced is no longer for me. Today that writer is Shelly Bell and the romance serial in question is WHITE COLLARED.

Nothing I hate about most serials is here, as Shelly Bell and her publisher have done everything right. There are only four parts to this romantic suspense story. They have been released only a week apart. And each only costs 99 cents in the US. Normally I try not to let cost influence the content of my reviews (because hello, I’m often fortunate enough to get an Advance Review Copy) but when the entire story can be purchased within one month’s time for under $5 USD, I think it’s notable enough to include here as another point in its favor.

Still, just because it’s affordable and a reasonable length and you don’t have to wait months for a conclusion doesn’t mean you should go out and read it all yourself. What does mean you should go out and read WHITE COLLARED is that it’s an amazingly addictive erotic romance between two characters from entirely different worlds who meet under terrible circumstances and then must track down an unknown killer so they can live long enough to find their HEA. And when I say it’s amazingly addictive, I mean exactly that. I was given the opportunity to read the first part before deciding to review the entire story, and was hooked so completely that it was all I could do not to jump up and down until I received the other three parts the next day.

Kate Martin is a determined young lawyer with a secret past she thought she’d buried for good. She may be crushing on her handsome boss, Nick Trenton, but they both need to keep clear heads if they’re going to exonerate Nick’s good friend, Jaxon Deveroux. Jaxon’s wife has been found tortured to death in their mansion while he’s allegedly been out of town on business, so naturally he’s the only suspect. Kate first meets her new client as he’s being interrogated by the police, and he soon has her head in a spin. It’s wrong that Kate is so attracted to a man being accused of the worst sort of murder, and yet it’s all too obvious that the feeling is mutual. She knows Jaxon can’t be guilty, but if it wasn’t him, then who did it? Their deepening attraction could be as potentially fatal to Kate as the danger that threatens to engulf them both. But who wanted Jaxon’s wife dead, and why does this person seem to know so much about what Kate would like to keep hidden forever?

I’m always a bit skittish about romantic suspense stories, if only on account of so many misplacing the romance along the way, but also because I don’t have a particularly strong stomach for excessive violence. So i was even more wary about WHITE COLLARED, until I read the scene where Kate meets Jaxon in the police station. From that point on, until the very last page of Part 4, I was gone – hook, line, and sinker. Every moment, every flashback, every interaction down to the most seemingly innocuous detail is essential to the story. It seemed like both Kate and I were over our heads at first, but as she did her best to juggle her desire for Jaxon with her still-active attraction to Nick, all while working to find the real killer, I just let myself sit back and enjoy the ride. Even when I was sure I’d figured out whodunit, WHITE COLLARED wasn’t content to let me gloat in comfort, throwing a few last curve balls near the end that almost made me change my mind more than once. Best of all, when the murder mystery is solved, it still isn’t all neat and tidy, as there are more than a few villains in this story, and only one of them murdered Jaxon’s wife. WHITE COLLARED reminded me of the Glenn Close / Jeff Bridges movie “Jagged Edge” but with an entirely different sort of ending, and I loved every minute I spent reading it.

I will warn readers that there is some hardcore BDSM in this story, and a few scenes between the hero and heroine that may appear to flirt with dubious consent. But it is not torture porn by any stretch, and Kate’s consent was made obvious at least to my own satisfaction as the story progressed. If such themes are not what you prefer in your romance reading, then you should probably pass. But if you enjoy seeing good defeat evil in the middle of a white-hot sexually charged romance between a perfectly matched Dom and sub, then WHITE-COLLARED is the story for you. I hope you enjoying inhaling it in large satisfying gulps as much as I did. 5 stars for all four parts.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=617
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