Tag Archives: Samhain Publishing

Review: Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan

Karen’s Review of Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan
Contemporary m/m romance published by Samhain Publishing on November 10, 2015

Winter WonderlandPaul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex.

No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.

Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.

But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

Well, reading a Christmas book while on holiday in the South of France may not sound like a great idea, but weather aside, lying on a beach was at lest as good as reading this by a roaring fire – which would really be its natural habitat. Continue reading

Review: The Girl Next Door by Amy Jo Cousins

Karen’s Review of The Girl Next Door (Bend or Break) by Amy Jo Cousins
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on June 16, 2015

The Girl Next DoorWhen it comes to love, go big or go home.

Bend or Break, Book 3

Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less-than-luxurious doorstep.

Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.

To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.

Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.

Warning: This book contains ex-friends with benefits crossing boundaries a second time, several steamy encounters on staircases, copious discussions about gay sex from a “straight” guy, a shout-out to magic buttons, and an especially memorable going away threesome.

While this is part of the bend or Break series, it can be read as a standalone. I enjoyed Off Campus, the first in this series and the book where we meet Cash and Steph, I loved Nothing Like Paris (both books are m/m) and my jaded heart rejoiced when I heard that The Girl Next Door was going to be m/f albeit with a queer twist. Amy-Jo Cousins writes with such emotion, and her ability to get inside her characters heads is second to none. I wanted this book really badly… Continue reading

Guest Review: Trust In Me by Dee Tenorio

James’s review of Trust in Me by Dee Tenorio
Contemporary Romance released by Samhain Publishing July on July 23, 2013​

Trust In MeSometimes falling in love is the easy part…

A Rancho del Cielo Romance

Locke Jackman is single, childless…and he has a bad case of empty nest syndrome. For years, as he fought tooth and nail to keep his brothers and sisters together after his parents died, his entire life was focused on his responsibilities.

Now his siblings have all moved on with their lives, and there’s no one around to distract him from his overpowering attraction to his sister’s best friend. Their mutual desire is stunning…but then again, so are the secrets keeping them apart.

Susie Packard’s nightmarish marriage taught her what happens when she gives in to her weakness for powerful men. Too bad the big, stoic frowner across the street—the one who sets her bells jangling just by breathing—has her in his sights.

Try as she might to keep her emotional distance, Locke is determinedly knocking down all her walls. But as much as she wants to be the woman he needs, she knows better than most—passion may have its rewards, but every secret has its price.

Warning: This book contains a hot, modern-day Viking seducing his way to the heart of his woman, a stubborn lingerie designer with a world of secrets and a very deep bathtub… Enjoy!

Dee Tenorio is one of my personal favorite authors, so I jumped at the chance to review this one. I’m happy I did because this turned out to be my favorite romance of the year. Continue reading

Review: Mark of the Bear by N.J. Walters

Liz’s Review

Mark of the Bear  by N.J. Walters
Paranormal romance released by Samhain Publishing on April 16, 2013

When the devil wants a deal, there’s no bowing out gracefully.

Hades’ Carnival, Book 2

At twenty-nine, Hollywood scream queen Kellsie Morris is acutely aware the clock is ticking on her career. Luckily, the one big role she needs to pad her retirement fund has just come through—the story of an immortal, shape-shifting warrior trapped in a carnival run by the Devil’s minions.

When Kellsie arrives on set, she can’t resist climbing aboard an amazingly realistic carousel bear—and finds herself flung into a world where the horror is real. As real as the heat radiating off the half-naked hunk in her arms.

Marko has waited an eternity for the chance to free his goddess, the Lady of the Beasts, and his fellow warriors from an ancient curse. But once he lays eyes on Kellsie, he knows to the bottom of his soul that his purpose is to protect her life.

But in this hellish game, it’s the Devil’s move. And there’s no predicting when and where the final, brutal stroke will fall—and which lover will pay the ultimate price.

Warning: This book contains a heroine who’s a screamer—in and out of bed—and a warrior who gives a whole new meaning to “method”. After reading, please use caution when standing up. Your knees may be weak.

Since I read the first book in this series, Night of the Tiger, I already knew what to expect as far as general plot. Heroine rescues trapped hero and they have to work together to stay alive for twenty-four hours or Hades gets both of their souls. But because I also am a big fan of N.J. Walters, I know that even when she does a series, each book is unique. There are no cookie-cutter storylines with her. Yes, it’s the same scenario, but the characters, the background, and the details are very different. Not once when I was reading this book did I think, “oh yawn, I’ve read this before”, and that’s the hallmark of a great series for me. If an author can redraw the same scenario in each book so that it feels different, then it’s a winner.

I love a heroine that is emotionally damaged, but not so worked-over that she can’t function. Kellsie started off her acting career with a boyfriend who became a famous actor and left her behind in the dust to play quickly-killed characters as a b-movie scream queen. She’s all alone in the world and she only has herself to rely on. She’s the epitome of an independent woman, that doesn’t need a man to help her. She looks after herself, because no one else ever has. It’s that tough outer skin and bruised heart that make her so endearing. She takes an acting job on a film titled “Hades Carnival”, which takes her into a remote mountain area for filming. Immediately she’s aware that things aren’t what they seem, and in no time she finds herself in a battle for her soul.

Marko the bear. What to say about him? Several words come to mind. Yum. Hot. Big. Fierce. He was a fantastic hero, full of love for his goddess and his brothers-in-arms, the other shape shifters. Once freed from his animal form upon the carousel that inhabits Hades Carnival, he knows that the coming twenty-four hours will be the most grueling and important hours of his long life. He must keep himself and Kellsie alive or see both of them spend eternity in hell. As the hero in the previous book did, Marko tries to set himself emotionally apart from Kellsie, because a distracted warrior makes mistakes and he can’t afford to make any when the stakes are so high.

Hades proved once more to be as crafty as expected, offering first Kellsie and then Marko anything they desired. Hades needs the shape-shifting warriors to lead his armies against the other gods so he can take over the world. In the first book, we find out that two of the shifters have died with the women that freed them, one managed to survive, and one turned against his goddess and now works with Hades. But Marko isn’t going to give up so quickly, and Kellsie is just the woman to stand by his side.

What I really love about these books is the real emotion. Even though the majority of the book surrounds the twenty-four hour time frame when the beast is freed from the carousel and Hades and his minions go after them, nothing feels rushed. Can a person fall in love in twenty-four hours? Maybe you believe that or not, but in these books the emotions are real and timely, neither rushed nor too slow, but just perfect. And the author doesn’t shy away from allowing the characters to question their feelings. Both Marko and Kellsie wonder about the feelings they’re having, wonder if the other can be trusted, wonder if they’ll survive and if so…what happens next. While there is less sex in this book than in the first one, the scenes are no less scorching and emotionally powerful.

I enjoyed this book, losing myself in the mix of mythology and modern times, shape-shifters, a scream queen, gods and goddesses, minions, and souls-in-the-balance battles. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books in the series and finding out what happens to the two remaining shifters.

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here or 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: Mystic Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson

Liz’s Review

Mystic Cowboy by Sarah M. Anderson
Western romance released by Samhain Publishing on January 1, 2013

One good man could drive her all kinds of crazy.

Men of the White Sandy, Book 1

Just who does Rebel Runs Fast think he is? Dr. Madeline Mitchell, the new doctor on the White Sandy Lakota Indian Reservation, knows there’s a good answer to that question. Somewhere.

Sure, the Lakota medicine man is every cowboy-and-Indian fantasy she ever had, but he sends patients to sweat lodges instead of clinical trials, talks them out of flu vaccines. Even more irritating, he makes her heart race.

Rebel swore off the white man’s world—and its women—years ago. Madeline doesn’t speak the language, understand the customs, or believe he’s anything more than a charlatan. Yet she stays, determined to help his people. And he keeps finding excuses to spend more time at the clinic.

When he discovers her in the throes of dangerous heat stroke, Rebel’s efforts to cool her down set fire to a passion neither thought they wanted. But when the people start falling violently ill, the cultural gap stretches the connection between their hearts to the breaking point…

Warning: This book contains smoking-hot skinny dipping, emotional and emotionally satisfying sex, and a shirtless cowboy who is also an Indian.

When I got into reading romance novels during my first pregnancy, after a long affair with mysteries, one of the types of books that I always looked for were the Native American/Settler historical romances.  If it took place during pioneer times, with a restless heroine looking for something to tickle her fancy and a shirtless young man waiting in the brush to steal her away to his camp and make her his bride, I would snatch it up right away.  Loved them.  Devoured them.  Still enjoy them.  So when I saw the description for a contemporary romance taking place on a Lakota Sioux reservation, I was more than willing to indulge.  I haven’t read anything by Sarah before, but I loved the premise.  Overzealous, under-informed white woman doctor tries to make a difference on a Lakota reservation and tries extremely hard not to fall in love with the local medicine man?  Sign me up!

First, I’ll say that this book felt very real to me.  I have read a great deal about the current situation on reservations in our country, and it’s appalling.  People live with nothing and are glad for what they have.  People like the ones portrayed on the White Sandy Indian Reservation in this book are happy to just have groceries.  It’s easy to see that Sarah has done her research, and that helped me to connect to the characters and fall in love with the world she built.

Dr. Madeline Mitchell has excellent intentions when she signs up for two years as the reservation doctor.  What she doesn’t expect is the awful conditions that she’s expected to work in, between the lack of funding from the government for basic supplies to the language barrier she faces between the older residents who speak only a bare amount of English.  Immediately she butts heads with the medicine man, Rebel Runs Fast, cursing his good looks and charm as she watches him direct her patient to his sweat lodge instead of a hospital for treatments.  When the book begins, Madeline is escaping from a failed relationship and an uptight world, hoping to make a difference.  An icy exterior and a cold glare that can stop a man at twenty paces are her hallmarks, as well as her ability to leap to insane conclusions and not let people speak their minds fully.  She’s immature at times, in her views on life and love and men, but she’s also driven, dedicated, and honorable, qualities that more than make up for her flaws.

Rebel Runs Fast is a sexy surprise a minute.  From one moment to the next, the reader is treated to another layer of the depth that brings us closer to finding out just who Rebel is and why he walks the line between two worlds.  On one hand, a talented artist that poses for publicity shots and uses his earnings to help his people. On the other hand, a spiritual guide, medicine man, and full blooded Lakota who loves his people and wants to be there for them in every possible way.  It seems impossible for both sides of the man – Jonathan the artist and Rebel the Lakota – to exist at the same time, and this constant struggle kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole book.  Even the romance aspect of the book kept me wondering, made me not want to put the book down.  I love it when an author makes you work for the love and doesn’t just hand it to you.  Rebel suffers in this book between his duty to his people and his desires as a man, and I suffered right along with him.

The romance between Madeline and Rebel is wonderful, and when they finally get together, things get hot very fast.  Even in the middle of the hot lovin’, there’s this undercurrent of tension that heightens all of it.  Can Madeline live in his world?  Could he let her go if she couldn’t?

Rebel has a vision of his people dying, and when they begin to grow sick, the only person he can count on is Madeline.  Through this plot, the reader is reminded of the atrocities brought on the native people by the white man.  It’s not done in a finger pointing, shaming sort of way, but rather brought about with compassion and yearning for things to be different.  Can one person really make a difference in a situation that seems so hopeless?  The book, even though it’s fiction, answers that question in a most amazing way.

I loved the secondary characters.  Madeline’s family has dwindled down to only her sister, Mellie, due to the deaths of their parents.  Mellie at first comes across as a flighty debutante, but like many of the characters, she’s not just a one-dimensional character.  The clinic where Madeline works is full of amazing characters, from Albert, who sweeps the floors and speaks little English, to Nobody Bodine, Rebel’s friend and a man determined to find out why his people are getting sick, to Tara, who works at the clinic with Madeline.  Each character was rich and vibrant and made the story come alive.  And I can’t say enough about Nobody…he rocked my world.  Love him so much, I sincerely hope the author is planning another book in this series because I will pounce on that like nobody’s business!

This book was such a pleasure to read that I was sorry when it was over.  It’s one of those books that when it was finished and I’d read the last word, I cuddled my Kindle a little closer and grinned like an idiot.  A rollercoaster ride from beginning to end, with dynamic characters, a rich background and history, a touch of supernatural element with Rebel’s visions, a mystery to be solved, and lives to be saved, this book grabbed me by the throat from the first word and didn’t let go until my eyes passed over the very last word.  Now that I’ve read one of Sarah’s books, I can’t wait to read more.

Grade:  A

You can buy a copy here.

Review: Rogue of the Highlands by Cynthia Breeding

Erin’s Review:
Rogue of the Highlands by Cynthia Breeding
Historical Romance Samhain Publishing October 16, 2012

She must tame a Highland barbarian…before he steals her heart.

Rogue, Book 1

With the death of her elderly husband, the Marquess Newburn, Jillian Alton is relieved that she will never have to endure another forced marriage. Until his long-lost son reappears to claim his title and holdings.

Left penniless, Jillian reluctantly accepts a tidy sum from the Prince of Wales to “refine” a Scottish Highlander who has inherited an English title—a man who shakes her resolve to never again let a man close enough to snare her in unwanted wedlock.

Ian MacLeod never planned to set foot in England, but the breakup of the clan system has left him in need of claiming the profits of his inherited English lands to support his people. When he meets the very proper Lady Newburn, he is intrigued…and determined to melt her icy heart.

It shouldn’t be much of a challenge. After all, he’s never met a lass who didn’t quite willingly succumb to him. But he quickly learns that the beautiful, auburn-haired Jillian is no mooning maiden.

And there’s something about her stepson that raises the hair on the back of his neck—a clear signal of danger that has never proved him wrong…

Warning: This book contains a sexy Highlander who will make the most proper of ladies have very improper thoughts.

Sexy kind highlander complete with kilt and large sword: check

Upright, proud by scarred widowed noble woman needing someone to sweep her off her feet: check

Moving romance where you can truly hate the villain: check

It is always difficult for an author to start off a new series let alone a new series in a new genre. Rogue of the Highlands is Cynthia Breeding’s first foray into regency romance and she shows up with an emotional churning quick read in with enduring characters you won’t be able to get enough of.

Jullian Alton is the widow of the late Marquess of Newburn. With the heir returning from France, she is desperate for funds to support herself and her sister. Despite being young, Jillian is deeply aware of the depths of depravity men can bend to. Abused and left scarred by her husband, she has sworn to never, ever allow a man to have any control over her. Because of her past, she underestimates her worth, setting up the perfect opportunity for the right man to worm his way into her heart.

And Ian Macleod is the right man. Warm, caring and gentle, Ian is the romance novel’s stereotypical highlander. He has a high respect for those weaker than him, which includes animals and woman, but secure with his own self that he does not need to dominate or degrade. He seeks a partner in life instead of a typical English trophy wife. Upon meeting Jillian, he must convince her that despite all the difficulties, a life with him is possible.

While I enjoyed the gentle romance building between Ian and Jillian, what I truly enjoyed with this book was rooting against the Villain, the Newburn Heir. He is a despicable man, in a number of ways, and I took delight in Ian and Jillian thwarting him at every turn. Newburn is the counterbalance to Ian. Where Ian is honorable and kind, Newburn is an evil two faced liar. Where Ian is gentle and kind, he is abuse and demanding. As the book is written from a Scottish point of view, this parallel continues to mirror the differences between the Scottish and the English.

And like Jillian, how can you not swoon when a man, in that lovely burr that just warms you to your toes, knows exactly what to say to heal your heart. He does not judge her, but instead teaches her to trust and to believe in just a wee bit of highland magic so she can find her happy ending. There is really nothing to dislike in Jillian and Ian. The only thing I could complain about is the very end Jillian forgets some key information that could have changed the course of the book, but given the circumstances she is forgiven.

One final note, Ms. Breeding has a delightful cast of characters in this book and it bodes well for the other books in this series. While I down played the abusive themes in the review, they are fairly prominent in the book and may turn away some readers. There are several episodes of physical and sexual abuse as part of the story, but it is not gratuitous or inappropriate given the story.

A good choice for those liking Scottish heros and for those who may want a darker bit more mature themed romance.

Grade: B

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