Wicked Masquerade

36001795Title: Wicked Masquerade
Author: Diana Rose Wilson
Genre: romance; erotica; fantasy
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Ursa is unassuming and practical. She never craved glamorous things until she accepted an invitation to the Halloween Masquerade, a carefully arranged erotic event featuring voyeurism, public sex, kinky games, and role-play. She is captivated by a handsome man—a chocolate-skinned, winged archer in a Cupid mask—who awakens hunger she never realized possible. He provokes her Domme, teases her senses, satisfies her body, and even introduces Ursa to pony-play. Hidden behind her mask, she becomes the person she craves to be, but never dared.
Ursa’s mysterious lover fulfills her every dark desire, and beyond. She embraces her secret pleasures to the fullest during their wild fantasy weekend. When it ends and her mask is removed the Domme disappears and normal life returns, but the yearning for Cupid and her new passions remain.

Review: When I received this book, I wasn’t quite sure about it because it wasn’t exactly something that I normally pick up but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it. I felt a little like protagonist Ursa walking into her first Masquerade. As she walked up to the limo, her mask on, nervous and shaky, so too was I, nervous about what was to come. But Wilson’s writing style seemed effortless and instantly I began to enjoy the tension. Overall, I loved this book, so much so that I am happy to learn that it’s a series, one I cannot WAIT to jump back into.

I have two issues – the first is how quickly Ursa goes from shy and “oh my god, I’m going home” to “I’m a Domme now, let’s do this.” I don’t think it felt natural. I know, obviously, very little about these situations and scenes, but there was such (well written) build up about her nerves and her anxieties and then they’re just instantly dissolved. I would have liked them to be chipped away a bit more. I mean, it didn’t stop me from reading the entire novel, and loving the entire novel, but still.

The second were the wings. Like. Maybe there will be more about them later, but it felt like a plot device poorly used. And then forgotten about. I like a little fantasy in the real world, just like any other girl who hopes all those paranormal romances could be real, but like, don’t forget about them?

What I loved was Wilson’s attention to detail. Every single scene was intimately scripted out from the feel of fingers on skin to the emotions in Ursa’s head. I loved the extravagance of it all. I loved how there were those who loved the drama and those who just loved the scene. I loved how Diana Rose Wilson wrote a love story in the middle of a weekend long Masquerade and it felt real and authentic and oh so yummy. I’d read many, many more books from her.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Transformed

38262542.jpgTitle: Transformed
Editor: Charlie Watson
Genre: anthology; romance; erotica; shapeshifter; lgbt; folklore
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Nothing is quite so deliciously freeing as caving to your instincts. For centuries, shapeshifters have personified our impulse to bow to our animalistic nature. From lycans to skin-walkers and everything in between, shapeshifters give us a chance to connect with our inner-selves and celebrate our intriguing differences, our passions, and ultimately our humanity through their necessity of striking a balance between their human selves and supernatural selves.

Review: Transformed was a really interesting read. From selkies to cobras, this anthology had every type of shifter you could imagine. Transformed is categorized on Netgalley as Erotica, and for the latter half, I understand why, but the first half is pretty tame. Some of the stories are sweet stories of finding yourself or a dormant part of yourself and embracing that.

I liked the diversity of voices and characters represented in this anthology. There were a plethora of shifters and their stories were so unique it made the reading of each one an experience. I especially enjoyed the story entitled “Thwarting the Spirits” about a mongoose and a cobra and when it ended, I wished there was more. Jones’ writing was beautiful and magical and left me wanting more. The same can be said for Liz McAdams’ “For the Love of the Hunt” and her story of a shifter who’d forgotten a primal part of herself.

Overall, this anthology was fun, sexy, and thrilling. I enjoyed the compilation for what it was!

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Saved by the Cowboy

51zulZ0TBCL.SX316.SY316.jpgTitle: Saved by the Cowboy
Author: A.J. Pine
Genre: romance; family
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Once upon a time, Sheriff Cash Hawkins left his simple life for something bigger—and came home with a broken heart. Now he has everything he needs right here in Oak Bluff, California—his job, his dog, and a quiet ranching town best explored on the back of a horse.  Olivia Belle believes in fairy tales—just not for herself. So when her boyfriend drops to one knee at his sister’s wedding with a proposal that is more business than romance, she hightails it out of San Francisco in search of the only evidence she knows that true love exists—her grandparents’ lost love letters from fifty years ago. When Olivia speeds into his town like a modern-day Cinderella in her ball gown and glass slippers, Cash’s careful existence is finally thrown for a loop. Maybe the answer Olivia’s looking for is in Oak Bluff, but the life she ran from is more than 200 miles away. As for Cash . . . he knows a thing or two about being left on bended knee. Olivia Belle could be his happily ever after . . . if this runaway bridesmaid doesn’t run off with his heart.

Review: This novella was a quick fling. I was intrigued by the description, but it took me a few chapters to actually get into it. I didn’t realize going in that this was part of a series, and perhaps that’s why it felt like there was too little development in the beginning. Oak Bluff seems to be this special place, but it never really gets the drawn out detail it deserves, especially since it’s Olivia’s first time there. Cash seems to be a feature character, but even he and his dog don’t get that much description. I couldn’t actually picture what he looked like, which for a romance novel, seemed a tragedy indeed.

While I thought generally, the descriptions could have been much, much better, more detailed, and given more time to grow, what I did like was the love story. Cash didn’t expect Olivia to change for him, and she didn’t expect him to change for her. There wasn’t this idea that one had to give anything up for the other. In many romances, the woman (more generally) is asked to give up something to be with the man of her dreams, or, more recently, has had to give up something in order to find the man of her dreams. That wasn’t the case in Saved by the Cowboy. Although the title suggests that Olivia was this woman who needed saving, I would argue that both characters save each other in the end.

I would imagine that someone who’d read the other texts in this series would enjoy this more than I did, but it was sweet and quick, and overall, a fun journey.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Kiss Quotient

81TaR7kzn7L.jpgTitle: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Genre: romance; contemporary
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position… Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Review: If you’re a Pretty Woman fan and ever wondered what a gender bent version would look like — then this book is for you. Instead of pompous millionaire Richard Gere, we get sweet and naive Stella who thinks that practicing with a professional will make sex less of a chore. As a woman with high functioning autism, she looks at the issue of her sexual inexperience logically and comes to this conclusion rationally and does her research where she finds sexy Michael. Now, if you’ve seen Pretty Woman, you might have some idea of what to expect from The Kiss Quotient, but don’t write it off!

In Pretty Woman, none of the characters really get the chance to develop or change like they do in Hoang’s novel. In fact, while there are corresponding characters for each character in Pretty Woman, Hoang makes her story original and poignant because of the depth she gives to each character – including the side characters. Stella isn’t just a rich woman who needs a dating partner for a while, she’s a woman who needs to learn how to navigate the world of intimacy but doesn’t know how, so she enlists the help of a professional. Rational. Michael is devoted. He’s holding the strings of his life together. He’s doing what he has to for the family he loves. But ALL OF THEM EVOLVE. They don’t just take their shoes off and walk on grass and then fly off into the sunset.

One thing I really liked about this is that there wasn’t any judgment from Stella about Michael’s sex work. She wasn’t condescending or worried about how it might look to her at all. She saw him as a human being who was deserving of respect and of a voice. Michael is given way more depth than his Julia Roberts counterpart. He’s got a family unit to support him, and while I was reading it, what I loved about it was that Hoang really settled us as readers into his family. His family base was strong.

Read this book people. You won’t regret it.

A Snowbound Scandal

America's+Sweetheart+LG.jpgTitle: A Snowbound Scandal
Author: Jessica Lemmon
Genre: romance; harlequin;
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) As the snow falls, her touch sets him aflame… “I don’t want you to leave.” Texas billionaire Chase Ferguson has one regret: leaving Miriam Andrix to protect her from his public life. When a snowstorm strands her in his mountain mansion, their passion reignites, and it’s too hot to resist! But reality–and scandal–arrives with the thaw. Chase turned his back on happiness once. Will he fight for what he truly wants this time?

 

Review: When you pick up a Harlequin Romance you have a few guarantees — something sweet and something that builds. A Snowbound Scandal is one of those books that delivers both. Miriam “Mimi” Andrix and Chase Ferguson are perfect paramours in this love story. They’re perfectly matched in wit and banter. The build for their romance is slow and sweet, like the heat of a fire in the middle of an icy winter. Lemmon plays with one of my favorite romance tropes – trapped proximity. Because the two are trapped together to “weather the storm” they have to interact and when they do, the love they thought as lost begins to rekindle right along with the fire Chase’s city slicker self almost smothers.

Because both of them are stubborn and can’t say what they really mean, it takes the better half of the book to get more than a steamy kiss out of them, but once they do that, the book’s slow build picks up a rapid pace. They only have until the snow melts, after all. I really liked how the author used the setting to both introduce the characters’ pasts and reignite the spark between them.

Overall, this book was a quick and engaging summer read.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Cade

pro_pbid_1190099Title: Cade
Author: V.A. Dold
Genre: fantasy; romance; paranormal; series; shifter
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Anna James is single again, finally. In her opinion, men are self-centered and will never love her for who she is, a beautiful, plus sized woman. All except the fantasy man that she’s been meeting in her dreams for five years. She just never expected her fantasy to be a real live alpha shifter… Cade Le Beau isn’t what he seems. He’s a billionaire wolf. A Shifter. He laments his missed chance six months ago to meet his fantasy woman in the flesh. Just as his second chance presents itself, his fantasy woman, his mate, is threatened by the local mob boss and her ex-husband. Now, he has forty eight hours to deal with this threat once and for all or chance losing her again. Is it Anna who’s in danger, or the humans who unwittingly threaten her? The heat is on the moment they lay eyes on each other. Neither, age, children, horrid ex-husbands, nor mob bosses will stop this love affair.
Review: Thanks to a weekly BookBub email, this was recommended to me as a free Kindle download. I loved the pace of this read. I read it in one sitting. I liked the story overall, but in terms of development, there wasn’t much, that’s why I’ve given it a 3/5. That being said, here are my general thoughts on Cade: Le Beau Brothers #1:
As far as paranormal romance novels go, this one ticks all the boxes of things I’m looking for in them. It had a strong family unit, which I’ve come to associate with wolf/shifter novels in the paranormal realm of writing. I liked the family unit as a whole, although I would have enjoyed more development of these secondary characters — there were many openings for Dold to give Stefan more than just charm, or for the more and father to be more than static, but, I guess as this is just book one of the Le Beau Brothers, perhaps their development comes later.

Cade as a male lead was everything you expect from a romance novel. Strong, built, emotionally open, protective. Couple that with his wolf instincts, and you’ve got yourself a bonafide prince, right? Well, exactly. Anna gets her dream man, literally. I enjoy that. In some romance novels — too many, if we’re being honest — the dream man has some skeleton in his closet that brings the whole relationship into question. This, thankfully, was not the case here. Cade’s devotion to Anna was well written, and although I did find him to be a bit overprotective, Anna’s ability to be more than a wilting flower helped me get past it.

Pacing — At some points in the story it felt like too much was being revealed too soon, and then repeated later, almost like an editing error. Like, when Cade begins to reveal parts of the mating process, some of these aspects come back later, where they seem more natural.

While I’m not sure I’ll pick up the rest of the series, this first book was a fun, fast summer read.

A Court of Frost and Starlight

Image result for a court of frost and starlightTitle: A Court of Frost and Starlight
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: fantasy; faerie; romance
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The Winter Solstice. In a week. I was still new enough to being High Lady that I had no idea what my formal role was to be. If we’d have a High Priestess do some odious ceremony, as lanthe had done the year before. A year. Gods, nearly a year since Rhys had called in his bargain, desperate to get me away from the poison of the Spring Court to save me from my despair. Had he been only a minute later, the Mother knew what would have happened. Where I’d now be. Snow swirled and eddied in the garden, catching in the brown fibers of the burlap covering the shrubs My mate who had worked so hard and so selflessly, all without hope that I would ever be with him We had both fought for that love, bled for it. Rhys had died for it.
Review:  I preordered this book and anticipated this release so so heavily. I thought I was getting the next full installment of the series, not a 3.1 “day in the life” kind of novella. Maybe that’s my fault. I loved getting back into the characters and their lives, and I am glad I spent the time to preorder it, but it was not everything I hoped for. Some people really enjoy these types of books, the kinds that give their characters a semblance of normalcy after a long battle or a hard heartbreak, and typically, I am those readers. But this time, I was just expecting more.

I wanted this to be the fallout of the Battle of Hybern, and instead, I got the story of recovery after trauma. The varied POV changes also threw me a little. I wonder if this is to set up a series of spin offs from the characters in the future? Anyway. I’m still going to be ordering the next one, so ….