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review 2014-07-29 23:02
Review: Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl
Looking for Trouble - Victoria Dahl
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Alex Bishop spent too much of his life in a nightmare that started the day his no-good father ran off with a neighbor lady, never to return. Alex’s mother was already in a precarious mental state, but being abandoned by her husband pushed her over that ragged edge into something close to full-blown madness. After finally finishing school even as his mother would attempt to drag him and his brother around on wild hunts for their missing father, Alex moved away and planned to stay gone for good. But when his brother contacted him about the discovery of his missing father’s body, Alex knew he had to come back to town just one more time before he could shake the dust of Jackson Hole, Wyoming off his boots forever.

Sophie Heyer has lived most of her life in a nightmare that started the day her no-good mother ran off with Alex Bishop’s father, leaving a husband and two children in a town that would never let the scandal completely die away. It took years for Sophie to trust that her stepfather would never kick her out, but even now she still tries to do everything for him and her brother in a never-ending attempt to prove herself worthy of their love. Now Alex’s mother has resurrected the years-old gossip with a misguided attempt at a memorial service for her late husband, making Sophie’s life a fresh hell to bear. But when the woman who won’t leave falls for the man who can’t stay, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether scorching sexual chemistry between a couple who should never have met can turn into something more.

This was my first visit to Victoria Dahl’s small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but after LOOKING FOR TROUBLE it won’t be the last. So many small town romances focus only on idyllic and charming features of that genre, but as we see here, a small town also has a long memory, especially when its citizens behave in highly inappropriate ways. Alex and Sophie were both deeply damaged by the behavior of their respective parents, but they reacted in completely opposite ways. Yet what we see in LOOKING FOR TROUBLE is that when two people really love each other, they also try to be honest with each other, especially when they see the person they love making a huge mistake. It was just as bad for Sophie to ignore her own desires for a life away from Jackson Hole as it was for Alex to ignore his family’s need for him to visit and be a part of their lives. When Alex and Sophie first met, it was sex they had in common. And even though it was amazing mind-blowing sex, both of them still needed to grow up before they could even consider seeing each other again, let alone plan a possible future together. Their slow but convincing character growth is the core of a rather interesting story about old scandals and new beginnings. That’s what made LOOKING FOR TROUBLE both an entertaining and touching romance for me, and it’s why I’ll be going back to read Victoria Dahl’s other books in the Jackson Hole world as well.

 

Source: romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com/2014/07/reviewedbymichele-lookingfortrouble-victoriadahl.html
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review 2014-06-25 22:32
Review: Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews
Scandalize Me - Caitlin Crews

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance

SCANDALIZE ME is the second full-length book in the Fifth Avenue series, where each story takes place in a continuing timeline of how those who lost their friend Sarah Michaels to suicide ten years earlier are now working together to avenge her death by bringing down the man who caused it. You could try to read this book as a standalone, but I wouldn’t recommend it. 

Hunter had once loved Sarah, once intended to marry her, but they had split up just before she’d jumped off the roof of a NYC skyscraper on Christmas Eve. Now it’s ten years later, and Hunter is doing his best imitation of a man punishing himself for a death he couldn’t prevent. Zoe was a victim of the same man who had pushed Sarah to suicide, but she has managed to survive by focusing on her plan for revenge. Hunter will be the perfect tool for her retribution, but what will they do when their shared need to settle the score conflicts with their growing need for each other?

I was quite impressed by AVENGE ME, the first book in this series by Maisey Yates, and am happy to say that Caitlin Crews has continued that perfect mix of romance and suspense in SCANDALIZE ME. As terrible as it was to find out what had happened to Sarah, it was even more so when Zoe became the face of all the victims still alive and suffering from what had been done to them by a man still beloved by the public. But Hunter has been a victim in his own way as well, and it’s only when Zoe makes him an accessory to her devious plans that he, too, can begin to find some peace from his past and take positive steps toward a happier future for them both, if only she’ll have him.

The ability of these two characters to find love in the middle of all the sadness and horror is remarkable, and the way Caitlin Crews balances romance with tragedy is pitch perfect. SCANDALIZE ME shows how choosing to live in the face of such monstrosity is still better than the alternative, and how that decision can lead you to a love more powerful than evil. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time, and sets up what should be a fantastic conclusion of the overall story in EXPOSE ME, the final book in the Fifth Avenue series.


Favorite Quote:

“Be my equal, the woman who knows that if she’s damaged, then Jesus Christ, so am I. Be worth feeling all of this crap, Zoe.” He could taste the ferocity on his own lips, copper like blood. “I want you, not whatever this is, that you can hide behind when it gets tough. You’re not a martyr and I’m not a hero. Let’s be who we are.”

Source: romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com/2014/06/reviewedbymichele-scandalizeme-caiitlincrews.html
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review 2014-04-15 01:39
Review: Bound To Be A Groom by Megan Mulry
Bound to Be a Groom - Megan Mulry

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Although I’m a big fan of Megan Mulry’s contemporary romances, this is my first time reading one of her historical romances, but if BOUND TO BE A GROOM is any indication, I’ll be adding them all to my To Be Read list. This book featured something I haven’t seen too often in erotic romance, and especially in historical erotic romance: a true MMFF polyamorous relationship. And to her credit, Megan Mulry made it work for me in this unusual context, although I’ll include the disclaimer that what I know about the year 1808 in Spain and England would fit on a grain of rice.

As our story begins, we meet Anna Redondo, the unacknowledged by-blow of her mother’s affair with a visiting English diplomat while still married to the Conde de Floridablanca. Anna has been locked away in a Spanish convent for most of her life, now newly released to attend her friend Isabella’s wedding. Then it’s off to a lifetime of servitude as a lady’s maid in the King of Spain’s court. Anna has other plans for her future, and they all involve Pia, her best friend in the convent and secret lover. Anna intends to become a noted courtesan to raise the money to keep herself and Pia together forever, but needs to learn the ways of men (and rid herself of her pesky virginity). So when a handsome man catches her eye in an all-too-knowing way, Anna presses her advantage, and changes her future forever.

Sebastian de Montizon didn’t expect to find his future bride at the wedding of his friend Javier de la Mina, but when a sweet little convent girl turned out to be the Domme of his dreams, how could Sebastian possibly resist? He’ll do anything to keep her happy, including sending for Pia to be an essential member of their new household. But when the three meet up in England with Lord Farleigh, a mysterious duke from Sebastian’s past, can their unconventional relationship expand by one more without ruining what they already have together?

The one word description that came to mind when I finished reading BOUND TO BE A GROOM was voluptuous. This book is all about sensual pleasure in a way not often found outside of erotica proper (as opposed to erotic romance, which this most definitely is). There isn’t too much worry about whether each additional member of this polyamorous relationship will be able to fit in properly, but there doesn’t really need to be, either. It helps that there are clearly two Dominants and two submissives in the mix, and that no lasting jealousy ever rears its head as they try out various pairings and positions. The only time I even briefly questioned its plausibility was when Farleigh’s mother was so understanding about his proclivities, but hey, she’s a mother who loves her son dearly, so why not? I’m not going to look too closely when the interactions between the two heroes and heroines are as interesting and well-written as these, with an elevated sexual excitement that (figuratively) steamed up my Kindle. Even the prerequisite baby epilogue (another detail that differentiates this from regular erotica) provided a lovely end to the story without losing its innate naughtiness to standard romance conventionality. I can only hope there will be more adventures to come in this unique series, as I’d love to read them all.


Favorite Quote:

“Anna...”

“Yes, darling? You like that, don’t you?” She tapped the crop a few times against her palm, testing its resistance.

“Yes,” he whispered.

“What a fine instrument you are.” He wasn’t sure if she was talking to the crop or to him.

Then she began.

Source: romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com/2014/04/reviewedbymichele-boundtobeagroom-meganmulry.html
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review 2014-03-28 21:55
Review: Night of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle
Night of Pleasure (School of Gallantry #4) - Delilah Marvelle

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Delilah Marvelle’s School of Gallantry series has been sitting on my insanely large To Be Read list for quite some time now, but it took the opportunity of doing this review to finally get me to take the plunge with NIGHT OF PLEASURE. I knew that in each book, there would be a visit (or two) at some point to the aforementioned school, but that they all could be read as stand-alone stories. And based on how much I enjoyed this fourth book in the series, I know I’ll be going back to binge read them all very soon.

We first meet the hero and heroine of NIGHT OF PLEASURE on the same day they meet each other for the first time. That day turned out to be both the best and worst day of young Derek Holbrook’s life. It was the best because he met the woman destined to one day become his wife; it was the worst because only moments later, he lost his beloved father to a previously undisclosed illness. Derek had been taught by his father that it was always better to show a happy face to others, never revealing true emotion, but after that man breathed his last, Derek (now Viscount Banfield) could only sob in his new fiancée’s arms.

Clementine Grey spent the majority of her childhood attempting to parent her own father while trying to stay alive amidst all the political violence surrounding him as a man of worldwide influence and stature. Clementine’s confused memories about the angry conflicts between her parents before her mother’s death have spawned unhealthy notions about what a true marriage would be to any man, convincing her that she should never marry if it meant bringing a child into a similarly dysfunctional household. Still, Clementine wouldn’t have to confront that problem until years from now, when she’s old enough to marry Derek.

Suddenly it’s eight years later, and Derek is all but swooning at the prospect of finally having the lovely Clementine as his own. This marriage was arranged by their fathers to provide money for the Banfield estate and a reliable husband for Clementine, but Derek is certain Clementine is just as much in love with him as he is with her. When she finally arrives for the wedding, only to assert that she intends to leave him for another man she considers merely a friend, Derek is understandably distraught. When he realizes she will not be swayed, he then convinces her to give him just one night with her, a night where they can be intimate with each other in the way he had dreamed of all those years apart. But it’s only when the night is over that the true story between Derek and Clementine will begin in earnest.

Because NIGHT OF PLEASURE was my first book in the School of Gallantry series, I wasn’t sure when to expect that institution to become a part of the plot. But as I was pulled more deeply into Derek and Clementine’s tumultuous romance, I forgot all about the School and just let myself enjoy the beauty of Delilah Marvelle’s writing. Derek is a lot like an overeager puppy when it comes to his love for Clementine, and rightfully feels like he’s been kicked in the teeth when he’s hit with the reality of her decision to leave him. Never mind that the reasoning behind her goal is flawed, never mind that they really don’t know each other all that well to begin with, even after eight years of written correspondence. The fact remains that Derek has been patient for far too long, and refuses to be denied at the very moment that should be ending his lonely wait. Meanwhile, Clementine finally understands the consequences of her plan to abandon Derek at the altar, including just how much her fortune is needed to support all the people who depend on him for their living. Her growing guilt prods her into agreeing to Derek’s single request before her departure. That night Derek and Clementine spend together provides a starting point in the path to their ultimate reconciliation, but it takes the fortuitous appearance of the School of Gallantry to gently instruct them in exactly what they need to enjoy a truly happy life together.

What I enjoyed the most about NIGHT OF PLEASURE was how the path to true love between Derek and Clementine was never easy or predictable, but it was always deeply satisfying, from the mixed emotions of its opening, through its twists and turns, and ending with its passionate and touching conclusion. I’m pleased to add Delilah Marvelle to my must-read historical romance writer list and I’m looking forward to savoring each of the previous School of Gallantry books in anticipation of the next one to come.


Favorite Quote:

By God. The girl who had once wiped away his tears had come to wipe them away again when he least expected it. He wanted to grab her and kiss her and smother her with every emotion he’d ever held within.

Only they were in a church, and the violins had stopped and people were staring.

“God love you,” he rasped. “God love you for astounding me.”

Source: romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com/2014/03/reviewedbymichele-nightofpleasure-delilahmarvelle.html
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review 2014-03-22 19:56
Review: Twisted by Emma Chase
Twisted - Emma Chase

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes For The Love Of Romance.

When I was approved to review TWISTED, I was so happy that I think I actually squealed. TANGLED was one of my favorite books of 2013 and this first sequel was near the top of my most anticipated reads for this year. But now that I’ve read TWISTED, and had some time to ponder my reactions to it, all I can do for that previous version of me is pat her on the hand and make vaguely sympathetic noises. To say I felt blindsided by TWISTED is an understatement. How about sucker-punched? Betrayed? Enough about me - let’s talk about the book.

The original conceit of TANGLED was its funny and touching 1st person POV of Drew Evans, an admitted manwhore who met his match in the only woman he’d wanted who had actually turned him down. Drew was a winning character in spite of all his shortcomings, and in their story told entirely from his side, we got to see the initial surface dislike he and Kate had shared slowly give way to a genuine romance, complete with a sweet and touching Happy For Now.

Fast forward two years, and here we are at the beginning of TWISTED, which is told entirely from the side of Kate Brooks, the woman who showed Drew that one true love is light years better than a million fleeting sexual conquests. (Or so we had been led to believe.) Just like TANGLED, TWISTED begins at what is actually close to the ending, with the bulk of the story being an extended flashback. So we know right away that something terrible is about to happen, and can only squirm helplessly as it lurches toward us like an especially gruesome slow moving train wreck. And for me, when that train went off the rails, so did the rest of TWISTED, and even more horribly than I could have ever predicted.

Because TWISTED’s entire plot relies on what I consider the worst execution of the infamous Big Misunderstanding I’ve read in any recently published romance novel, requiring the reader to suspend all critical judgment and believe in an increasingly implausible series of events. It expects you to believe that Drew would instantly jump to the most awful conclusion about something that could have easily been explained in a five minute conversation (“Who’s Bob?” “That’s my doctor. Her full name is Roberta.”) It expects you to believe that Drew would decide to react in the most offensive way imaginable after having jumped to this completely wrong conclusion mere hours before (again, without bothering to have the simple conversation that adults not in this book would have at least considered). And then it expects you to believe that although Kate first responded to Drew’s insane behavior in the same way pretty much anyone in her position would do, she would then assume she knew exactly why he had done this terrible thing and decide to leave him, her job, and her life as she knew it, without any explanation to anyone else.

Yet this was just the start of the madness. When Kate arrived in her hometown to recover and regroup, none of the people around her - not a one! - ever suggested that perhaps she might want to reach out to Drew to try and fix things. Later we discovered from Kate’s good friend Delores that everyone in Drew’s life also automatically believed his version of why they split up. Really? So even when Delores knew what Kate believed, and Matthew knew what Drew believed, Delores and Matthew never once compared notes or traded explicit accusations? I was especially surprised that not a single one of the lengthy cast of secondary characters in this story ever took it upon themselves to confront the supposed offender directly. For a brief moment, I hoped Kate’s mother would be the one to put an end to this tortured farce when she threatened to go to New York to yell at Drew herself. But that never happened. It was only pages and pages later that Kate finally relented and asked for Drew, but only after she nearly lost what she wasn’t quite sure she wanted. And it was only then that they finally had the conversation they should have had at the start. Sigh.

Although I understood the ending of TANGLED wasn’t a final Happily Ever After, I did believe I had come to know these two characters, and that perceived knowledge is what made the ill-conceived Big Misunderstanding driving the plot of TWISTED all the more hurtful for me. Because the Drew Evans *I* knew and loved would not have immediately believed the worst of the woman *he* knew and loved, and the Kate Brooks *I* knew and loved would have never given up the love of her life without a fight to the death. All I can do now is treat TWISTED as an aberrant deviation into the darkest timeline, and wait for the final resolution to Drew and Kate’s romance in TIED later this year. I can only hope that it’s more like TANGLED and less like this one. *fingers crossed*


Favorite Quote:

Anyway, now’s about the time I start spouting off some pearls of wisdom.
Advice.
But given the events of the last year, it’s become increasingly obvious that I don’t know what the f*ck I’m talking about.

Source: romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com/2014/03/reviewedbymichele-twisted-emmachase.html
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