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August 2014

Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

Rock Addiction is Nalini Singh’s highly anticipated self-published return to contemporaries. I am a big fan of her Psy-Changeling series, and I was eager to read it despite the fact that rockstar romances are far from my favorites.

Rock Addiction is the story of Fox, the hugely famous American front man for Schoolboy Choir, a globally successful rockband and Molly Webster a reclusive and virginal New Zealand librarian. In an instant Fox becomes fascinated with Molly, half-sister to Schoolboy Choir PR expert & publicist Thea, when he spots Molly giving Thea a genuine affectionate hug and he is covetous of it. Molly Webster is the last person to want to attract the attention of a Rock god and despite the teasing encouragement of her best friend Charlotte and gentle prodding by her sister, Molly is more than happy to admire Fox from across the room instead of allowing Thea to introduce her. It is not simple shyness that drives Molly, she is the sole survivor of a political sex scandal that left her orphaned as a teen-ager, after her father’s sexual escapades were exposed and her mother alcoholism led to fatal DUI. Molly’s teen years were incredibly traumatic and as a result she is incredibly vigilant about her privacy and independence, however she is also human and Fox apparently has superpowers that are able to render her impulsive and pliable. One elevator ride later, Fox has convinced Molly into taking him home, and has her promising to herself that she can get involved with him as long as it is in a limited sexual basis, that won’t risk her exposure to the paparazzi. While Molly finds Fox undeniably hot, I still had to be generous with my suspension of disbelief, because this is a departure from Molly’s typical behavior.

Fox is also acting out of character having become obsessed with the idea of making Molly is his, despite professing a disbelief in love and having serious abandoment issues. But Fox does his sneaky sexy best to keep her at his side, planning to use sex as the tool to break down her resistance.

“I won’t hurt you.” He wanted Molly with him all the way, and he suddenly realized he goddamn liked the idea of initiating her into sex.

Addicting her to it, to him, sounded even better.”

 Although I really disliked the cliched pairing of a promiscuous bad boy with a virginal librarian, the book was highly readable, and enjoyable but it is also very easy to nitpick. While all the characters are interesting and engaging, I struggled to believe some of the character choices. I liked how Singh worked with issues of addiction, and family history especially in how Molly had constructed her life prior to meeting Fox to minimize her exposure to scandal and to avoid repeating the damaging addictions of her parents. Her choices as presented are understandable but also very limiting. Fox’s own vulnerabilities I felt were under-explored only really creeping up in the later half of the second half. Still the choice Molly makes to abandon her career and life in New Zealand and move to LA with Fox after only a month together, seemed very drastic too me. Even though I understood how she comes to want to live with Fox openly, I wish there had been a middle step where she could be involved with Fox without leaving her whole former life behind.

I enjoyed the significance of the non-romantic friendships present in the book, particularly Fox’s female best friend Kathleen. However too many of these secondary characters had side-plotlines that are obviously set ups for future related books. There were some particularly awkward scenes revolving around Molly’s half-sister Thea and the band’s drummer David, where the reader is basically told, that something huge has happened but it will be dealt with in their book “Rock Courtship”.

The climactic conflict in the second half of the book was well-set up within the book and I thought very well executed. Molly must face her greatest fears head on, and instead of tearing Molly and Fox apart it draws them together in a very satisfying way.

Overall I have mixed feelings about Rock Addiction since I strongly disliked the underlying tropes, but I continue to enjoy Singh’s writing. I will probably come back and at least try Rock Courtship, where hopefully the more jarring series-setup flaws will not be as obvious.

A review copy of Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh was provided by TKA Distribution via NetGalley.

Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan


“It was only when she talked mathematics that he could see this side of her — sure and steady, swift and beautiful, as if when she was surrounded by numbers, she forgot that she was supposed to be shy.” (Kindle Loc 314)


Rose Sweetly is computer. She has gift for mathematics and works for an Astronomer, working out the complicated computations necessary to track the transit of Venus. She is incredibly passionate about her work and thrilled to do it even if it is in a secondary position. Stephen Shaughnessy is writer, the author of a popular and outrageous column in woman’s paper called “Ask a Man” and Rose’s neighbor.

Rose has captured Stephen’s attention and despite knowing he shouldn’t pursue it he does. No longer content with moments of snatched conversation on the street, Stephen pretends to be doing research on a book on astronomy and arranges with her employer for Rose to tutor him on the necessary maths. Rose is wary but secretly delighted to spend time with him, even though she knows that there is can be no future for them. Typically a shopkeeper’s daughter and stable master’s son would not be too far from each other in social class in Victorian England, but Rose is black and Stephen is white Catholic Irish and a romantic relationship would make them the object of gossip or scandal.

 The novella explores two major intertwined themes of seeing and knowing. Rose and the whole Astronomy community are preparing to watch the transit of Venus across the Sun in hopes that they can use the measurements they take to better estimate the distances between other heavenly bodies. They will use what they see to know the heavens.

When Rose's sister Patricia sees her talking to Stephen on the street just outside their home, she warns her that white men will not see her brilliance, her cleverness, but only see the color of her skin.  When Stephen talks to her employer, he recognizes her usefulness to him, it is clear that he only see her as woman and not someone with as much or even more aptitude to astronomy as he does. Stephen feels he sees Rose like no one else does, he recognizes her brilliance and knows she has bigger dreams that she will ever acknowledge and wants to help her achieve them.

Rose also see Stephen, she sees past his facade of frivolous charm, his jokes and good humor, to his hurts, his compassion and honor, to see a man better than his outrageous reputation. Stephen doesn’t intend to seduce her, but his actions constantly work as a seduction, opening Rose’s eyes to his value and worth. But despite Stephen’s good intentions and his behavior toward her Rose fears that he has only the barest idea of how hard it would be for them, and she can’t trust that love and good intentions will be enough because she needs for him to see all of her, including her black skin and see how hard it will be for her as a black woman married to a white man.

In the end they both come to truly see  and move beyond to trusting and knowing and I was fully satisfied with how Milan brought that about, it felt true to the story and more importantly true to Rose and Stephen. I highly recommend this sweetly romantic novella, that can be read and enjoyed without reading any of the other books in the Brothers Sinister Series.


A copy of Talk Sweetly to Me was provided by the author via NetGalley for review purposes.


This novella reminded me how much I enjoy working class period romances and that the only historicals that I have finished this year have either had people of color and/or non-aristocratic leads. Any one want to share their favorite non-Duke-and-ballroom historical recommendations, extra points for POC representation?


It's in His Kiss by Jill Shalvis

This is the first of the last trio of Lucky Harbor novels. I loved the first three, powered through the middle ones even as some as the secondary wacky townies characters started crowding into the story too much. However I enjoyed “It's in His Kiss” despite the fact that I questioned some of the choices made by some of the characters. 

“It's in His Kiss” is the story of Sam and Becca. Sam runs a boat charter business in Lucky Harbor with two of his closest friends. He works and plays hard, running himself into the ground figuratively and literally. Becca, just arrived in town from parts unknown is looking for new start in Lucky Harbor. Becca moves into the rundown converted warehouse apartments in the same wharf district as Sam’s Boat charter business. They keep running into each other. The more Becca sees of Sam the more she wants to see of him, while Sam sends non-stop mixed signals her way. Sam really likes what he sees, but is determined to push her way.

What worked for me: The way Becca steamrolled right into Sam’s compartmentalized life and how she called him on his false protestations. When he tries to make her choose between working for his charter company or seeing him, she simply refuses to play that game. She wants to do both and he can bluster all he wants, but she refuses to see that as anything other than what it is, a false obstacle. Both Sam and Becca care too much for other people. Becca has given and given beyond her ability for the sake of her brother and family, and Sam has withdrawn from all but the most essential of relationships out of self-protection because he believes father’s continual demands are sucking him dry of love and compassion. They both need someone to care for them, to replenish them.


What didn’t work for me:  While I loved Becca's tenacity, part of steam-rolling in to  Sam's life was that she inserted herself into Sam's relationship with his father in what in very problematic ways. Sam’s relationship with his dad Mark has been toxic. Mark has used and abused Sam’s love, to the point that Sam deeply mistrust people who claim to love him, but he never fails to be swayed by Mark appeals for money and help. Becca has recently separated herself from her co-dependent brother, and instead of backing up Sam when his father shows up, she is all about giving him more chances. I really bothered me that Becca with her own history of co-dependence would think she knows best.  The positive way this storyline was resolved seemed highly-improbable to me. It wasn't enough to sink the book for me, but I didn't like it.

Despite these flaws both Becca and Sam were interesting and fun to read about, and I enjoyed their chemistry. I thought the worked as couple. Shalvis did a good job in this book managing her sometimes overbearing and unruly town-folk giving them to us in small but effective doses. While some things bugged  I will still be coming back for the next couple of books.

A review copy of “It's in His Kiss” by Jill Shalvis was provided by Grand Central Publishing (Hatchette Book Group) via NetGalley.

Between the Sheets by Molly O'Keefe

Download (4)Prior to the Molly O’Keefe’s Summer Rain short-story, The Heart of It I had started and quit three of her novels despite hearing only love and adoration for them from trusted reviewers and twitter friends. As I read the opening chapters of Between the Sheets I finally realized why I had struggled with her books. O’Keefe doesn’t shy away from presenting her characters at their most unflattering right from the start. Some authors slowly unveil and reveal character flaws and struggles slowly, ensuring you are invested in the characters and in all the O’Keefe’s I had tried to read, the main characters don’t meet-cute, they meet-hate and behave in less than ideal ways. They are better people than they appear to be, but they dig deep holes with each other and the reader.

Between the Sheets is the third book in the Boys of Bishop series. The first book Wild Child has been sitting on my kindle since it first came available on NetGalley, abandoned after I read the first chapter and I only saw conflict ahead. Buoyed by my enjoyment of The Heart of It I was able to blaze through the conflict-heavy early chapters of Between the Sheets, till I was fully engaged with the characters, and their story. Once I got to know Shelby, Ty, Evie and Casey I couldn’t put the book down. While Between the Sheets alludes to events in Wild Child and has many characters in common, I didn't feel I missed anything vital in skipping it.

While most teachers and students trudge back into school after the holidays, Shelby Monroe is thrilled to be back. She loves her work, she loves using art to connect with her students but most of all her students and her work are an escape from her hellish home life. She is the main caregiver to her mother, Evie, whose Alzheimer is worsening to the point that Shelby can no longer manage with only occasional help. Other than Evie’s hired caregivers most people in Bishop are completely unaware of how much Shelby is trying to do on her own at home. Shelby is actually a master at appearing unruffled and in control even if she is terrified and in pain. People in her town have come to see her in a very particular way and she doesn’t know how to reach out and change that. She feels deeply untouchable and she thirsts to be touched and desired, to feel wantoned and abandoned to passion. She is deeply ashamed to feel that way. Even after falling prey to obsessive man in Wild Child, and having him try to slut-shame her on TV, in the eyes of most in her community, she is still good sweet Shelby and no one believes the words hurled at her. She is horrified to discover that she wishes some of them did, just so they might see that she isn’t as cold and withdrawn as she appears.

Ty is Shelby’s new neighbor. He has come to Bishop looking for a fresh start for his newly discovered son. Ty is also drowning and over-whelmed, and feels completely inadequate as father to Casey. Casey home life with Ty’s ex was unsettled, neglectful and deeply scarring, and Ty is not sure he can figure out how to make a difference in Casey’s life.  Once confident and always able charm and make friends easily in any new place, Ty no longer feels so secure, and fumbles badly when Shelby shows up at his door at midnight, livid at the racket he has been making while tinkering with his bike. He makes all the wrong assumptions about her, just as she does with him.

O’Keefe did a wonderful job of drawing Shelby and Ty together, setting up how they will fall into each others arms but more importantly carefully developed how difficult it would be for Shelby who feels like she is nothing but sharp edges and the potential to deeply hurt others, to be vulnerable and to accept love. I loved how Ty is the one to stand up and set boundaries because he wants more from Shelby than angry-escapist sex and seeks to see her, not just the masks she puts up to the world.

As a pastor’s wife I was also very impressed with nuanced portrayal of faith, churches and pastoral/spousal abuse in this novel. Evie’s husband and Shelby’s father was a narcissistic preacher who verbally and emotionally abused his family. He used his power in and out of the pulpit to abuse them. While Shelby has complicated feelings about church, it is clear that faith and community also have the power to heal and mend people, as evidenced by Ty's experience of it. I loved that she could portray the fact that while abuse and hate are sometimes preached in the name of God, that is not what most churches are like.

I am going to pull up Wild Child up in my Kindle and then dive back in to O’Keefe’s backlist now that I know I shouldn't  judge her characters by my first impressions and instead really get to  know them since I can trust that there is more to her characters than conflict and anger. 

A copy of Between the Sheets was provided by Random House Publishing Group - Bantam Dell  via NetGalley for review purposes.

Beyond Addiction by Kit Rocha

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Kit Rocha’s (Bree Bridges & Donna Herren) amazing dystopian erotic romance Beyond series is well known for its scorching sex scenes and intense action but in it I have also found a consistently intriguing exploration of what it means to belong, believe and love. Beyond Addiction particularly focuses how redemption and sacrifice play out in this world.

Finn hasn’t had a reason to live since Tracy OD’ed four years ago. He goes through the motions of living and trying to do the less evil thing he can as Sector Five head, Mac Fleming’s enforcer. Every day it seems there is less good he can accomplish, and he feels in his bones that he is nothing more than ruiner and destroyer. Four years ago, Trix fled Sector Five with a cache of drugs and broken-heart. Rather than allow Mac Fleming to use her as an instrument of destruction against Finn, she left him behind, eventually taking on a new name and a new life in Sector Four. When Trix is captured by Fleming and brought back to Sector Five, Finn doesn’t hesitate to endanger his life to make sure Trix makes it back home to the O’Kanes. However Trix wants more than that from him. She wants him to embrace a life and future together with the O’Kanes. Finn doesn’t think he can do that when his very presence in Sector Four endangers everything the O’Kanes live for.

In the Beyond Series, the sectors surround the city of Eden, the one city to survive the Flares unscathed. Meant to be a self-sustaining city, it was not on the grid when the Flares hit and fried the rest of the world. The city religious character was usurped early on by those who would use it to control the residents. A rigid moral code keeps the pampered but repressed citizens compliant, the threat of expulsion out Eden into the harsh Sectors essentially a death sentence. In Sector Four, Dallas O’Kane, has built a seeming Utopia that at first Finn has a hard time understanding and believing in. For Trix’s sake he strives to make friends, take his lumps and give it a chance. The O’Kane’s vision of redemption eventually becomes incredibly appealing to Finn:


“They were all filthy in their own ways. Without shame and without judgment, and it was the most intoxicating fucking thing he’d ever seen. You couldn’t bottle the high that came with loving acceptance. You couldn’t buy it.

You had to earn it.” (Chapter 18)


Through the whole book Finn struggles with the weight of Trix’s love and forgiveness, a grace he doesn’t understand or feels that he in anyway deserves. In his eyes, he is only a man that didn’t save her when she needed saving, who didn’t find the strength to rescue her when he need to. The works-righteousness of the O’Kanes is something that he can understand and reach for. He endangers his life for the sake of the O’Kanes, for the home they have given Trix and the hope they have given him. But his willingness to sacrifice himself for the O’Kanes breaks something in Trix. Trix wants something more from him than sacrifice, and Finn will need to figure out how to give it to her. Their relationship requires a different kind of restoration.

I highlighted the heck of out the second of half of this novel. There is just so much thought in the conflicts Finn and Trix face. It really made me think hard of how Christians traditionaly view and portray redemption stories and how Rocha complicated the dynamic in their world and book, doing a fantastic job with portraying the incredible attractiveness of works-righteousness, and the deeply uncomfortable weight of Grace.

Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane

Natalie had a wild wild youth, but she has put all of that behind her, and settled in to a happy and fun life in Hood River. She has the tattoos and the memories but nowadays she is happier to forget just how out of control her life used to be, so much so that when she runs into Paddy Hurley she tries very hard to pretend she doesn’t remember him. Even if Paddy is the absolutely delectable lead singer for Sweet Hollow Ranch, and once her former lover. Paddy has very good memories about Natalie and the couple of weeks they spent together as teenagers right before his band made it big. He doesn’t understand why she would brush him off the way she did, and can’t stop thinking about her.

This books made me so happy. I was gleeful at poor Natalie’s dismay when she realizes that Paddy has taken her brushoff as a challenge. I loved the good natured ribbing Paddy gets from his brothers and family for sudden focus on catching Natalie’s attention. But most of all I love their banter and chemistry.

But Natalie has very personal reasons for not wanting to be involved with a Rock God, beyond keeping her past in her past and most of them have nothing to do with Paddy. I really liked the internal conflict this provided for Natalie. Natalie is passionate and successful in her career (Public Librarian), she is active in her community, and has a close and loving circle of friends. She is also an incredibly private person, and she knows inviting Paddy into her life is not something she would be able to contain. Paddy has big personality, fame and she knows she won’t be able to compartmentalize her feelings and just enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Paddy, a serial dater and hedonist is attracted to Natalie beyond the challenge of bedding her again. He finds himself wanting to understand her and is sure quite quickly he wants her in his life beyond a quick fling. In her he recognizes the potential for something beyond the moment.

I really liked how Dane built up Natalie and Paddy’s relationship, and the various challenges they faced, particularly Natalie’s need for control and Paddy’s well camouflaged insecurity. The sex was hot, emotional and incredibly sexy.

While the books starts out with fun chase plot, it really becomes about what it takes to stay together, to take on major challenges,  and to trust and reassure each other. The misunderstanding and failures in communication were heart-rending and believable. I never felt jerked around, instead I could see how both Natalie and Paddy could be trying their best and still fail to understand each other. And when Paddy screws up he grovels just the way he needs to.

I can’t wait to for the next book in this series, because Tuesday and Ezra’s story is going to be epic.


A copy of Best Kind of Trouble was provided by Harlequin HQN via NetGalley for review purposes.

A Lesson in Temptation by Audra North

Download (2)The novella "A Lesson in Temptation",  is the fourth story in the Stanton Family series. I read and enjoyed two of the previous stories but found this one to be more fun that the first two.

Adam Harkness’s unshakable drive and insane work-ethic has landed him a coveted tenure-track position as Finance professor at Columbia. While a professorship gives him some measure of security, he is not about to let up and risk losing it all.  Feeling the pressure to finish his book, he doesn’t want to slack off even for a night, but find himself under an obligation to attend a dance-class gifted to him by his colleague and mentor Naomi. Stressed and tense he walks into class and spots a familiar face across the room.

Ever since she put her horrible high school years behind her, Julie Stanton has been determined to make sure she enjoys living life, making the effort to make time for fun and play despite her demanding career. Feeling her work-life balance has dangerous skewed toward too-much work, she has signed up for a Tango class as treat/commitment to herself to get out and enjoy life.

Julie and Adam are both thrilled and mortified when they run into each other at class because a few years before Adam had been a TA for one of Julie's classes, and  while they had both felt sparks , neither acted on them.  Now, years later, they find themselves  attempting to learn the most seductive of dances, while hiding their attraction. Despite his fears and reservations Julie entices Adam to embark on fling that will affect their lives in ways  they both underestimate.

 I thought this novella with incredibly funny with great banter, and even slapstick, but with a real sweet core. Adam is incredibly risk averse and shies away from his feelings from Julie, while at the same time failing to see the seriousness of her feelings or value what she brings to his life. There is great groveling and the resolution was sweet and perfect.  

A review copy of "A Lesson in Temptation" was provided by Entangled Publishing via NetGalley.

Lay it Down by Cara McKenna

20556056I’m a big fan of Cara McKenna’s books and I’ve been following her on twitter for a couple of years. I first heard of Lay it Down after she signed the contract Signet Eclipse for the series and announced that she was going to be writing a biker book series. At the time I had just started reading Joanne Wylde’s Reapers MC series and had just finished Kristen Ashley’s Chaos books but was struggling to finding any other biker/Motorcycle Club books I could stomach. The idea that McKenna was going to tackle this niche really excited me. She writes great gritty men, who are more than they seem, so it went on my auto-buy list. Then in May Cara McKenna received a box of paper ARCs from her publisher and gave some away on twitter. I was thrilled to get one. I loved After Hours, Unbound and Hard Time so much that I put down my kindle long enough to read Lay in Down the old-fashioned way.

It really wasn’t what I expected. I expected Cara McKenna twisting up Motorcycle Club conventions, while delivering a hard-edged gritty hero with a sweet core. But that not what this book is. It is not a Motorcycle Club romance.  Instead it is a gritty, small-town mystery/romance, that centers on a group of friends who are seeing their dusty small-town be taken over by a huge casino. When one of their best buddies dies, Vince Grossier, McKenna’s tattooed, motorcycle riding ex-con hero suspects that he has been killed because of something he saw. Vince becomes obsessed with figuring it out what really happened, and ends up enlisting a motley crew of allies, who rightly question Vince’s certainty that Alex has been killed.

One of the unlikely allies (but not the unlikeliest) is Kim Padget. Kim is a freelance photographer working for the Eclipse Casino corporation. She has come to town to take publicity shots but really is looking to get away from home. Kim’s boyfriend has just proposed to her and it only made her realize that she doesn’t want to be with him, and how much she wants to experience life out of the safe bubble she has always lived in. When she looks at Vince she sees a rough and ready man, perfect for wild-side  rebound fling. In Kim, Vince sees convenient ally and a good-girl to dirty up to their mutual enjoyment. Of course both of them will come to realize that they can mean much more to each other.

“ Unbidden, his fingers twined with Kim’s, a little taste of what it might feel to get wrapped up with a woman out of desire, not obligation. Out of pleasure and affection. He could sample that with her. This was was safe. She had a life to return to, once this mystery was settled, once the danger was snuffed, and a man like him didn’t stand a chance at changing that. There would be no for-keeps with Kim, only for-now. Because why would a woman like her want a man like him long-term?”


Photo (3)The book took an unexpected turn for me with the introduction of Vince’s prophetic mother, whose visions in too many ways killed one of the major conflicts in the plot up to that point and I wasn’t thrilled by this paranormal twist. A new conflict arises, but I felt we lost valuable tension. However some of the other supporting characters stole and saved the book for me. Vince’s old friend Raina, the jaded barkeep who broke their mutual friend Miah’s heart, and Duncan the Casino corporation’s corporate fixer, who is also pill-addict and is in over his head with Raina were fascinating and I can’t wait to read their book.

This is a very hard book to pin down, at points it pops with zany energy, at others it smolders but the central mystery is not nearly as interesting as it could have been and it takes a back seat to developing and exploring the town. Still I will come back to read the next of the Desert Dogs books for Raina, Duncan and Miah. If you like small-town contemporaries, and want one with with a gritty mystery twist, Lay it Down is for you.