Tigerland by Sean Kennedy

Tigerland by Sean Kennedy

  • Title: Tigerland
  • Author: Sean Kennedy
  • Series: Tigers & Devils, Book 2
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ (M/M)
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, October 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($6.99 ebook)
  • Length: 295 pages
  • Trope(s): Established Relationship, Smartass Hero, Celebrity Athlete Hero, Beta Hero (x2!), Evil Ex
  • Quick blurb: Just as their lives are moving beyond the celebrity-coming-out scrutiny, an attention-whore asshole ex resurfaces to prey on every insecurity.
  • Quick review: I think everyone should read this book. But first read Tigers & Devils. And then read them both again because they’re THAT GOOD.
  • Grade: A

I reached forward and grabbed Dec’s hand. It pulled him back a little, and he turned, surprised. Then he smiled, a smile so full of love and tenderness it seemed to be brighter than everything around us — the white sand, the sun reflecting off the surface of the waves — it could envelop me and swallow me whole. The mantra I often repeat to myself in one of these rare moments of PDA begins: This is for those times when I want to take his hand, or he wants to take mine, but we don’t feel safe enough. This is for those times other couples get to take for granted, but we have to snatch in limited amounts when they become available to us. This is for those times when I can’t do such a simple thing as hold the hand of Dec as the tiniest gesture of affection and to show him how much I love him.

Simon is the best wanky smartass EVER and Dec is a saint for putting up with him, and I want every couple who feels ashamed or afraid to have lovely intimate moments like these and big fat happily ever afters. Holy CRAP, I love these guys.

The Duchess War and A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

The Duchess War

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

  • Title: The Duchess War
  • Author:  Courtney Milan
  • Series: Brothers Sinister, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical (Victorian)
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($3.99 ebook)
  • Length: ??? pages (5068 Kindle locations)
  • Trope(s): Tragic Past, Parental Issues, In Disguise, Virgin Hero, Smartass Heroine, Blundering Hero
  • Quick blurb: Progressive but guilt-ridden duke brings unwanted attention to heroine who’s desperate to remain an overlooked wallflower.
  • Quick review: A lot I really liked and a few things that just didn’t work.
  • Grade: B-

Favorite quotes:

  1. “I’m winning,” he announced. “You can’t bore me into a surrender.”
  2. “Don’t tell me to look up. Don’t ask me to want. If I do, I’ll never survive.”
  3. “I’ve always found that the quickest way to make someone relent in his foolish edicts is to take every command literally and to perform it with flagrant obedience.”
  4. “A paste emergency!” she huffed. “A paste assault, that’s what we had.”
  5. It wasn’t fair that he could rob her heart of anger and her lungs of air with just one word.
  6. “The male of the human species has a fundamental flaw. At the moment when we most want to say something clever and impressive, all the blood rushes from our brains.”
  7. His voice was rough when he spoke again. “So beat me to flinders,” he said. “Win. Overmatch me, Minnie. And when we’re alone…” His fingers touched her chin lightly. “When we’re alone,” he whispered, “look up.”
  8. She was a shard of stained glass, casting colors about the room, and yet capable of slicing everything she touched.
  9. “No,” Minnie said bitterly. “I earned this, fair and square.” Well, maybe it hadn’t been fair. And maybe it hadn’t been precisely square. Still, she’d earned it legally. Legally and…rectangularly. That would have to do.
  10. It was messy and slippery and wrong, and it felt so, so damned right.

Stuff I liked:

  1. Heroine named Minerva. I am a complete sucker for this.
  2. Hero who’s an anti-Duke.
  3. Heroine who isn’t a TSTL doormat.
  4. Victorian NON-LONDON, NON-COUNTRY-HOUSE-PARTY setting.
  5. Relationship between Robert and his illegitimate half-brother Oliver (“…because he chose me first”).
  6. Robert struggling with his loyalties between Minnie and Oliver.
  7. Severe anxiety issue that doesn’t evaporate with a Magical Orgasm Cure.
  8. Awkward wedding night with Robert shutting his eyes and thinking of England and Minnie unashamedly taking matters into her own hands (literally).
  9. Dowager Duchess swooping in à la Lady Catherine de Bourgh and then acknowledging the literary reference herself.
  10. The non-threatening reason for the “Brothers Sinister” name of the series.

Stuff that didn’t work for me:

  1. Repetitive angstifying (on both sides) after the meet-cute and before the Paste Incident. I really struggled with the book until I got past the halfway point.
  2. Needlessly blatant telegraphing of yet another upcoming round of angst (“…a blood-red portent of things to come”).
  3. The over-the-topness of the Dowager Duchess (except for the incident mentioned above) with a complete personality overhaul in the schmaltzy epilogue as she turns into the perfect grandparent.
  4. The goat rampage. Yes, I was warned, but sheesh. Was that really necessary? I think NOT.
  5. On the whole, I found it surprisingly earnest and heavy-handed, without Milan’s trademark dark humor that sets her writing apart.

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A Kiss for Midwinter

A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan

  • Title: A Kiss for Midwinter
  • Author:  Courtney Milan
  • Series: Brothers Sinister, Book 1.5
  • Genre(s): Historical (Victorian)
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 121 pages
  • Trope(s): Ruined by a Rake Predator, Parental Issues, Blundering Hero, Non-Euphemistic References to Naughty Bits
  • Quick blurb: Eleventh prettiest girl in Leicester rebuffs wooing of doctor who knows her secret.
  • Quick review: I loved this one almost as much as A Governess Affair.
  • Grade: A-

Favorite quotes:

  1. “Work your way on to number twelve,” she snapped. “Number eleven wants nothing more to do with you.”
  2. But it was too late. Miss Lydia Charingford wasn’t just on the list. She was the list, and he hoped God would have mercy on his soul.
  3. She leaned in and whispered. “Let me tell you a secret. I’m not stupid.”
  4. “Well,” she finally said, “you’re doing it wrong.”
  5. Even if she swooned at whatever poetic nonsense he managed to spout, she would only be disappointed once they grew comfortable with each other and he went back to making jokes about death and gonorrhea.
  6. “Maybe,” he said, “I’m thinking that the days are dark and long, that midwinter is approaching. Maybe, Miss Charingford, all I really want is a kiss.”
  7. “I believe,” he said, “that there is a special place in hell for those who steal truth. And that man—whoever he is—I hope he is burning there.”
  8. “Once you speak,” he said, “you have no equal.”
  9. “Sometimes,” she said, “it feels like there are some hurts that can only be cured by this. By warmth. And touch.”
  10. “I suppose it’s too much to hope that you have a question about gonorrhea. Those questions are so much easier to answer.”
  11. There was the mistletoe piled on a market table, a poisonous, parasitic reminder that kisses could lie.
  12. Even the way he talked to her. It was outrageous. It was blunt. It was impossible. And it was…precisely what she needed, the truth boned and filleted without garnish or flourish, placed in front of her for her decision. He made her wants seem ordinary instead of dark and dangerous.
  13. “The truth isn’t a gift,” she told him. “It’s a terror. And every time I look at you, I feel it.
  14. He’d never noticed before how much a breath could say. It seemed more than the transportation of air to lungs. The act of breathing with another person—of accepting silence together, of simply living in tune with the rhythm of someone else’s existence—was deeply intimate. They said more to each other with quiet respiration than they’d managed in sixteen months of bickering. [*SWOON*]
  15. I only said I would stop talking to you, he’d written. I never promised to stop loving you. [O.M.G. *~*~*SWOON*~*~* <thud>]

(Yes, I know that was longer than the list for the longer novel. Just shut up and keep reading.)

Stuff I loved:

  1. Blundering hero who knows when to just shut up and listen.
  2. Troubled heroine who finally learns to start talking.
  3. Lydia’s quiet but loving-no-matter-what relationship with her parents, especially her father.
  4. Jonas struggling with love for and utter frustration with his aging father, and no Magic Grandchild Cure in the epilogue.
  5. Jokes about gonorrhea. This novella had all the dark humor the novel was missing.
  6. The sense of equality between Lydia and Jonas, as a romantic couple and as equally important characters who are never shoved to the sidelines for the sake of the plot.
  7. The achingly lovely intimate moments with no dialogue.
  8. Use of the word “ensorcellment.”
  9. Non-kissy references to mistletoe. Yes, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m bitter and cranky and I haven’t started drinking yet. Shut up.
  10. Fascinating history without gratuitous info-dumping. I love it when authors are bigger nerds than I am.

Stuff I didn’t love:

  1. The premise seemed a bit too similar to A Governess Affair, with a gruff but sensitive hero overcoming the fears of a ruined heroine.
  2. See item #1. Other than that, I got nothing.

One-Quote Review(s): The Wild Quartet by Miranda Neville

The Second Seduction of Lady by Miranda Neville

  • Title: The Second Seduction of a Lady
  • Author:  Miranda Neville
  • Series: The Wild Quartet, Book 0.5
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, October 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($1.99 ebook)
  • Length: 100 pages
  • Trope(s): Ruined by a Rake, Big Misunderstanding, Wicked Wager
  • Quick blurb: Five years after a torrid encounter, a repentant gentleman gets a second chance with the stubborn woman he still loves.
  • Quick review: Nothing heart-stopping, but everything a prequel novella should be.
  • Grade: B

It wasn’t a deep kiss but a slow investigation of taste and texture, a scouting trip with the promise of a full exploration.

This novella wasn’t  an all-out swoon, but I loved how the quiet moments between Max and Eleanor showed a more mature and hard-earned romance in contrast to the ill-fated insta-love of their impulsive wards.

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The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda Neville

  • Title: The Importance of Being Wicked
  • Author:  Miranda Neville
  • Series: The Wild Quartet, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, November 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Gambling Fever, Widow, Beta Hero, Big Misunderstandings
  • Quick blurb: Staid duke in need of an heiress is enthralled by his intended’s impetuous but impoverished chaperone.
  • Quick review: A bit iffy in the middle, but a full-swoon ending makes it worth the read.
  • Grade: B

The Duke of Castleton had been delightfully stuffy and teasable, and she’d managed not to make a fool of herself by leaping on him and ripping off his clothes.

Loved the relationship-building in the first half (especially the slug-fest at the masked ball), then got really annoyed with both of them, but they finally got their heads out of their asses and I got all swoony at the end.

One-Quote Review: A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

  • Title: A Notorious Countess Confesses
  • Author:  Julie Anne Long
  • Series: Pennyroyal Green, Book 7
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, October 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($5.99 ebook)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Trope(s): Hot Vicar, Soiled Dove, Widow, Small Town, Beta Hero, Smartass Heroine
  • Quick blurb: A newly widowed former courtesan asks a handsome village vicar to help her make friends.
  • Quick review: A worthy addition to the series, but not one of Long’s best.
  • Grade: B

Yes…yes! He felt a twinge of something! It was coming now!

He scrawled:

I kissed her I kissed her I kissed her

Well.

As a sermon, it was a failure, but his parishioners would doubtless find it edifying.

Notorious Countess worked much better for me than the previous book in the series. (Where in the hell did those people come from and why should I care? And I didn’t care, because I don’t remember anything about it beyond the cheesy title). This one is a bit more fairy tale-ish than her other books, but Long still manages to pull off the tricky balance of broad humor and intimate yearning.

Another romance novel art that Long consistently does really, really well is showing, not telling, how her hero and heroine fall in love. It might be insta-lust or even insta-love, but by the time the first kiss happens, we know why her characters are drawn to each other.

I also appreciated that both the vicar and the courtesan did a lot of self-reflection and said some very hurtful but honest things to each other. HOWEVER…I was disappointed in how their interactions with the rest of the village were perfectly scripted to make them always come out on top of the uncomfortable situations.

And despite my recently admitted weakness for Grand Gestures, this ending was WAY too Love, Actually, with shamefaced parisioners standing up and spouting Magical Bible Verses like the LA wedding guests with hidden trumpets and trombones.

The Summoning of the Siblings bit was good, though — enough to make up for the goats and bring this up from a B- to a solid B.

[NOTE: I read an ARC, so I forced myself to ignore the dreadful editing fails. If that kind of WTFery had shown up in a published version I paid for, the grade would have been much, MUCH lower. Even so, my respect for Avon Books is diminished once again.]

The ‘Oh Crap It’s Only A Week Until Christmas’ Holiday Book Binge, Part 2

I did a LOT of reading last weekend. My house is a complete disaster and I DON’T CARE. Santa and his stupid Naughty List can just bite my big ol’ you-know-what.

Unless he’s bringing me stuff from my wish list. I might even actually fold all the laundry on the couch AND put it away for one of those books.

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Naughty and Nice: Three Holiday Treats (Anthology)

Naughty & Nice: Three Holiday Treats anthology

  • Title: Naughty and Nice: Three Holiday Treats
  • Authors: Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe and Stefanie Sloane
  • Series: Crooked Creek Ranch, Book 2.5 (O’Keeffe)
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Historical
  • Publisher: Loveswept/Random House, November 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($1.99 ebook)
  • Length: 210 pages
  • Trope(s): Grand Gesture, Family Drama, Small Town Guilt, Recalcitrant Farm Animals (thankfully not a goat this time)
  • Quick blurb: An homage to It’s a Wonderful Life, an HFN contemporary prequel, and a boring and silly historical.
  • Quick review: It’s all about Room at the Inn.
  • Grade: B

Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox

Mother of God, he had great hands.

Carson Vance can put those hands on me anytime. I have a major Author Crush on Ruthie Knox because she knows exactly how to Push My Buttons. Including the Gloriously Groveling Grand Gesture. She makes me use Initial Caps.

All I Want for Christmas Is You by Molly O’Keeffe

“Any promise you make…half of the promise is commitment and the other half is faith. Faith that your commitment is enough.”

This was my first by O’Keefe — I was disappointed in the story as an happy-for-now prequel, but there was enough honest emotion and realistic angst to keep her Crooked Creek Ranch series in my TBR queue.

One Perfect Christmas by Stephanie Sloane

Blast that word, “if.” Two letters, without which there was no hope.

Also a first for Sloane — unfortunately, nothing about this impressed me. I’m a sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope and the MCs were likeable, but the story was oh-so-predictable and I found some of the smexing to be awkward instead of sexy.

Any Regency has to be very, very different to stand out among the hundreds of others out there, and this one was just too cookie-cutter to be memorable.

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Twelve Days by Ros Clarke

Twelve Days by Ros Clarke

  • Title: Twelve Days
  • Author: Ros Clarke
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Provided by the author (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 35 pages
  • Trope(s): Big Misunderstanding (Big. HUGE.), Family Drama, Reunited, Flash Mob
  • Quick blurb: A public marriage proposal doesn’t go quite as planned.
  • Quick review: Sad-cry + happy-cry = *happysigh* (all in only 35 pages!)
  • Grade: B+

The singers had already reached the three French hens verse, and on cue a chicken ran across the road.

For anyone who cringed at the grand gesture in Room at the Inn, read this. Trust me.

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Wish List by Sylvia Day

Wish List by Sylvia Day

  • Title: Wish List
  • Author: Sylvia Day
  • Series: White Hot Holidays
  • Genre(s): Contemporary
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2005 (originally published January 2005 by Ellora’s Cave)
  • Source: Amazon, $2.51 ebook
  • Length: 40 pages
  • Trope(s): Lawyers, Secret Santa, Secret [NO SPOILERS!]
  • Quick blurb: Law firm Secret Santa gift exchange gives attorney the opportunity to fulfill his colleague’s no-longer-secret wish list.
  • Quick review: Hero goes from Alpha to Beta in only 40 pages. I love it when that happens.
  • Grade: B+

“This isn’t about getting laid,” he insisted hoarsely.

“I know.” Her hands clung to his straining, sweating back.

“This isn’t temporary.”

“I – I…”

This is another author first (I know, I know), but I shall remedy that soon.

The ‘Oh Crap It’s Only A Week Until Christmas’ Holiday Book Binge, Part 1

I was going to call these “lightning” reviews, but I’m going with “magical reindeer fly-by” reviews because they’re more ephemeral than electrocution-inducing.

Yes, I’m an Alliteration Whore.

In no particular order….

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‘Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

'Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

  • Title: ‘Twas the Night After Christmas
  • Author: Sabrina Jeffries
  • Series: Hellions of Halstead Hall, Book 6
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Gallery Books, October 2012
  • Source: Edelweiss ($7.99 ebook)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Trope(s): Angst, Big Misunderstandings, Parental Issues, Smartass Heroine, Alpha Hero Who’s Secretly a Beta Hero, Plot Moppet
  • Quick blurb: A widowed hired companion tries to reunited her unseen rakish employer with his long-estranged mother.
  • Quick review: Angsty and gooey and predictable, and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
  • Grade: A-

She kissed like a woman who didn’t know her own sensual power. Most women did – even the virginal ones. The fact that she didn’t made him want to show it to her. Graphically. Thoroughly. Over and over, until she realized what he’d known since the moment she first stood up to him – that she was one of those rare women who understood how the game was played…and then played it by her own rules.

This might be my favorite of the Hellions of Halstead Hall series. Yes, the setup is standard formula romance, but Jeffries really pulls it off by making this a very intimate and emotional and oozingly romantic story.

The minus in the A- minus is for the price — I know it’s a full novel and not just a novella, but it’s Christmas, for crying out loud. And don’t try to use “But we released it in October!” as an excuse.

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Red Hot Holiday (Anthology)

Red Hot Holiday anthology from Carina Press

  • Title: Red Hot Holiday
  • Author(s): Anne Calhoun, K.A. Mitchell and Leah Braemel
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Carina Press, December 2012
  • Source: NetGalley
  • Length: 262 pages
  • Trope(s): Angst, Big Misunderstandings, BDSM, Menage, Beta Heroes, Widow
  • Quick blurb: A unique and unexpected mix of holiday-themed erotic stories
  • Quick review: A bit uneven, but definitely not the usual gooey Christmas schmaltz
  • Grade: B-

Wish List by K.A. Mitchell

“Feel small, like I could crawl inside you, but big too, like all of you would fit inside me.”

I have read and will continue to read anything and everything by K.A. Mitchell, and I *love* that a non-Christmas, non-het story was included in this anthology.

I Need You for Christmas by Leah Braemel

“I wasn’t the only one who pulled Kevin out of the water. It was a team effort.”

“I know. But I’m not in love with any of them.”

I’m generally not a big fan of Gift of the Magi takeoffs, because the conflict and resolution are always so blatantly telegraphed, and this was no exception. The fact that the heroine was a kick-ass Mountie and the hero was a believable Sensitive Artist almost made up for some of the external melodrama — but not enough for the gratuitous sex swing.

Breath on Embers by Annie Calhoun

Ronan the Rescuer loomed over her, big and tough and willing to throw himself at whatever fire appeared, literal or metaphorical, but this wasn’t hot flames. This was the cold fire of hell no one could rescue her from, because nothing was wrong, except her husband was dead.

Like nearly every other reader, I was blown away by Calhoun’s gorgeous writing — the balance of characters and setting and holiday angst was perfect. HOWEVER… I know I’m in the minority on this… I felt the resolution of the conflict was a cop-out to make this story more “erotic” and fulfill a “Stop the presses! We need a menage!” trope quota — even more than the gratuitous sex swing. I just didn’t buy it.

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A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift by Jennifer Ashley

A MacKenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift by Jennifer Ashley

  • Title: A Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift
  • Author: Jennifer Ashley
  • Series: Highland Pleasures, Book 4.5
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Self-Published, December 2012
  • Source: Amazon, 99¢
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Trope(s): Family Reunion, Big Misunderstanding(s), Plot Moppets (a LOT of them), Pregnant Ladies (a LOT of them), Testosterone in Kilts (a LOT of it)
  • Quick blurb: The Boys of Scotland and their Lovely Lassies and all their children and pets and servants and horses and in-laws.
  • Quick review: If you love the MacKenzies, you’ll probably read this book and like it. Just like me.
  • Grade: B

Hart looked like someone had kicked him repeatedly.

Every single character from all four previous books was crammed into this book, along with their numerous spawn. Those who weren’t the main characters of their own book all got smoochy cameos in this one, including Crabby Old Fart-Muffin (my son’s favorite epithet) half-brother Lloyd Fellows AND Bellamy the Boxing Butler (oh, fine then, he’s a valet, but that’s not alliterative).

The subtitle of “The Perfect Gift” was the often obscured yet charming plot thread, but it really wasn’t the point. It did, however, remind me how much I looove Ian and Beth and then I had to go and read their book again. And then I had to double-check to make sure I had Elliot’s book AND Daniel’s book on my “Coming Soon But Not Soon Enough Hurry the Hell Up” list.

One-Quote Review: A Question of Time by Joanne Renaud

A Question of Time by Joanne Renaud

  • Title: A Question of Time
  • Author: Joanne Renaud
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Fantasy/PNR
  • Publisher: Champagne Books, November 2012
  • Source: Provided by the author ($3.99 ebook)
  • Length: 112 pages
  • Trope(s): Time Travel (god help me), Teacher Crush, Reunited, Beta Hero
  • Quick blurb: Fantasy author finds herself transported to her high school days, where she realizes she has a chance to save a favorite teacher from death.
  • Quick review: An alternately angsty and lighthearted 1980s’s flashback — but I found myself thinking about it for DAYS after I finished reading it.
  • Grade: B

Why, she could take her salad fork and jam it into her wrist right now, and it would probably really hurt.

It’s a good thing this story was a “stable time loop,” or I would probably never forgive Ms. Renaud for suckering me into reading another time travel book. However, the 1980s setting was a welcome reminder of why I skipped a certain milestone (mumblety-fifth) high school reunion this year.

But I still don’t understand what “stable time loop” means, because a loop could get all twisty like a Möbius strip and that’s all ABTRACT MATH and ABSTRACTION seems inherently UNSTABLE *shudder*. That makes the OCD part of my brain work really hard to kick its way past the “woohoo, party like it’s 1989!” part. And that’s why I kept thinking and thinking about the story arc and resolution of this book.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t have any spectacled swoon-worthy teachers like Alan Forrest, because the opportunities for public embarrassment would have been exponentially higher.

This is probably one of the most blathering and unhelpful reviews I’ve written so far. I blame the sinister influence of time travel on my fragile cranial ecosystem. Also, I was so caught up in reminiscing about KITT and teal shadow and bitch flips that I forgot to eat lunch.

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NOTE: I did manage to resist the nearly overwhelming urge to use a “Rickrolled by God” quote. You’re welcome.

One-Quote Review: Bite by Jenny Lyn

Bite by Jenny Lyn

  • Title: Bite
  • Author: Jenny Lyn
  • Series: Heated Measures, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
  • Publisher: Etopia Press, November 2012
  • Source: Provided by the author (99¢ ebook)
  • Length: 30 pages
  • Trope(s): Smartass Heroine, Food, Tattoos
  • Quick blurb: Smartass Heroine (did I mention the heroine is a SMARTASS?)  gets into hot water* with the instructor of her cooking class.
  • Quick review: Thirty pages of glorious smartassitude and stupidly hot smexing.
  • Grade: A

…My spine straightened at the scolding, but my mouth did what it knew best. “Well, that’s just a waste of perfectly good bourbon, if you ask me.”

…Crisis averted, he’d walked away, leaving me confused, frustrated, but still in possession of my eyebrows and a massive lady boner. I was hot for my teacher. The pork chops could go to hell.

..He flipped the chalkboard over. I read the intimidating words “Artichoke Soufflé,” and before I could perform the rare task of censoring myself, I blurted, “Oh, now you’re just fucking with us.”

…His gaze drifted down to my chest, stopping on the spot where I’d used a blue Sharpie to add the word “Me” behind “Bite,” the name of his restaurant. His eyes flicked back up to my face, staying there as he announced, “Class is cancelled for tonight, ladies.”

So, to hell with my stupid “One-Quote” format. That was all from TWO PAGES from the BEGINNING of this novella, and THEN it started in with the sexy times and I just about LOST IT. I don’t know what “it” was, specifically, but something down below was definitely off its usual axis when that Bite Me apron came off.

You’ll just have to READ IT YOURSELF to find out about the artichokes and the tattoos.

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*Yes, I KNOW that was totally cheesy and ridiculously obvious, but I DID IT ANYWAY. Once again proving why I’m a reviewer, not an author.

The Spy Who Saved Christmas by Dana Marton

The Spy Who Saved Christmas by Dana Marton

  • Title: The Spy Who Saved Christmas
  • Author: Dana Marton
  • Series/Category: Intrigue
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Suspense
  • Publisher: Harlequin, October 2010
  • Source: Amazon, $3.82
  • Length: 219 pages
  • Trope(s): Virgin Heroine, Angsty Spy, Plot Moppets (x2), Secret Baby (x2), AWOL Underwear, Unauthorized Use of Prep Table
  • Quick blurb: Lady Butcher has Secret Babies with Fake-Dead Biker Baker Black Ops Guy. Also, it’s Christmas.
  • Quick review: A quick and goofy holiday read, but not quite as much gleeful fun as Black Sheep Sheik.
  • Grade: B
  1. kelly_instalove
    Spy Who Saved Christmas, chapter 1 – heroine has already kneed hero in the nads and head-butted him. Bring it ON.
  2. kelly_instalove
    Spy Who Saved Xmas, ch 2: “What was it with them and food preparation surfaces?”
  3. kelly_instalove
    “Is that why, instead of staying at a safe house…you insisted on coming with me to steal a deadly virus from a bunch of terrorists?”
  4. kelly_instalove
    “Tonight. Five minutes to midnight. Down by the river at the foot of the old railroad bridge.” !!! (hold me)
  5. kelly_instalove
    “She looked like she was trying to decide whether to cry or strangle him. Since she wasn’t the weepy kind, things didn’t look good for him.”
  6. kelly_instalove
    “…not only would she have been happy to see his ten-point buck, she would have gutted, skinned and chopped it all up for him. (1/2)
  7. kelly_instalove
    (2/2) “She was a helluva woman by his standards.” [Heroine is a 6-ft-tall butcher, in case you were wondering]
  8. kelly_instalove
    Hero is Biker Black Ops kind of guy who also bakes. His crusty roll recipe is coveted, especially since his fake death in bakery fire.
  9. Fibrobabe
    @kelly_instalove A black ops biker with a heart of pastry dough.
  10. kelly_instalove
    @Fibrobabe I’m kind of disappointed he doesn’t call heroine “sugar”
  11. kelly_instalove
    @Fibrobabe they’re in Pennsylvania, so maybe “my sweet funnel cake” instead
  12. Fibrobabe
    @kelly_instalove If it’s a Christmas story, “my fruity Weihnachtsstollen.”
  13. kelly_instalove
    @Fibrobabe I hope they’re not Swedish, because lutefisk and lefse would ruin the mood.
  14. Fibrobabe
    @kelly_instalove I’m not sure how I’d feel about being called a “darling rugelach” if he’s Jewish.
  15. kelly_instalove
    She: “You can’t have bad aim and wield a cleaver for a living.” He: “Hand-eye coordination is a beautiful thing.”
  16. WARNING: Random and gratuitous inclusion of Fake SyFy monsters ahead!
  17. kelly_instalove
    @oddmonstr I’m feeling the need to do a Storify mashup of my book snark and your movie pics
  18. oddmonstr
    @kelly_instalove I think that would rock! Do you need more sand sharks? Because there’s like 4 now and they’re chasing Brooke Hogan
  19. Oh, sorry…. Where were we?
  20. kelly_instalove
    He: “To get those boys back, you would have teamed up with the devil.” She: “Maybe I did.” (Boys = Secret Babies) (Twins, of course. Duh.)
  21. kelly_instalove
    Lady Butcher is OK with blood and innards, but scared of bugs. Especially spiders in outhouses.
  22. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove ah, so female stereotyping not entirely absent, even if ridiculous
  23. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville Hero’s partner’s girlfriend wants their next deer hunting trip to be catch-and-release
  24. kelly_instalove
    “It was like walking into a fantasy. A centerfold operating heavy machinery.” (Hero recalling Lady Butcher using industrial meat grinder)
  25. kelly_instalove
    He: “I always thought you looked not in a hairnet.” She: “You were probably distracted by all the machinery I was operating.”
  26. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove has this author ever been in a butcher’s shop? smell of raw meat is not enticing
  27. kelly_instalove
    Crap, that last one should have been HOT in a hairnet. Also, auto-correct options for “hairnet” are quite entertaining.
  28. Autocorrect options for “hairnet” include “garnet” and “bairns”
  29. kelly_instalove
    “Hot in a Hairnet” would be a fantastic book title. Someone should write that.
  30. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove sequels. ‘Warm in a Wig’. ‘Snug in a Snood’. ‘Bootilicious in a booblehat’ :)
  31. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville “Snug in a snood” made my lady parts squirmy, and not in a good way.
  32. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville yeah, like a bedazzled hairnet. But I think it was the “snug” part that got me o.0
  33. kelly_instalove
    @sean__kennedy The fez thing is way too Doctor Who *shudder* and I must admit I had to look up trilby *shameface* @ann_somerville
  34. kelly_instalove
    “The next thing he knew, her bra was AWOL.” (His hands are on a humanitarian mission.)
  35. ReaderLas
    @kelly_instalove now I’m tempted to break my rule and read a Christmas story.
  36. We now interrupt this live-tweet for some much-needed sleep….
  37. kelly_instalove
    Live-tweeting of “The Spy Who Saved Christmas” will resume shortly. I know you’re all anxious about the Rendezvous at the Railroad Bridge.
  38. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN I’ll be Storifying. Hero is a Biker Baker Black Ops kind of spy. Heroine is a 6-ft-tall butcher. Yes, really.
  39. JenniferRNN
    @kelly_instalove A biker baker black ops dude??? This sounds awesomely cracktastic.
  40. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN The last discussion before I went to bed was alternate titles for “Hot in a Hairnet.”
  41. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN It was 2 a.m., so “discussion” wasn’t exactly high-brow. And then @oddmonstr kept throwing in SyFy “Sand Shark” pics.
  42. kelly_instalove
    Live-tweeting of “The Spy Who Saved Christmas” is about to resume – for realz this time. I actually had to *work* at the day job today :-P
  43. kelly_instalove
    Chapter 8 – let’s just say the Rendezvous at the Railroad Bridge did not go well. Mostly because the heroine can’t follow directions.
  44. kelly_instalove
    “They probably weren’t used to people begging to be kidnapped…. This was why you didn’t bring a civilian to a hostage exchange, dammit.”
  45. kelly_instalove
    “He was pretty cool during missions. Someone had once compared him to the iceberg that sank the Titanic.”
  46. kelly_instalove
    “She was a woman, falling in love with the man who was the father of her children.” Also, she’s a Cleaver-Wielding 6-Ft-Tall Lady Butcher.
  47. kelly_instalove
    Hero’s newly-married ex-partner: “So anyway, I told her about the twins. And you know how pregnant women are. *OUCH!*.”
  48. kelly_instalove
    “Look, you obviously don’t know anything about intelligence work, lady. It’s an X-K-Red-27 technique.”
  49. kelly_instalove
    “..I know perfectly well that you don’t keep the general public informed when you are “debriefing KGB defectors in a safe house.”
  50. JenniferRNN
    @kelly_instalove I am so going to have to read this. I can see it in my future.
  51. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN Hee – those last two were from A Fish Called Wanda :-)
  52. kelly_instalove
    I’m throwing in marginally relevant movie quotes to liven things up on the long drive to Slaughterhouse Road for the Secret Baby Swap.
  53. ViolettaVane
    @kelly_instalove your description of the ransom gone wrong reminds me of the one in The Big Lebowski where Walter jumps out of the car
  54. kelly_instalove
    @ann_somerville No, but a slaughterhouse is a vertiable treasure trove of weapons for a Lady Butcher who lost her gun.
  55. kelly_instalove
    Success! “We kicked terrorist butt, didn’t we?”
  56. kelly_instalove
    Biker Baker Baby Daddy can tell twins apart after spending 15 minutes of quality time with them in the back of an ambulance.
  57. ann_somerville
    @kelly_instalove of *course* he can. Because he used a marker pen to put a sekrit symbol on one of their ears :)
  58. kelly_instalove
    @JenniferRNN I’m waiting for the scene where he hides his coveted Crusty Roll Recipe inside a diaper @ann_somerville
  59. kelly_instalove
    “Our second time and you’re already bringing up variety? A lesser man could develop a complex.” (1st time was baby making in the bakery)
  60. kelly_instalove
    “Because the first time, on a flour-dusted table, I didn’t know you were a virgin.”
  61. kelly_instalove
    @GrowlyCub 1st time was deflowering on flour-dusted table in bakery. 2nd time 2 years later. In between, he fake-died in bakery fire.
  62. kelly_instalove
    Nookie Night in a cheap motel is apparently really good therapy for recently wounded hips and shoulders.
  63. kelly_instalove
    “The twins were quiet, happy as clams, thanks to their complimentary candy canes.”
  64. kelly_instalove
    “…narrow lips tilted up in an evil smile. Every instinct she had told her that he wasn’t here to do his last-minute Christmas shopping.”

  65. kelly_instalove
    “The way he scurried forward reminded her of a rat running from a sinking ship. Which gave her a really, really bad feeling.”
  66. kelly_instalove
    Chasing a bad guy through a crowded mall is difficult, but even more so when you’re pushing a double-wide baby stroller.
  67. kelly_instalove
    FBI Suit: “You’re here to provide intelligence only… There’ll be no rogue missions here.” Pfffft. AS. IF. It’s a Harlequin Intrigue.
  68. The_Book_Slayer
    @kelly_instalove lol. Who doesn’t love a man in a suit with the added bonus of a badge & gun?!
  69. kelly_instalove
    “Extra attention from a deranged terrorist was the last thing she wanted. Not unless they were one-on-one and she had a cleaver handy.”
  70. kelly_instalove
    “And she was willing to bet a year’s supply of filet mignon….” I personally would only bet six month’s worth of pork chops.
  71. kelly_instalove
    “Blue wire or red wire?” If this was a Bond movie, Q would saunter over and calmly flip the power switch to off.
  72. kelly_instalove
    “The perfect time for swearing his heart out, but he was a father now and just yesterday he had promised himself to let go of that habit.”
  73. kelly_instalove
    “‘Fudge cookies,’ he said instead, with feeling. Then cringed. If his SDDU buddies could hear him now…” THIS is why I love @danamarton.
  74. kelly_instalove
    ““I’ll go home with you for a while. The bread needs time to rise.’ Something between them clearly didn’t.”
  75. kelly_instalove
    He: “We should visit our old friend the dough-kneading table.” She: “The last time you said that, you got me pregnant. Again.”
  76. The_Book_Slayer
    @kelly_instalove This conversation sounds like one I have had with my husband. 0.0 *snickers*
  77. kelly_instalove
    “She had her own life, her own challenges, her own wonderful family. Her very own spymaster who was about to save Christmas. Again.”
  78. ros_clarke
    @kelly_instalove Why don’t I have my very own spymaster to save Christmas again? I’ve always had to share my spymasters.
  79. kelly_instalove
    @ros_clarke You need to move to Hopeville, Pennsylvania. The spies have taken over an entire strip mall.
  80. Best epilogue EVER:

    “Due to the economy, a lot of stores had gone out of business in the small strip mall. And every time one did, the top-secret unit Reid worked for bought the place. They put a man behind the counter as a front. Business continued as usual. But in the sizable attic that stretched above the row of stores, a super high-tech mission center had been sneakily built. Reid had found a way to do his job and still keep them safe. The strip mall’s security—although invisible to the untrained eye—rivaled that of the White House. And since Reid was the coordinator, he rarely left on missions; he arranged for background support when needed, utilizing his considerable knowledge of the field. Oddly, business also began doing better than ever before. The strip mall was gaining steadily in popularity, especially with the ladies. The men on Reid’s team, handsome hunks to the last, didn’t escape notice.”

  81. kelly_instalove
    The End. Happy Holidays! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Dear Santa….

I have been a very good girl this year. Please bring me ALL THE BOOKS.

Vauxhall Gardens: A History by David E. Coke and Alan Borg

Vauxhall Gardens: A History
by David E. Coke and Alan Borg

These are just a few highlights. My full list is available on Pinterest for your convenience. And in the interests of efficiency gift cards are welcome as well.

Love, Kelly