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A Millionaire at Midnight

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 24th January 2017
A Millionaire at MidnightA Millionaire at Midnight by Naima Simone
Published by Entangled Publishing on February 13th 2017
Pages: 244
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four-stars

Boston socialite Morgan Lett is having a run of bad luck. Her fiancé just dumped her for her stepsister, the charity foundation she’s given her life to is in danger of folding, and now, the gorgeous man she bid on and won at a masquerade bachelor auction turns out to be a cold-hearted jerk…and her new employer.
Millionaire Alexander Bishop needs the best wife money can buy. In order to inherit his family business, he must get engaged—fast. And Morgan, with her beauty and pedigree, is the perfect candidate. Her sharp tongue may drive him crazy, but she needs money to save the foundation she loves, and he needs a fiancée. It’s a flawless arrangement—no strings, no love. But soon she has him craving more, and cursing the platonic terms of their agreement.
Still, he won’t allow need—no matter how hot it burns—to threaten everything he’s built.

Fresh off a heartbreak and on an anti-men tirade after her fiancé leaves her for her step-sister, the bachelor auction that has snared women their millionaires in Naima Simone’s world is about to work its own magic on Morgan Lett.

And as it typically goes, it always gets worse before it gets better, just like the screwed-up version of the fairy tale that’s given at the very start of the book. Morgan wins a man at an auction, but first impressions have dictated that he merely sees her as gold digger while he’s the most aloof, distant person she’d ever met…and to make matters worse, he’s her temporary boss too. A brashly-made decision forces them into a pretend-engagement which then, predictably, goes awry when attraction enters the picture.

I’m not always a fan of millionaire-type books—they do seem mostly removed from the reality of day to day life—but it’s near impossible to give up the chance to read whatever Simone writes. I cringed at the title, the crazy family drama and sometimes contrived, over-the-top sort of descriptions aside (especially when it comes to how hot or beautiful a character can be), yet the sharp emotions do jump off the page and Simone’s lead characters are multifaceted enough to get lost in for a few hours.

Generally though, “A Millionaire at Midnight” is quite a satisfying read, even with the usual, rocky road that the couple in question needs to walk before the climax, the customary grovel and the resulting HEA.

four-stars

Only For You by Naima Simone

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 15th November 2016
Only For You by Naima SimoneOnly For You by Naima Simone
Series: Lick #3
on December 12th 2016
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three-stars

It’s been five years since I’ve seen her.
Five years since Gabriella James damn near destroyed me with her betrayal, sending me to hell in a cage.
I’ve crawled free, escaped the mob, opened a night club, and continue to battle my demons through underground fighting and sex. But now Gabriella’s back, begging for absolution, wanting my forgiveness. All I want is what she’s denied me for all these years — her body.
Sex. That’s all we’ll ever have.
Because Gabriella is still keeping secrets. I see it in her eyes.
I don’t trust her, and I’ll never forgive her betrayal.
But that won’t stop me from taking her.
Over...and over...and over...

Killian Vincent seeks punishment and absolution: it’s found in the fights and the pain he doles out and takes, and later, in a heavy, BDSM encounter with Gabriella James, the woman who betrayed him five years ago and left him to the dogs. As a wronged party who needs closure, he finds it in dominating and punishing sex when she turns up one night long after he thinks he has escaped his tortured past.

Naima Simone can write a deliciously dark romance—now that I know exactly what to expect from the Lick series—but it ends too quickly as it begins, closing on the implication that betrayal can after all, be forgiven and forgotten by a night of domination, spanking and submission. It’s not for the faint-hearted who want only hearts, flowers and angst, because ‘Only For You’, as with all the Lick series books, delves into anything but vanilla sex and sits on the knife-edge of humiliation and torture. By the end of it however, I remained sceptical, expecting Gabriella to make some grand gesture which never materialised and wondered why Killian was the one who had to make amends in the end when the onus was on her to make that first step.

But with this particular imprint, perhaps the sexual encounter is the point rather than the focus on forgiveness and moving ahead. As much as I do like Simone’s writing, I would have loved a more drawn-out book where both Gabby and Killian could have taken their issues out of the bedroom—only so that the HEA and the epilogue would feel richer and somehow, more worth it.

three-stars

Only For Your Touch by Naima Simone

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 16th September 2016
Only For Your Touch by Naima SimoneOnly For Your Touch by Naima Simone
Series: Lick #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on October 10th 2016
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three-stars

The Boston press calls her the Mob Princess. I call her trouble.
Discretion is my business, and the reporters dogging her every step are bad news. She’s looking to rebel, to tarnish her naïve “good girl” image by getting dirty with me. I gave up a career as a thief, but Corrine Salvaggi’s wide eyes and sinful mouth damn near begs me to steal her innocence. To corrupt her.
Lucky for her, I deal in sex.
Whatever your fantasy, I deliver. Voyeurism. Threesomes. A little slap and tickle.…
If it’s your kink, I can fulfill it.
So yeah, life is good. Simple.
Until she enters my club.
Still…
It’s just sex. Our little secret.
For now...

After Naima Simone opened the doors of ‘Lick’, I’ve come to appreciate the brand of erotica that she writes with elements of BDSM, voyeurism and every other type of sexual play for what it is: titillating and boldly explicit for the sake of pushing sexual boundaries. Throw in mob connections, violent histories and the shade of smut gets darker. Which isn’t to say I don’t miss her romantic suspense novels, because I do, but reading the Scorched imprint means that some expectations have to be adjusted.

Sasha Merchant intrigued me from the first book and it seems fitting that he’ll get his own temptation in the form of the head honcho’s daughter when she walks through the door of his sex club asking for something that he never thought he’d be able to give: control and his submission. But Corinne Salvaggi represents more than just willing female body; it’s her close connections and the dangerous life he’s addicted to that she brings within touching distance which Sasha finds irresistible. In this way, Simone brings another layer of understanding and conflict between them which I liked, because it moves beyond the sex games they both play.

I did hope for more though, apart from sex they’ve been having, having been given a glimpse of the type of mob conflict could have brought but this novella pretty much offers what this imprint is meant to be: a slice of momentary bliss (pun not quite intended) and a happy-for-now ending aimed at satisfying more carnal appetites than anything else.

three-stars

The Bachelor’s Promise by Naima Simone

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 15th August 2016
The Bachelor’s Promise by Naima SimoneThe Bachelor's Promise by Naima Simone
Series: Bachelor Auction #3
Published by Entangled: Indulgence on August 29th 2016
Pages: 251
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four-stars

Aiden Kent never expected to see Noelle Rana again. He’s determined to keep his distance from the beautiful enigma wrapped in denim and leather. He can’t trust anyone with the last name Rana. But he made a promise to his dying mother, and it isn't long before Noelle invades his personal space. He can't stop thinking about the exotic beauty's alluring curves.
He wants the daughter of his enemy, and he’s determined to have her…if only for one night.
If Noelle wants to move forward with her life, she must make a deal with the devastatingly gorgeous, broody millionaire Aiden. He made a promise years ago, and she’s come to collect—even if it means facing down the only man who ever broke her heart. And there's a really good chance he'll do it again.

There are too many shades of a Judith McNaught romance that accompanied me throughout this read: the dark, tortured hero screwed over by those he’d trusted and the virgin heroine who’d become the scourge of his existence, the simmering tension, the fraught history and the huge climax that typically involves a screw-up and massive grovelling.

But I do think Naima Simone does pull it off, in what feels like a regency romance superimposed on contemporary Boston as the whole drama between impoverished woman and self-made millionaire plays out.

We caught a glimpse of Aiden in the first Bachelor Auction book (and this starts with one yet again) and his story is almost a mirror-image of Lucas’s one, where a woman from his past comes and asks for money years after he’d cut her out of his life. It’s not quite a rags-to-riches story; neither is it one where a rich guy takes in a street urchin, but one where domestic troubles have led to the estrangement of two people who’d once been close.

Simone has a way of writing into the heart of her characters and I found myself liking Noelle in fact (a lot more than Aiden at least), whose only crime is her last name and the godawful family that she’s associated with. That Aiden continued to paint her into a corner with that paintbrush was fully on him; I liked how Noelle hadn’t manipulated her way into his life again, nor had she done anything that hadn’t already played into his suspicion with a family that had betrayed him in every way.

The share of the blame lies on Aiden’s shoulders, which is a typical ending scenario of his own doing and personally, gratifying to read especially after that sort of self-righteous behaviour he’d displayed through most of the story. My only complaint is the very quick resolution and Noelle’s even quicker forgiveness – especially for someone who’d constantly tagged her as guilty until proven innocent – which seemed to have short-changed that tumultuous relationship which I felt needed more than a simple apology, a declaration of love from Aiden and a session of body painting.

four-stars

Only for One Night by Naima Simone

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 2nd June 2016
Only for One Night by Naima SimoneOnly For A Night by Naima Simone
Series: Lick, #1
Published by Entangled: Scorched on May 30th 2016
Pages: 120
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three-stars

Rion Ward fought hard to be free of the Irish mob life. Now, as the co-owner of Boston’s hottest aphrodisiac club, he’s traded crime for the ultimate sexual fantasy. But when the “good girl” from his past walks through Lick’s doors, he discovers that his unconsummated hunger for her never abated.
Widowed for two years from a man who felt that anything besides the missionary position was dirty, Harper Shaw is ready to move on. The first step to feeling alive again is sex. Hot, dirty, black-out-from-orgasm sex. And who better to provide it than the brooding, sexy, tatted bad boy-turned-man she’s known for years?
Rion, however, has one stipulation: He’ll be hers only for one night. One night to explore her every fantasy. One night to push her limits. One night to introduce her to a passion that makes both doubt if it will be enough…

There’re always a million shades of smut and I hadn’t realised ‘Only for One Night’ offered less of plot and more of sex in this newer Scorched imprint than in the previous Brazen ones. It’s dirtier, hotter, filled with pages of behaviour that some might find objectionable.

And if ‘Only for One Night’ is a representation of the new imprint, I’d be the first to say that it isn’t for everyone, unlike Brazen’s more…inclusive set of stories.

Rion and Harper play out their second-chance sex-drunk romance mostly in bed and in a variety of positions. Considering how their reunion mostly takes place in a sex club where everything is mostly permitted, there are obviously instances of ménage(s), anal play and other sorts of kink (I’d appreciate some warning here) for those who prefer the down and dirty – and are done as soon as the couple in question finish up.

I’m not exactly a die-hard fan of erotica and with a preference for a little more plot to frame the steamy moments, ‘Only for One Night’ disappointed in this particular aspect. It’s hard though, to resist most things that Naima Simone writes, not because her characters or plot are beyond reproach, but the lingering geek in me has realised that her style – fluid, sometimes cocky and a little overboard – is in fact, my guilty pleasure, ever since I caught onto her Sins and Secrets series. My scepticism about following an author into the bowels of sex-fuelled tales nonetheless remains.

If I loved Ms. Simone’s romantic suspense writing, her foray into erotica left me flailing a little. With the setup of three men who are trying to flee their own demons of their tortured pasts – somehow, indulging in vices seem to be the only way they dig themselves deeper in their own misery through the ownership of a sex club. ‘Lick’ is starting to shape out to be a series that would veer towards fully exploring sins and sinners with a thin veneer of a happy ending for the couple in question.

three-stars

The Millionaire Makeover by Naima Simone

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 23rd December 2015
The Millionaire Makeover by Naima SimoneThe Millionaire Makeover by Naima Simone
Series: Bachelor Auction, #2
Published by Entangled: Indulgence on February 8th 2016
Pages: 204
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three-stars

Plain-Jane computer programmer Khloe Richardson needs a date—one to make the prince of her dreams jealous. Maybe then he'll finally see her as a desirable swan and not the ugly duckling in the second office from the left.
But when she bids on a bachelor at a charity auction, the man she wins is millionaire Niall Hunter—who once made intense, passionate love to her and then left without a word. She's determined not to let her guard down again—among other things—around the infamous Irish lothario.
Niall never imagined his penance for one hot-as-hell night with his best friend’s little sister would be transforming her from a shy wallflower to a sultry siren. Helping her attract another man is torture...especially when he promised his friend he’d stay away. Plus, she wants forever, and he's not a forever kind of guy. But Niall can't stop wanting her. Can't stop touching her. Can't stop, period. And damn if he can remember why he has to...

A take on the brother’s best friend-Cinderella story, ‘The Millionaire Makeover’ is sort of a typical read from Naima Simone: confidently executed, with left-field exaggerated analogies and metaphors and turn-of-phrases that do dig deep into the romance genre’s exploration of need, want and that time can do to emotional scars.

Yet, as tantalising as this formula is in the hands of a talented author is, I’m left however, sitting on the fence when it comes to the H/hr in question. Niall Hunter is too much of a dislikable protagonist for me; his callous, jaded and cynical manner overwhelm any redeeming qualities that he might have displayed at the very end of the book, but for some inexplicable reason, his apparent predatory manner, good looks and so-called tortured past prove enough to snare a somewhat spineless heroine whom I wish stood up more to him instead of melting into a lump of quivering flesh each time he stalks towards her. And when a character incites more anger rather than reader support, it is consequently near-impossible to bet on this guy whom I can’t honestly say deserves a HEA.

In all, a disappointment because of the rather gormless main characters, but what I felt redeemed the story was the secondary character called Morgan (who should rightly become a fan favourite), whose sneaky, devious but loyal ways made me wish that she had a story of her own to flaunt.

three-stars

Killer Curves by Naima Simone

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 19th November 2015
Killer Curves by Naima SimoneKiller Curves by Naima Simone
Series: Guarding Her Body #2
Published by Entangled: Ignite on December 7th 2015
Pages: 206
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three-stars

Lately, things have been a little weird for Sloane Barrett—late night crank calls, disturbing images inher inbox, her tires slashed. She tries not to let it bother her. She tries to pretend everything is ok. Then someone breaks into her house and attacks her...and Sloane realizes she needs professional help. Tall, gorgeous and overwhelmingly intense help. But Sloane knows all too well just how much trouble intense guys can be.
Security Specialist Ciaran Ross's priority is to ensure Sloane is safe. His gut tells him she's in danger, but his feelings for her are pulling his focus. Ciaran has already made the mistake of falling for a client, and the results were disastrous. He won't risk it again. He can't. But running from love is the surest way to get Sloane killed...

Naima Simone has never failed to entertain me with her writing and ‘Killer Curves’ is no different, with some over-the-top descriptions of animal attraction that actually made me burst out laughing in incredulity before the action really kicked in. The story is entirely predictable, with a tortured hero who has allowed a night of tragedy to define the way he now lives his life, but finally sees the light with an equally insecure heroine who manages to find her footing by the time the book ends. I enjoyed this nonetheless, for the quirks, the suspense and the perceptive insight into human behaviour that Ms. Simone always inserts into every story.

three-stars
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