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review 2017-10-31 00:00
Review: Cain (Out of the Cage Novel, #1) by Lane Hart
Cain (An Out of the Cage Novel) (Volume 1) - Lane Hart

Lane Hart does it again! It was a gripping story full of angst, drama, nail-biting moments, sweet yet passionate scenes, sexy and funny men. In short, all I could ever ask for in a story like this. 

I loved the friendship and banter among the three main males. Cain, Knox, and Ivan grew up together in a sort of “foster home” for homeless kids. The downside? They have to surrender their lives to a mafia mob leader as soon as they come of age. Their relationship was easygoing and relatable; each of them was true to their character from start to finish and as the reader I could understand their dilemmas and way of thinking. Gabby, the only woman of the group, may have sounded too innocent at times but that was completely understandable; she didn’t really have much life experience as she joined the men at a very young age. The fact that they all had each other’s back without even saying it out loud gave the story that feeling of tenderness and warmth. 

My only cavil (blame it on my pickiness and personal preferences) is that it was kind of hard to get past the idea that the two main characters were of a certain age and there was no fumbling, no silly experiencing, no funny or imperfect loving scenes. However, their romance was both raw and honest and if I'm being honest with myself (and when I was able to overlook what I mentioned earlier) then it all made for a phenomenal read. 


** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is my honest opinion and it was not influenced in any way by the publisher or the author. ** 

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review 2017-03-19 16:25
Wild Embrace (Psy-Changeling, #15.5) by Nalini Singh Review
Wild Embrace: A Psy-Changeling (A Psy/Changeling Novel) - Nalini Singh

Echo of Silence
In a deep-sea station, Tazia Nerif has found her life’s work as an engineer, keeping things running smoothly. But she wants nothing more than to break down the barrier of silence between her and her telekinetic Psy station commander...
A changeling who can never shift lives a life of quiet frustration—until he learns how to let his leopard come out and play...
Partners in Persuasion
Still raw from being burned by a dominant female, wolf changeling Felix will never again risk being a plaything. But for dominant leopard Dezi, he’s the most fascinating man she’s ever met. She just has to convince this gun-shy wolf that he can trust the dangerous cat who wants to take a slow, sexy bite out of him…
Flirtation of Fate
Seven years ago, Kenji broke Garnet’s heart. Now the wolf packmates have to investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. And the more Kenji sees of the woman Garnet has become, the deeper he begins to fall once more. But even his primal instincts are no match for the dark secret he carries...


These short stories are all wonderful little romps into the Changeling World.


"Echo of Silence" has a wonderful Psy hero and a heroine of middle eastern origin. The love story is a lovely balance of honoring cultural traditions, becoming a fuller version of the self, and skin hunger.


I was a little sadden we didn't get Sea Shifter as the heroine or hero but I adored who we got.


"Dorian" was the least interesting to me not because it wasn't good but because I really would have loved another full romance and this little tidbit as a bonus. Dorian is grand.


"Partners in Persuasion" captures the play of power in a relationship and how many ways there are to fit together. I love me a beta hero so Felix is my man. He is cool. The heroine was a little low on eq at times but the love story was well earned in the end.


"Flirtation of Fate" had a lot of angst but the hero and the heroine were both vibrant. The conflict that kept them apart needed more time to really be worked through but I was happy for them and the mystery plot was nice.

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review 2017-03-04 18:36
Loving Deviant (Cyborg Seduction, #9) by Laurann Dohner Review
Loving Deviant (Cyborg Seduction) (Volume 9) - Laurann Dohner

After barely surviving a horrific accident, then being held captive for years by Earth Government, Venice must escape the planet. She thinks she’s found the answer to her prayers when she contracts to be a deep-space bride—only to find herself facing an even bigger nightmare. Hiding from her con man “husband” aboard his space station, she comes across an intimidating cyborg…one who could just be her last hope.

Deviant is humiliated when his father suggests he visit a pleasure center to make use of a sex bot. True, the defects he was born with have assured female cyborgs will never consider adding him to a family unit. But he still has his pride. The woman who enters the room, however, is incredibly lifelike, and she quickly has Deviant feeling things he’d never dreamed—right until the moment he finds out she’s human. Sort of…

Venice needs Deviant’s help to get off the space station. Deviant is lonely, and in need of someone to teach him how to pleasure a female. They strike a bargain, one that has Venice giving up her freedom. But soon it’s her heart that’s at greater risk. It’s easy loving Deviant…even when others are determined to make it difficult.






So, I love my cyborg crack. This was pretty run of the mill and could have been tons better with more details.


I liked the heroine and the connection back to what is happening on Earth. Her practical nature was refreshing. The romance was sweet.


What was lame was that there is still all this human hate on the Cyborg planet. We get to see very little about how the planet works. This would have been much more interesting.


The father should get his own romance.

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review 2016-06-04 17:31
Scarred Hearts
Scarred Hearts - Bonnie Dee

3.5 stars. Short and sweet historical romance by Bonnie Dee with a favorite theme of mine... :) Two seemingly lost souls, Shadow and Lettie, both by circumstances of their birth, find each-other when they were least expecting it.

Samuel, or Shadow as he's called by his boisterous and troublemaker family, is a WWI veteran who returned home scarred and hopeless. To say his family was not supportive would be an understatement. Let's just say no one saw him anything but a burden. You wouldn't even wish Robeson family on your enemy, they were so violent and disgustingly selfish. Though from a distance, he and Lettie have known each-other ever since they were children, they had no idea that they were meant to be together, until one day, Shadow saves Lettie from the grabbing hands of one of his own a$$hatty brothers. That day sealed their fate. Lettie was known to be a "whore" for her own troubled past, which she was trying hard to erase. But in a small-town, no one forgets when you make mistakes; especially if you are a woman. She had still been paying the price for a mistake she made when she was barely a teenager. After her mother's death, Lettie thought she was all alone in the world until she discovers not all hope is lost for her. That, not all Robeson brothers are the same. But then she didn't know what she can expect from a Robeson boy, the richest family in town that controls everything; who is known to rise hell anyone going against them.

That's the exact same thing Lettie and Shadow had to do to get away from this madness. Trouble follow them in the form of the Robeson family but their bond was strong enough to weather it all.

Slightly predictable but a good read nonetheless. I enjoyed it, mostly because I was surprised to find that Shadow was a virgin (hear me squeal!!). :D

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-05-13 00:54
The Endearment
The Endearment - LaVyrle Spencer

I have loved you when I did not know you existed, Anna. I have loved the dream of you. I have begun loving you before I left my mother's arms. I have loved you while I find this land to which I would bring you and while I cut its timbers to build this home for you and while I reap my grains for you and build my fire for you . . . I know all my life you are waiting somewhere for me.” The Endearment


How many times have you longed for more books with character-driven stories, books that weave external conflict seamlessly with internal conflict, books with richly detailed settings and evoking a great sense of time period, ones with characters you laugh with, cry with, cheer for, and celebrate with, fall in love with? The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer is just such a book and follows Morning Glory, Vows, Years, and Hummingbird on my 'in case of fire' shelf. I feel totally inadequate in even attempting to relate how much I love LaVyrle Spencer's body of work, but The Endearment deserves all the paltry praise I can wring out of my head and heart.


Karl Lindstrom (whose face would "not curdle milk") is twenty-five, a Swedish immigrant, who settled in the frontier of Minnesota, the nearest thing to a village is a primitive outpost called Long Prairie. Karl had immigrated looking for land which was hard to find in his native but beloved Skäne, and he came alone, without any of his large, loving family, making a place for himself and his dreams in this place which reminded him of his home, with hope that his family would follow, but they didn't. Without family, without the familiarity of his customs and people who loved him, without human companionship of any kind to relieve the unrelenting loneliness, Karl feels the isolation very deeply, with only the sympathetic ears of his pet goat, Nanna, to listen to his woes.



Goats make maybe the best pets of all. They are loyal and quiet and do not eat much. During the winter blizzards, there were many times when I was grateful for the company of my Nanna to listen to me talk and never complain when I tell her how impatient I am to have neighbors, and how I miss my family back in Sweden and how I think spring will never come. Nanna, she just chews her cud and puts up with me.” His eyes strayed to Anna as he spoke, then back to the boy. (77)



His loneliness leads him to place an advertisement in newspapers back East, seeking a mail-order bride, and his requirements and expectations are high. He wants a woman his age, "an able cook, an experienced housekeeper, a willing farm worker." Karl wants his bride-to-be to be without encumbrances (like a little brother), and one who must be able to read and write so that she can teach their children.


Anna Reardon ("my whiskey-haired Anna")is just seventeen years old and is alone in the world except for her thirteen-year old brother, James. Their mother, Barbara, was a prostitute in Boston who had no time or love for the two children known as "Barbara's brats" and died of "the disease all women of her profession fear." Though James has enough education to read and write, Anna has had none.


"Sometimes, when our mother got a fit of conscience, she'd make him go to school, but she didn't see any girl needing to know her letters, so she left me alone.”


“What kind of mother would only send a boy to school now and then, when she had a fit of conscience? Conscience over what?”


This time James saved Anna from lying or revealing the full truth. He burst in. “We didn't have much, even before Barbara got sick and died. We lived with . . . with friends of hers most of the time, and I had to go out and try to find work to help. I guess she thought I was kind of young to be out working, and sometimes she'd get . . . well, sorry, kind of. That's when I'd have to go to school. I managed to go enough to learn to read and write a little.” (52)


After Barbara's death, Anna mended clothes for a meager amount of money while James picked pockets or stole food from markets to survive. Both slept in the brothel till the rooms filled up, then bunked down at a local church when they were thrown out for the night. Anna and James's situation became dire when the ladies of the house began to urge Anna to join their ranks, but James found Karl's advertisement in the paper. So he wrote letters to Karl, dictated by Anna, letters full of lies. The lies were not easy for either of them, rising from desperation of a homeless girl and her young brother. Those lies were "like a hair shirt upon Anna's conscience ever since."


Anna Reardon had done the unforgivable. She had lied through her teeth to get Karl Lindstrom to marry her! She had intentionally deceived the man in order to get him to send her passage money to Minnesota as his mail-order bride. He was expecting her to be twenty-five years old, an able cook, an experienced housekeeper, a willing farm worker and . . . a virgin.


Furthermore, he was expecting her to arrive alone.


The only thing Anna hadn't lied about was her looks. She had accurately described herself as whiskey-haired, Irish, about as tall as a mule's withers, on the thin side, with brown eyes, flat ears, a few freckles, passable features, all her teeth and no pox marks.(1)


One by one, most of Anna's lies are found out, very quickly, within a few hours of their first meeting. Her age, her brother, her inability to cook, her illiteracy, her inexperience on a farm. Karl is accepting and forgiving of them all with some encouragement and prodding from the priest who witnesses their vows. But there's one last lie to come to light, one whose revelation is the hardest for Karl to forgive and forget. The timing of it, coming at a time when both are beginning to discover they love each other, is heartbreaking because this is the one that drives an almost insurmountable wedge between them.


The long trip to Karl's land is filled with Karl's patient teaching of both James and Anna of their new home, the land he loves, and gives such a beautiful sense of early Minnesota Territory. Karl's knowledge of the different trees and the wood they provide is almost a religion unto itself as is his reverence for nature.


They were passing through a place of green magnificence. The forest was built of verdant walls, broken here and there by peaceful embrasures where prairie grasses fought for a stronghold. Trees of giant proportions canopied above saplings vying for the sky. The sky was embroidered with stitches of leafy design. Anna leaned her head way back to gaze at the dappled emerald roof above. (54)


As he points to the maples with "nectar such as you will find no place else", how it polishes to "shine like water"; yellow locusts which "splits as smooth and true as the flight of an apple falling from a tree"; the chestnut yielding "boards as flat as milk on a plate"; the beeches for whittling and carving; oaks for 'shingles that will keep a roof tight for fifty years", their natural grains catching "the rain and send it running in channels as true as the course of a river over a falls"; red oak for fence rails; ash for making axe handles to make it "light and strong and springy"; pine, the "best friend the axeman" because beneath the bark is wood read to be made into boards, interspersed with his memories of his 'morfar" and "far" (grandfather and father) teaching him about trees, wood, and riving, some of Karl's love for his land is transferred to Anna and James.


"You must ask a tree to do what it does best, then it will never disappoint you. And so I split the locust, carve the beech and make boards from pine and chestnut. It is the same with people. I would not ask a blacksmith to bake me a pie, would I? Or a baker to shoe my horse.” Karl tipped a little grin their way. “If I did, I would perhaps have to eat my horseshoe and tack the pie to my horse's hoof." (55)


His love and respect for the land, its resources is compelling to both Anna and James, opening up a well-spring of hope, a sense of purpose, and life-affirming optimism neither had ever experienced.


Elder is for shade and beauty.” Karl smiled. “We must not forget that some trees are given to us for nothing more than shade and beauty, and if this is all we ask of them, they are happy.” (57)


Karl sounds perfect, doesn't he? Despite his anger, his disappointment, his disillusionment with Anna, he is patient, kind, considerate, and accepting of both James and Anna. He begins to like Anna, to flirt with her, and he gives her time to grow accustomed to him before consummating their marriage. He shows her how to cook, to make lye soap, to light a fire, all the things that she lied about in her letters.


Within the heart of Karl Lindstrom fell a heavy sadness. How he had looked forward to this day, thinking always how proud he would be when he took his little whiskey-haired Anna into his sod house for the first time. He would proudly show her the fireplace he had built of fieldstone from his own soil, the table and chairs he had fashioned of sturdy black walnut from his own trees. He remembered the long hours spent braiding buffalo grass into ropes to restring the log frame of the bed for her. How carefully he had dried last season's corn husks to make the softest tickings a woman could want. He'd spent precious hours collecting cattails, plucking their down to fill pillow ticks for her. The buffalo robes had been aired and shaken and rubbed with wild herbs to make them smell sweet. Lastly, he had picked a sheaf of sweet clover, its fragrance headier than any other, and had lain it on the spot where their two pillows met, in the center of the bed.


In all these ways Karl Lindstrom had sought to tell his Anna that he prized her, welcomed her and strove to please her. (20-21)


He takes James under his wing, giving him confidence and a positive male role model he's never had. Using humor and gentle teasing with his Anna ('my Onnuh'), he cheers her on, encourages her to keep trying, despite her failures.


Anna tries to learn all the things Karl expects of her, but her cooking experiments fail more than succeed (so much so that even Nanna the goat won't eat the charred, tough remains of meals thrown out the door of the sod house) and her housewifely duties are disappointing. She's skinny, prefers britches to dresses, has a fiery temperament, her hair has a mind of its own, and she's happier outside the house than she is inside. But they grow to like, respect, and begin to love each other in spite of their differences. Maybe because of them.


What LaVyrle Spencer does best here is weave the external conflict of Anna learning to survive a very different environment in the frontier of Minnesota with an internal conflict of striving to be all that Karl dreamed she would be before he discovered all her lies. More, the revelation of the final lie - what Anna was forced to do in order to provide passage and new clothes for James to accompany her to Minnesota - and Karl's inability to forgive her ratchets up her struggle, making her feel even more inadequate, without pride in any of her accomplishments, and harshly judging herself as someone not deserving of Karl, of happiness, of love.


The entrance of a Swedish family into the community (including a buxom, sweet Swedish daughter with a coronet of blonde braids, who knows how to cook Swedish pancakes and make lingonberry jam) on the heels of Anna and Karl's emotional rift and his physical and emotional withdrawal from her increases the distance between them, especially when Karl appears to prefer Kerstin and her family to Anna. Anna and Karl's argument over harsh correction of James is more about a desire to punish Anna than to correct James. Both say things they regret but both are too proud to apologize. Karl storms off, and Anna's isolation and sense of failure is bone deep.


There was an opportunity to make Kerstin the proverbial "other woman", the paragon of Karl's dreams when he immediately seeks out Kerstin and her family after the argument, but LaVyrle Spencer takes another path. Instead, Kerstin is the one to make Karl own up to the mistakes he's made in the past several weeks with Anna. Three days of separation on a trip to grind wheat, several bolts of pink gingham, a bar of chamomile soap instead of that "lardy" lye soap, five glass windows for the log house, and a brand new stove to cook with instead of a fireplace is Karl's olive branch on his return.


The gifts he brings back for Anna aren't the only way he redeems himself for the way he refused to understand and forgive Anna. Anna had begged for his forgiveness many times and in many ways, but he was unwilling or unable to give her that. His return to the farm finds Karl changed in a significant way.


Anna and Karl tiptoe around each other, though she's "My Onnuh" again, and he gently teases her as they work to finish the log house. Finally, the log house is complete, the oak door has been hung, the windows placed. All is ready for Karl, Anna, and James to move in, to become a family, and to fully realize the dream of family that began with Karl but was cherished as much by both Anna and James. Anna's preparations for their first night in their home mirrors Karl's actions as he prepared for his "Onnuh's" first visit to his sod house.


She listened for the first sizzle of the kettle while she put their house in order. She hurried to hang the curtains at the windows on arching willow withes. Next she laid a matching gingham cloth upon the table, then their dishes, knives, mugs. She used precious minutes to pick the wildflowers, running all the way out to the edge of the field where they grew. These she placed in the center of the table in a thick pottery milk pitcher: clusters of Karl's beloved Minnesota. There were the late-blooming lavender asters, brown-eyed susans, lacy white northern bedstraw, feathery goldenrod, rich purple loosestrife, brilliant pink blazing star and lastly . . . most importantly . . . she interspersed the bouquet with fragrant stalks of yellow sweet clover. Standing back, she took a moment to assess her handiwork, wondering what Karl would say when he walked in and saw it.(316)


In a pink gingham hand-sewn dress, Anna waits for Karl wondering what he'll notice first, what he'll think of the table, the curtains, the dress, the braids in her hair, herself. If she'll once again be a failure.


Karl searched his mind for the proper word. But, much like the first time he had ever laid eyes on her there was only one word he could say. It came out, as it had so often, questioning, wondering, telling, a response to all he saw before him, a question about all he saw before him. All he had, all he was, all he hoped to be was wrapped up in that single word: “Onnuh?” (319)


Over Swedish pancakes and rose hip tea, their reconciliation shows Anna that she wasn't the only one who needed to learn, to change, to grow.


“Did you think, Anna, that maybe it was not you who needed to change, but me?” he asked now, so softly.


“You?” Her head snapped up and she laughed a little too harshly. “Why, you're so perfect, Karl, any woman would be a fool to want you to change. There's not a single thing on this earth that you can't do or won't try or can't learn. You're patient, and you have a . . . a grand sense of humor, and you care about things so much, and you're honest and . . . and I have yet to see you defeated by anything. Why, I haven't found a single thing you don't know how to do.”


“Except forgive, Anna,” he admitted before the dusky room grew silent.


". . .I had you, and I could not look past the one and only thing you could not change and try to forgive it. I have held onto my stubborn Swedish pride all these weeks, long after I could see that until I forgave you that one thing, you would not find pride in anything else you did.”(328-329)


Karl gives Anna a gift more precious than gingham or soap or even a house with wood floors and a stove to cook on. He lets her know that he recognizes the million and one ways she tried to make amends, to atone, to change herself into a person he could love and respect, but he makes sure she knows she already is that person without changing one thing about herself:


He reached to cover her lips with his fingertips, stopping her words. “You are the one who deserves, Anna. More than I have given. It is not enough that I have taken up my axe and cut trees to build you a home and that I have cleared land and raised food for its table and bought you a stove and a bar of soap. A home is only a home because of the people in it. A home is only a home when it has love. And so if I give you all these things, what does it matter when I withhold myself?”


In his own fiercely honorable way, Karl kept his eyes glued to her face while he said all this. When a man speaks of things which mean much to him, he does not hide it from showing in his face.


"Forgive me, Anna,” he whispered hoarsely, “forgive me for all these weeks.”


Into his azure eyes Anna gazed wonderingly, wanting this moment to draw on into the forever of their years. “Oh, Karl, there is nothing to forgive. I'm the one who should be asking.”


No,” he uttered, “you asked long ago, on the night you picked blueberries for me.”

Still kneeling, he took her hands apart and lowered his face into them where they lay on her lap. He needed so badly to be touched by her, to be assured of her forgiveness now. She looked down at the back of his head, at the blond wisps that waved into the shadowed hollow of his neck. Her love surged in devastating swells that overflowed from her eyes, blurring Karl's image before her.


To Anna came the intrinsic understanding that he must have the words she alone could give. Karl. Karl who in all ways was good and loving and kind. Karl needed her absolution from a transgression of her own making. She felt his flesh upon her palm and moved her other hand to twine her fingers in his hair. “I forgive you, Karl,” she said softly, knowing utter fullness at the words, at the look in his eyes as he raised them to her face again. (329-331)


Karl and Anna find mutual generosity and honor in 'sweet mercy', letting go of resentment, anger, and guilt. Anna had sought Karl's forgiveness in word and deed, many times. She was patient when he asked for time, she offered up her reasons for her actions, not excuses. She understood when he withdrew from her even though it hurt. She persevered through it all when she could have just given up. Karl, in turn, could do no less for the hurt he caused her. There is a beautiful symmetry in the clover he placed on their bed at the beginning for the Anna he had never met and the clover he plucks from the milk pitcher and places on their bed in the log house at the end of the book.


Anna opened the door and stood gazing out at the night for a moment. “Karl, I really never felt what you did about this place and all its plenty until I thought I had lost you. But I know now. I really know.”


“Come to bed, Anna.”


She smiled over her shoulder, then closed the door and padded across the newly hewn boards of the floor to the candlelight at their bedside.


Karl stood waiting there for her.


And in the center of the bed, between their two pillows, lay a single shaft of sweet clover, plucked from the bouquet that had graced their dinner table, where lingonberry jam now dried on two forgotten plates.(340-341)

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