Publisher: Avon

Throwback Thursday Review: His Darkest Embrace by Juliana Stone

Posted November 5, 2020 by Casee in Reviews | 3 Comments

Throwback Thursday Review: His Darkest Embrace by Juliana StoneReviewer: Casee
His Darkest Embrace by Juliana Stone
Series: Jaguar Warriors #2
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 361
Add It: Goodreads
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A solitary hunter with no regard for the human world, Jagger Castille is a shifter living on the edge. A woman who calls him enemy will give him reason to live...
Jagger is a creature of the night—Skye Knightly soars in the sun. Natural adversaries, they are now joined in a mission entrusted to Skye's family centuries ago: nothing less than the salvation of the Earth.
Wounded and bitter, Jagger sought escape in the solitude of the jungle, driven by a need to disappear forever...until a mysterious shifter who calls to his soul and feeds a yearning long forgotten pulls him from his dark path. A courageous warrior, Skye's passion is equal to Jagger's—but can she trust a man whose secrets are as devastating as her own?
Each is the other's sole hope for survival. But a dark and twisted truth is leading them toward the ultimate sacrifice for a love they may never live to claim.

This review was originally posted on October 26, 2010.

I was really impressed with His Darkest Hunger. Really. The way it ended, with Jagger just disappearing into the jungle left me with high expectations for His Darkest Embrace. That turned out to be unfortunate because everything about Jagger was disappointing. He was an overbearing, egotistical arsehole who thought he knew what was best and that was that. It was enormously dissatisfying.

Skye is running from jaguar shifters—bad ones—when she is saved by one. As an eagle shifter, Skye is at her peak strength during the day. It’s her misfortune to get chased during the night when she can’t use her gifts. When she is saved by a jaguar shifter, she has little hope that she will survive. He seems almost feral which doesn’t give Skye much hope that she will accomplish her goal of saving the world. Yes—saving the world.

Jagger took to his jaguar form planning never to return. After so much pain and loss, Jagger can no longer bear to deal with human emotion. (Is that lame or what?) When he comes to Skye’s rescue, he is forced to shift, bringing all his emotions roaring to the surface. Of course the first emotion is raging lust. The lust he feels for Skye is all consuming and makes him all but mindless.

Things were going along quite swimmingly until Jagger’s friends and family catch up to them. At this point, they tell Jagger that Skye is an enemy and he decides to immediately believe them. He starts to treat Skye as his prisoner instead of a lover, which really teed me off. Honestly, it was such a one eighty after how hot and heavy he was feeling before that I just couldn’t get behind it.

As for Skye, I really found myself admiring her courage. By closing the opening between the realms, she is not only killing herself but surrendering herself to a lifetime of living in hell. How can you not admire that? Even when she started have feelings for Jagger, she was still determined to do what needed to be done. What I didn’t buy was how quick she “fell in love” with Jagger. How could she fall in love with such a jerk? Honestly. I’m still wondering.

I’m also wondering if the next book is going to be as disappointing as this one.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5.

Jaguar Warriors

three-half-stars


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Guest Review: Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy

Posted October 12, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Her Night with the Duke by Diana QuincyReviewer: Tracy
Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy
Series: Clandestine Affairs #1
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
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two-half-stars
Series Rating: three-stars


Desire knows no reason...

When Lady Delilah Chambers finds herself stranded at a country inn on a rain-swept evening, she’s forced to fend off a group of ruffians with the help of a handsome gentleman. Irresistibly drawn to each other, Leela and the stranger spend one reckless night in each others’ arms—and then go their separate ways. But the very next day Leela receives the shock of her life when she meets the duke who is set on wedding her beloved stepdaughter.

When it finds two destined hearts...

One night isn’t enough with a woman as fierce, fiery, and brilliant as Leela. Elliot Townsend, Duke of Huntington, cannot believe his good fortune when their chance encounter leads to an unforgettable evening of passion. Yet Hunt’s luck runs out when he is introduced to his prospective mother-in-law. Dowagers aren’t supposed to look like this... 
Leela and Hunt are determined to keep each other at arm’s length, which should be easy enough for two intelligent adults with reputations to uphold. The problem is all logic is lost when it comes to a passion that refuses to be ignored.

Warning: This review contains small spoilers.

During a rainstorm both Leela and Elliot Townsend get stranded at a roadside inn. To save Leela from the unruly pub population, he offers to share his private parlor with her.  One thing leads to another and they end up spending a passionate night in the private parlor.  When Leela wakes up Elliot is gone but she can’t forget their wonderful night together.

Imagine Leela’s shock when she arrives at her former home (she a widowed Countess) and finds Elliot Townsend aka the Duke of Huntington there.  He’s there because he’s “almost” engaged to Leela’s 18 year old step-daughter.  Leela is completely taken with Hunt, but would do nothing to hurt her step-daughter, Tori, for any reason, so she makes every excuse to stay away from the duke.  When he infers that they should continue their affair, Leela declines and Hunt ends up asking Tori to marry him.

While Hunt is getting used to the idea of marrying Tori, she’s falling in love, but not with Hunt.  When their engagement ends, Leela is concerned for Hunt’s well-being and seeks him out.  He’s an ass to her, but they end up together. From there their relationship is off and on like a faucet, but eventually they get their HEA.

This book.  It was recommended as the next big thing, and supposedly very good.  Yeah, not my cuppa at all. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Leela.  She was brave, strong, independent, loyal, and she definitely knew her own mind.  Hunt, on the other hand, was an ass.  I’m sure I can come up with much stronger adjectives, but I’ll leave it at that.  He ruined the book for me.

Leela is the daughter of a Marquess and was born and raised in England.  Her mother was Levantine, which makes Leela half Levantine.  Of course, people see her as a heathen even though she’s as English as anyone else.  She is a Countess by marriage, but people sometimes still treat her like a servant before they find out she’s a Lady.  She loves traveling and has even written a travelogue and had it published, with wonderful results. She was really a great character and quite steadfast in her beliefs and desire to continue traveling, continue writing and live life on her terms.

Hunt was a man who was determined to be as unlike his dissolute older brother as possible.  When his brother died he decided that he would avoid scandal at all costs and marry a quiet, biddable woman to be his wife.  After spending the night with Leela he decided that he wanted her no matter what.  He was disappointed when she said no and almost to spite her he got engaged to her step-daughter.  When the engagement ended, he was a complete jerk to Leela time and again.  He made me so mad at times!  I don’t think I’ve disliked a hero this much in years.

While I didn’t mind Quincy’s writing, and as I’ve said, I really enjoyed Leela, the overall book was not to my liking.  It was a bit all over the place and irritated me more often than not.  I think I’m in the minority in my feelings for this book so you probably should make up your own mind about it.  That said I was intrigued by Hunt’s friend Griff whose parents were murdered while he slept in the same house and everyone believes that he killed them.  I’m pretty sure his book is next in this series and I will definitely pick that one up when it’s released.

Rating: 2.75/3 out of 5

two-half-stars


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Guest Review: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath

Posted September 28, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine HeathReviewer: Tracy
Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath
Series: Sins for All Seasons #6
Also in this series: Beyond Scandal and Desire, Beyond Scandal and Desire, When a Duke Loves a Woman, When a Duke Loves a Woman (Sins for All Seasons, #2), The Scoundrel in Her Bed (Sins for All Seasons, #3), The Duchess in His Bed, The Earl Takes a Fancy
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 29, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

She wants lessons in seduction

Althea Stanwick was a perfect lady destined to marry a wealthy lord, until betrayal left her family penniless. Though she’s lost friends, fortune, and respectability, Althea has gained a scandalous plan. If she can learn to seduce, she can obtain power over men and return to Society on her terms. She even has the perfect teacher in mind, a man whose sense of honor and dark good looks belie his nickname: Beast.

But desire like this can’t be taught

Benedict Trewlove may not know his parentage but he knows where he belongs—on the dark side of London, offering protection wherever it’s needed. Yet no woman has ever made such an outrageous request as this mysterious beauty. Althea is out of place amongst vice and sin, even if she offers a wicked temptation he can’t resist. But as the truth of his origin emerges at last, it will take a fierce, wild love to overcome their pasts.

Althea Stanwick is a Duke’s daughter working at a tavern in Whitechapel.  Strange?  Yes.  Unfortunately her father was tried and hung for plotting to assassinate the queen and then the title, lands and money were stripped from the family.  Althea and her two brothers were ostracized and ended up moving to Whitechapel, which is the only place they could afford.  After taking care of the house (hovel) for a while, Althea decided that she needed to contribute.  Her brother Griff was working the docks, but they needed more money to survive.

Althea ends up working at Gillie Trewlove’s tavern and is only there for a short time when she meets Gillie’s brother, Beast.  Beast (Benedict) is completely taken with Althea personally, but he also sees in her someone who was educated and trained in the finer arts.  He proposes that she become a tutor for the prostitutes that live in his building so that they may find other professions.  Althea agrees to his terms, after driving a hard bargain with her pay, but also requires that Beast teach her seduction so that she may become the most sought-after Courtesan in London.  Beast agrees, but he’s not sure he can complete his end of the bargain without losing his heart.

I’ve liked all of the books in this series, but we never really got to know Beast all that well.  He was pretty absent in the other books, and when we did hear about him there was very little info.  I loved getting to know this man and the huge heart he had in him. I won’t ruin the surprise of how he got where he is now, but he was just as determined as his siblings to make something of himself.  He wasn’t a brothel owner, nor did he run it, he just allowed the brothel to be in a building he owned so he could watch over the girls.  He never took a penny from them and made sure they were always taken care of.  In taking care of them, he helped them to learn other professions so that they could stop being prostitutes and make better lives for themselves.  I seriously loved that.  He deserved a good woman and one that appreciated him. Althea was that woman.

Althea was strong.  She had been through hell and never imagined that she’d be living and working in the dregs of London. (Althea’s brothers were in the story somewhat as they are trying to clear the family name but that was all hush-hush.)  All of her “friends” had turned their backs on her because they didn’t want to be near the daughter of a traitor.  She wasn’t the traitor, but she was treated as though she was.  It’s in the blood, right? eyeroll Though I couldn’t agree with her decision to become a courtesan, I did admire the fact that she had set a goal for herself and was working her way to accomplishing that.  She liked Beast from minute one, but never thought to fall in love with him.  Their slow burn romance was wonderful, and I so enjoyed watching these two characters fall in love.

Overall a great book and a wonderful end to the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Sins for All Seasons

four-stars


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Guest Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Posted September 21, 2020 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Emerald Blaze by Ilona AndrewsReviewer: Tracy
Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #5
Also in this series: Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1), Wildfire, White Hot, White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2), Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1), White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2), Wildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3), Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1), Wildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3), Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, #3.5), Sapphire Flames, Diamond Fire, Wildfire
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Point-of-View: First Person
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 391
Add It: Goodreads
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four-half-stars
Series Rating: five-stars

As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart.

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won't rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that's tearing their world apart.

Catalina Baylor is wrapping up an investigation for House Baylor Investigative Agency, her family’s PI firm, when she’s attacked by beasts she’s never seen before.  She discovers that they are a blend of mechanical and biological constructs that are controlled by magic, which aren’t supposed to be able to exist together.  Since she is the Deputy Warden of the State of Texas, she calls the Warden, Linus Duncan, and tells him.  He immediately instructs her to go to Montgomery Investigations, Inc. and take over a case.

The case involves the death of Prime Felix Morton from House Morton.  He was one of five Primes from different Houses that were working on a reclamation project. They were trying to reclaim The Pit, which is a flooded, swampy area in the middle of Houston.  Catalina must now interview the other four Primes to try to discover who killed Felix.  She certainly doesn’t expect to run into Alessandro Sagredo when she gets to MII, as she hasn’t seen him in six months, but that’s what happens.  Alessandro was hired by Lander Morton to kill whoever murdered his son, Felix, once the killer is exposed.

Catalina is determined to keep her distance from Alessandro, despite the fact that he’s resumed his bodyguard-of-the-Deputy-Warden duties.  Alessandro has discovered that a man that he has been after for years is now looking to kill Catalina, if not her whole family.  He’s going to keep Catalina safe if it kills him.

Catalina has to deal with her feelings for Alessandro, keeping herself and her family safe, dealing with her grandmother Tremaine who is a wolf in wolf’s clothing, and balancing her House duties as well as her Deputy duties.  It’s a lot, especially with finding out that there is something in the Pit that is sentient, and it plans on taking over Houston completely.

I love Ilona Andrews books.  Seriously, I’ve never read an IA that I didn’t like.  The world building alone rocks my world, then they add in some romance and boom, I’m hooked.  This book was another amazing addition to the Hidden Legacy series.

I really didn’t like Catalina the first time I read Sapphire Flames.  Amazing book, but I was on the fence about her.  The “I love you” when it came to Alessandro was out of nowhere and based on nothing, and I wasn’t feeling it.  I recently reread SF and Catalina grew on me.  I still didn’t like the “love” part of the story, and actually disliked Alessandro somewhat during the second read, but the book was still crazy good.

In Emerald Blaze all of that dislike went away.  Though it’s only been six months since the last story ended, I felt Catalina had grown.  Becoming Deputy Warden of the State of Texas, and working with Linus, did her a hell of a lot of good and I could see the changes in her.  Alessandro, as well, was a different person.  His snarky personality wasn’t completely gone, but he seemed to take life more seriously and he was actually open and communicative with Catalina.  Loved it!

The rest of the story, besides the romantic parts, was super great.  Not that they weren’t, but they weren’t the focus.  I love the creatures that IA comes up with and it blows my mind that their minds work like that! The fact that the Baylor family, as well as Alessandro, have to work out these puzzling details and use their wits and intelligence to solve whatever issues arise makes me like them and the book even more.

I can’t tell you much about it as that will completely ruin the story for you, but I highly recommend this book.  If you haven’t read this series yet you are definitely missing out!  Start with Burn for Me and don’t stop until you’re done with Emerald Blaze.  You can thank me later.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews

Posted August 16, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 6 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: Emerald Blaze by Ilona AndrewsEmerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
Narrator: Emily Rankin
Series: Hidden Legacy #5
Also in this series: Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1), Wildfire, White Hot, White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2), Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1), White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2), Wildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3), Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1), Wildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3), Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, #3.5), Sapphire Flames, Diamond Fire, Wildfire, Emerald Blaze
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Point-of-View: First Person
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 400
Length: 12 hours and 41 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: five-stars

Ilona Andrews, #1 New York Times bestselling author, continues her spellbinding series set in the Hidden Legacy world where magic controls everything…except the hearts of those who wield it.
As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart. 
The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won't rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that's tearing their world apart. 

Excerpt

A dark-haired man walked through the doorway, gliding as if his joints were liquid. All the air went out of the room. I tried to take a breath but there was none to be had.

“My apologies,” Alessandro Sagredo said with a charming Italian accent. “So sorry to be late.”

Augustine Montgomery was a dead man. He just didn’t know it yet.

Alessandro looked straight at me. Our stares connected and for a split second my brain ground to a halt. I couldn’t think, I could only feel, and what I felt was intense, searing rage.

I couldn’t afford to react.

Tiny orange flames sparked in his irises and vanished. Nobody else saw it. His expression remained perfectly neutral.

Why?

He had an entire world at his disposal. He could have gone anywhere, but he came back here, to my city. It hurt to look at him. It hurt to remember him holding me, because when he wrapped his arms around me, he made me feel safe, and loved, and wanted. All that and he left, without apology, without explanation. He’d made it absolutely clear that I didn’t matter and now he was back, the son of a bitch, as if nothing had happened.

Alessandro walked to Lander’s left side and bent to him, an expression of utmost concern on his handsome face. “How are you feeling today, Zio?”

I had to snap out of it. There would be time to feel later. Right now, I had to think, because the equivalent of a hungry raptor just casually strolled into the room and nobody besides me, Morton, and possibly Augustine knew it. Alessandro called Lander his uncle. They weren’t related. I knew the genealogy of House Sagredo like the back of my hand. I could recite them down to fourth generation in my sleep.

Lander patted Alessandro’s hand with his, affectionately, as you would to a nephew.
“I didn’t know House Morton and House Sagredo were on such good terms,” Tatyana commented.

“Why would you know? When his father and I were friends, you were just a twitch in your daddy’s dick,” Lander said.

Lander Morton, the very soul of courtesy.

Marat rolled his eyes.

Alessandro straightened. Not a hint of magic. He’d pulled his power so deep inside himself, he felt inert. Harmless. Most of his targets kept on thinking he was harmless, right up until he killed them. That’s why they called him the Artisan. He’d elevated murder for hire to an art.

Why are you here? Was this work or really a family obligation?

He wore a pewter-colored suit, impeccably tailored, Neapolitan style, cut close to the body to accentuate his narrow waist. The suit shimmered slightly, probably a summer wool and silk blend. Spalla camicia, the “shirt shoulder,” without any padding and wide lapels with a convex curve that drew the eye, all of which minimized the shoulder line. Alessandro had shoulders like a gymnast; if you put any padding on him, he would resemble a linebacker. He was here to work, and he was trying to disguise his build to appear less of a threat.

It might work on the four Primes. It might even work on Augustine. They would look at his sun-tanned skin, his artfully disheveled brown hair, the expensive suit, the tailored trousers ending at a perfect shivering break – the hem meeting the shoes’ vamps as closely as was possible without rumpling – and they would see a young Italian Prime, the heir to an old family, indulged, confident, carefree, handling a bit of business as a favor.

It didn’t work on me. I’d seen him fight. Once you witnessed the way he moved, flawless, spare, each strike landing with unattainable precision, you never forgot it. Alessandro dedicated himself to killing. Under that shimmering suit, his body was corded with powerful flexible muscle. He was shockingly strong and abnormally fast. His face wasn’t just handsome, it was a face of a fighter, chiseled, masculine – strong jaw, full lips, straight Roman nose, carved cheek bones. His amber eyes scanned the room, and I watched him assess the threats and measure the distance to them in a split second. They saw a playboy. I saw a gladiator.

Alessandro unleashed a smile. The two women shifted slightly.

“I have arrived here on short notice and under painful circumstances.”

Usually he had almost no accent. Right now, he was layering it in. If he sounded any more Italian, the conference table might sprout grape vines and olive branches while the strains of lnno di Mameli spilled from the speakers.

“I am not familiar with this project, so I ask for your patience and guidance as I find my footing. Let us move forward through this time of grief and ensure the continued success and prosperity of our families.”

Hidden Legacy

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: August 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Ilona Andrews

“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored four NYT and USAT bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels, rustic fantasy of the Edge, paranormal romance of Hidden Legacy, and Innkeeper Chronicles, which they post as a free weekly serial. For complete list of their books, fun extras, and Innkeeper installments, please visit their website at Ilona-andrews.com.


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