Tag: Smutty

Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross

Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette CrossWolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross
Series: Stay A Spell #1
Published by Juliette Cross on 14th January 2020
Pages: 378
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three-stars

What's the worst thing that can happen to a werewolf? Unable to shift for three months, Mateo Cruz knows all too well. His wolf has taken up residence in his head, taunting him night and day with vividly violent and carnal thoughts. Convinced he's cursed, he needs the help of a powerful witch before he literally goes insane.

​Evie Savoie has always obeyed the house rules of her coven--no werewolves. They're known for being moody and volatile. So, when a distempered, dangerous werewolf strolls into the bar and almost strangles one of her late-night customers, she's ready to bounce him through the door. But the desperation in his eyes when he begs her to help him softens her heart and convinces her to bend the rules.

​What Evie doesn't know is that Mateo's wolf has a mind of his own. And now that she's in his sights, he wants only one thing. Her.

‘Wolf Gone Wild’ has an insanely attractive blurb, I’ll admit. A man who’s going insane with a wolf that’s barely leashed stumbling into a bar/restaurant asking a witch for help, when these two paths shall never cross? It’s sort of forbidden in a way, but Evie Savoie isn’t going to turn away a man in need.

Juliette Cross’s worldbuilding comes in early on: there’re long-lived supernatural beings littering the streets of New Orleans, each with their own coven, den or some other mysterious clan and the uneasy peace is kept by the Savoie witch Sisters, each with their own unique powers. But when a hex so strong is placed on Mateo Cruz, the witches find that they have to welcome a werewolf into their covern, despite what traditions dictate.

I loved the starting few chapters, where Cross’s writing was tinged with humour as Mateo battled his inner wolf with some hilarious inner conversations, most of which dealt with trying to talk sense into a lusty, bloodthirsty wolf that was straining at the leash to break people’s limbs and be dirty with women. The very slow buildup was as much as it was foreplay as it was full of innuendo and suggestive winks; Mateo’s dirty inner wolf drove a lot of it but it did plateau after a while as this became status quo each time Mateo and Evie spent time together.

This was however, also where the plot evened out after an upward climb, which went on for a while and I found myself trudging to the halfway mark before wondering if the progress between in Mateo’s case (aside from their heaving chests, salacious talk, etc) was going anywhere soon. The more interesting bits were the hints of future pairings as the story wore on, and I lapped those up more eagerly than I did of Mateo/Evie after the first half.

Still, this was a fun read, with a heavy dose of Star Wars geekery tossed in and if you like your paranormal romances juggling the ominous and the light-hearted, this is the one to go for.

three-stars

Winter Hawk by Rachel Grant

Winter Hawk by Rachel GrantWinter Hawk: A Raptor Holiday Novella by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence, #9
Published by Janus Publishing on 6th December 2019
Pages: 200
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two-stars

Raptor operative Nate Sifuentes isn’t thrilled to find himself back on the job on the first day of his winter vacation, but he can’t say no when his brother asks a favor. At least he’ll earn an easy Christmas bonus—after all, driving a fired military contractor home after she’s been escorted off base by military police can’t be that hard.

In a matter of minutes, Leah Ellis has lost everything, and now she’s left stranded in the nation’s capital on the first night of Hanukkah without money, phone, or bed. All she has is a mysterious driver who might be after her technical knowledge of the US military’s drone operations.

The former Green Beret’s protective instincts—and skills—kick in when he discovers the alluring AI engineer is being hunted. On the run, they escape the winter cold by generating their own heat, but will they find answers in time to stop a terror attack on Christmas Day?

Nate Sifuentes is the marginalised Raptor operative sent to pick up fired employee and drone engineer Leah Ellis, in what looks like a simple assignment until it blows up in their faces. That in essence, is ‘Winter Hawk’ , a short holiday novella in Rachel Grant’s Evidence series that is classic romantic suspense—non-stop action, tension, a conspiracy to unravel, with hot boinks in the midst of escaping the bad guys while clearing one’s good name. Think Bond or Bourne, just more compressed, with breathier scenes.

What feels like secondary characters become the protagonists here—older, jaded, done anything and everything with a ton of sexual partners—though the suspense is in no way compromised just because both Nate Sifuentes/Leah Ellis hadn’t been at the forefront of Grant’s books.

But I thought the brevity of the novella however did the pairing little justice given the speed at which everything went down. There’s the meet and greet to the sex (with a near-stranger) that felt more like a one-nighter than a start to a meaningful relationship and then the resolution, all of which didn’t erase the instalove feel I got from this—more so because it felt adrenaline-fuelled rather than genuine chemistry, heartfelt connection and mutual dependence. At the end of it all, I didn’t get or like this pairing, nor could I properly get invested in them at all, seeing as much of this couple was literally ‘wham-bam-thank you ma’am/sir’ and then it was the happy ride into the sunset along with a few out-of-place TSTL moments at the start.

Oddly enough, I think I might have enjoyed this more without the romance as a result, since this felt like the only questionable element in the story that proved a little too distracting. So not quite a disappointment, but also not the stellar read that I’ve come to associated with Grant’s kind of calibre.

two-stars

Black Tie by Lynn Raye Harris

Black Tie by Lynn Raye HarrisBlack Tie by Lynn Raye Harris
Series: Black's Bandits #2
Published by H.O.T. Publishing, LLC on 12th November 2019
Pages: 325
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three-stars

Abducted while on a business trip to Europe, Tallie Grant quickly realizes she’s a commodity to be sold—and there’s no way out. Determined not to surrender to the man who buys her, she’ll soon discover he’s not what he seems. 

Mercenary Brett Wheeler has one task: infiltrate a human trafficking operation and get as much information as possible. But when Tallie takes her turn on the auction block, Brett risks his cover to free her—by bidding to win. 

Someone watches from the shadows, determined to reclaim his thwarted prize. And when he does, Brett will need all his skills to find sweet Tallie again—before she’s gone forever.

As Lynn Raye Harris tackles human trafficking, I thought this would have been a more difficult read with harder-edged men and grittier circumstances, but ‘Black Tie’ was a surprisingly blander version of some of the H.O.T. books despite its exotic locales and the James Bons-esque premise.

After a rather gripping start, Tallie Grant and Brett Wheeler settled into an easy rhythm – not too much angst as well – that I somehow found rather harder to get into, layered over with a sweetness to the both of them that was certainly unlike Harris’s typical male protagonists. (More so since I’ve been noticing that her characters started to look interchangeable after a time with very similar traits)

Oddly enough, I found myself panting more for the little scenes with Ian Black and Calypso, or at least, for secondary characters and the hints of their story in the future which overshadowed Tallie/Brett’s story.

Point is,’Black Tie’ is not a bad read, but I did take days to finish this without much of a bumpy ride – it was just easy to look away, which I wished wasn’t the case.

three-stars

Hate Crush by A. Zavarelli

Hate Crush by A. ZavarelliHate Crush by A. Zavarelli
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on 21st November 2019
Pages: 324
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three-stars

They call him the devil.

When I crash-landed into him on my first day at Loyola Academy, I was sure that couldn’t be true.

He was the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in real life.

Little did I know he was also the cruelest.

I went from starstruck to stunned the moment his cynical eyes cut through me.

I can’t tell you what it was that made him want to punish me. But from that day forward the brooding recluse of a man made it his goal to torment me.

I want to loathe him, and some days, I do.

But good or bad, nobody’s attention has ever tasted so sweet.

What do you do when you have a hate crush on your bully?

Worse yet, what do you do when he’s also your teacher?

The bully-love-hate-teacher-forbidden mega trope romance is a not-so-secret catnip of mine, so ‘Hate Crush’ seemed like a good idea at the time. And to be fair, I did have an idea of what this was going to be and there were no illusions (at least, not too many) about it turning out to be a sweet, salty thing with an easy, kissy ending.

Like the blurb suggests, Sebastian Carter has found a target in Stella LeClaire, the new girl who is only part of the elite and rich crowd because of the strings that her father has pulled in Loyola Academy. The affair that they eventually fall into however, is one borne out of obsession, unhealthy dependency, abandonment issues and a way to work out a loss of direction and bitterness…the furthest thing from love, in my opinion.

This much I expected, even welcomed because I wanted to see how things would move from confused hate to lust to love as the story went on. A. Zavarelli did lay this out clearly enough, that this twisted relationship of theirs was anything but wholesome and that much, I was clear about.

What was hard to stomach though, were Sebastian Carter’s extended periods of bullying, of breaking down, of constant humiliation and cruelty for the sake of teaching a bitter and hard lesson in life simply because life had been hard for him. Doling pain out in equal measure isn’t surprising in terms of human behaviour I guess—people who have been hurt and cut deeply can and will do the same to others with a vindictiveness that is hard to witness, even in fiction—yet this happened to an extent where there was just too much of stomping down and very little building up and grovelling, which I needed to see in equal measure. One minute he’s distant and aloof, ghosting her for months; the next scene he’s back with a personality transplant and overly concerned and suddenly in love with her…really?!

In essence, the incredible masochistic streak I kept seeing couldn’t and shouldn’t simply have been mitigated only by a short period of remorse and lip service that was entirely disproportionate in righting all the wrongs that Sebastian committed, rendered even more ineffective by Stella’s easy capitulation and an epilogue that briefly told about a difficult journey to get to where they were five years later.

And if the end point was to see a stronger, grittier Stella who could resist even Sebastian’s cruelty, it actually felt as though it looked like she would have gotten there on her own, which suggested that his awful, nasty treatment of her was in fact, unwarranted. It’d served no transformative purpose as a result, and merely looked like an exercise in detailing reprehensible behaviour because neither could really get past their own issues to de-couple from their toxic relationship.

I’m leaving my rating as an arbitrary 3-starred one because of my own indecision regarding the subject matter and the narrative purpose it was supposed to serve, which I felt wasn’t entirely fulfilled. ‘Hate Crush’ didn’t tread on my triggers because it was a bully sort of romance (it’s something I can handle) but rather, infringed on my own personal sense of justice that demanded an equal amount of development and transition to a believable relationship I could buy into.
three-stars

Headliners by Lucy Parker

Headliners by Lucy ParkerHeadliners by Lucy Parker
Series: London Celebrities #5
Published by Carina Press on 20th January 2020
Pages: 286
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four-half-stars

He might be the sexiest man in London, according to his fan site (which he definitely writes himself), but he’s also the most arrogant man she’s ever met.

She might have the longest legs he’s ever seen, but she also has the sharpest tongue.

For years, rival TV presenters Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport have traded barbs on their respective shows. The public can’t get enough of their feud, but after Nick airs Sabrina’s family scandals to all of Britain, the gloves are off. They can barely be in the same room together—but these longtime enemies are about to become the unlikeliest of cohosts.

With their reputations on the rocks, Sabrina and Nick have one last chance to save their careers. If they can resurrect a sinking morning show, they’ll still have a future in television. But with ratings at an all-time low and a Christmas Eve deadline to win back the nation’s favor, the clock is ticking—and someone on their staff doesn’t want them to succeed.

Small mishaps on set start adding up, and Sabrina and Nick find themselves—quelle horreur—working together to hunt down the saboteur…and discovering they might have more in common than they thought. When a fiery encounter is caught on camera, the public is convinced that the reluctant cohosts are secretly lusting after one another.

The public might not be wrong.

Their chemistry has always been explosive, but with hate turning to love, the stakes are rising and everything is on the line. Neither is sure if they can trust these new feelings…or if they’ll still have a job in the New Year.

Nick Davenport and Sabrina Carlton are petty rivals on and off tv, but there’s good cause for it…up until the point where both their careers are suddenly in jeopardy. A twist of events forces them to co-host the dreaded early-morning show which no one bothers with, since it’s not quite the ‘serious’ stuff compared to what they used to do, and with the list of grievances sitting between them, neither’s looking good at all. This status quo doesn’t look like it’s about to change, until mishap after mishap spring the comedy into the story and Nick/Sabrina find themselves in various compromising positions which make everyone else think that they are public enemies but secret shaggers.

I’ve never felt so rewarded by a Lucy Parker book as I have with ‘Headliners’. (To be fair, I had a good feeling about it when I read the blurb and got started.) I can’t entirely remember what transpired at the end of the last book even, but as a standalone, ‘Headliners’ functions perfectly legitimately. Characters from Parker’s previous books who have already found their HEA do flit in and out however, and if you’ve not read the rest of the books, there’s a bit of an insider-wink-wink sort of joke that you could miss out on.

Still, Parker crafts a holiday rom-com with so much panache and style and comedy—it’s hilarious to read how one thing after another befalls the ill-fated couple as they wear out the enemies-to-lovers trope to the fullest. In the previous books, I’d always found a particular sort of imbalance when it came to quirk, dialogue and characterisation, but ‘Headliners’ seemed to have perfected these somehow: not too many quirks, snappy and funny dialogue and spot-on ‘Love-Actually’ type characters. Might be a bit of a bias here, but I’m voting this as Parker’s crowning glory.

four-half-stars

Yours in Scandal by Lauren Layne

Yours In Scandal by Lauren Layne
Series: Man of the Year #1
Published by Montlake Romance on 10th March 2020
Pages: 278
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two-stars

Fresh off being named Citizen magazine’s Man of the Year, New York City’s youngest mayor, Robert Davenport, decides it’s time to strategize. Next move: a bid for the governor’s seat. In his way: an incumbent with a flawless reputation. He also has an Achilles’ heel: an estranged wild-child daughter with a past so scandalous it could be Robert’s ticket to victory. And a charm so irresistible it could be Robert’s downfall.

Rebellion is a thing of the past for Adeline Blake. As New York’s premier event planner, she’s all about reform and respectability. Then she’s approached by Robert to organize the party of the season. Curious, considering he’s her father’s most formidable opponent. And alarming, too. Because Addie can’t help but fall for the righteously popular candidate with the movie-star smile.

Now it’s Robert’s choice. Does he pursue a future that holds his legacy? Or the woman who holds his heart?

In an age of political cynicism, ‘Yours in Scandal’ is a more lighthearted take on politics and an incidental romance that develops out of it, never steering too close to the deep divisiveness that dominates the headlines these days.

That said, I am familiar with Layne’s style which does have a certain smartness and intelligence to the modern-day rom-com. But in recent times, they’ve sort of faded for me and I’d hoped that ‘Yours in Sandal’ would be a perk-me-up. As a result, I’m mixed with this one, even though this has a delicious premise of fraternising with the enemy, a slow burn and a hard juggle between professional facades and personal feelings.

Subterfuge underlaid Robert’s and Adeline’s relationship both ways and I struggled with this majorly when it became obvious this was going to be the part where the lack of communication would blow up in their faces. Clearly not all was as it seemed—and both Robert and Adeline carried on that way for yonks—and if there was some hint of attraction in their interactions, nothing was too hot and heavy such that I was squinting by the halfway mark to feel a chemistry that wasn’t quite there. I didn’t get the anticipatory sense of sexual tension or build-up; instead I got a pursue-and-dodge pattern which got tiresome after a while.

I generally liked Robert’s principled nature as mayor of New York, his determination to be a clean politician—though he was dragged by some forces to not quite do some right things. At the start, there was also such an appeal of wanting to know how Layne would reconcile the wild girl rattling against the cages demanding to be let out and the prim and proper event planner that was intriguing both Addie and Adeline.

Sadly, she merely ended up as a frustratingly opaque character, constantly pushing Robert away with excuses about his chosen career not being for her. In fact, she was a player of games because she wanted to hide behind her past, coupled her inability to put herself out there and be emotionally brave was off-putting. I found her, in essence, a huge flight risk (and was proven correct) with a foot ready to step out of the relationship when she could.

‘Yours in Scandal’ was a personal disappointment, but I’ll be first to say that it’s classic Lauren Layne in many ways as well…and will probably guarantee stalwart fans a better time than I had with this.

two-stars

Colder Than Sin by Toni Anderson

Colder Than Sin by Toni AndersonColder Than Sin by Toni Anderson
Series: Cold Justice: Crossfire, #2
Published by Toni Anderson on 22nd October 2019
Pages: 400
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four-stars

Top FBI negotiator Quentin Savage is hurled into his worst nightmare when a terrorist attack on a luxury hotel propels him from esteemed keynote speaker to powerless captive.

Haley Cramer is co-owner of a private security firm and prides herself on her independence, but she is shaken to the core when gunmen attack a conference she is attending. She survives, but only because Quentin Savage pretends she’s his wife.

Together Savage and Haley plot their escape from a ragtag army of brutal but efficient thugs while struggling to figure out exactly who the enemy is. Why was the conference attacked, and why was Quentin a specific target?

With non-stop action, ‘Colder Than Sin’ pushes all the James Bond buttons right: a terrorist bombing of a security convention in Indonesia—itself a volatile part of Southeast Asia—, a bid to escape, the kind of incidental romance that blooms along the way.

And this might just be Toni Anderson’s grittiest one yet, as she deals with the very, very uncomfortable topic of sexual assault and its repercussions, more so because this is in particular a crime against women and throwing it in the spotlight as one of the main plot devices in a romantic suspense story (a genre mostly written for and read by women) makes it harder to swallow.

For this reason, the surprise for me, weren’t really Haley and Quentin (who seemed alright together, but not a blazingly hot couple I was entirely invested in), but Darby O’Roarke, the young, strong survivor who probably deserved her own medal and story for keeping it together as well as she could given the circumstances.

But I think the icing on the cake was the riveting story on its own with or without the romance: the superb suspense, the search for answers, the breathless fight for survival lent a fast-paced trot to the whole narrative that there wasn’t quite time to think about the implications of such before the next twist occurred. I did have a suspicion how it would all go down and did guess correctly in the end but Anderson’s execution of this was simply done so, so well.

There was a contrived moment or two though: it was hard to stomach seeing Quentin and Haley getting it on while terrorists were on their tails (mud and all) while Darby was waiting for them—it just felt thoughtless at that moment, when good sense seemed abandoned for blazing lust. There were also a few TSTL moments for Haley, nonetheless, but Anderson generally writes mature characters who own up to their mistakes, their cowardice and their own emotional blocks and resolved it in a way that was by and large, satisfying.

Having been a fan of Toni Anderson for a long while, there’re few books of hers that actually disappoint. If there’s something she is known for, it’s complex and intelligently crafted stories that are in the unique position of boasting an equal amount of romance and suspense to keep the pages turning and turning. I’d be crossing my fingers for Darby’s own story next—this has really given me something to look forward to.

four-stars