Jordan Castillo Price

Review: Mnevermind series by Jordan Castillo Price

04:51




Titlle: The Persistance of Memory (Mnevermind #1)
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Genre/Themes: Dystopia / MM romance
Release Date: 4 May 2012

Author's links:
My rating: 4 Stars

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Synopsis

Every day, Daniel Schroeder breaks his father’s heart.

While forgetting your problems won’t solve them, it does seem like it would make life a heck of a lot easier. Daniel thought so once. Now he knows better. He and Big Dan have always been close, which makes it all the more difficult to break the daily news: the last five years were nothing like his father remembers.

They’re both professionals in the memory field—they even run their own memory palace. So shouldn’t they be able to figure out a way to overwrite the persistent false memory that’s wreaking havoc on both of their lives? Daniel thought he was holding it together, but the situation seems to be sliding out of control. Now even his own equipment has turned against him, reminding him he hasn’t had a date in ages by taunting him with flashes of an elusive man in black that only he can see.

Is it some quirk of the circuitry, or is Daniel headed down the same path to fantasy-land as his old man.

Purchase links: Amazon - Smashwords - iTunes

*** *** *** 

Titlle: Forget Me Not (Mnevermind #2)
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Genre/Themes: Dystopia / MM romance
Release Date: 19 Feb 2014

Author's links:
My rating: 5 Stars

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Synopsis

No two people are exactly alike, but Elijah Crowe is very, very different. 

Elijah is on the autism spectrum, so the tasks of day-to-day life most people breeze through are a challenge for him. His career suffered because he never got the hang of schmoozing, and now his talents are being wasted teaching classes at the mall. His social circle is limited to his ex, his therapist, and a structured inclusion group at the Rec Center. The one bright spot in his life is the memory science of Mnemography.

Although he loves nothing better than devouring the latest research and tinkering with all the specialized equipment, he never clicked with any other experts in the field until he met Daniel Schroeder. Daniel runs a memory palace—he even writes his own mnems—and that shared interest alone would make him fascinating. But Daniel and Elijah met under unusual circumstances, where the statement, “I like you, and I think you like me,” held some surprising nuances.

Now Elijah suspects he’s gay, but the few prominent people in his life are less than supportive. Some are downright hostile. Elijah might not be neurotypical, but he’s plenty smart. Surely there’s some way to get people to accept him for who he is. If only he could figure out how.

Purchase Links: Amazon - B&N - Kobo - iTunes - Smashwords

*** *** ***

Titlle: Life Is Awesome (Mnevermind #3)
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Genre/Themes: Dystopia / MM romance
Release Date: 24 Feb 2015

Author's links:
My rating: 4.5 Stars

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Synopsis

Daniel Schroeder wants nothing more than to repair his father’s broken memories, but it’s been a long time since he’s thought of himself as a memorysmith. Even though convincing Big Dan of their current reality is the most painful task Daniel faces every morning, somehow life manages to prevent him from finding a cure. He needs to keep their family business running. And he needs to moonlight at a competitor’s shop to keep all his employees paid. Or maybe he’s just trying to keep himself from exacerbating the situation. 

A year ago, Daniel would have presumed he was clever enough to memorysmith his way out of their predicament, but nowadays he’s not so cavalier. Playing with people’s memories shouldn’t be taken lightly, and things can always get worse. Even with the help of some of the best minds in the business, Daniel still isn’t sure how to navigate his way out of the persistent false memory that’s crippled his life. Is new programming the answer? Better gear? More money? Or is time the only thing that can heal Big Dan’s memories…if they can even be fixed at all. 

What Daniel needs most is some breathing room, and Elijah Crowe is eager to provide it. Since he’s smitten with Daniel, Elijah is determined to prove himself—and he’s more than qualified to clear Daniel’s schedule by taking over some duties at Adventuretech. With the support of his new boyfriend, possibilities begin to open up for Daniel, hints of things he hasn’t even realized he’d stopped hoping for: the contentment of a harmonious family, the fulfillment of his creative expression, and a chance for a relationship with a man he loves.

Purchase links: Amazon - iTunes - Kobo - B&N - Smashwords 

Review 


I read this series a while ago and was very much impressed by it. I meant to review the complete series of three books together but somehow it was never the right time.

I have so many thoughts about these books and will at least try to express some of them in a coherent manner. Simply put - this MM dystopian/speculative (romantic) fiction, and I'm not using these terms as strictly defined categories but rather as a reflection of what the story felt like to me while reading it - is breath-taking, raw, emotional and real and oh, so clever.

I'm amazed at the imaginative genius of Ms Price. The other work of hers I've read (review), Meatworks was also very rich, imaginative romance, though I definitely liked this one better.

The story is set in the not so distant, somewhat bleak future where people experience mnemes (as a mix of dreams and memories) as a form of entertainment.

This is the story of Daniel and Elijah, a story of being adult - serious and responsible, but also hopeful and forgiving and never really giving up on your dreams.

Book 1 was slightly slower, more descriptive, in a way setting the stage for the things to come in the next two books. It created this richly imaginative world populated by characters who felt so real, human, very much like the people we meet in our life - some were smarter, others less so, some were compassionate and loyal, others - less so. They were all multi-faceted, multi-layered, with thier own strengths and weaknesses, searching in one way or another for that forever elusive piece of happiness and sense of achievement and satisfaction. 

Book 2 stood out the most for me. It's told from Elijah's POV and I can't describe how much a loved it. He is on the autistic spectrum and Ms Price made him an absolutely unforgettable character. There was no melodrama and excessive sentimentality in his portrayal. He felt real, his voice was a mixture of strength and confidence on the one hand and vulnerability and confusion on the other. His sudden attraction to Daniel after being married to woman was confusing for him but he took it for what it was and explored it without prejudice or judgement.

The romantic relationship was mostly the focus in the final book. It was difficult, there was no magical 'We belong together, so everything happens naturally/effortlessly'. It took some work both for Daniel and Elijah to be able to be together. The way it is most often in life - love is there but being with someone also takes time, takes getting used to one's quirks and oddities, accepting some limits.

The whole mneming business was complicated to comprehend though in my mind I had this weird association between mneming and a children's animation I watch with my kid (Zack and Quack). The depths of the desrciption of the this future world was fascinating and what was even more fascinating how personal, human Ms Price made the story.

If you are looking for a brilliantly writtne, imaginative, yet as real as it gets, romantic story, you need to try this series! 

Amy Jo Cousins

Review: Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins

06:20


Title: Level Hands (Bend or Break #4)
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Date of publication: 25 August 2015
Genre/Themes: Romance, queer
Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 5 Stars

Synopsis 


When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.

Rafael Castro is so far out of his element he can’t even see it anymore. Carlisle College in Massachusetts is a long way from his Chicago home, even farther from his Dominican Republic roots. 

The only thing keeping him attached to his last nerve is the prospect of seeing Denny Winslow again. The first time they met, Denny taught Rafi to fly across the water, rowing hard in a knife-like boat. Now, two years later, on the wings of a rowing scholarship, Rafi is attending Denny’s elite college. 

Even before the excitement wears off, Rafi is struggling with classes and fending off rumors that Denny’s family, not Rafi’s talent, won him his spot. To quash the gossip, Rafi tries to steer clear of the man he wants. A plan that evaporates in the fire of renewed attraction.

But Carlisle’s academic pressure cooker has Rafi barely treading water. And when a family crisis hits, both Rafi and Denny must pull hard to keep their relationship from capsizing in rough waters.


Review


This is book 4 in the Off Campus series and while I loved them all, I think this is my favourite story. I rarely do more personal reviews but this book touched on so many personal levels that I can't help it.

It's a tender and sexy interracial mm college sports romance and Amy Jo Cousins covers brilliantly, I'd say, so many aspects of college life and the struggles to fit in, to belong in a place and with a person (you love).

It's Rafi's book through and through, not just because the story is told from his POV. Don't get me wrong, I loved Denny quite a lot and he has a strong presence in the story but Rafi got me teary eyed a time or two in this book.

It is uncanny hom much I could relate to some of his college experience given how differen him and I are. I'm a 36 yo white het woman from a small country in Europe. I went to the best University in my country and who lived with her parents at the time and didn't suffer from racial or sexual abuse but none of my parents have university degrees and pressure to fit was real. My first year was so intense and scary and wonderful without having to navigate a love relationship at the time. 

In short, for long stretches of of the story I felt like Rafi's thoughts were mine. His struggle to make sense of this new, unfamiliar  place, to be good enough/to deserve his place there (since he got there on a scholarship). His experience was powerfully presented and his anxiety felt real and true to life, especially to me as someone who is pretty anxious about a lot of things in life.

And I absolutely loved that the story made me look back on my own experiences in university with just a touch of melancholy and no real sense of regret. 

The story covers Rafi's life in its complexity - the romance, the college, the family stuff, the rowing. There is even a brief and rather sweet appearance of Steph and Cash (with some Tom and Reese on the side). Rafi struggled with so many new things in his life and it all was interconnected and affected deeply his relationship with Denny.

The chemistry was really strong but they had to deal with a lot of issues on practical level, basically they had to find a way to be together. I liked how Ms Cousins didn't gloss over their difficulties and made their romance a perfect one. The love to each other and both felt they belong together but that didn't save them from making mistakes along the way. They are too different in terms of social, ethnic background, financial situation, family situation and their love didn't just magically erase those difference. They had to learn how to be together while still being different. There was no sacrifice on oneself just to make the other happy. Rather what we got were two young people making compromises for each other.

There is an element of coming-of-age to this story. Both Rafi and Denny had to figure out what they wanted in life and how to go about getting it. The ending came as a bit of surprise but I think it fits the characters and I see it as promise, something that helps them to be happy together. 

It's a very moving, touching story and at the same time it felt real. This series keeps getting better and better and is quickly becoming one of my all-time favourites.

I want to end this embarrassingly personal review with my favourite quote from the book which is about Denny but I think it fits Rafi as well and pretty much sums up my way of loving - "Denny needed to take care of him because that was how Denny loved."

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks / ARebooks / Samhain

Anthology

Release Day Launch for Unconditional anthology

01:25

 


Purchase links: Amazon /B&NiBooksKobo



Life isn't easy. Love is harder. Love cuts, love burns and sometimes love breaks.

But living a half-life, living with regrets, that’s no life at all. People say we’re broken, not like other people. Maybe that’s true—ability, disability—what’s in a word? So whatever the world throws at us, we won’t stop, we won’t crumble. When we love, we love hard. Love without limits. Unconditional is an Anthology from authors Stacey Wallace Benefiel, Jane Harvey-Berrick, Sarina Bowen, Mary Elizabeth, D.Hart, Amber L. Johnson, CJ Lyons, Lauren K. McKellar, Shay Savage, and Magan Vernon.




He stole her lipstick…and her heart.

Twenty-year-old Dani Walker can’t believe her luck when she’s paired up with the gorgeous Liam Garrett as her Acting I scene partner – or when he ends up in her bed. Being a Plain Jane with a mouth on her hasn’t exactly served Dani well in the guy department. In fact, she’s had nothing but one night stands.

Ten years after their first affair, Sebastian and Caroline meet again. Now a successful journalist, Caroline heads out to report from the front lines of the war in Afghanistan. Love is the last thing on her mind when she crosses paths with Marine Chief Sebastian Hunter.

Will this chance encounter reignite the erotic passion of their past, or will the hidden cost of war tear them apart again?

Until his accident, bad boy Hank “Hazardous” Lazarus had everything: a gorgeous girlfriend, a career as a freestyle snowboarder and a spot on the US Olympic team. Could he possibly meet the love of his life in the last place he ever wanted to go--the hospital?

Some days are brighter than others, but Penelope Finnel is invisible behind the colored lenses of her heart-shaped sunglasses. Dillon Decker hopes he is the cure to her madness. But when friend turns to lover, and lover turns to caretaker, how much can either of them tolerate before they’re swallowed whole? 

Fate took away Baylor's past, giving her a second chance at life, but when faced with a choice to move forward, leave it buried, or follow her heart, she struggled with her basic need to survive and be loved. When she met Brandt, he gave her a reason to rebuild a life full of forgotten treasures.

When it comes to love there’s no such thing as conventional. 
Everyone thinks Colton Neely is special.Lilly Evans just thinks he’s fascinating.
Their friendship grows into love, even as Colton does not express it in words. But one decision threatens to break down the world that Lilly has tried so hard to integrate into and she must figure out if the relationship can survive if they are apart.

A West Virginia mountain, the middle of a blizzard, killers on his trail…no place for a city boy like Lucky Cavanaugh, an ATF explosives specialist.
Out-manned, out-gunned and shot, he takes Forest Service Wildlife Biologist Vinnie Ryan hostage until he convinces her that he’s one of the good guys.
Vinnie heals not only his injuries but also his broken heart. But when they uncover a terrorist plot, Lucky is forced to choose between duty and passion, risking the life of the woman he loves in order to save the lives of thousands.

When eighteen-year-old Kate’s father turns up drunk to graduation, she knows something is wrong—really wrong. What she doesn’t expect is a hereditary disease that will turn her life around.
The Problem With Crazy is a story about love and life—about overcoming obstacles, choosing to trust, and learning how to make the choices that will change your life forever. 

Isolated on a raft after their ship capsizes, an alcoholic death-match fighter and a young woman have to face the elements as well as their entwined pasts. Bastian can survive in the harshest environments, but can he survive Raine?

Honor student, manager at the campus coffee shop, owner of an impressive sweater collection – Melanie Wilder has it all together. Then John “John Boy” Walden strolls into her life wearing nothing more than an impish grin and all-too-revealing loin cloth.
Soon, make-out sessions replace homework, lust triumphs over work. And to further crumble her perfect world, an unexpected phone call threatens to take away everything she’s worked for.

Release Day Launch

Releaze Day Launch for Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

01:01



HSH Amazon
Title: Heart-shaped Hack
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Genre/Themes: Romance, lawyers, hackers
Release Date: 25 Aug 2015

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Synopsis

When Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month. Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act. 

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses. Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker. 

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart.



Purchase links: AMAZON / B&N / iBooks


© 2015 Tracey Garvis Graves
Heart-Shaped Hack

EXCERPT



“Oh, hi,” she said. 
“Imagine running into you here.” 
“This is quite a coincidence.” 
“It’s not a coincidence at all. I knew you were following me.” 
“You did not.” 
“I spotted you hiding behind the plant when I walked into the bank. Plus I could smell your perfume as soon as I stepped out here.” 
“Did you”—she used her fingers to make little air quotes—“appropriate money from this bank?” she whispered. 
“Of course not. I do all my work from the Batcave. Believe it or not, I actually bank here. I was just signing some papers.” 
Kate had never seen a man look so utterly scrumptious while wearing glasses. There was something about the combination of his hair, his scruff, and the semi-rimless designer frames that made him irresistible. “Are the glasses a disguise? Because I totally knew it was you.” 
“The glasses are real. I often suffer from eyestrain since I spend so much time on the computer, and I was up late last night, working.” 
“They make you look very smart.” She took a moment to imagine how his scruff would feel rubbing against her skin if he were to kiss her. 
“I am smart, but I think you mean devastatingly handsome. More so than normal, that is.” 
“You’re so humble.” 
“Ready?” He walked to the door and held it open for her. 
“Yes.” 
“Follow me.” He looked at her and laughed. “That shouldn’t be a problem for you.” 
They took the elevator to the basement, and when the doors opened to the parking garage, Kate followed Ian to a row of cars. He stopped beside one and pulled a set of keys from his pocket. 
She gasped. 
Ian smiled. “It’s a—” 
“1964 Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe.” 
“’65. But color me impressed.” 
“My brother Chad was obsessed with this car. He used to have a poster of it on his bedroom wall. There were only six built between 1964 and 1965.” 
“A bit rare indeed.” 
The last authentic Shelby had sold at auction for around seven million. Ian’s was obviously a replica, of which there were quite a few, but it was still a very notable vehicle with a price tag that started in the low six figures. “Helena called it an old blue car.” 
He grinned, looking contemplative. “Technically, that is correct.” 
Kate could not resist running her hand lightly over the Guardsman Blue paint and the white racing stripes on the hood. The Shelby was unmistakably race-car-like in appearance with its aerodynamic design and unique body style. Chad was going to be so jealous. “For someone who values his privacy, isn’t this a bit ostentatious?” 
“How so?” 
“Rakishly handsome playboy who makes grand philanthropic gestures and drives a flashy car. Any of this ringing a bell?” 
“Rakishly handsome playboy?” 
“Well, if the Prada loafer fits. Wouldn’t you fly under the radar more easily in, say, a Ford Focus?” she asked. 
“A Ford Focus? You want me to tool around town in a Ford Focus? Jesus, would I still have my balls?”
“No, they cut them off when they hand you the keys. Of course you’d still have your balls. What kind of question is that? This conversation has gotten way off track.” 
“You mean because we started out talking about my car and now we’re talking about my balls?” 
“Are we?” 
“I believe so.” 
“Maybe we should go back to talking about your car.” 
“You want to drive it, don’t you?” 
“Why would I want to drive your car?” 
“Why wouldn’t you want to drive my car? Can you handle a stick shift?” 
“Yes, and rather competently I might add.” 
“That’s an enormous turn-on. Truly.” 
She pretended not to hear him. 
“This is not a good car for Minnesota winters.” “Horrible, I agree. My other car has four-wheel drive, but it’s not nearly as fun to operate as this one.” Ian dangled the keys in front of her. 
He was right. Kate was dying to drive his car and couldn’t wait to see how it handled. She took the keys, opened the door, and reached over to unlock the passenger side for Ian. They belted up, and she started the car. 
“Please note that I’m already making good on my promise, Katie. Because I assure you, driving this car will be the opposite of boring.”

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Author bio and links: 

Tracey Garvis Graves is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into twenty-seven languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, and Cherish. 

Tracey loves to interact with her readers and can be found on Facebook and Twitter

Contemporary Romance

Mini Review: Deeper Than Dreams by Jessica Topper

00:00

Title: Deeper Than Dreams 
Author: Jessica Topper
Date of publication: 18 Aug 2015
Genre/themes: Contemporary Romance, Musicians

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4 stars


Synopsis


Will wedding bells rock out for Louder Than Love’s most beloved couple in this Love and Steel novella?

Falling in love with rock star Adrian “Digger” Graves was a dream come true for former librarian Kat Lewis. But with a little help from friends and family—including Kat’s adorable daughter, Abbey—Adrian has planned an evening and a proposal beyond her wildest dreams. 

The night before, Kat witnessed the triumphant reunion of Adrian’s rock band at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, he will escort her to the elegant, ultra-exclusive Library Lion’s benefit. It seems like a fairytale, but even fairytales have a deeper, darker side. When old habits return to tempt her knight in shining heavy metal armor, will Kat’s happily ever after come crashing back to reality?

THIS IS AN EPILOGUE NOVELLA THAT PICKS UP THE DAY AFTER LOUDER THAN LOVE ENDS. This novella is intended to be read after Louder Than Love.

Mini Review 


What a sweet follow-up novella to Louder Than Love (review) that was. It read like a lovely and absolutely sweet extended epilogue to Kat and Adrian's romance and made me love all the characters in this series even more than already did.

One could say that nothing much in terms of action happens in this story - just a preparation for a big/the biggest night out for Kat and Adrian, yet for them and their relationship it was like everything happened. Every little thing mattered and had deeper meaning and affected everyone around the main couple in one way or another. 

Reading this felt like watching the farewell episode of a beloved TV show where we meet all the stars of the series again. We see all the important people in Kat and Adrian's lives and it was a true beginning of their HEA.

There was a lot of hope and optimism, some saddness and fear, some fun and sexy times. The story sets stage is set for Rick to shine in the next book coming out in September.

Recommended read for fans of the first book. Adrian is even sexier and kinder and more of everything and Kat just melts my heart. 

Pre-order link: Amazon

Contemporary Romance

Waiting On Wednesday: Everything I Left Unsaid by Molly O'Keefe

21:30


Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Everything I Left Undsaid
Author: Molly O'Keefe
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, abuse
Release Date: 13 Oct 2015
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Pre-order links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo




Synopsis


I didn’t think answering someone else’s cellphone would change my life. But the stranger with the low, deep voice on the other end of the line tempted me, awakened my body, set me on fire. He was looking for someone else. Instead he found me.

And I found a hot, secret world where I felt alive for the first time.

His name was Dylan, and, strangely, he made me feel safe. Desired. Compelled. Every dark thing he asked me to do, I did. Without question. I longed to meet him, but we were both keeping secrets. And mine were dangerous. If I took the first step, if I got closer to Dylan—emotionally, physically—then I wouldn’t be hiding anymore. I would be exposed, with nothing left to surrender but the truth. And my truth could hurt us both. 
*** *** *** 


Why am I waiting for this? - I absolutely loved Boys of Bishop series of contemporary (so raw and gritty) and when I saw that ms O'Keefe is writing a new contemporary series it got on my TBR list right away. I just love the cover and the blurb is the right kind of mysterious to get me hooked up completely.

Anne Calhoun

Release Day Launch for Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

00:01

 It's release day for Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun, next book in her Irresistible series. She's sharing an excerpt, as well as a great giveaway, so be sure to check out all of the release day festivities!

Evening Storm RDL Banner
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EVENING STORM
Synopsis:
The national bestselling author of The List continues her sinfully addictive Irresistible series...
When it comes to the wolves of Wall Street, Ryan Hamilton is the leader of the pack. But his bravado is all bluff. The bank he works for is up to it’s assets in fraud and shady deals. And thanks to pressure from the NYPD and FBI, Ryan is working as both a trader and a whistleblower. His only respite from the tension is when he parades his latest arm candy at a fancy lingerie shop.
Simone Demarchelier owns Irresistible, crafting custom high-end lingerie. So she’s more than happy that Ryan is spending a fortune on his women. But she senses that behind the hotshot facade there is something more. Something tortured and sad. And when he flies her out to the Hamptons in the shadow of a summer thunderstorm in order to fix one of her designs, she instead finds herself stuck in the opulent home with a distraught Ryan.
Is Simone the one person who can mend Ryan’s heart and soul?
Buy Links: Amazon | B&N 
Add on Goodreads

Exclusive Excerpt


“We have a situation in the Silver Room.”

Simone Demarchelier’s assistant, Lorrie, murmured the words as she paused at Simone’s side on her way across the showroom. A padded brown satin hanger draped with the Woodland Nymph bra dangled from Lorrie’s left hand, and similar hangers carefully arranged with matching silk charmeuse robes hung from her raised right hand. A customer waited patiently, for now, by the big front windows.

Simone looked over Lorrie’s shoulder to the fitting rooms at the back of the showroom space. The door to the Silver Room had been closed for nearly thirty minutes, which wasn’t unusual, or even a problem. At Irresistible a woman was free to take as many items into a dressing room as she liked, and was even encouraged to do so. She would be assisted by Simone, Lorrie, or one of the other lingerie fitting experts to ensure the perfect selection with the perfect fit. Buying lingerie was an intensely personal experience, seeking to showcase the truth and beauty of each woman’s skin. So the length of time wasn’t the issue. The problem was that the woman, who Simone recognized as “Just Jade” from the spring Fashion Week runways, had been in the room for thirty minutes with a man.

Simone was French, and far too experienced to be naive, but the situation called for a certain level of tact, and that authority came from the designer and owner, not a salesperson. “I’ll handle it,” she said just as quietly. “See to the woman by the windows.”

A smile firmly fixed to her face, Lorrie moved off, distributing the bras on a rack to one side of the elaborate four-post bed in the middle of the showroom, then the robes on a display on the other side. Hands suitably free, she made contact with the customer. Satisfied, Simone crossed to the fitting rooms and rapped smartly on the door.

“Madame? May I assist you?”

From behind the locked door came a rustle of fabric (the sound of silk and chiffon against wool, if her ears didn’t deceive her), a throat clearing (male), and then a woman’s haughty voice. “As a matter of fact, you may.”

The handle turned and the lock clicked open. Simone automatically registered the dark gray raw silk that draped the ceiling, anchored by a sparkling chandelier. Plush pewter carpet blanketed the floor, and mirrors covered three walls from floor to ceiling. Silver hooks hung at regular intervals on the remaining wall, painted a dusky blue that softened to robin’s egg near the ceiling. The beautiful room looked like a petulant toddler had torn through a toy box full of the highest quality fabric on the market and hundreds of hours of work, much of it by hand. The petulant toddler in question was a supermodel of international fame known by a single name, Jade, describing the unique color of her eyes. Bras, panties, corsets, slips, and nightdresses were strewn from hooks, on the chaise, and the floor.

Despite Simone’s worst fears, Jade was fully dressed, or as dressed as she could be in the Nightwing ensemble, a robe of dramatic thundercloud-gray satin shot through with red, the paler gray panels shifting like racing clouds to expose, then hide, the breasts and thighs. Her caramel and blond hair (definitely extensions) tumbled around her shoulders, framing her dramatic cheekbones and full mouth (either Botox or recently thoroughly kissed).

Simone’s gaze flicked past the woman to the man seated on the moss-green, silk-covered chaise lounge, knees spread, hands laced behind his head, staring fixedly at the ceiling. He wore a charcoal- gray suit her practiced eye immediately recognized as bespoke, and a purple silk tie so luscious her fingers itched to touch it. The tie was loosened, exposing a tab-front collar, and his hair was rumpled, but whether from her fingers or artful styling, Simone couldn’t tell. A telltale heat stained his cheekbones, matching the slightly swollen look of his mouth.

Recently kissed, then.

He turned to look at Simone. When their gazes met, Simone’s heart kicked hard against her breastbone. His hazel eyes widened ever so slightly. She’d never seen this man before in her life, but she knew this type. Her family’s house had been a mainstay in the fashion world for nearly two hundred years. Her father told stories of businessmen in the seventies bringing in their mistresses to be fitted for smart suits perfect for lunching at La Tour d’ Argent. Her grandfather told stories of aristocrats in the thirties bringing in their mistresses to be fitted for ball gowns and day dresses. They both told stories passed down from her grandfather’s grandfather, stories of royalty ordering a king’s ransom in silk corsets, pantaloons, fur-trimmed robes, and sheer nightdresses. Men with money used it to get houses and planes and cars and tables at exclusive restaurants. They also used it to get mistresses, and used it to dress their mistresses for their pleasure. They expected personalized service, immediate delivery, and privacy while the woman du jour modeled for them. They were smart and powerful, and felt at home in a world where politics, entertainment, business, and sex came together in a combustible mix. But because the last thing she needed was a reputation as someone who poached from her clientele, they were off-limits.

Off-limits never looked so irresistible.

Anne Calhoun Bio
After doing time at Fortune 500 companies on both coasts, Anne landed in a flyover state, where she traded business casual for yoga pants and decided to write down all the lively story ideas that got her through years of monotonous corporate meetings. Her first book, LIBERATING LACEY won the EPIC Award for Best Contemporary Erotic Romance and was chosen as one of NPR's 100 Swoon-worthy Romances, and her latest novel, THE LIST, received a Starred Review from Publisher's Weekly. Anne holds a BA in History and English, and an MA in American Studies from Columbia University. When she’s not writing her hobbies include reading, knitting, and yoga. She lives in the Midwest with her family and has successfully overcome her Starbucks addiction.
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Friday Favourites

Friday Favoruites # 13: Laura Florand

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Today's guest at Friday Favourites is the amazing Ms Laura Florand. She writes sensual romantic stories with complex characters exploring their emotions and desires set in the wolrd of top French chocolatiers. Her new series takes us to French rose valleys, La Vie En Roses, and the romance is just as delightful.


Friday Favourites


1. Favourite place 
I honestly have far too many to choose one. I love Paris, and many special places in it, the Seine at night, the special chocolate shops, the Luxembourg Gardens. And I love the south of France, where I’m setting the Vie en Roses series. I think you can tell both of those loves from the books! But I really love to travel, so there are also many other places I love—in Spain, in Italy, in Tahiti, in the U.S., in Belgium—that are beautiful and special but don’t make it into the books.

2. Favourite food and drink
That one is easy for me! Chocolate, of course. Very, very good chocolate!

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
I’m not entirely sure I have one. My playlists change so much according to mood or what I’m doing. (You want different music for a long plane ride than you do for a run or the gym, for example.) Let’s see—if people are looking for French music, I really like Zaz. That rough voice and jazz-rich music. “Je veux” and “La Fée” would be my suggestions for first songs to listen to from her.

4. Favourite movie/TV series
I usually do poorly with TV series. They drive me crazy. But one very brief series, which I loved and hope will be renewed, is Agent Carter. Very, very well done, much better than Agents of SHIELD, which, alas, I only managed to get 5 episodes into before it started making me too crazy. (I know, I know—everyone loves it. I’m sorry! My tastes are often weird.)

But for favorite movie? I am going to have to admit that it is, of course, Star Wars, like I think many of my generation. That was the second movie I ever saw in an actual theater—our father took us to exactly five movies as children, Snow White, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and a French movie which I don’t remember well, but I believe he regretted it, because there was nudity beyond my years. 

For older films—some of the animated films that have come out in the past ten years or so are incredible. One of my standout favorites of those is actually Lilo and Stitch for the relationship between Lilo and her sister, but Big Hero Six won a big place in my heart just a few months ago.

And I love black and white romantic movies with great dialogue, such as Bringing Up Baby.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
I definitely don’t consider writing a hobby. It’s a full-time career, and as I juggle two full-time careers right now, between writing and Duke, and have a small child, I often feel I don’t have any time left for hobbies.

The closest thing might be exercise-related. I used to do a lot of dance (I co-led a semi-professional dance group, in fact) and then triathlons and now weight-lifting. I’m not sure if hobby is quite the right word for any of those, as they’re pretty demanding, but the physical exercise helps me a lot with stress and balance, which is one of my challenges right now.

I do love to travel, though, and travel a lot. And I love food, so one of my hobbies is actually searching out all kinds of new foodie places, particularly chocolate, and trying them. 

Favourite books
It is very hard for me to answer this question. I have so many books that I love. I’m going to just look at my iPad, where my Kindle app is set to organize books by most recent reads, and tell you the last five books I read that I really loved. They’re in all kinds of genres!

1) Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night and Busman’s Holiday. (Strong Poison starts the Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane arc, so a new reader needs to start there, as it’s the whole arc that interests me, but the last two were the best.) I had never read these, and people had recommended them to me frequently, and it’s true—they’re wonderful books.

2) Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm. (A re-read for our course we taught on the Romance Novel at Duke. I love Kinsale’s writing so much.)

3) Sage Blackwood’s Jinx and sequels. This is a middle grade fantasy, and it’s just delightful—the main character, the setting, the author’s use of language. I highly recommend it!

4) Ilona Andrews’ On the Edge. Another re-read, also for our course. Ilona Andrews (or Ilona and Gordon together) write such fantastic stories. I recommend anything they write. 

5) Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight. Also a re-read. I went on a re-reading stint of Terry Pratchett’s books after his death—it just consoled me to know I could always read his books—and so the next ten recommended reads after this would be just more of his books. I Shall Wear Midnight is the last book about Tiffany Aching, one of my favorite characters. (I strongly recommend that everyone read Pratchett’s books about Granny Weatherwax and then go on to Tiffany. The books about the witches are works of wit and art.)

Those are my most recent stand-out reads! What about the rest of you? What are you reading right now? What do you recommend?

Thanks so much for inviting me to join you, Elena, and thanks to all of you for reading! I’d love to learn some of your favorites, too.

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About the author

Laura Florand is the international bestselling and award-winning author of fifteen books, including the Paris Hearts series (All for You) and the Amour et Chocolat series (The Chocolate Thief) where sexy Parisian chocolatiers woo the women they love with what they love best – romance you can taste. Her books have appeared in ten languages, been nominated for RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Book of the Year, received the RT Seal of Excellence and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and been recommended by USA Today, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal. 



She was born in Georgia, but the travel bug bit her early. After a Fulbright year in Tahiti, a semester in Spain, and backpacking everywhere from New Zealand to Greece, she ended up living in Paris, where she met and married her own handsome Frenchman, a story told in her first book Blame It on Paris. Now a lecturer at Duke University, she is very dedicated to her research into French chocolate. For a glimpse behind the scenes of some of that research as well as recommendations for US chocolate, make sure to check out her website: www.lauraflorand.com.




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Laura Florand's latest release is A Wish Upon Jasmine, book 2 in her La Vie En Roses series. This time we follow the fates of a family of French perfume makers in the Valley of roses/jasmine near Grasse, France. I'm just finishing the book and will review it shortly. 

Synopsis

Ruthless. That was what they said about Damien Rosier. Handsome. Wealthy. Powerful. Merciless. No one messed with his family, because to do so they would have to get through him. No one thought he had a heart. Not even the woman he gave his to.

Cynical. That was what they said about Jasmin Bianchi. A top perfumer of her generation, Jess had achieved commercial success by growing a protective shell over a tender heart. The one time she cracked it open to let Damien in, he crushed it—after a night of unbelievable passion.

Lovers. That one magical night couldn’t survive the harsh light of dawn. When Jess woke up to discover the man in bed beside her had stolen her company, she fled.

Enemies. Now she’s come to the south of France with a threat to his family heritage. If he wants to reclaim both it and the woman who walked away from him, he’s going to have to fight as dirty as only Damien can.

But Jess knows how to fight dirty, too. And these days, she has nothing left to lose.

Certainly not her heart.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iTunesKobo



Comedy

Review: Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

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Title: Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers #1)
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: 23 July 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance

Author's links: BlogTwitterFacebookGoodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Synopsis



Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-headed heart is she willing to risk?

Series Description: 
Everyone in Green Valley, Tennessee knows that the six bearded Winston brothers have been imbued with an unfair share of charm and charisma… and are prone to mischief.
Truth or Beard is book #1 in the Winston Brother’s series. Each book is a standalone, full length (120k words), contemporary romantic comedy novel, and follows the romantic exploits and adventures of one of the six Winston Brothers.

My Review


This is book 1 in a spin-off series to the Knitting in the City series of romantic comedies. We met the six Winston brothers in Beauty and Mustache (review) and they completely won me over with their unique type of hillbilly/gentlemanly charm.

I really, really loved this story. It has the trade-mark Penny Reid's humour and awkwardness, smart and sassy heroes and heroines. Duane is one of the ginger twins and he was such a well developed character, curious and in typical for Ms Reid style - a mix of contradictions. Just when you think you know who he is - a hillbilly small-town mechanic and you are thrown in for a loop - he is romantic and gentle, devoted to his family and friends, loves his woman with a passion but is willing to let her go if that is what will make her happy. I absolutely loved his gentlemanly and old-fashioned courtship of Jessica. It was sweet and over-the-top and absolutely irresistible. He tried so hard to make everything perfect which naturally doesn't work in real life but his tenacity, in a way his stubbornness won my heart forever. 

Jessica is another strong, independent heroine Ms Reid has created. She just got her degree in math science and is teaching at the local school, while saving money to fulfil her dreams of travelling the world. I loved her a lot, though for me Duane stood out more. 

What I particularly appreciated in the romance is that he didn't make her change for him, he realised that making her give up her dream for him would eventually made her desirable. I didn't really buy her fear of permanence, her reluctance to accept him in her life. I respect that she had dreams she wanted to pursue and they didn't include the conventional find true love, settle down and have family and kids. It was just difficult for me to relate to her stubborn refusal to accept that life throws surprises in your way and need to adapt to them. And these were even the good kind of surprises. Maybe her dreams were just too different from my personal views on life but still, I appreciate how they tried to find a way to be together without either of them giving up their dreams. They were ready to come up with new common dreams. 

Some plot twists and turns were quite surprising and didn't make much sense initially but I believe their deeper meaning will be revealed as the series progresses. 

I absolutely loved the humour in the story and the drama in the Winston family was engaging and made be anxious about the stories of the rest of the brothers. 

I've read all of of Ms Reid' books so far and can honestly say that her romantic comedies (Knitting in the City and Winston Brothers series) work best for me. She is an autobuy author for me and these series are my perfect comfort read  - sweet and quirky and fun and a little bit sad and serious. She creates a rich colourful world full of odd-ball characters. Penny Reid plays with words so skillfully and it's always a pleasure to follow her word games and obscure pop culture/science references. Can't wait for the next Winston brother to fall in love!

Purchase links: Amazon US / Amazon UK / iTunes / B&N / Kobo


You can find my reviews of Ms Reid's other novels in the Review Policy and Archive section of the blog.

Jessica Topper

Waiting on Wednesday: Deeper Than Dreams by Jessica Topper

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Deeper Than Dreams 
Author: Jessica Topper
Date of publication: 18 Aug 2015
Genre/themes: Contemporary Romance, Musicians

Add to Goodreads 

Pre-order: Amazon





Synopsis

Will wedding bells rock out for Louder Than Love’s most beloved couple in this Love and Steel novella?
Falling in love with rock star Adrian “Digger” Graves was a dream come true for former librarian Kat Lewis. But with a little help from friends and family—including Kat’s adorable daughter, Abbey—Adrian has planned an evening and a proposal beyond her wildest dreams.

The night before, Kat witnessed the triumphant reunion of Adrian’s rock band at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, he will escort her to the elegant, ultra-exclusive Library Lion’s benefit. It seems like a fairytale, but even fairytales have a deeper, darker side. When old habits return to tempt her knight in shining heavy metal armor, will Kat’s happily ever after come crashing back to reality?


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Why am I waiting for this? - I came across Louder Than Love (review) by chance last year when it was released. I took a chance on new author and ended up loving the book. There was no HEA epilogue for Adrian and Kat, so instead Ms Topper wrote a full follow-up novella and I'm sure that it will be just as good as their first book. Older hero, (ex) rock/metal star and a widowed librarian with an adorable daughter - sounds like a perfect romance to me.

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