Tag: Leslie Kelly

Guest Review: Bare Essentials by Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly

Posted March 13, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

bare essentialsJen’s review of Bare Essentials: Naughty But Nice/Naturally Naughty by Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly

Naughty But Nice by New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis

Lingerie model Cassie Tremaine Montgomery intends to have her revenge on the citizens of her hometown—starting with seducing the sheriff, Sean “Tag” Taggart. Tag, however, isn’t cooperating. He’s more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he’s asking for more than just sizzling sex…. He knows Cassie’s not as tough as she pretends. And he knows she cares about him—even if she won’t admit it. So he’ll just turn up the heat until she concedes there’s more between them than this red-hot passion.

Naturally Naughty by New York Times bestselling author Leslie Kelly

Kate Jones, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is home. And she’s got an agenda. To get revenge on the man who humiliated her mother, Kate’s going to seduce that man’s son—the town’s golden boy, John Winfield Jr.—and then leave him drooling in a puddle of lust. However, when she finds herself seduced by a sexy stranger named Jack, little does she guess that the tables have just been turned….

This newly released book is basically a set of of two shorter books that were originally published as separate Harlequin Blaze titles in the early 2000s–Naughty but Nice (Shalvis) and Naturally Naughty (Kelly). They were obviously written as a two-book series by two different authors, though, which was a concept I thought was pretty interesting. The tone and characterization was consistent between the books, but each author brought her own touch to her story. The series centers around Cassie Tremaine and Kate Jones, two cousins from the poor side of Pleasantville, Ohio. They were both treated like trash by most of Pleasantville, and both ditched town and never looked back the moment they were old enough. Cassie, the “bad girl,” went on to become a famous lingerie model. Kate, the “good girl,” started a wildly successful sex toy/lingerie store in Chicago. To their dismay, both have to return temporarily to Pleasantville, and both find more than they bargained for while there.

I liked Naughty but Nice, but something about it just didn’t fully work for me. I think the main stumbling block for me was Cassie. Throughout high school, she had a reputation as a bad girl, mostly because her mom slept around and therefore was the subject of major slut-shaming. While not “bad” in the same way as her mom, everyone assumed Cassie was cut from the same cloth. She was always verbally outrageous, though, something she obviously used as a defense mechanism. The problem is, while I could understand teenage Cassie’s behavior, I had more trouble with grown up Cassie. Cassie still pushes the envelope sometimes, but nothing she did really seemed THAT outrageous. She’s obviously still insecure inside, but she covers it up by acting kind of snotty and obnoxious, and I found it hard to be on her side at times. She thinks the worst of everyone in Pleasantville, and it takes her a really long time to see that the town isn’t quite the same as when she left.

Her hero is Tag, the sheriff of Pleasantville. I enjoyed that he wanted Cassie and didn’t care about her past, her family, or even her attempts to drive him away with her obnoxiousness. He is patient with her and realizes she needs time to open up and let him in. They have some sexy chemistry, but the emotional part of their relationship left me a little flat, mostly because Cassie spends so much time pushing him away.

I liked the premise of Naturally Naughty a lot–good girl grows up to make a huge success out of herself doing something that’s a little scandalous (owning a sex toy shop) but still worthy of an overachiever (building a very successful business from the ground up). I felt like the book spent a lot of time saying Kate was really good, but I didn’t see a ton of that. It’s not that she wasn’t nice or helpful or smart, just that this over-the-top goodness and dependability didn’t really shine through a ton. Like her cousin, Kate too has a pretty big chip on her shoulder where the town is concerned. She is always assuming the worst of people and figures everyone hates her guts, when to me it seemed like most of the town could care less about them. In that way I felt like both cousins were awfully narcissistic. While there are certainly some old timers hanging onto their prejudices about Kate and Cassie, they are not in the majority.

Kate’s hero is Jack Winfield, son of the former town mayor who died recently. I like that Jack is the pursuer right from the start. It is a little silly that he switches so fast from “Marriage ain’t for me!” to “I want this woman in my life for a long time,” but I do still enjoy a guy who is confident in his feelings and resolves to pursue the heroine. Jack mostly worked for me, up until one particular scene. Kate’s business partner, and closest friend, is a gay man named Armand. Armand comes to visit Kate in Pleasantville but has to wait with Jack until Kate gets back home. And here is where I heard that noise of a record screeching to a halt:

“Not that Armand had tried anything–if he had, he sure as hell wouldn’t be sitting in his living room, friend of Kate’s or no friend.”

So not only is Jack asserting the stereotype that all gay men must want to “try something” with all straight men, but he would have physically thrown Armand out if such a thing had happened, even knowing Armand is Kate’s closest friend. (So if one of Kate’s girlfriends had come on to you, she’d be out on her ass? Uh-huh.) Up until then I was on board with Jack and feeling great about him with Kate, but this sentence poured some cold water on that feeling because it seemed to reveal something unintended about Jack’s character.  While it didn’t ruin the entire book, I couldn’t quite forget his comment, and he never fully got me back on board.

Somehow, these two stories seemed just a tiny bit…dark. The women are screwed up and kind of petty, and the town has a certain depressing quality to it. I did appreciate that small town America was portrayed in a slightly more nuanced way than you see in most small town romances. People can be vindictive and spiteful, they pry into your business, they have economic challenges like unemployment and lack of businesses, drugs can be a serious problem, etc. But again, this all added a level of bleakness that I wasn’t in love with.

I’d say it’s due to the skill of both Shalvis and Kelly that these books worked for me at all. Both stories had great, realistic dialogue and moments of humor that lightened the mood. I just think that neither author had her best showing in Bare Essentials.

Grade: 3.25 out of 5

This book is available from Harlequin. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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Review: Bare Essentials: Naughty But NiceNaturally Naughty

Posted January 29, 2014 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

There were two connecting stories in this book and I had very different views of each so I’m reviewing them individually.



Naughty But Nice

by Jill Shalvis

Lingerie model Cassie Tremaine Montgomery intends to have her revenge on the citizens of her hometown—starting with seducing the sheriff, Sean “Tag” Taggart. Tag, however, isn’t cooperating. He’s more than willing to set the sheets on fire with her, but he’s asking for more than just sizzling sex…. He knows Cassie’s not as tough as she pretends. And he knows she cares about him—even if she won’t admit it. So he’ll just turn up the heat until she concedes there’s more between them than this red-hot passion. 

Cassie grew up in a town called Pleasantville that wasn’t very pleasant. Her mother was not one to shy away from men, to say the least, and her family was known as “that trashy Tremaine family.”  Needless to say Cassie didn’t really trust any of the men in town because she had no idea who had slept with her mother and who hadn’t.
On prom night ten years earlier her date, who she wanted to get away from, got pulled over by the Sheriff and was made to walk home.  Cassie was happy that it was Sheriff Taggart because she trusted him – that is until he started suggesting that Cassie pay him back for his kindness with sex. Ew. She got home safely but was a bit traumatized by the event.  She crawled up into her tree house and wrote out a revenge list for when she was older.
Ten years later and Cassie is back in town as her mother has given her a bunch of properties that she inherited from some of the men she was “friends” with over the years.  Cassie thinks she’s gonna close things up and sell until she gets there and finds that not everyone knows who she was from years past and that she kind of likes it in Pleasantville.   She decides to open a women’s store, Bare Essentials, (lingerie and sex toys, among other things) along with her cousin Kate. Kate already has a Bare Essentials in Chicago that is a total hit.  Cassie doesn’t plan on the new Sheriff Taggart, who is the originals son.  He’s hot and he really likes Cassie – even though it doesn’t show at first.  Tag is looking for long term but Cassie has self-esteem issues as she doesn’t believe that any man could like her for more than her body.
This is probably the first Shalvis story that I didn’t absolutely love.  I think I had issues with Cassie as I couldn’t quite believe that after all those years she truly didn’t believe herself a good person inside.  
Tag was a great guy but even he was playing the sex card with Cassie and it just didn’t feel right to me – even though it was a big part of the story.  
Cassie, imho, was all over the place with her emotions, jumping from one to the other very quickly.  She really didn’t know what she wanted and I believe she held out too long with Tag and his love for her.  
So while this was a good story I did have some issues with it.  I liked the addition of Kate in the story as it led us nicely into the next one but I didn’t love this one.
Rating: 3 out of 5

Naturally Naughty
by Leslie Kelly

Kate Jones, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, is home. And she’s got an agenda. To get revenge on the man who humiliated her mother, Kate’s going to seduce that man’s son—the town’s golden boy, John Winfield Jr.—and then leave him drooling in a puddle of lust. However, when she finds herself seduced by a sexy stranger named Jack, little does she guess that the tables have just been turned…

Kate was always a quiet, studious girl who was thought of as kind.  When her prom date dumps her for another girl Kate ends up walking home alone.  When she’s almost at her house she sees her mother, who is a maid at Mayor Winfield’s house, get out of the car with a man and kiss him.  It’s none other than Mayor Winfield!  Kate is crushed that her mother would kiss a married man or that Mayor Winfield seemed to be taking advantage of her mother!  She climbs up to her backyard tree house (and yes, her cousin Cassie is already there) and along with Cassie makes a revenge on Pleasantville list.  
Ten years later Kate is a successful business woman and has even been featured in Chicago’s Business Journal.  She’s there to get some things from her old house as her mother has moved to Florida and plans to sell the place.  While in Pleasantville she sees a man across the street.  They catch each others eye and can’t look away.  He crosses the street and ends up kissing her right there – without even knowing her name.  Later that day they end up in the local (deserted) theater and have sex.  Jack is the man and he’s completely smitten with Kate – without even knowing her name.  Jack knows she’s from Chicago as he is and tells her he’ll call when he returns.  
Jack gets back home – to the Winfield house – and finds out that the rumors about his now deceased father and  Kate’s mom are completely true.  He feels guilty that his father treated Edie the way he did and feels that he needs to right the wrong.  He doesn’t feel he can see Kate while he’s on the mission – so he never calls.
Months later they’re both back in Pleasantville and when Kate finds out that Jack is actually a Winfield she’s done with him.  She’s already pissed off that he never called but unfortunately she can’t seem to stay away from him – and Jack despite his guilt, can’t seem to stay away from Kate.
They eventually give in and start a relationship but Kate is still mired in her “I’m not good enough” for long term thinking and it may just ruin everything.
I liked this story so much more than the first!  I really liked both Kate and Jack so very much.  Kate was a strong business woman who still had a few issues to get through personally but was still open to love.  Jack, in my opinion, should have done away with his guilt much sooner than he did but I’m glad he finally realized he didn’t need to feel guilty. 
I was a little bothered by the fact that everyone got a happy ending in this story – even the mean people – as it was made to look that they’d turned nice and frankly I strongly doubted that.  Besides that fact I really liked the book and was so happy I continued reading from the first story.
Rating: 4 out of 5



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Guest Review: Blazing Midsummer Nights by Leslie Kelly

Posted August 13, 2012 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith’s review of Blazing Midsummer Nights by Leslie Kelly

Anything can happen on a magical midsummer’s eve Marketing director/workaholic Mimi Burdette has The Plan-work for her father and date his right-hand man. Problem is, there’s no heat in the relationship. Not even a spark. And worse still, Mimi is having some seriously sexy, panties-ablaze dreams-and the star looks a lot like Xander McKinley, the hunky firefighter next door. Mimi’s dreams might be due to the strange tea she drank. Or the predictions from the fortune cookie she ate. Or they could be due to Xander’s smokin’ hotness. But whether it’s magic or just old-fashioned fireworks, Mimi is about to break all of the rules-including her own!

Shakespeare this book isn’t, but lovers and fans of Leslie Kelly’s writing will once again delight in this mixture of fun, chuckles, hot loving, all wrapped up and well spiced with some magic.  The reader is left to decide the source of that magical component, but all in all, it is another fun read from Harlequin Blaze.

Who doesn’t love a hot firefighter and a heroine who needs some heat and magic in the midst of a life that has become deadened by work and family pressure.  This novel is an easy read but don’t sell it short.  It’s got everything a very romantic love story needs to hold its own with romance fiction fans.

I always pick up a Leslie Kelly book and I have to say that this one was a bit different than some I have read in the last couple of years.  For that very reason I enjoyed it a lot.  There is a clear contrast between Mimi’s pedantic family and her father’s choice for her over against Xander, the man who really manages to light her “fire.”  It is that contrast and the crisis that grows out of these two forces that are pulling at Mimi.  It is also that push/pull that keeps this book from sinking out of sight into erotic boredom.  It’s a really fun read and one that I think will be very entertaining for anyone who picks it up.

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5

You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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What I Read Last Week

Posted November 23, 2010 by Tracy in Features | 7 Comments

Hello there!
So yes, it’s been a weird week and it’s only Tuesday.  Yesterday was just a bizarre day all the way around.  Mondays are usually busy but yesterday was insane.  I usually try to get this post done on Mondays during my lunch break but it was so busy I didn’t even take lunch and ate at my desk.  I guess it was because of the short week since I’m off on Thursday and Friday because of Thanksgiving – at least that’s what I’m going with.
Then I got home last night, exhausted, and the kids were all “Mom, I need you!” “Mom, can you do this?” Mom, can you help me with my math?” (that one made me laugh since I suck at math!) Anyway, they were so demanding…like I was their mother or something.  Like it was my job. *sigh* I obviously haven’t trained them well enough. ;0)
Anyway, so I’m late on this post but at least I’m getting it done, right? Right.
My first read for the week was Emily and The Dark Angel by Jo Beverley.  I read this one for The Book Binge.  It’s a re-release from 1991 that centers around a woman who’s firmly on the shelf and the rake next door.  He’s in the country for hunting season and she’s taken over her family’s estate management after her father is paralyzed and her brother goes missing in the war.  It’s kind of a mad cap story but fun none-the-less. You can read my review here if you’re interested. 3.5 out of 5
My Tracy’s TBR challenge read for the week was Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly.  I’ve had this one for a long darned time and thought it was time to actually read it.  A society lady, yet savvy business woman goes to an auction to bid on a male prostitute only to keep him out of the clutches of her step-mother.  But the programs were messed up and though she thinks the man she got is a gigolo he’s actually a Chicago firefighter.  It’s a cute story that centers around Jake and Maddy getting to know each other and Jake trying to break the ice around Maddy’s heart that was formed after she found her former fiance in bed with another woman. 3.5 out of 5
After that I read Hungry For You by Lynsay Sands.  This is book 14 in the Argeneau series.  A cute story about an immortal finding his life mate. (releases 11/30/10) You can read my review here if you’d like. 3.75 out of 5
Kiss Across Time by Teal Ceagh was my next read.  This is an erotic read about a woman who goes to a death metal concert and ends up kissing the lead singer.  When they kiss they go back in time. The woman then goes back stage and ends up kissing the singers partner and they go back in time as well.  The story revolves around the men, who are vampires, trying to talk and seduce the woman into staying with them as their bonded mate.  The vamps, Brody and Veris, are hot, hot hot.  This is basically a short story introducing how the characters got together and getting you ready for book 2 in the series which is longer and much more in depth. 3.25 out of 5
The Serpent Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt is the book I read for my DIK reading challenge and my review will post on Thursday.
My next read was Tangled Up in You by Rachel Gibson.  This was the story of Maddie who writes true crime mysteries.  She’s decided that she needs to write the story of how her mother was murdered 29 years before and see if she can make sense of it all.  She goes back to Truly, Idaho, where the murder occurred and ends up getting involved with Mick who’s father was killed at the same time as Maddie’s mom…by Mick’s mother.  The story was very cute as I loved Mick and Maddie together but it was also very sad due to the subject matter and Mick’s reaction to Maddie when he finds out who she is. 3.75 out of 5
Next was Kiss Across Swords by Teal Ceagh that I read for The Book Binge.  This is book 2 in the Time-Crossed Love series.  This book takes place 4 years after the trio, Brody, Veris and Taylor have gotten together and Taylor asks Veris to change her into a vampire.  He refuses and leaves Brody and Taylor where they soon jump back in time to the first crusade which is where Brody and Veris first met.  That’s when the men were supposed to get together only things aren’t how they should be.  Taylor and Brody must make events between Brody and Veris happen or their trio in the future may not be together. A very good book that I really enjoyed.  I’ll let you know when my review posts.  (the book releases Nov. 24) 4 out of 5
Next was Turnskin by Nicole Kimberling.  This is a shifter book about a young man who is from the country who longs to go to the city and be a playwright.  He meets and falls in love with Cloud Coldmoon who is also a shifter but also the son of a crime boss.  Tom has to leave his trailer and the country and makes it to the city where he meets 3 of his cousins who run Turnskin theatre.  He ends up writing plays for them but meeting up with Cloud again as well. The two men have to figure out how to save Turnskin as well as how they will get Cloud out from under his mother’s thumb and live happily ever after. The story is very good and I loved the different take on the shifters.  These are shifters who can make themselves look like anyone but mostly their regular forms have hair and sometimes muzzles.  The book could be solemn and sad but also humorous and fun.  Just a really good read.  4 out of 5
Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverley was my next read.  I read a excerpt of this book, that will soon be re-released, in the back of the other Beverley book that I read this past week and I decided I’d like to read it. A family of 5 run by Meg, a 21 year old woman is in desperate straits.  They have no money and no means to get any but the landlord has offered to take Meg’s sister for his mistress in exchange for free rent. The girl is only 15 though!  Meg won’t allow that so she uses a magical statue to ask for a solution to the problem.  That solution comes in the form of an Earl who is desperate to fulfill a promise made to his hated grandmother and get married by his 25th birthday.  Meg marries the earl but things start to go very wrong – which Meg believes is due to the magical statue.  This was a cute book.  I found it kind of frenetic with some strange things going on…psychic parrots…that were a bit odd at times but overall I liked it. 3.5 out of 5
My last read for the week was His for the Holidays by LB Gregg, Harper Fox, ZA Maxfield and Josh Lanyon.  A wonderful collection of stories that will release on Dec. 6.  I’ll post my review this week.
My Book Binge reviews that have posted since last Monday:
Happy Reading!


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Publisher Spotlight Review: Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume V

Posted May 10, 2010 by Holly in Features, Reviews | 2 Comments

Holly‘s review of Blazing Bedtime Stories, Volume V: A Prince of a Guy by Leslie Kelly and Goldie and the Three Brothers by Jennifer LaBrecque

Bestselling authors Leslie Kelly and Jennifer LaBrecque will delight you with two steamy tales that prove that the best happily-ever-afters include great sex!

A Prince of a Guy by Leslie Kelly

Hunky rock-and-roller Rafe is sure it’s a case of mistaken identity. After all, he doesn’t know Olivia, the gorgeous woman who accosts him outside his club. But he’d sure like to. So when she assumes he’s her runaway prince and tells him she intends to take him home with her, he’s more than game. Sure, he might not be a true prince. But a few nights in Olivia’s bed make him feel like a king!

 As Captain of the Guard to the Royal Army, she’s charged with going to Earth and bringing the spoiled prince back. But what she finds instead is a delicious, hard man who awakens all her senses. Rafe is tired of everyone getting him mixed up with someone named Rupie, until a hot Amazon warrior-type shows up, that is. Then he’s all about playing prince…as long as she’s the damsel in distress. But there’s trouble brewing in Olivia’s homeland she can’t ignore – and Rafe would be made a target there if she brought him home. How are these two going to stay together?

I loved Olivia. She was strong and capable, but not overtly so. Watching her melt under (ehem) the hero was lovely. Rafe was great, too. The perfect balance of sweet and strong. The world-building was also wonderful. Olivia lives in a universe that runs parallel to Earth, but has very few similarities. The conflict was believable and the resolution well done. I really enjoyed it.

Goldie and the Three Brothers by Jennifer LaBrecque

Goldie Dawkins works with three sexy brothers. And she’s willing to go the extra mile to convince them of her ideas for the business. Too bad that extra mile gets her stranded at their remote cabin, in a storm, all alone. So what’s a girl to do but check out the food, the recliners and the bedrooms to discover which one is just right? Only once bad-boy brother Jake Malone shows up, Goldie has no doubt which bed she intends to occupy….

 I really liked this contemporary, a new take on the Goldielocks fairy tale. Goldie and Jake were both great characters. They’ve wanted each other forever and being stuck together in a cabin during a storm is the perfect opportunity for them to test their attraction. The problem stems from Goldie wanting marriage and Jake wanting nothing to do with commitment.

Because this is short, I don’t think we got to know them quite well enough. Although their reasons for being on opposite sides of the fence were explained, I wanted more insight into both characters. As it was, I enjoyed the story quite a bit – it was a good mix of sweet and spicy – but I was left wanting just a little bit more. Even so, I’ll be looking for more Labrecque novels in the future.

4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Harlequin Blaze. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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