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Review: The Asset by Anna del Mar

Mary’s Review of The Asset by Anna del Mar
Romantic suspense released by Carina Press on February 1, 2016

The AssetAsh Hunter knows what it is to run. A SEAL gravely injured in Afghanistan, he’s gone AWOL from the military hospital. Physically and mentally scarred, he returns home to his grandmother’s isolated cottage—and finds a beautiful, haunted stranger inside.

Like recognizes like.

Lia Stewart’s in hiding from the cartel she barely escaped alive, holed up in this small Rocky Mountain town. Surviving, but only just. Helping the wounded warrior on her doorstep is the right thing to do…it’s loving him that might get them both killed.

Soon, Ash realizes he’s not the only one tormented by the past. Pushing the limits of his broken body, testing the boundaries of her shattered soul, he’ll protect Lia until his last breath.

I picked this book up while it was on sale. I’m a sucker for a wounded warrior story and romantic suspense is my most loved genre, so it was an easy purchase. I didn’t read any of the reviews on this book beforehand but I probably should have. What I thought I was buying wasn’t what I ended up with.

Lia is sequestered away in a small town from someone horrible. I learned, from the blurb, that it’s the cartel but it’s not actually stated in the book until much later. She’s dealing with an extreme case of PTSD. She and the hero literally meet over the barrel of a shotgun. She’s so terrified of the stranger in front of her, Lia doesn’t even notice he’s on crutches. So yeah, her PTSD is bad. But Lia is also kind and has a soft spot for anyone in need. Once she realizes Ash is in serious pain, she does her best to help him – even while respecting his boundaries. He adamantly refuses to let her take him to the hospital and, after he passes out on her, Lia figures out a way to treat him anyway. She’s resourceful and smart, a heroine I connected with immediately.

Ash was the perfect offset to Lia. He’s grumpy and gruff, direct almost to a fault. He’s also dealing with a bad case of PTSD but has a much better handle on it than Lia. As a Navy Seal, he’s used to pushing through the pain but the raging infection in his foot is more than he can handle. The hospital isn’t an option – the doctors want to amputate and Ash knows he won’t ever be able to return to active duty if that happens. With no family left, he has no one to care for him. Accepting Lia’s help isn’t easy, but it’s better than the alternative and Ash knows it.

The first 60% of the book flows quickly but reads more like a contemporary romance than a romantic suspense. There was no indication whatsoever that anyone from the cartel was after Lia. She experiences some problems – with her neighbors, at the bar she works at – but her reactions were over-the-top and seemed directly associated to her PTSD.

So, okay. Fine. Romantic suspense is a broad genre and, depending on the author, the book can be packed full of trouble or have only a drop. In this case, the characters were great and the writing was smooth. I was invested in the story despite the fact that I originally wanted a suspense.

Then the suspense finally showed up and it ruined everything.

From the very beginning, Lia knows (even if the reader doesn’t) that a dangerous individual is hunting her down. Yet, she never, ever says a word to Ash. The entire time he’s recuperating in her home, he is in serious danger but completely unaware of it. Her decision rubbed me the wrong way when I realized the risk she’d put him in without giving him the choice – especially after he’d recovered enough to go somewhere else.

Once Lia finally shares her problems with Ash, he makes some decisions that caused me to dislike him. A lot. He repeatedly refuses to allow Lia into his plans but his actions have serious consequences for her. Lia isn’t much better. She’s so determined to protect everyone around her, she ends up making some TSTL moves. The couple I’d fallen in love with in the first half of the book never ended up working together and that was a huge disappointment. Additionally, the book takes a dive into some pretty gritty stuff that didn’t really fit with the rest of the novel. Lia’s backstory was dark – really dark –and its described in brutal detail. So be sure to check the trigger warnings on Goodreads.

Ultimately, this book didn’t work for me. I really loved the first half, however, and would be willing to try another by this author – just not another romantic suspense.

Grade: D

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Guest Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Paige’s review of Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Historical romance released by Avon in 1977, republished in 2016 as part of their Diamond Anniversary

ShannaFrom New York Times bestselling author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss comes one of her most iconic and beloved romances of all time…

A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for one night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her from an impending and abhorred arranged union.

But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the gallows unfulfilled.

Ruark Beauchamp’s destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman’s noose will keep Ruark from the bride— and ecstasy—that he craves.

Originally published in 1977, Shanna tells the tale of a spoiled little rich girl and the convicted criminal turned bondsman (which is a nicer way of saying “slave who works to pay off their debt and eventually can go free but are treated like trash by anyone with a title”) whom she marries in order to gain a name. Why does she do this? To get her father off her back, because she’s so spoiled that every man she meets, she finds fault with. She even rejects one because his shirt is fraying a bit at the edges.

When I told one of my friends that I was getting ready to read a Woodiwiss novel, she got super excited and told me that Ruark (how do you pronounce that, anyway?) was her very first book boyfriend and that I was just going to love him.

I didn’t. At all.

When we first meet him, he’s rude and gruff. I suppose it’s understandable because he’s in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit, and then after she strikes a bargain to marry him, she finds a way to screw him over (I told you she’s a spoiled brat). So, of course he’s pissed. But the thing is, he’s already calling her “my love.” How is that possible? He’s known her for what, a day? Sorry, I don’t buy instalove. Not even in historical romance. Or maybe especially in historical romance, because back then men were expected to court women for some time. Granted, this isn’t the typical HR, but still.

I was supposed to have this review to Lime by 5/28. It’s now 6/6. For that, I’m truly sorry, but it really did take me that long to read this book. Usually I can power through a novel in a single day (I read the last few Harry Potter books all on release day, making my roommate think I’m insane), but I had the worst time getting into this book. I didn’t really have much interest in the characters until about 70% into the book—after they’re captured by pirates and Shanna starts showing that she’s growing up a little bit, and she’s got some backbone.

For the life of me, I still don’t understand why Ruark loved her from the beginning. She was like a Katy Perry song. Hot one minute and cold the next. If I were him, I would’ve gladly walked away the first time she told me to sod off. I’m too old to play games. And (I know I already said it, but it bears repeating) she’s such a spoiled, childish, selfish brat! But apparently, her beauty excuses all that…or something. I swear, every single person that she came across in the book talked about how gorgeous she was. It got to the point where my eyes hurt from rolling so hard every time I read about her beauty. She was such a [expletive deleted] every time she got near Ruark that I wanted to slap the supposed pretty off her face. Every sexual encounter between Shanna and Ruark ended with her calling him names and accusing him of taking advantage of her. Um, there were quite a few times that she went to him, if I recall correctly. And she’s the one who struck the original bargain, which included them spending the night together “as husband and wife.” She screws him over, berates him, and teases him, denies him his rights as her husband even as she gets viciously jealous when he even looks at another female (though he’s so head-over-heels for her—for whatever reason—that he barely notices anyone else exists). What does he see in her?

At 672 pages, there is far too much book. I found myself skimming through the endless description of trees and landscape and clothing. I almost felt like I was reading the romantic version of Moby Dick. So. Many. Words. And it’s soooo slow.

I feel the need to draw attention to the insane amount of references to rape in the book. Performing a search on my Kindle, there are eight different instances where rape is mentioned (although that doesn’t count the times it’s referenced indirectly), most of which are Shanna afraid she’s about to be raped or Ruark talking or thinking about it. A few examples that I highlighted:

“It was all Ruark could do to hold in check the urges that flooded him and to keep himself from simple rape.”

“Madam, rape does have its rewards, even if they be one-sided.”

“She rose from the bed and sought cover, aware that she must garb herself or face the prospect of rape.”

“Perhaps she seeks from me some violence so she can have reason to hate me.” (Shanna is wearing a sexy nightgown found in the bedroom they’re essentially trapped in while they’re with the pirates.)

I was so disturbed by these casual mentions of rape that I talked about it with Lime. I also noticed that my friend who’d told me she loved Shanna was re-reading a Woodiwiss book as she took time off from her own work. I looked through the comments, and noticed that someone said the books were rather “rapey” but they still loved them. *jaw drops* Whaaaat?

If a book were written like this nowadays, the author would be slammed with hate mail and the book would receive a million one-star reviews. Long, ranty posts would appear on Facebook and on blog posts about the mistreatment of women in fiction and how rape is never okay—not even to joke about. But apparently, it was okay enough in 1977. As it stands now, Shanna has 3,536 five star reviews, 2,409 four star reviews, 1,365 three star reviews, 409 two star reviews, and 174 one star reviews. It boggles my mind that so many people loved this book so much. To each their own, I suppose, but I just can’t get behind a book that nearly bored me to death with a heroine that I wanted to stab in the throat, and a hero that was basically a doormat (who excused, if not glorified rape in his thoughts).

Going on Limecello’s grading scale, I’d give Shanna a D (can I give it a D- ?) only because the last 30% was slightly entertaining.

Grade: D

You can buy a copy here.

Review: Muscle for Hire by Lexxie Couper

CJ’s Review

Muscle for Hire by Lexxie Couper
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on January 29, 2013

Protecting her was never going to be easy.

After sixteen years as the personal bodyguard to the world’s biggest rock star, ex-SAS commando Aslin Rhodes excels in the role of intimidating protector, oozing threatening menace. Now that the singer has retired, Aslin takes a new assignment as a military consultant on a blockbuster film. But just as he’s getting comfortable in the world of Hollyweird, he faces an unexpectedly immovable object. An American martial arts expert no taller than his chin, who promptly puts him on his arse.

Rowan Hemsworth’s focus is two-fold—keep her famous brother grounded, and never again be a defenseless victim. She has her hands full as the fun police, keeping her brother’s money-sucking entourage at bay. But nothing prepared her for the British mountain of muscle who makes her knees go uncharacteristically weak.

When a string of accidents on set convinces Aslin that Rowan—not her brother—is the target, things get bloody tricky as he tries to convince the stubborn woman she needs his protection. And accept that she belongs with him. In his arms, in his bed…and in his heart.

Warning: The strong, silent type don’t come much more silent and strong than Aslin Rhodes. But when he does speak his British accent will drive you mad with desire. As will his menacing, dominating power. And what he can do to a woman on the back of a motorcycle.

When I first saw this ARC up for grabs, I leaped on it without hesitation. A strong, loyal heroine? A guy who could effortlessly throw me against the bed? Yes, please!  Oh, and the fact he had a British accent didn’t hurt either. I’d never heard of Ms. Couper or her books before, but after reading the blurb I thought I was getting into a pretty standard romance with some spicy bits. I didn’t realize just how hot it was going to be.

When I first started reading I was a little hesitant. The story seemed scattered, with too many outside influences obscuring what was really going on. All that changed as soon as Rowan puts Aslin on his arse, but not for long.

Ms. Couper seems to have drawn Rowan from some of the most common tropes in fiction, trying to blend them into one character. She’s both the overprotective big sister, who doesn’t know when to let go, and the girl who’s turned badass to hide her vulnerability. Unfortunately she comes off two-dimensional and pasted together. She’s frustratingly stubborn and can’t seem to accept that others might be right. Usually a strong, protective heroine automatically endears herself to me, but Rowan’s irrationality tested my patience on numerous occasions.

Aslin falls into genre stereotypes too, although he didn’t annoy me nearly as much. It probably helped that he ticked off my fantasy boyfriend checklist: tall, strong and British with biceps worth talking about. And let’s not forget the ability to bring a woman to orgasm three times in the space of several paragraphs… and then over and over again all night long.  I’m not the only one who’d need an ice cream break, am I? I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of lovely tender moments later in the book which gave depth to his character in a way I wasn’t expecting.

I really liked the premise of this book, and the mystery element was pretty well done. I managed to guess the culprit in the first chapter or two, but confirming my suspicions was probably the main reason for me sticking with the book until the end. I also enjoyed Ms. Coupers ability to make me giggle with her one-liners. Chris and Rowen were particularly good at it, with such gems as “You insured your face? Oh, Chris, I thought we talked about that kind of pretentious crap?” and “That’s taking my animal magnetism to a whole different level,” when a kangaroo takes particular liking to Chris.

I’ll admit, I’d thought, hoped, the relationship would be explored a little more carefully. The sex seemed to overshadow everything else.  I found the insta-lust, although not unbelievable, rather crude, and the insta-love way over the top. It seemed to be mere days before they’re declaring their love for each other.

I found the action in some sequences to be confusing and difficult to imagine; several times the characters seemed unaware of their particular spatial constraints. The catalyst for Rowen’s desire never to become a victim feels contrived and not very thought out and I struggled to understand how Aslin saw enough of a pattern in two accidents to jump to the conclusion that Rowen was the target, not Chris.

Overall this book didn’t really excite me. I don’t think its potential was fully explored but aspects of the plot pulled me through to the end. I’d say people who like a side of a whodunit with their sex give this book a try.

Grade: D+

You can buy a copy of Muscle for Hire here.

Review: Protector by Loribelle Hunt

Liz’s Review

Protector (The Elect, Book 1) by Loribelle Hunt
Paranormal romance released by Samhain Publishing on June 26, 2012

He will protect her. No matter the threat.
The Elect. They aren’t human. They’re the next step in evolution and they’re hiding in plain sight. They’re stronger, smarter, and faster. Nature’s perfect predator.
Welcome to the top of the food chain.
Braxton Lee is the protector of the Elect and it’s a job he takes seriously. As president of the committee that governs the Elect, he overseas everything from finance to security to keeping their existence hidden. He’s driven and ruthless. The Elect will not be exposed on his watch.
Unfortunately his research chief, Zach Littman, is contacted by a former colleague who’s run a DNA analysis of a blood sample and gotten weird results. The blood isn’t human, and Dr. Esme Durand is smart enough to know it. Brax will do whatever it takes to keep her silent. Until he meets her. Because Esme has a secret. She’s one of them. Brax wants nothing more but to bring her into the fold and into his bed.

Warning: This book contains hot sex, the next evolution of mankind, hot sex, a race to find a bad guy, a hot hero trying to prove his love, and did I mention the hot sex?

As a child of the 80s, I grew up with a healthy fascination of all things sci-fi from the hilarious ALF to Alien Nation to the revival of Twilight Zone.  Protector, at its core, is a sci-fi book about a new generation of humans, in which a small number have been born with some pretty amazing psychological and physiological talents, including mind-reading and thought projection.  I haven’t read anything by Loribelle before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I hoped for, when I read the blurb and saw the cover (he reminds me of a young Jeremy London), was that she would be able to mix the futuristic idea of human evolution in modern times and make it work.  And she does!  After just the first chapter, I found myself wishing I had some of the talents that she mentions her characters have.  Such as, I’d love to know what my husband is really thinking when he says “whatever you want,” when I know for sure he doesn’t really mean that.  Loribelle starts the book off with a bang, and keeps the momentum going.  It’s not a novella, but it’s not a full-length book either (under 100 pages), and she manages to weave a compelling and curious world about the Elect, a secret society of advanced human beings that have been around since the 50s.

Brace yourselves, kids, because I’m about to rant about alpha-holes again.  On the surface, I like Brax.  Hot, sexy, protective, good at keeping secrets.  But under that, is a man that expects things to go his way all the time.  When he meets Esme, it’s not too long before he figures out that she’s his mate.  (As an avid reader of paranormal books, I don’t have any trouble accepting the instant-mate-attraction that most of these books contain, although usually for me, one or more of those involved gets furry once a month…but I digress.)  Brax knows that Esme has got nary a clue about what her powers really mean, the special group that she’s now part of, or that Brax is her mate.  Instead of just giving her time, he pushes.  Pushes her to accept their connection, pushes her to make decisions after a crisis that would knock anyone on their butt.  He can’t stand that she’s feeling torn about her brother and nephew, that she would choose her family over him when she’s only known him for a minute.  He’s been waiting years for his mate; she never knew that anyone besides herself and her brother had extra powers.  So the protectiveness, instead of giving me the warm-fuzzies, makes me want to tell Esme to run far away in the other direction.

Esme is a perfect heroine.  Plucky, independent, loyal, smart, and not swayed by heaven in tight pants.  When her world is flipped upside down, she wants to first protect her brother and nephew and then second, go back to work.  I love that.  I love that even when she was in Brax’s arms, she was still her own person, not carried away in a flood of hormone fueled oohs and aahs, but grounded and steadfast.  When she is rightly confused about the new world that is suddenly open to her after an attempt is made on her life, she doesn’t drown in her anxiety and reach out for the first strong pair of male arms.  She demands answers and she reasons her situation out.  As a scientist, she wants to seek the answers to questions about herself and family, find the cure to her nephew’s mysterious illness, and lastly figure out just who these Elect are and what that means for her.

The few secondary characters in the story – her fellow scientist Zach, her brother Carter, and her nephew Kaden – are not well drawn.  Zach is virtually invisible as a character, only a vehicle with which her scientific discovery of something unique in a blood sample is given to the Elect.  Carter is angry and reserved, played as a typical hardened military man who believes he and his personal resources and contacts can protect his son and sister better than the Elect.  He has no time to grow as a character; he’s just an outline, a sketch.  And little Kaden, who is so ill and no one has been able to figure out what is wrong with him…but he’s also lost in the sea of the non-memorable, half-drawn cast.

I had no trouble with the “science” of the story.  Loribelle created a world in which ordinary humans eventually began to evolve new powers, and as such they knew they needed to be kept secret to prevent the government from experimenting on them.  The way she wrote the story makes that seem not only plausible, but possible, and for me, that just makes the story.  As an avid reader of both straight sci-fi and paranormal romance, I would have preferred this story without the romantic sub-plot because it detracted from the story that needed much more fleshing out and the characters that needed more time to develop.

What bothered me most about the story, besides Brax’s arrogant behavior, was the ending.  There I was, reading along, when WHAM! it’s over.  It ended so abruptly, and with so many loose ends, that I actually thought the book had been cut off accidentally.  But I couldn’t ignore The End.  I don’t mind the occasional cliffhanger, but this ending took the cake, and in essence, ruined what had been up to that point a decent read.  The characters had some major emotional reveals in the last few paragraphs, when up to that point neither had really been given the chance to show that they were moving to those conclusions.  I can suspend disbelief about a lot of things, but the revelations coupled with the abrupt ending brought me right back to a reality in which I didn’t care for this book and I won’t be looking for any further in this series.

Grade:  D+

You can read an excerpt here, or buy a copy here.

Review: Table for One by Ros Clarke

Liz’s Review:

Table for One by Ros Clarke
Contemporary Romance released by Entangled Publishing on February 13, 2012

When food critic Claudia Thomas gets dumped on Valentine’s Day, she finds herself occupying a table for one at London’s hottest new restaurant. If her job wasn’t on the line, she’d skip the whole affair, but her editor’s waiting for a review—and with luck, an interview with sexy chef Ward Nicholls. Ward, intrigued by the single woman in a restaurant full of couples, sets out to tease her palate. Claudia has never tasted anything so luscious as the special meal Ward prepares for her, but when the seduction moves from the restaurant to his bedroom, Claudia discovers the only thing more tempting than his food is the chef himself. Their connection is instantaneous, sizzling, and spicy—until Claudia comes clean about her job, reopening a wound Ward had thought long-healed. Could one accidental lie of omission end a delicious relationship before it even has a chance to start?

This short story revolves around the idea of one lie of omission being the thing that potentially destroys a relationship before it gets off the ground.  There is nothing new to the premise, and unfortunately, the author fails to bring anything to the table but the occasional witty bit of dialogue.

Claudia is spineless and weak.  She makes the wrong choices time and again and then is surprised when she loses the person she most wanted to have.  While her bossiness is funny at times, it grew stale quickly, and she appeared to be a very one-dimensional character.

Ward is the stereotyped overworked chef who takes an opportunity to seduce a woman with his food and then changes his mind when he finds out her occupation.  Ward has past demons to battle so it’s no surprise when he flies off the handle about Claudia’s selective truth.  He’s a shallow character at best, taking something that happened to his parents as a child and using it as a shield.  While that does happen in real life, it feels tacked on and trite so his reaction to the truth seems over the top and childish.

There is little more that annoys me in books then when characters do something so patently stupid just so that it creates tension in the story.  Claudia has several inner monologues about revealing her occupation as a reviewer to Ward, knowing that it is important to share it, but each time she decides to leave things as they are.  The very little bit of drama in the story was created by the heroine herself and left a lot to be desired.

The story could have been helped a great deal by adding to the length.  It’s quite a short book, and by choosing a shorter length, the author didn’t give the characters depth and time to shine, and to go further into their relationship.  The book is a quick read with a happy ending, but no surprises.  While I didn’t hate the book, I certainly won’t be reading it again.

Grade: D

You can read an excerpt of the book here, or buy it here.

Guest Review(-ish): Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks

A guest review(-ish) by Kati Brown (aka @KatiD of Katidom fame! Totally excited she agreed to share/post her review here!) 
**SPOILERS AHOY**

Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks
Contemporary erotic romance released by Berkley on April 3, 2012

He awakened a need within her…

Cole is successful beyond his dreams. He can have any woman he wants, but there’s only one he can’t stop thinking about. His childhood sweetheart, Renita. He’s never forgotten his first taste of innocent love and the desire that consumed them—or the pain he brought upon her…

But now she belongs to another…

Her long ago brush with submission awakened a longing in Ren that drove her to walk the darker edge of desire. She’s become a beautiful woman at ease with her sexuality and unapologetic about her need for a dominant man. When Cole finds her again, he’s gutted that she belongs to another. Ren’s current master agrees to give her to Cole for a short time, but then she must return to his keeping. And though Cole agrees to this bargain, he knows he will never be able to let Ren go again…

I’ve been an avid reader of Maya Banks for quite some time. I followed the “Sweet” series and have liked most of the books. This is the final book in the series, and it’s Cole’s book. For the last five books, readers have been wondering about Cole. He’s dark, got a past, and not averse to serving up a little pain with his sexytimes — all things that draw me immediately as a reader.

It turns out that Cole’s “darkness” comes from his past with Renita, a woman that he loved as a young man. They met young, and immediately saw in each other a particular need: Cole’s need to dominate and Ren’s need to submit. Cole, knowing next to nothing about a D/s relationship, stumbled his way around, doing what felt good for both of them. But one night, after going too far, he realizes he’s caused Ren actual pain, and ends things. For her part, Ren loved the encounter and is devastated that Cole would end their love affair.

Years later, his handling of the ending of his relationship with Ren haunts Cole still. So he’s shocked when he hears her distinctive laugh in a restaurant. When he turns, he finds Ren with a very handsome man. They are definitely together, and she looks really happy.   Cole is immediately overcome with jealousy and coerces one of his friends who is acquainted with Ren’s man to arrange a meeting. Ren is beyond shocked to see Cole. All of the feelings she had come rushing back, and she’s immediately torn between her new love, Lucas, who provides everything she’s ever wanted, and Cole, the man who she has her most visceral connection to.

When Lucas witnesses Ren’s reaction to Cole, he decides to gift Ren with two weeks with Cole. His hope is that those two weeks will erase or mitigate whatever feelings she has for him. As Ren has agreed to submit control of her life to Lucas, it is his right to give her to Cole. Cole is not stupid and immediately agrees to what Lucas offers. He knows that once Ren is in his possession, he’s never letting her go.

This is a relatively hardcore D/s storyline. Ren is very much a beloved piece of property to both men. While it is her choice, and she willingly allows both of them to dictate to her, it is the men who make decisions for her. It is how she feels safest. She is, by her choice, a slave. While it’s clear in the story that both men have strong feelings for her, and are quite tender with her, she is also placed into situations that stretched my comfort levels beyond what I felt was appropriate.

In the scene where Lucas “gives” Ren to Cole, the three end up in a sexual encounter, and Lucas “marks” Ren by coming all over them while Cole is penetrating her anally. To say that my squick factor was exercised would not be an understatement. On top of that, in several scenes, Cole has other men have sex with Ren. At one point, allowing one to spank her with a wooden oar. This was in no way a turn on for me. It felt like debasement, in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable. I found many of these scenes to be gratuitous, adding nothing to Ren and Cole’s developing love story.

My second problem, and a more significant one at that, was that I never really understood the inclusion of Lucas in the threesome. In the end, the decision is made that Lucas and Cole would find a way to live together with Ren, sharing her. For me, this was never credible. While it was clear that Lucas loved Ren, he never struck me as hero material. As a reader of the series, I’d never heard of him, never encountered him, and had absolutely no investment in him. I didn’t understand why someone whose role in the book was minor became the third part of the threesome. If the author wanted me to become attached to him, she needed to make him more sympathetic, and a more integral part of the story. I never invested in him as a character, and therefore was dissatisfied with his part in the Ren/Cole Happily Ever After.

For me, Sweet Addiction fails because the romance between two of the characters (Lucas and Ren) was not credible, and also for several sexual encounters that did nothing to advance the connection or love story between the main characters and felt gratuitous and debasing. It disappoints me deeply to say that this story really adds nothing to a strong series from Ms. Banks. I walked away from the book with a bad taste in my mouth and a strong dissatisfaction that Cole didn’t get the Happily Ever After that he deserved.

Grade: D-

You can read an excerpt of the book here or buy it here.

Guest Review: Defiant by Kris Kennedy

Erin’s Review:

Defiant by Kris Kennedy
Medieval romance released by Pocket Books on April 26, 2011

England, 1215, the eve of Magna Carta
Jamie Lost is the king’s most renowned commander, an audacious knight ordered to kidnap an exiled priest before rebel forces close in. The mission is simple–until he comes up against a mysterious woman on a mission, a thief who will first steal his quarry and then his heart.

Eva is also seeking Father Peter, but she intends to protect him from a secret that endangers his life, even if it costs her own.  She is well aware danger lies everywhere, especially in the knight showing too much interest in her activities.  But deep inside, Eva knows the danger lies not in Jamie, but in her, in the desire he awakens in her body and her heart.

When a mysterious band of armed mercenaries upends both their plans and abducts the priest, Jamie and Eva must form an uneasy alliance, and as civil war unfolds around them, they embark on an epic journey that betrays the truth about their identities, their unexpected loyalties, and the dangerous attraction that could seal their fates forever.

Kris Kennedy is not only a new author for me but her book Defiant is set in a historical time frame in which I read very little (early 13th century) as my historical preference is Regency to Victorian. Usually when I read books set further back they are time travel or other type of paranormal romances.

The heroine of the story, Eva is a strong, feisty woman who has spent the last ten years of her life struggling to stay alive and protect her young friend, Roger. Not only is she resourceful, familiar with with a blade, and hiding in plain sight, but also witty, and quick thinking. She understands both her strengths and her weaknesses allowing her to use them to her advantage. She, with 15 year old Roger in tow, attempts to save Father Peter, an old friend, from the King, the Rebels and certain death.

Jamie is a hard, violent man known for his deadly sword and changing loyalties, who instantly sees through Eva’s deceptions and lies. He is cold and willing to do about anything to gain the information he needs to complete his task. Due to his past, Jamie falls to see his own worth. He is cold and calculating and exploits relationships, including the one with Eva, to gain the information he needs.

The book starts off with the detailed observations of Eva and Jamie, which bogs down the pace of the story. The relationship that grows between them is based on their observations of each other with short banter intermingled with their thoughts. Neither trusts the other and frequently remind the reader of their plans to betray. The observations of each are repetitive and droning, which makes it difficult to understand how a romance is developing between the two based on anything other than a mutual physical attraction. I was furthered bother by the repeating of the the same descriptions over and over. While some repetition, when it is spread out through out the story, can be effective, having the same line repeated (like knows like) three times within about thirty pages is ineffective. I was also distracted by Eva suddenly dropping into old English at the start of some conversations. It was inconsistent and instead of adding flavor and realism to the story it broke the flow of reading and seemed out of place.

As the story races to a conclusion, the pace of the book picks up and it is almost as if you’re reading a different story with different characters. The author stressed so much the distrust between Eva and Jamie that it is difficult to see how their relationship evolved, and it seems to be change that is contrived. Because Eva never acknowledges that she is starting to trust Jamie, her actions for the rest of the book are out of character. At times she feels betrayed by Jamie, but simply tosses those feelings aside so unlike the Eva at the beginning of the book. She no longer shows any anger or questions Jamie, just acceptance of whatever he throws at her. Instead it is almost like Stockholm syndrome, especially given the violence (choking her twice, physical intimidation, and tying her up until she agrees to behave) and captivity Eva endures from Jamie in the first half of the book. This Eva is a far cry from the bold as brass woman who, at the beginning of the novel, hoodwinked a ship’s captain, choked a man unconscious, and held a blade to a bishop’s throat.

The book and it’s plot had a lot of potential, but the author did not quite pull it off. The first half of the book would have been better served with less description and more focus in the second half on smoothing out the romance between them. It wouldn’t have taken much, a bit of anger from Eva at Jamie’s disloyalty, a few gentle touches in passing by Jamie, or some show of emotion between them that went beyond physical attraction. Otherwise, it is a decent read for the intrigue, but expect the romance to meander through the story.

Grade: D+

You can read an excerpt here, and buy it here. Ms. Kennedy also participated in a Teaser Tuesday as well, so there’s another exclusive excerpt here!