Saturday, November 30, 2013

Blog Tour and Review: Let It Snow by Heidi Cullinan (@heidicullinan)

Today we shine the spotlight on Heidi Cullinan (love her!!) who,

together with Samhain Publishing, brought us her

latest offering, a Holiday novella with 

"hair stylists and snow storms and bears, oh my",

the first installment of a new series called Minnesota Snow.


Let It Snow



From the blurb:

The weather outside is frightful, but this Minnesota northwoods cabin is getting pretty hot.

Stylist Frankie Blackburn never meant to get lost in Logan, Minnesota, but his malfunctioning GPS felt otherwise, and a record-breaking snowfall ensures he won’t be heading back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Being rescued by three sexy lumberjacks is fine as a fantasy, but in reality the biggest of the bears is awfully cranky and seems ready to gobble Frankie right up.

Marcus Gardner wasn’t always a lumberjack—once a high-powered Minneapolis lawyer, he’s come home to Logan to lick his wounds, not play with a sassy city twink who might as well have stepped directly out of his past. But as the northwinds blow and guards come down, Frankie and Marcus find they have a lot more in common than they don’t. Could the man who won’t live in the country and the man who won’t go back to the city truly find a home together? Because the longer it snows, the deeper they fall in love, and all they want for Christmas is each other.

Warning: Contains power outages, excessive snowfall, and incredibly sexy bears.

An excerpt:

Frankie was pretty sure if it had been he and Marcus snowed in alone together, one of them would have been dead or he’d have had to run off screaming into the snow.

Throughout the morning, Frankie made several efforts to include Marcus in conversation, but somehow even the most benign acknowledgments seemed to be construed by Marcus as offensive. The man was, quite simply, impossible.

Nothing Frankie did inspired Marcus to tolerate Frankie’s shared existence in his space. Yet every time Frankie tried to get out of his way, to take a burden from Marcus’s shoulders, this pissed Papa Bear off too.

It was good there wasn’t a loaded gun visible in the cabin. Frankie didn’t know how to shoot one, but Marcus was certainly an inspiration to learn how.

The worst part was Frankie couldn’t figure out why the hell he cared. He wanted to blame his confused emotions on cabin fever, but likely that was a cop-out. It wasn’t just attraction either; yes, he found Marcus very physically attractive, but he found a lot of men physically attractive and it didn’t impede his life.

For all his grumpy-bear routine, Marcus had regular flashes of humanity that Frankie desperately wanted to connect with. His explanation in bed that first night about Paul and Arthur’s sex life had been a big one, but there were plenty of others, some of them words, a lot of them gestures. Like bringing Frankie food and tea, which Marcus kept doing. He wouldn’t let Frankie lift a finger for much of anything, and though there was usually a grumpiness about those moments, there was also an odd sense of caretaking. Sometimes it seemed like Marcus resented the caretaking, not Frankie—yet he wouldn’t stop.

There was the making of the chili too. A pot of the same stuff the other guys had sans meat would have been fine, or even with the chicken tossed in, but no, Marcus had whipped up a certifiable gourmet white chicken chili just for Frankie, and he wouldn’t let anyone else eat it. He made Arthur wait to use the shower because he’d noticed Frankie hadn’t had one the day before and worried there wouldn’t be enough hot water for more than one person every few hours. When Frankie promised to be fast, Marcus had insisted Frankie take his time.

Grumpily, yes. But it was weird. Take away the grumpy and Marcus was almost doting. It made no sense.

It made Frankie crazy.

He tried not to think about it, and as they ate chili again for their lunch, he focused his attention on Paul and Arthur, who eagerly conversed with him.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Kindle Weekly Deals~ Special Black Friday 2013 Edition!

Enjoy all of the super-sized deals that are around today!! <3

"Widdershins" by Jordan L. Hawk- M/M, paranormal romance~ Price drop to $0.99
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16128152-widdershins?from_search=true

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"Try" by Ella Frank- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $1.99!


"City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare- YA, urban fantasy~ Price drop to $2.49
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"Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon- Adult, historical fiction~ Price drop to $2.29!
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"City Knight" by T.A. Webb- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!
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"Collide" by Riley Hart- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!
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ARC Review: Secretariat Reborn by Susan Klaus


Secretariat Reborn - Susan Klaus
From the blurb:

Christian Roberts, lanky, blond, and twenty-five-years-old, rents out small sailboats on Sarasota Bay. His peaceful life is shattered when he accepts a thoroughbred colt from his estranged, dying father, an Ocala horse trainer. When Christian promises his father that he'll race the colt, he's plunged into the underworld of horse racing. To navigate his way he naively hires Ed Price, a heartless Miami trainer. And when his colt shows potential -- a surprising resemblance to Secretariat -- a dubious wealthy sheik wants to buy him, but Christian vows to keep his promise to his father. With a sizable debt still owed on the horse, Christian is forced to take out a loan, his only recourse, Vince, a New York mobster. If the money is not repaid on time, Christian's life and that of Allie, his colt's trainer, are threatened. To add to his rollercoaster of troubles, he faces fraud charges since his father illegally registered the colt, and he is being stalked by a psychotic ex-girlfriend.

Sandra's rating:





When I requested this from Netgalley, I was taken in by the blurb, and the fact that this book was about horse racing. I love horses, especially Thoroughbreds, and I've watched Secretariat race on TV in reruns and documentaries, and certainly in the movie made about his racing career.

So, I was intrigued when I began reading, fascinated with how the author started off the mystery, but then quickly overwhelmed with the many subplots that derailed this novel to the very end.

Le sigh. So much potential.


What really worked for me:


- a deep look at the seedy underbelly of horse racing, and the intrigue and intricate details of how to cheat someone out of a good horse. I have no doubt at all that this sort of thing actually happens much more frequently than we'd like to believe. It is clear that the author has done her research into this world quite well.

- the plausibility of the cloning.

- the romance between Christian and Allie. It felt organic and realistic in its development.

- Christian as a character. He was well explored, struggled with learning how to deal with his father's legacy, his father's death and the shady business that is horse racing, as well as his conscience and how to get himself out of the pickle he is in. Young as he is, he was pretty dang smart and often thought on his feet.

- Allie as a character. Again, she was nicely developed and a strong heroine, a great supporting figure to Christian, the MC.

- the action-filled plot. Susan Klaus takes the reader on a breathtaking, rapid ride in this action-packed novel, and I breezed through it.


What didn't work for me:


- The foresight of Christian's father in regards to the cloning. The man didn't strike me as having that kind of foresight.

- the scientific aspect, and the fact that Secreriat II (the clone) is supposed to be an exact replica. While this may be true from a purely DNA perspective, the fact that the colt acts just like his DNA donor and even has a similar racing experience sounded a bit far-fetched to this reader.

- the crazy ex-girlfriend. Terrible cardboard character that was completely unnecessary for this book.

- the Mob connection. Meh. Yeah, they served a purpose, but the ending was too neatly packaged for my taste.

- the Sheik and the plot to get revenge. While nicely done, this again felt too neat.

- the sleazy horse trainer. The character was one-dimensional, without any redeeming or endearing qualities. Again, he served his purpose but became a caricature.


Book Review: Truth in the Dark by Amy Lane

Truth in the Dark
From the blurb:

"I am not beautiful..."
Knife's entire existence has been as twisted as his flesh and his face. The only thing beautiful in his life is his sister. When Gwennie is obliged to turn a suitor down because she fears to leave her brother to the brutality of their village, Knife is desperate for anything to ensure her happiness.
Her suitor's cousin offers him a way out, but it won't be easy. Aerie-Smith has been cursed to walk upright in the form of a beast, and his beloved village suffers from the same spell. Aerie-Smith offers Gwen a trousseau and some hope, if only Knife will keep him company on his island for the span of a year and perform one "regrettable task" at year's end.
Knife is unprepared for the form the island's curse takes on his own misshapen body. In one moment of magic, he is given the body of his dreams—and he discovers that where flesh meets spirit and appearance meet reality, sometimes the only place to find truth is in the darkness of a lover's arms.

Heather's rating:






I'm going to go right out and say it:

This is my favorite Amy Lane book. Hands down.

It is the work of a master.

I got chills while reading it, honest-to-goodness chills running up and down my arms. I started this book right before going to the gym tonight and worked out half-heartedly in a daze. My mind was fully entranced in the world that Amy Lane created. After working out (maybe??), I read this book in my freezing cold car, not wanting to put it down to drive the three blocks to my house, knowing that I would try to read as I drove and not wishing to die just then.

The story was just that beautiful.

Honestly, I was expecting this to be great. I love Amy Lane when she writes her fairytale-like stories and I knew that this was going to work for me right from the start. What I didn't expect was it to be so amusingly snarky. Naef was such a beautiful character for me. Damaged, snarly, and untrusting, Naef protects himself with an arsenal of metaphorical and actual mini-knives that he caries in his pocket. His isn't afraid to throw his knives at anyone who he deems threatening. To see his relationship with Aerie-Smith develop slowly and tentatively was magical. They had this deep connection that felt so real it was palpable for me.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

ARC Review: Different Strokes, by Nico Jaye

From the blurb:

When his regular masseuse is called away on a family emergency, Tomas does not expect Darren, her temporary replacement, to be such an attractive distraction. Tomas has always been a serious, no-nonsense type of swimmer; after all, elite competition leaves no room for unprofessional conduct. However, he finds it extremely difficult to stay on the right side of the professional line with Darren tending to his needs.




AnnaLund's rating:





Fluffalicious. Just. Fluffalicious.

Exactly as expected from this author, Nico Jaye deliveres a story filled with sweetness and hotness and fluff, in equal doses. Oh, lordy.

FTMFW

I so needed this, exactly this.

Just massages, and fluff, and smiles, and very, very little angst.

Slow burn, and rewarding feels. Interestingly enough, for once I wasn’t put off by the switching of POVs, I actually enjoyed it—and there’s a first!

Well done. I liked this one, very much. And it was hot as hell.

***

I was given an ARC of this book for free from the author.
A positive review was neither expected nor promised in return.
The author is a Twitter friend, but Nico knows that I review with my own head, and not through friendship-filters.


Buy this book: Less Than Three Press Publ 



Thank you for reading, hope you liked this review.




Buylinks are provided as a courtesy and do not constitute an endorsement of or affiliation with this book, author or booksellers listed. 




Happy Turkey Day!




Today we give thanks for family, for wonderful friends and for great books. 




Blog Tour: Beloved Bodyguard / Beloved Killer by Bonnie Dee

BelovedTour6synopsis
belovedbodyguard Protector or prison guard?
Daughter of the President of the Free Worlds, Leelah has spent her life protected by a security force. But no one ever cramped her style like her new bodyguard Ja-hun, a granite hewn block of a man. Yet she can’t stop fantasizing about stirring up the passion hidden under his stoic exterior.
When Ja-hun escaped the slums of OldEarth and landed on NewEarth, he never imagined he’d someday become the bodyguard of the President’s daughter. Looking after Leelah is more challenging than his last job guarding a criminal kingpin. The worst part is, he keeps daydreaming about her. When these opposites collide, the biggest danger comes from within. Can Ja-hun protect his charge when sex puts him off balance? And can love grow between two such very different people?

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excerpt
“You know dinner conversation is more interesting when there are actually two people conversing.” She cocked her head and her gaze locked with his. “You already know everything there is to know about me. Tell me something about you. How did you get into the body-guarding business? What was Crin-tai like? Yes, I did my homework, and I know guarding him was your last job. But what did you do before that.” You don’t want to know. “Other jobs. Other clients.”“Mm. That’s very illuminating. Thank you,” she said dryly. “All right, let’s try something less complicated. What’s your favorite color?” He paused. No one had ever asked him such an inane question. A favorite color? Who had time to think about such things? “Gray.” She burst out laughing. “Why am I not surprised?” “What about you?” he asked in an effort to participate in her ritual of small talk. “Oh shenje, that’s too hard. Any bold primary color. Royal blue and indigo are so satisfying and rich, but sometimes I’m more in a sexy scarlet mood, know what I mean? Then again sunny yellow is a real spirit lifter, and a primeval forest-green speaks to the soul.” She rattled on for several seconds in a monologue about colors. He’d never heard anyone sound so passionate about something so mundane, and he suppressed a smile. “What? Are you smiling? You think colors don’t matter?” She raised an eyebrow. He shrugged. “They’re colors.” “Color is life. Scents, too. Anything that touches our senses and stirs us to feel is important. And feeling is everything!” Ja-hun remained silent. “Go ahead. Say something. Your mind isn’t a complete blank, is it? You must be thinking something.” “Most people I’ve known are passionate about either money, power or both. You’re the first person I’ve ever met who could get excited about the qualities of colors or even suggest that colors have qualities.” “I guess you’ve led a sheltered life.” She folded her arms on the table and leaned even farther across the tabletop toward him. “What about you? What are you passionate about?” “Nothing.” He paused then added, “Except doing my job so no one gets killed.” A far cry from the days when doing his job meant someone definitely got killed. “That’s a noble thing, but what about your life outside your work. What stirs you?” You. “I prefer to keep my private and professional life separate,” he said, straightening the flatware on the table. “I’m guessing your private life doesn’t exist at all.” Leelah’s voice lowered and softened. “I think your life is your job, and you’ve forgotten how to do anything else.” He was saved from having to answer by the arrival of their food. As he picked at his fruit plate, he watched in amazement as Leelah packed away a trough full of food that would’ve choked a sumo wrestler. Where she put it in her slender frame, he had no idea, but her plate was empty and polished clean before he’d finished his salad. “Guess you really were hungry,” he commented. “Did you doubt it? I burned off a lot of calories dancing.” “So I saw.” She smiled and her eyelids lowered. “You like the way I dance.” It wasn’t a question but a statement, and he didn’t bother to deny it. “You should’ve danced with me before we left the party.” Suddenly she leaped up from her seat and reached for his hand. “We should dance right now.” “This is a restaurant,” he protested as he pulled him from his seat. “There’s music, though.” It was true. Innocuous background music for dining played softly. “Perfect for slow dancing.” Before Ja-hun could argue, her arms were around his neck and her body pressed up tight to his. The sweet scent of her shampoo drifted up from her hair to tease his nostrils. Her body was incredibly soft and light in his arms, which had slid naturally around her back. She swayed against him, encouraging him to do the same. “Dancing works best if you move your body a little,” she teased. He glanced at the restaurant. Most other diners didn’t even seem aware of them in the dark back corner. The few who’d noticed smiled a little then returned their attention to their meals. He shuffled his feet awkwardly back and forth. It was ridiculous. He was a man with lightning quick reflexes in a hand-to-hand fight yet he lumbered like a bear around the floor. Ja-hun looked at the top of Leelah’s head and noticed there were golden strands in her brown hair. Then she raised her face to look up at him from inches away--so close he could see the dark outer ring of her topaz eyes and the brown striations of her irises. He felt the faint puff of her breath against his neck, and his gaze zeroed in on her lips, plump, pink and slightly parted. His tongue swept over his own lips in anticipation of something he knew he couldn’t resist. He inclined his head and his lips touched hers, a soft, polite meeting of mouths that nevertheless sent his heart rate rocketing. And then her tongue swept out to lick delicately over and between his lips. He tasted the salty tang of steak sauce and beneath it the essence of her. His grip on Leelah’s back tightened, and he stopped shuffling back and forth. His eyes drifted closed, and he forgot to look out for danger. Besides, he’d already found it. While every shred of his intellect warned him he was making a huge mistake, every fiber of his being yearned toward the woman in his arms. He clasped her body even closer and kissed her hard and deep, surrendering his hard-won detachment to a glittering moment of passion.
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synopsis
belovedkillerWhen love strikes a killer, can a man of violence truly find redemption? The right-hand man of a notorious mobster, J has no identity outside of his work—until the night he meets Nikki Larson. Sent to intimidate the strong-willed bar owner, he falls for her fast and hard. Returning home after her father’s death, Nikki is once again forced to clean up his mess. To settle her family debt, a mob boss wants to use her bar in his criminal enterprise and sends an enforcer to back up the proposition. Nikki refuses to show fear to the henchman assigned to monitor her. In fact, she enjoys taunting J, even as she’s strangely attracted to his gloominess. When a rival gang invades the bar, J rescues Nikki and they go on the run from both the mob and the law. J’s growing love for Nikki demands he choose between the only life he’s ever known and an uncertain future with a challenging woman who might not love him back. Two wildly different people struggle to find common ground, but escaping the past means overcoming danger from all sides.

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excerpt
Nikki entered the steamy rain forest of the laundry and headed toward the few unbroken machines. It was too early for the place to be very busy, so she didn’t have to bodycheck anyone to win a couple of machines. She rammed her clothes into two washers and set them running. From the front window, she could see the sedan parked outside. She headed toward the rear exit, heart fluttering at the idea of escaping her guard. She gripped the knob. Almost free. How long would it take him to realize his quarry had flown the coop? Footsteps in the nearly empty room of slushing washers and whirring dryers snapped her head around. Her enemy had entered the building. The dark-coated, rangy man looked as out of place as a Doberman at a poodle party. His gaze met Nikki’s, and he didn’t try to pretend he was there for any other reason than following her. He walked over to a row of plastic seats and sat. The chair was so low, his knees thrust into the air and his legs splayed. He looked uncomfortable. She hoped he was. Nikki turned the knob. If she stepped outside, would he come after her? She imagined blocking the door with a Dumpster and running away. But what would be the point? She’d have to come back for her laundry eventually, and she had to return to the bar. It wasn’t as if Jay didn’t know where to find her. If she was truly going to convince Kuypers she was on board with paying him, she shouldn’t run away from her watchdog. Nikki let go of the doorknob and walked to a table full of tattered, outdated magazines. She leafed through pages of celeb photos and quotes while she strolled to the row of chairs across from her persecutor. She dropped into a seat and continued to study her magazine. Take that, asshole! You can’t intimidate me, even if I know for a fact you can lift me as if I were a toddler and stow me in the back of a car. Nikki pretended to read for several moments, but at last she couldn’t resist looking up. She expected to find Jay’s eyes staring back at her, but his gaze was focused on the worn linoleum. His rough-hewn features and scars made him look like some character in a crime movie. An image not far off the mark. She wasn’t sure of the exact color of his hooded eyes, but last night she’d thought they were pitch-black—maybe with hellish flames dancing in them. Today there were shadows beneath them. Good! She hoped he was as exhausted as she was from their sleepless night. A flare of pure hatred shot through her at the memory of him handling her like a sack of laundry. It was too easy for that venom to pour out of her mouth. She leaned toward him. “So you don’t even try to stalk me from a distance? Just march in here and plop yourself down in the middle of my laundry day? I’m not afraid of you, you know. If your boss had wanted my legs broken, you would’ve done it last night. If you’re trying to intimidate me, you’ve failed.” He didn’t raise his gaze from the floor. “How long are you going to keep this up? Until I agree to let him use my bar? I said I’d make the payments, and I will.” His hands rested on his thighs, fingers curled slightly, not tense at all. His entire demeanor was as relaxed as if he were sitting in a comfy armchair rather than an uncomfortable plastic chair. That pissed her off even more. “What would you do if I screamed for help right now? Said you were threatening me?” She fished out her phone and brandished it at him like a gun. “I could call the police right now. Report you as a stalker.” So much for her plan to keep her cool. Now he was going to be forced to action. Probably snatch her phone away and stomp it under one of his big shoes. But Jay kept on sitting quietly, as if she hadn’t said a word. She might have been a pigeon pooping on a stone statue. Nikki took a deep breath, settled back in her chair, and put the phone away. “Okay. I know you’re just doing your job or whatever, but I can’t stand having you watch me. Why don’t you tell your boss I’m toeing the line and you don’t think I’m going to be any trouble?” At last his gaze moved from the spot on the floor to her face. Immediately Nikki wished he’d look back down. The intensity of his eyes was too much. She swallowed and forced herself not to look away. Damned if she’d let him win a staring match. “I shouldn’t be around much longer. Sorry for the inconvenience.” His voice was soft yet so deep she felt it reverberate in her very bones. He’d displayed the same politeness last night even as he’d forced her into the car. Wasn’t that the mark of a professional? Sorry, nothing personal, miss, but I have to kill you now. She should find it chilling, yet she was oddly soothed by his words, his tone. Curiosity got the better of her fear and anger. “Why did you come in here if you’re supposed to be covert?” He paused before answering. “I knew you’d spotted me. There didn’t seem to be any point in hanging back. Besides, I thought you’d probably try to leave through the rear.” “Oh.” His unexpected frankness took her by surprise. For a moment, words failed her. But only for a moment. “How did you know? I was careful not to look directly at the car.” He shrugged and gave no answer. His gaze drifted to the bank of dryers behind her. Nikki exhaled in relief at being off the hook of his gaze. Now what? How could she carry on as if this were a normal laundry day when this man was perched across from her like a gargoyle? As if hearing her thought, Jay said, “Ignore me. Do what you normally would.” She snorted. “Right. ’Cause that’s easy.” But she resumed leafing blindly through her magazine. Silence and caution had never been her forte. Neither was backing off or not poking at things. She still had a few acne scars, proof of her inability to stop picking. She dropped the magazine to her lap again. “So, Jay. That’s your name, right? How does someone become a henchman? You just wake up one day and think, Goon is the career for me? Is there like a school you go to or something? Kneecapping 101. Advanced Applied Pressure. Variations on Threatening Postures.” A choked sound came from the gargoyle, and the scars on his cheeks shifted as his mouth moved in what was nearly a smile. Nikki felt ridiculously triumphant that she’d been able to prod some sort of reaction from him. But of course, she couldn’t take the win and let it rest. “Seriously, why do you do it? Is the money, like, unbelievable? Couldn’t you find anything else you were good at? Or is it a family thing? Maybe you’re ‘connected’ and there’s no way out. I bet that—” Her chatter was interrupted by a ringing phone. Not hers, his. He took the phone from the pocket of his coat, checked the ID, then rose and walked toward the front of the building. Her moment to run for it? Naw. The wash cycle would be done soon, and she couldn’t abandon her laundry. She watched the dark figure silhouetted against the brightly lit windows. He looked like a cardboard cutout of a man, not quite real. After a few seconds, he put the phone away, and without another glance at her, he left the building. Nikki popped out of her chair and hurried to the window. She watched Jay stride down the street with that hitching step and get into his car. Then he drove away. Shift over? Surprise and relief wrestled inside her. She had the surreal sensation that she’d dreamed the whole thing. What a weird fucking night! And what now? Business as usual, except that in addition to paying off liquor distributors, she had a new weekly expense to budget for, a criminal partner who threatened her livelihood in a whole new way.
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about author
Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, she was the designated ghost tale teller, guaranteed to frighten and thrill with macabre tales. She still has a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat. Writing childish stories for her own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, she dreamed of writing a novel, but didn't have the necessary focus and follow through at that time in her life. A husband, children and work occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that she began writing again. Bonnie enjoys reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When she couldn't find enough books to suit her taste, she began to write them.
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