Friday, August 31, 2012

The Gamble by Kristen Ashley

Nina Sheridan’s on a timeout adventure in the Colorado Mountains. She needs distance from her clueless fiancĂ©, distance to decide whether she wants to spend the rest of her life with a man who doesn’t care enough to learn how she takes her coffee. Arriving in a blinding snowstorm at the A-Frame she rented, she comes face to face with the most amazing man she’s ever seen. Minutes later, when he kicks her out of his house, she goes head to head with him. Beyond angry because she’s flown half a world away to start her timeout adventure, not to mention her sinuses hurt, she heads back down the mountain and ends up in a ditch. Unable to extricate herself, she gives up, hopes for rescue and falls asleep in the backseat. The next morning she wakes up in the amazing man’s bed and she’s sick as a dog. Holden Maxwell spends days nursing her back to health and then he spends the next two weeks trying to convince her to take her Colorado adventure further, in other words, make it permanent and take a gamble on him. Nina has a tough time fighting her attraction to Max, especially when it seems all Max’s friends, her mother and stepdad and the whole town want them together and both she and Max get embroiled in the murder of Max’s ex-friend and the town of Gnaw Bone’s most detested resident – a man everyone has motive to kill, especially Max.

Initial Thoughts:

This book kept popping up at the top of my GoodReads recommendations, but I kept putting it off. Much like I did with Gabriel's Inferno by Sylvain Reynard, and we all know how wrong I was in putting that one off. I think the cover of this one bored me. What can I say? I'm a visual person.

The Pros:

"Macho, macho man. I want to be, a macho man." That's what I had in my head the entire book. HEL-LO. 

Max is the ultimate macho man. And sweet at the same time? Too good to be true. It IS a romance novel after all.

For some reason, Nina being partly British was interesting to me. I like their accents. I am vain.

Max taking care of Nina while she was sick, without knowing a thing about her, was so sweet. 

This book is funny! I now call girls I hate "she bitches from hell" thanks to Nina's lovely comments about Max's ex.

The side story lines in this book are so well thought out, they could be stand alone stories. 

Epilogue! I love epilogues. I crave closure in books, and I love when I get to see everything come full circle.

The Cons:
Max's deceased wife probably should have been discussed much earlier in their relationship. That just isn't healthy.

At times, the book got a little outlandish and hard to believe. But it's fiction, so whatever.

I didn't love the "Duchess" nickname. It kind of freaked me out.

The Wrap Up: 4/5
A great, LONG, romance read. There are some steamy scenes thrown in here and there, but this book has some serious substance with some lasting life lessons. A must read!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gabriel's Rapture by Sylvain Reynard

Professor Gabriel Emerson has embarked on a passionate, yet clandestine affair with his former student, Julia Mitchell. Sequestered on a romantic holiday in Italy, he tutors her in the sensual delights of the body and the raptures of sex. But when they return, their happiness is threatened by conspiring students, academic politics, and a jealous ex-lover. When Gabriel is confronted by the university administration, will he succumb to Dante's fate? Or will he fight to keep Julia, his Beatrice, forever? In Gabriel's Rapture, the brilliant sequel to the wildly successful debut novel, Gabriel's Inferno, Sylvain Reynard weaves an exquisite love story that will touch the reader's mind, body, and soul, forever.

Initial Thoughts:
You can read my review of the first book, Gabriel's Inferno, here. I love love LOVED that book, so reading the follow-up was a no brainer. 
The Pros:
Okay. Let's get this straight. Sylvain Reynard is a PHENOMENAL writer. Each sentence felt like poetry.
As in the first novel, the continued references to literature, art, and architecture were not only interesting to read about, but I felt like I was actually learning along the way. Imagine that, LEARNING from a romance novel! (Although, I did learn the geography of the Portland area through 50 Shades...)
The scenes in Italy were straight out of a fairy tale romance, even with a villain :)
The fact that Gabriel and Julia had to face responsibility for their actions was refreshing. Many novels you think, "you would never get away with that in real life!" and in this one, they didn't get away with it. They had to face devastating consequences.
Julia finds strength through the challenges she faces, growing from the immature college student, to a mature woman.
Like in the first, passion is key in this novel. Everything from a simple kiss to the sex scenes conveyed the passion they felt for one another.
What happened to Paul? What happened to Christa? I felt like there were a few ends that weren't tied up.
Julia kind of made me a little crazy in this book. She seemed a little immature.
Gabriel made a few rather large decisions about their relationship without consulting Julia. Not cool, buddy. The protective man-ness can only be considered hot up to a certain point. Then it's just annoying.
The Wrap Up: 4.5/5
Another outstanding read from Sylvain Reynard. It was almost as good as the first, but really, how can you top that?
Favorite Quote:
"She is not my equal; she is my better. She is my sticky little leaf."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Insanity by Lauren Hammond

Sometimes love...can drive you crazy. Adelaide Carmichael and Damien Allen couldn't be more opposite. Adelaide's mother abandoned her when she was ten years old, leaving her to be raised by her abusive and alcoholic father. Damien on the other hand came from a wealthy family, was a local celebrity, and seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. Despite their differences, Adelaide and Damien were young, wild, and fiercely in love. And they had a plan. They were going to run away. Be together forever. And their plan was set in motion, until tragedy struck and for some reason, Adelaide wound up in The Oakhill Institution for the insane. Adelaide has no idea what she did to wind up at Oakhill, but she knows one thing for sure... She wants out. And after Damien follows her there to aid her in escaping, Adelaide slowly begins putting together the pieces of her memory that are missing. And it doesn't take Adelaide long to figure out that sometimes... That one true love never dies.

Initial Thoughts:

A romance set in an insane asylum? I'm in.

The Pros:

The flashbacks between her life then and her life now painted a brilliant picture of psychiatric care in the past.

The characters inside the insane asylum were so interesting.

Her Romeo and Juliet-esque romance with Damien was cliche, but sweet.

How she dealt with the monster that is her father for that long, I have no idea.

Is she crazy? Is she not? This books keeps you guessing.

The Cons:

There were parts of the book that left me really confused. I know there are multiple books in the series, so 

I'm hoping my questions are answered in future books.

It was hard to read about some of the "treatments" they used back then. It left me haunted.

The Wrap Up: 4/5

Wonderful start to an eerie series. It really gives you a history of psychiatric care and what love can do to a person.

Favorite Quote:
"I love her son like he's the oxygen in my lungs, the plasma in my bloodstream, and the rapid pulsating beat of my heart. Sometimes I feel like I love him so much it aches when I'm not near him. It's like tiny pricks from a sewing needle jabbing into me repeatedly. I miss him so much that since yesterday my heart has felt like a towering inferno and there isn't any water or a fire extinguisher around to put it out. I'm burning, burning, burning. I want to burn eternally."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Opportunist by Tarryn Fisher

Olivia Kaspen has just discovered that her ex-boyfriend, Caleb Drake, has lost his memory. With an already lousy reputation for taking advantage of situations, Olivia must decide how far she is willing to go to get Caleb back. Wrestling to keep her true identity and their sordid past under wraps, Olivia’s greatest obstacle is Caleb’s wicked, new girlfriend; Leah Smith. It is a race to the finish as these two vipers engage in a vicious tug of war to possess a man who no longer remembers them. But, soon enough Olivia must face the consequences of her lies, and in the process discover that sometimes love falls short of redemption.

Initial Thoughts:
While perusing my Goodreads for new book suggestions, I saw a lot of people had given this book 5 stars, so I gave it a go.

The Pros:
The psychological aspect of this book was what kept me reading.

The author really demonstrated how every choice you make affects your future. Olivia has a lot of her choices thrown back in her face.

That's about all I can come up with for Pros.

The Cons:
What the hell is wrong with Olivia? And Leah? There was not a sane girl to be found in this book.

Also, what is wrong with Caleb? I still can't understand his motives.

The flashbacks got confusing after awhile.

There wasn't enough of a plot line for me to even consider liking this book.

The Wrap Up: 1/5
Probably the only book this year that I really didn't like. It was just too effed up for me to even remotely understand what was going on. 

Favorite Quote:
I didn't have one.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning

Five stunning guys, one hot woman, and a feverish romance... For him, life is all music and no play... When Brian Sinclair, lead songwriter and guitarist of the hottest metal band on the scene, loses his creative spark, it will take nights of downright sinful passion to release his pent-up genius... She's the one to call the tune... When sexy psychologist Myrna Evans goes on tour with the Sinners, every boy in the band tries to seduce her. But Brian is the only one she wants to get her hands on... Then the two lovers' wildly shocking behavior sparks the whole band to new heights of glory...and sin...

Initial Thoughts:
This was one of the "must read after Fifty Shades" books that were recommended to me. The cover looked a little steamier than I was used to, but I figured it was worth a try.

The Pros:
Character development. You got to know each of the characters so well in this book. I figure that's because each guy is going to have his own novel, but it made the story so much richer by giving you info on all the people involved in the storyline.

This book had an actual plot. Yes. You read right. An erotic romance with an actual plot. And it was GOOD.

Myrna is a smart, no-nonsense lady. I liked that.

Brian = biggest sweetheart I could ever dream up. He has the biggest heart.

I love me some rockstar romances, and this was the epitome of it.

This book was FUNNY. There was a lot of moments that had me laughing out loud.

The Cons:
The name Myrna. Really? I get that she was supposed to be sexy librarian-like but the old lady name was really "ew" to me.

They probably could have toned down the sex a bit. There were parts where I was like "uhhh... again?".

"Master Sinclair" was a little creepy. It was an alter ego that didn't fit Brian at all.

The situation with Brian's parents seemed forced. It probably could have been left out.

The Wrap Up: 4/5
Probably the best erotic romance I've read since Fifty Shades. It didn't quite have the plot line pros that Fifty did, but it wasn't just smut.

Favorite Quote:
"I need a million dollars to pay the ransom on my kidnapped poodle."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Scandalous by Ella Steele

Millionaire Jack Gray earned his fortune creating erotic art for a discerning clientele. He doesn’t use a brush to depict these hauntingly beautiful portraits—he uses bare skin. A sterling reputation is the only thing standing between Jack and poverty as he skirts the thin line between fine art and cheap sensationalism. To ensure that his character remains beyond reproach, an assistant observes his sessions. While interviewing for a new assistant, Jack hears her voice—Abby Tyndale—the girl who got away. The last time Jack saw her was over a decade ago. After years of romantic tension she had nearly kissed him, but then disappeared without a trace. He hasn’t seen her since. Until now. When he learns that his lost love joined the clergy after she fled to West Texas, his heart sinks. She’s forbidden, forever set apart by her vows. Jack’s life quickly spins out of control as Abby grows closer to him, and worsens when his client list is stolen. The financial blow alone is damning, but it’s the scandal brewing beneath the surface that he fears the most. Jack and Abby’s livelihoods rely on their reputations. A single scandal will destroy them both. While fearing a contrived scandal, they have courted a very real one as their romance reignites.

Initial Thoughts:
The cover was beautiful. I hadn't seen a cover like that ever before. Also, the aspect of Abby being "clergy" was oddly interesting.

The Pros:
I had never read a romance novel involving a nun. This was new. And intriguing.

The art aspect in this book was really interesting to me. As a former (and sometimes current) artist, I really liked the way they described Jack's process of creating his art. Also, the fine line between what is considered pornographic and art is explored in this novel.

Abby deals with her past, present, and future when all of it collides when she returns to NYC. After initially balking at the idea of that, she faces it head on.

The reason why Abby was forced to take a "sabbatical" is amazing. I loved it. 

The Cons:
I felt like the novel moved too fast. The author could have turned this into a really great love story if she would have just taken her time.

Typos. You guys know how I feel about those.

The ending? Confusing. Rushed. Not well thought out.

Jack wasn't described well enough to be considered a true romance heartthrob.

The Wrap Up: 3/5
Decent, quick romance read. If you're looking for in depth romance, you won't find it here. But this is a great beach read.

Favorite Quote:
"Before I could speak, a voice came from the shadow at the end of the room. "So that's where you went? Texas." That voice. It made my stomach flip. My body was instantly covered in goosebumps, every hair standing on end. Something inside my chest ached when he spoke. Although I hadn't heard it in years, I recognized his warm playful tone instantly. I'd know him anywhere."