Saturday, March 17, 2018

Dearest Ivie Review

Title:  Dearest Ivie
Series: BDB #15.5
Author:  J.R. Ward
Genre:  Paranormal Romance
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Release Date:  March 13, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4.5 Oh-the-Feelings! Hearts

In an exclusive ebook novella set in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1 New York Times bestselling author J. R. Ward tells the story of a fiery couple . . . doomed by an undeniable passion.

The last place Ivie expects to be approached by a devastatingly handsome male is in a crowded, smoky cigar bar rarely frequented by vampires—yet here he stands. Silas is flirtatious, gallant, and, above all, mysterious. Ivie is anything but. A nurse at the healer’s clinic and the daughter of a biker, Ivie is accustomed to speaking her mind. So she does. Since aristocrats rarely pick up females of her class, Ivie asks Silas just what kind of game he thinks he’s playing.

Despite her guarded exterior, Ivie surrenders to the fierce desire she feels for Silas. And yet, just as their courtship is heating up, he reveals that it cannot last, for he is bound to return to the Old Country. Their bond only deepens as they make the most of their precious time together. But when she learns the truth, Ivie must find a saving grace—before all is lost. . . .

Dearest Ivie aims straight for the heart, scoring a direct hit!  Emotionally charged from cover to cover, it packs a whole lot of story into a short amount of pages.  Tissues are definitely needed for this brief trek into the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.  While the main characters are not well-known to BDB fans, Ivie (a nurse at Havers' clinic) and Silas (an aristocrat with a deadly secret) quickly step into starring roles as two vampires from two different worlds who are highly attracted to one another.  And the journey begins! 

As a huge fan of the series, I sat glued to the pages and read Dearest Ivie in one sitting.  The story quickly grabbed my attention, snared my heart, and evoked a range of uncontrollable feelings - eventually bringing me to tears.  I love Ivie's wit, snarky humor, and honesty as well as her unfiltered tongue.  She brings a spark of color into this sometimes gray world.  And Silas - what can I say about a dream-come-true hero like Silas . . . that he's a swoon-worthy romantic?  Oh, he is that!  He's chilvarous, noble, honorable, but also mysterious.  Ward does a fantastic job of drawing readers right into the heart & soul of these two characters.  And, she surrounds them with a diverse support cast featuring a few regulars from the BDB world as well as some new, intriguing characters that I hope to see more of.  Add an emotion laden, heart-touching (if slightfully predictable) plotline, and this is another winner in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series!  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4.5 Oh-the-Feelings! Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Friday, March 9, 2018

Did you Miss Me Review

Title:  Did You Miss Me?
Author:  Karen Rose
Series:  Romantic Suspense#14, Baltimore#3
Publisher:  Headline Book Publ.
Release Date:  Dec., 2012
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Complex Hearts

Best be nimble, best be quick, I'm right here and you're my pick...

The last thing Ford Elkhart remembers is walking his girlfriend back to her university dormitory. Now he's lying tied and gagged on a cold, dark floor, with only one chance to escape before he ends up like the bones surrounding him...

Assistant State's Attorney Daphne Montgomery is devastated by her son's disappearance, and is immediately convinced that his kidnapping is connected to the white supremacist she's just had jailed for murder.

FBI Special Agent Joseph Carter isn't so sure - especially when he learns that Ford's girlfriend is also missing. Is Ford's abduction payback for Daphne's courtroom victory? Or is he a pawn in an even more dangerous game?

Moments after a controversial verdict is delivered by jurors, District Attorney Daphne Montgomery's world implodes.  She's attacked in the courtroom, nearly killed while giving a press conference, and then receives the devastating news that her son, Ford, is missing along with his girlfriend.  Threats made imply the family of the now convicted murderer is involved, but could there be a deeper, darker connection?  Have shades of the past returned to haunt Daphne once again?  FBI Special Agent Joseph Carter has made it his job to find out.  

Readers can count on Rose to deliver a chilling, complex, twisted story every single time as she always challenges us to step up to the plate and figure it out.  I think Did You Miss Me? may be her most convoluted plotline as of yet and that's saying a lot!   With a multitude of  characters with opportunity and motive, I found myself hard pressed to figure out the mystery of "who" even though a name and the "why" is revealed through the killer's thoughts and actions early on.  The inter-connections, both known and unknown to readers, throughout the story made my head spin in an effort to keep them all straight.  It's a good idea to slow down and take this one in slowly as every single detail will prove to be important.  While Joseph and Daphne are the stars of this book, other characters step up to lend their support and expertise - setting the stage for some highly anticipated future couples.  Mystery, action, intense suspense, heart-pounding & heart-touching moments - Did You Miss Me? delivers in a big way.  An absolutely chilling, page-burning Must Read in this awesome series!

My Rating:  5 Complex Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

IWSG: Celebrating the Small Stuff!

Like most people, I celebrate big events in my life and the lives of family and friends - birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, but the small achievements (like personal writing goals) tend to pass right by unacknowledged and uncelebrated.  While I agree every individual goal is important no matter how small, I've never thought of them as anything worthy of celebration . . .  until receiving March's IWSG question:  How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal or finish a story?  Huh.  Never given it much thought before, but I will now.

Like most writers, I have several writing goals - things like consistent daily writing time or really nailing that hard-to-grasp character or completing another chapter.  And, like any writer, I enjoy a deep sense of satisfaction upon accomplishing any one of them.  But I can't recall ever really stopping to celebrate those achievements as they occur. Who has the time?

I think part of the issue for me is the absence of anyone in my immediate family or circle of friends who honestly understands what my writing means to me. They're here for me for life's big events, but haven't a clue what drives me to continue pursuing writing. Oh, I get the normal questions: How's the writing going? Is your book finished? Are you published yet? So, yeah . . . Love them to death, but not celebrating writing goals with them. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be toasting my own success, right?  Hey!  The small stuff is important too.  Why not celebrate?  A glass of wine, a stolen evening curled up on the couch with a good book, a mini-shopping spree . . . or maybe just a fist pump and hell yeah!  Go Me!  Something I'll definitely be thinking about in the future as I continue this madness called writing!  Cheers!

Do you take time to
celebrate the small stuff in a special way?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage each other. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I know you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

Many thanks to March's IWSG Co-Hosts!  Mary Aalgaard, Bish Denham, Jennifer Hawes, Diane Burton, & Gwen Gardner!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Blood Fury Review

Title:  Blood Fury
Series:  Black Dagger Legacy
Genre:  Paranormal Romance
Author:  J.R. Ward
Publisher:  Ballantine Books
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating: 5 Soulful Hearts On Fire

A vampire aristocrat, Peyton is well aware of his duty to his bloodline: mate with an appropriate female of his class and carry on his family’s traditions. And he thought he’d found his perfect match—until she fell in love with someone else. Yet when his split-second decision in a battle with the enemy endangers the life of another trainee, Peyton has to face the idea that his future, and his heart, actually lie with another.

Novo, as a female in the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s training program, feels like she has to prove herself to everybody—and she has no interest in being distracted by falling in love. But when Peyton proves to be so much more than a rich playboy, she is forced to confront the tragedy that has broken her soul and closed her off from love.

As the two grapple with Novo’s past and Peyton’s present, another couple must contend with an erotic connection that is unparalleled—and potentially scandalous.

Saxton, who has had his heart broken, discovers in himself a deep-seated attraction to Ruhn, a new member of the household. But will the other male explore the connection? Or will he close his mind and his heart to what could be true love . . . and cost Saxton everything?

Another fang*tastic read in the Black Dagger Legacy series as well as the Black Dagger Brotherhood world overall!  Loved every single minute of it!  A soulful, yearning, tormented vibe permeates Blood Fury as characters grieve unrequited love, even as they shore up their walls and vow to never trust their heart to anyone again . . . their bodies, yes . . . their hearts & souls, no.  As always, Ward flawlessly manipulates characters and their destinies while weaving multiple plotlines as masterfully as an orchestra conductor.  The life she breathes into these characters and settings is truly amazing - so emotional, so heartfelt, so real that I lived every single moment with them.

I'm not going to rehash the storylines here.  If you've read the series, you know the players, their circumstances, and what's at stake.  If you haven't read them, I highly recommend you start at the beginning and buckle up for the ride.  It's bumpy, addictive, and highly explosive, but worth every single minute.  I love the intermingling of characters between the BDB and BDL series.  It's a great opportunity for a sneak peek into the daily lives of favorite BDB characters as they guide and teach the trainees in the BDL books.  The best of both worlds! 

Blood Fury is an emotional, fast-paced story that is guaranteed to break your heart and then put it all back together better than new.  Two different couples find their destiny in this one, but the road to happy-ever-after is never smooth.  Fans have long-awaited Saxton's happy-ever-after, and Ward does not disappoint.  I'd be remiss if I didn't say it involves some of the hottest scenes in the BDB world.  Holy Moly!  Intense!  Again, I'm not discussing specifics so readers can take that ride first-hand.  Like Saxton, Peyton's journey involves unrequited love and a surprising discovery.  I must confess that I wasn't a huge fan of Peyton after the first two Legacy books as he came off as arrogant and superficial, but with the unmasking of hearts and souls that occurs in Blood Fury, my opinion has drastically changed.  I'm now a believer.  And be forewarned - Peyton also plays a starring role in some scorching hot scenes!  

For this reader, the magic that is Black Dagger Brotherhood/Legacy continues!  May it never end!  Blood Fury is another Page-Burning, Must Read in this world!

My Rating:  5 Soulful Hearts On Fire . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Subway Girls Review

Title:  The Subway Girls
Author:  Susie Ormand Schnall
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  July 10, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Fabulous Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press (Thanks, Jordan!) for an arc of this book.

In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte's dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend—the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose—does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever.

Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job—and her future.

The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition.

The Subway Girls is a heart-touching story, one that held me in the palm of its hand right through the end.  Readers should know it's not just another historical read, but rather a story that utilizes a small piece of history in the telling of the beautiful, seductive, emotional journey of two women in their pursuit of true happiness.  I love the way the author uses two women from different generations to portray and compare the plight of women pursuing their dreams and the choices they're forced to make.  Charlotte & Oliva are both strong, determined women whose paths eventually cross, forever changing both their lives.  The Subway Girls is their story.

In 1949, Charlotte's career avenue was limited if not nearly impossible.  The idea that a woman could have a career beyond that of a typist or a wife and mother was ludicrous and those brazen enough to pursue it were often ridiculed.  But, if they were pretty (and lucky enough to be chosen), they could go the modeling/beauty queen route and use their new found fame as a springboard to new opportunities.  (Historical Fact:  From 1941 to 1976, the New York Subways Advertising Company held Miss Subways' contests with the winning contestants featured on subway posters.  The contest helped open some otherwise closed avenues to these women, affecting their lives in many different ways.)  Through Charlotte's story, readers learn how it eventually changed her life.

In 2018, Olivia enjoys a women-friendly work atmosphere, but even in the here and now she faces challenges unique to women.  She's living her dream job in advertising, but at what cost?  Like Charlotte 70 years before her, she's facing some hard decisions while fighting the good-old-boys mentality of the corporate world.  When an opportunity arises for her to pitch an advertisement campaign to the New York Subway Authority, Oliver discovers the past Subway Girls Campaign and a connection that elevates this story to another level comes to light.

The Subway Girls is a fascinating, entertaining work of historical fiction, propelled to life through the use of alternating past/present chapters until characters' paths cross, intertwine, and proceed forward together.  As the fast-paced plot unfolds, it becomes clear that women of all generations still struggle with the same age-old battle of balancing love, family, and careers.  At times, I found myself frustrated over the pain and indecision inner turmoil causes both women even as I recognized it as something I've dealt with myself.  Schnall's descriptive abilities are evident, bringing characters and setting to vivid life - so much so that I felt I was there, struggling and fighting right along with them.  The author's writing flows effortlessly from past to present, chapter to chapter, creating a story that's easy to follow and hypnotizing to watch unfold.  A charming, fabulous, inspiring, burn-the-midnight-oil Must Read!  I highly recommend this story to everyone!

My Rating:  5 Fabulous Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Friday, February 23, 2018

Ink Review

Title:  Ink
Series:  A Love Story on 7th & Main
Author:  Elizabeth Hunter
Publisher:  Elizabeth Hunter
Release Date:  March 13, 2018
Order Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  3.75 rounded up to 4 Tattooed Hearts

*Many thanks to the author for an arc of this book.

It’s everything but business as usual.

Emmie Elliot hadn’t expected to come back to Metlin, California. She definitely didn’t expect to stay. She returned to her childhood home with a mission: Sell the building that housed her grandmother’s book store and move on with her life.

But life doesn’t always go according to plan.

To reopen her grandmother’s book shop, Emmie will need a hook. She’ll need a strategy. She’ll need an… Ox?

Miles Oxford doesn’t have much interest in quiet bookstore owners. He’s a tattoo artist without a space to work, and the last thing he wants is to get involved with anyone after his last disaster of a relationship. Work and pleasure don’t mix for Ox, but since he doesn’t have any interest in the cute girl with the bold business proposal, he should be safe from any awkward complications, right?

She sells ink. He tattoos it. Unusual? Yes. But a book shop/tattoo studio might be the ticket for both Emmie and Ox to find success on their own terms. As long as they keep their attention focused on business.

Just on business.

What's the common denominator between a bookstore & tattoo shop - a bookseller & tattoo artist?  INK!  Can they coexist in the same space?  In harmony?  Maybe . . . If the parties involved can agree on some ground rules like keeping their relationship strictly business and their hands to themselves.  Easy, right?  Not when sparks are flying and desire threatens better judgment.

Ink is a sweet, low-angst contemporary romance.  While it started off a bit slow for me, it was easy to feel the undeniable chemistry building as Emmie and Ox danced around their mutual but unspoken attraction.  Emmie is a quirky, down-to-earth, bohemian-style book girl - a t-shirt & jeans girl with a tendency to run when doubts and fears overwhelm her.  Ox is a tall, dark, oh-so-handsome giant of a man with tantalizing tattoos covering his delicious body - a man that's surprisingly sweet.  At first look, these two couldn't be more different.  But don't forget what they say about opposites attracting! 

Ink is intensified by a diverse support cast that enjoys stirring the pot and fanning the flames, adding to the "everyone-in-your-business" small town feel of the story. Their actions and words breathe life into the visual setting that Hunter has created.  I laughed at the snarky banter and soon found myself pulled into the growing tension between the main characters.  While I would have enjoyed seeing the conflict explored in a little more detail, Hunter's writing flows effortlessly, as always, making for an easy-reading, slow-burn romance that I enjoyed reading.  The stage is set for subsequent books which I look forward to. Another Must Read by Elizabeth Hunter!

My Rating:  3.75 Tattooed Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Friday, February 16, 2018

Riven Review

Title:  Riven
Author:  Roan Parrish
Publisher:  Random House LLC - Loveswept
Release Date:  May 29, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating: 
Cover:  5 Seductive Hearts
Story:  5 Raw, Sensual Hearts

*Many thanks to Loveswept for a copy of this arc via Netgally.

Theo Decker might be the lead singer of Riven, but he hates being a rock star. The paparazzi, the endless tours, being recognized everywhere he goes—it all makes him squirm. The only thing he doesn’t hate is the music. Feeling an audience’s energy as they lose themselves in Riven’s music is a rush unlike anything else . . . until he meets Caleb Blake Whitman. Caleb is rough and damaged, yet his fingers on his guitar are pure poetry. And his hands on Theo? They’re all he can think about. But Caleb’s no groupie—and one night with him won’t be enough.

Just when Caleb is accepting his new life as a loner, Theo Decker slinks into it and turns his world upside-down. Theo’s sexy and brilliant and addictively vulnerable, and all Caleb wants is another hit. And another. That’s how he knows Theo’s trouble. Caleb can’t even handle performing these days. How the hell is he going to survive an affair with a tabloid superstar? But after Caleb sees the man behind the rock star, he begins to wonder if Theo might be his chance at a future he thought he’d lost forever.

Readers Beware!  Riven is raw, seductive, and highly addictive!  Once you partake, you'll be hopelessly hooked and craving more, more, more . . . more of Theo & Caleb, more of their sensual, passionate story & music, more of this author's rhythmic, unique voice.  What struck me like a lightning bolt about this story is the "honesty" resonating throughout, growing stronger & more demanding beat by beat.  Although denied by both men for a long time, it drives both main characters to finally face the haunting, debilitating truths holding them each back individually.

There's little doubt that Riven is character driven - the story of two men consumed heart and soul by music in its purest form.  Caleb's career has waned as he succumbed to the rock lifestyle and is now paying his penance - left believing that the only hope for his sanity and survival is giving up the very thing that keeps his heart beating - music and everything & everyone associated with it.  On the other hand, Theo is riding the monster crest of fame, but he's drowning under the never-ending adoration of fans and the relentless pursuit of paparazzi - a reluctant rock star in that he hates the fame, lifestyle, and all it entails.  He, like Caleb, lives for the music and songs reverberating in his head. 

As this story opens, the two men meet and their erotic, passionate, troubled journey begins.  Their chemistry is electric, and readers are gifted with love scenes that are highly combustible.  Parrish's characterizations are authentic - so real and powerful and explosive that my heart overflowed with their truths and turmoil.  There's a song from Dan Hill (later recorded by other artists) from way back that portrays Theo & Caleb and their conflicted emotions and inner battles best for me (it is not used in this book).  I began hearing it in my head as this story played out and will quote it here as it describes the way I saw and felt these two men better than my own words can.  The chorus goes like this:

Sometimes when we touch,

The honesty's too much,
And I have to close my eyes & hide.
I wanna hold you 'til I die,
'Til we both break down & cry,
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.
(*by Dan Hill - Protected by copyright)

The honesty and love of these two men for music and each other is painful, all-consuming, & overwhelming at times as they work through their fears in an effort to move forward. And yet, through it all, they always feel genuine.

Riven is NOT your typical Rock Star story; in fact, there's nothing "typical" about this book.  It's a gift, a rare treasure - one readers only dream of discovering once in a blue moon hidden among all the other books on the shelf.  The sensuous yet mysterious siren of a cover seduced me into taking a closer look at this book, and the blurb sealed the deal.  I decided to take a chance on it and am so glad I did.  Roan Parrish has delivered a story and characters that will forever play in my head, heart, and soul.  All I can ask is "More, please!"  A Page Burning, Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Raw, Seductive, Sensual Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx