Friday, December 29, 2017

A Distant Heart (Bollywood #4) by Sonali Dev

* * * *

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen-years-old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul's deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances. 

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.


Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review


My favourite couple from A Change of Heart - Rahul and Kimi - finally get their story! If you read my review of it you'll know that I mentioned Rahul being the moral compass of that story. His steadfast loyalty and determination to uncover the truth was what set him apart from everyone else. And his obvious devotion to Kimi was a story I wanted more of.

A Distant Heart gives us their backstory revisiting Rahul's childhood and how he came to know Kimi's family and eventually find a career in law enforcement. The budding friendship between Rahul and Kimi is so sweet and it's apparent that even back then, she was a spunky kid with a fierce will. While he looked at the world in black and white, she viewed the world as a vast, exciting place where all the possibilities were there. In the present, their relationship is strained but that won't deter Rahul from protecting Kimi especially now that the threat from the evil gang lord Asif Khan is even greater than before. Asif who was responsible for his friend, Jen's death. Asif who ran the black market organ trade. Asif who zeroed in on Kimi and has something to do with her heart transplant. Even though Rahul caught Asif, there are still so many questions left unanswered and he knows Kimi can't be truly safe until he gets to the bottom of them.

At the center of this book is Rahul and Kimi's beautiful, complicated friendship, how it developed and shaped who they are today. How their expectations of each other have both held them up in times of need but also held them back. It's also more than that. Honestly, there's so much going on that it makes it hard to put A Distant Heart into just one category, and to do so would be a disservice to its uniqueness. Yes, it's a romance but also a thriller, a mystery, an ode to family and loyalty. Much like last time I have a hard go of it writing a review that feels that I'm doing the book justice. I mean, Sonali Dev is the wordsmith here, an incredible storyteller who infuses passion into all those pages that have captured my attention. Rahul and Kimi came to mean so much to me and A Distant Heart was more than I hoped for. 

~ Bel



Thursday, December 28, 2017

Heart on Fire Spotlight Tour + Review + Excerpt + Giveaway




GODS. I’M AN IDIOT.

Without Griffin—and apparently a few meddling Gods—to push me along, I’d still be telling fortunes at the circus, lying about my past, ignoring my future, and living as far away from my tyrant mother as humanly possible.

True understanding thuds into place. Hope isn’t just an abstract concept; it’s me. Flesh and blood me. Griffin knew it all along. Probably everyone did. I’m an idea in human form.

I have the power of the Gods at my fingertips.

The only thing ever stopping me has been me.





Review

Heart on Fire is probably the most exhausting of the books in this trilogy with its rip-roaring adventure pulsating throughout the pages. Every time I felt that Cat and company could take a breather I quickly realized that I was wrong.

What's different about Heart on Fire is that Cat seems to be hit with the reality of her responsibilities. She and Griffin have brought hope to many people who are relying on them to deliver peace and stability. After surviving the Agon Games, the people view her with such adulation and it's something she feels unworthy of. Not only is she fighting for their people, she's also fighting for her survival and that of her unborn child within her. And then there's her mother, her ultimate nemesis whom she has to face eventually. Seriously, the girl can't even sit for five minutes without some crisis that needs her attention!

I felt that Cat spent a lot of time in her own head, confused about her purpose. She's scared, tired, angry -- in fact, I believe this is the most vulnerable we've ever seen her. As if that isn't enough, she and Griffin are also hit with the revelation that their union might not have been as fortuitous as they thought. It becomes a question of destiny versus free will with both of them attempting to prove that they're not the gods' playthings. Cat and Griffin's relationship has always been central to the story and to the future of the kingdom. Their connection is the most compelling aspect of the series. Together they're sexy, funny, and most importantly strong. There's no denying that they draw out the best in each other but the pressure on them as the alpha couple is heavy, and as long as Cat can overcome her apprehensions and find her power again, they're ready to finish what they've started.  

We've reached a crucial point here in the the book, and because losses can always be guaranteed in warfare, your heart will be broken a couple of times. Each battle, each hurdle leads to the final showdown: Cat versus her evil mother. The Kingmaker Chronicles has been one of the best series I've ever read, rich in depth and detail so it feels like you're witnessing the action in front of you. It's been a magnificent ride and I'm a little sad that it's over now but thankful that I got to experience this.

~ Bel

Excerpt

Griffin’s hand tightens on my arm.
I roll my eyes. “I’m not going to fall in, you know. The cliff is all the way over there.”
He loosens his hold. Sort of.
I glance up at him, trying to tame my sudden smile. Domineering and overprotective doesn’t even begin to describe my husband. There’s also deliciously jealous, but that’s another subject all together. The black stubble framing his mouth makes his full lips look impossibly kissable. It’s been hours since they were last on mine. And I love to kiss the hawkish curve of his nose. So strong and masculine. I adore that nose. And the rest of him. His powerful body. Muscle. Sinew. Bone.
I gaze up at him, nearly sighing. “I love you.”
Griffin stops dead in his tracks and glares down at me. “That’s it. We’re leaving.”
I blink. “What? Why?”
“You think something terrible is going to happen.”
“No, I don’t.” I frown. “I don’t think so.”
His eyes narrow, wariness hardening his expression. “You do.”
“What are you talking about?”
He scowls at me.
“Well, something terrible could happen,” I concede. “But that’s always true, no matter where or when. Tomorrow, I could trip over my own feet and break my neck for all I know.”
Judging by the look on Griffin’s face, I don’t think that helped.
“You only say you love me or you’re sorry when you’re scared or almost dead. You’re not almost dead, so what’s scaring you?” he demands.
“I say I love you all the time!”
“When we’re in bed. When I’m so deep inside you that you can’t feel anything but me. Not when we’re about to knock on a stranger’s door. What’s scaring you?” he demands again.
I huff. “At the moment? The way your jaw is popping like it’s alive.”
Griffin crosses his arms. “I want honesty. Right now.”
Right now, Your Imperialness?”
His nostrils flare. His hard look is spectacular.
I’m not intimidated. It makes me hot. Then again, so does just about everything at the moment, but not in the same way.
“If you must know, the magic around here is a little intense and…disturbing, but it’s not scaring me. Not really. It’s probably just something coming from whatever is down there in that God Pit,” I say, waving toward the cliff. “I’m a shade nervous. That’s all.”
His eyes stay flinty and unconvinced. “That’s all? That’s not generally cause for a heartfelt declaration, at least not from you.”
I toss my hands in the air. “Fine. I take it back. I looked at you, found you incredibly desirable, and my body got all hot and tingly. I blame pregnancy for an excess of sentimentality and…and…urges!”
Griffin stares at me. Then his mouth splits into a grin that makes me all kinds of angry. He reaches for me again, his grasp lighter this time.
“Incredibly desirable?” Looking smug, he threads his fingers through mine.
Scowling, I poke him in the chest with my free hand. “Well, you do have that whole overbearing warlord thing going on. Plus, plenty of muscles in all the right places, some good ideas, and, you know, a really big sword.”
A laugh cracks out of Griffin, and my heart swoops like an off-balance bird.
He’s rarely free with humor these days, or maybe there’s just not enough of it in our lives anymore. The happy flutter that wings through my chest takes any lingering irritation away with it.
Gah! Talk about mood changes!
Griffin captures my other hand and then pulls me in to him until I’m standing between his legs. “I love you, too, Cat.”
He kisses me, his mouth pressing softly against mine. Warmth rolls straight from his lips to my toes, which curl in my boots.
“Tell me again,” he coaxes.
I shake my head, our noses brushing.
“Say it,” he demands against my mouth.
“I don’t think so.”
“Last chance,” he warns, gently nipping at my lower lip.
“Big sword.”
Chuckling, Griffin swats my bottom. “There’s more where that came from.”
I look up at him through my lashes. “I sure hope so.”
He grins. “I think you just managed coy.”
“Good Gods! Has the Underworld frozen over?”
“Next, Centaurs will fly.” He brushes his lips over mine again, not lingering, and when he lifts his head, his black hair ruffling on the faintly sulfurous wind, the teasing gleam is already absent from his eyes. “You’re sure there’s nothing else?”
“Nothing besides our baby wreaking havoc on my moods?” I shake my head.
“But I wanted you before. I want you always.”
He lifts his hand and brushes his thumb across my lips. Then his fingers fall away, trailing lightly down my arm until I shiver.
“You’re the air I breathe,” he says without a trace of humor in his voice.
My whole chest clenches hard, squeezing a tight, almost painful beat from my heart. “I admire you,” I reply. “I need you. I love you with all my heart.”
Griffin offers me a different kind of smile this time, small, lopsided, gentle, and so entirely genuine. It fades almost immediately, though, and he straightens to his full, imposing height, abruptly pinning me with his warlord stare. “If you feel anything off here, we leave, with or without the potion we came for. You’ve got great instincts, Cat. Trust your gut.”
I nod. I will. I always do.

About the Author


USA Today bestselling author AMANDA BOUCHET grew up in New England and studied French at the undergraduate and graduate levels, first at Bowdoin College and then at Bowling Green State University. She moved to Paris, France, in 2001 and has been there ever since. She met her husband while studying abroad, and the family now includes two bilingual children, who will soon be correcting her French. Connect with her at www.amandabouchet.com.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Beautiful Lawman (Devil's Rock #4) by Sophie Jordan

* * * *

From the wrong side of the tracks and with most of her family in jail or dead, Piper Walsh is used to everyone in town thinking the worst about her. It doesn’t seem to matter that she’s worked hard to build a good life for herself. So she isn’t surprised that when she comes into contact with Sweet Hill’s wildly irresistible, arrogant sheriff, Hale Walters, they’re instant adversaries. Piper has nothing in common with the town golden-boy-turned-lawman—and she refuses to be a notch on his bedpost.

Despite rumors, Hale avoids fooling around with the women of Sweet Hill, many of whom are hoping to get him to the altar. But staying out of Piper’s path is proving near impossible. The infuriating troublemaker clearly has no respect for his badge. As she continues to push his buttons, it becomes clear to Hale that he must either arrest Piper—or claim her as his own.
 


Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review


I adore stories about couples from vastly different backgrounds coming together. There's a degree of skepticism, assumption and also curiosity that lends itself to the making of some good chemistry, which is what happens in Beautiful Lawman. Piper has had a rough life with non-existent parents meaning she and her older brother, Cruz, were left to care for themselves and their younger sister, Malia. With Cruz serving time, the responsibility has fallen on her shoulders. There are few options where Piper can make some good cash so working as a waitress at a grimy men's club is what she has to do. Hale Walters is the town's sheriff and has a sterling reputation as a disciplined man. He initially sees Piper as a victim of her circumstances who continues to make bad decisions but soon learns that there's more to her. She's not interested in correcting anyone's gossip about her. That's their problem for all she cares and she's certainly not looking for a saviour but for an opportunity like anyone else to make life better for herself and her sister. Piper's attitude challenges all of Hale's preconceived notions about what he thought he understood of her and it's not long before he realizes that she's also the first woman in a long time to ignite something within him.

The Devil's Rock Series has been thoroughly enjoyable and I think Beautiful Lawman is the best one yet. In fact, it's probably my favourite (it's a toss up between this and Fury on Fire. Speaking of that, North and Faith do make an appearance here). I enjoyed the setup that had Piper and Hale getting closer, and then there was that oh-so-sweet delayed gratification when it came to sexy times coming to fruition. The wait is worth it and the two of them are exciting and mischievous together, a combination that I approve of!

Sophie Jordan is one of my favourite authors and this series is an auto-buy for me. Beautiful Lawman is everything I want in a read - sexy, smart, good humour and an equally matched couple that's hard not to love.

~ Bel


Monday, December 18, 2017

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

* * * * 

Some bodies won’t stay buried. Some stories need to be told.

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past, the present, and herself.

One hundred years earlier, a single violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns.



As I get older I find that I don't read YA books as often as I used to so were it not for a venture into a local bookstore where I wound up chatting with one of the booksellers, I wouldn't have been made aware of what has turned out to be one of my favourite books of 2017.

Dreamland Burning is a suspenseful part murder mystery, part history lesson told through dual timelines. How Jennifer Latham connected all the dots still astounds me. Not only was she able to create a mystery that I couldn't get enough of, she also drew parallels between the highly combustible atmosphere of a city on the brink of self-destruction and today's current social climate. The story is split between POVs - that of Will in 1921 and Rowan today. Rowan, who decides to take on the mystery of the skeletal remains found on her property, couldn't have known how uncovering the truth from the past would impact her own life in the present. 

Will's POV was a tough read and honestly, I was unsure about him initially. I thought he was a knucklehead but the fact of the matter is that he was simply naive and inexperienced. He did have the most dramatic character development where his inherited beliefs gradually evolved. His growth from that of a self-absorbed teen to that of someone with a conscience and desire to do that decent thing is perhaps my favourite part of the book. And it all happened because of an unlikely friendship.

Rowan goes through her own growth as well. Being the daughter of a black woman and a white father, she's observant of how people respond to her and her mother. As she's attempting to uncover who the skeleton was, she becomes embroiled in her own controversy. Drawing back the layers of the mysterious skeleton's history makes her reevaluate her sense of social justice.

While Will and Rowan are indeed fictional, Latham does reference the real event that incited the Race Riot that took place in Tulsa from May 31 to June 1, 1921. I looked it up and found disturbing images that made my stomach churn. Not many people know of this horrible event but I am thankful to Latham for bringing it to light in such a bold, engrossing and thoughtful story. 

~ Bel


Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Hope Divided (Loyal League #2) by Alyssa Cole

* * * *

The Civil War has turned neighbor against neighbor--but for one scientist spy and her philosopher soldier, war could bind them together . . . 

For three years of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother's traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her--until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie's home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.

Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.

When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie's freedom on the line, she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love--and freedom--before they ever cross state lines.


Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review


Earlier this year I read and fell in love with An Extraordinary Union. Its story introduced me to an aspect of the Civil War that I was unfamiliar with - that of the men and women, including the freed slaves who risked their lives and freedom to serve as spies during the war. A Hope Divided follows in that vein with Malcolm's brother, Ewan who as a spy has been pretending to be a prisoner of war so that he can deliver secrets to the Loyal League. It's at prison that he makes Marlie's acquaintance. Marlie is unique in that she's half black and half white and has been recognized by her white family, to a certain extent. She has grown up with privileges that no slave could ever dream of but she has never forgotten who she is. With the advantages that she has, she covertly works for the Loyal League using her reputation as a healer to protect her. When Ewan's dramatic escape from prison is botched, Marlie offers to hide him away in the safest place possible: her home. Specifically a hidden room within her bedroom. It's a temporary solution that puts them both in danger but that's what they have to do until Ewan is healthy enough to make another escape

A Hope Divided is striking in that it presents a series of ironies that only highlight the the evils of bigotry. For example, Ewan is a white man trapped in a room, forced to hide from the Confederate soldiers. Marlie, is a free Black woman who can roam around town yet will forever be trapped by the colour of her skin. The book also looks at the complicated dynamics of a family that includes a person of colour -- how they address each other or refer to one another in the company of others, how they convey their feelings and ultimately, how they really see each other while never acknowledging their connection out loud, not even in the privacy of their own home. I thought that was an enlightening aspect of Marlie's story. When the Confederate Home Guard decides to make her house homebase, Marlie's security in her own home is upended. She's no longer as free has she has been. It also put her and Ewan in harm's way and they have no choice but to escape. And here we see Marlie as the healer that she is, someone who is always looking out for others even if it means putting herself in danger. Ewan, who's more philosopher than fighter, now has the resolve to truly fight for everything important to him.

My favourite part of the story is the connection that Ewan and Marlie Have. Both find intellectual stimulation in each other's company, engaging in lively philosophical conversations and debates. There is, of course, the physical attraction as well. My least favourite part is the language and abuse hurled at Marlie and other slaves. It's an unfortunate part of the story and history but it's unsettling to read nonetheless. I can't even begin to fathom treating someone that way and thinking a person inferior because of their colour. 

I enjoyed the suspense in A Hope Divided and that both Ewan and Marlie eagerly aspire to live up to their cause despite the odds against them. This series has been a great way for me to gain insight and learn more about the time period. Definitely worth the read!

~ Bel


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How To Blow It With A Billionaire Release Blitz



We are beyond thrilled to help celebrate the release of HOW TO BLOW IT WITH A BILLIONAIRE by Alexis Hall. Who wants more of Arden and Caspian and their hot, complicated affair? We do! We do! Check out the blurb below and also enter the giveaway to win one of 15 free ebooks of the first in the series, How To Bang A Billionaire!



About How To Blow It With A Billionaire

Be careful what you wish for . . .

Once upon a time there was a totally ordinary boy who fell for a cold, beautiful prince. Only it's not a fairy tale, it's my life. The prince is a billionaire called Caspian Hart. And we're trying super hard to live happily ever after.

He's everything I want, need, and can't resist: a man who looks like a god and bangs like the devil. Except he's still got his rules and he's still got his secrets . . .

But if there's one thing Caspian's taught me it's that you should never settle for less than you're worth. And I'm worth his trust. I have to show him that I see him. That I'm not afraid of his passion, or his power, or his past. And that I won't settle for less than everything.

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About the Author

Photo Source: Goodreads
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de si├Ęcle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret.

He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car.

He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.


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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

So Over You Blog Tour - Excerpt & Giveaway

* * * 1/2

Three estranged sisters struggle to sustain their late father’s failing hockey franchise in Kate Meader’s sizzling Chicago Rebels series. In this second entry, middle sister Isobel is at a crossroads in her personal and professional lives. But both are about to get a significant boost with the addition of a domineering Russian powerhouse to the Rebels....

Isobel Chase knows hockey. She played NCAA, won Olympic silver, and made it thirty-seven minutes into the new National Women’s Hockey League before an injury sidelined her dreams. Those who can’t, coach, and a position as a skating consultant to her late father’s hockey franchise, the Chicago Rebels, seems like a perfect fit. Until she’s assigned her first job: the man who skated into her heart as a teen and relieved her of her pesky virginity. These days, left-winger Vadim Petrov is known as the Czar of Pleasure, a magnet for puck bunnies and the tabloids alike. But back then... let’s just say his inability to sink the puck left Isobel frustratingly scoreless.

Vadim has a first name that means “ruler,” and it doesn’t stop at his birth certificate. He dominates on the ice, the practice rink, and in the backseat of a limo. But a knee injury has produced a bad year, and bad years in the NHL don’t go unrewarded. His penance? To be traded to a troubled team where his personal coach is Isobel Chase, the woman who drove him wild years ago when they were hormonal teens. But apparently the feeling was not entirely mutual.

That Vadim might have failed to give Isobel the pleasure that was her right is intolerable, and he plans to make it up to her—one bone-melting orgasm at a time. After all, no player can perfect his game without a helluva lot of practice...
 


Source: advance egalley provided in exchange for an honest review


I amuses me how though I'm not a hockey fan I look forward to these sports romances so much. Truthfully, the game itself goes over my head but I'm here for the story and this Chicago Rebels series presents the stories from a different angle -- that of a female run organization.

Isobel and Vadim have history and meeting up again brings out all the animosity and hurt. Raised by her father to be the best female hockey player ever, her dreams were crushed due to an injury. She found a new career in coaching but she's always felt that she never lived up to her true potential. Vadim who was recently traded to the Rebels is sidelined by an injury and only under Isobel's watchful coaching can he be healthy enough to be back on the ice sooner rather than later. The problem is that they can't get along. Way back when she was a young girl on the cusp of greatness, she and Vadim were secretly an item. It was her father's ambition for her that led to their breakup and Vadim being blackballed for a short period of time. Just as in the first book, Irresistible You, Isobel like her sister Harper, continues to live under their dead father's ever present shadow. It's hard to detach personal ambition from guilt over letting him down. Now she and Vadim they have to work together they have to balance their feelings alongside professional etiquette with everything being more precarious because of Isobel's position as owner and also as an assistant coach. Tongues will wag and reputations will be at risk should people start suspecting anything between them. 

While the description might make it seem that the problem between them comes down to sex, it doesn't. There is a lot more going on with each of them though nothing overdramatic. Isobel is still dealing with the disappointing blow to her career. Not only that, she's also looking to break the barrier by becoming a coach of a professional men's hockey team. And she has to prove that she's the right person for the job by more than just her last name or the fact that she's a part-owner. This means dealing with the occasional skepticism or random sexist comments thrown at her. Meanwhile, Vadim has to come to terms with someone who was once close to him whom he had written off years ago. This particular storyline brings out his more sentimental side. The one thing I will say that is uneasy for me is the two of them pursuing something knowing full well what a delicate position Isobel is in being a team owner whose every move is documented and judged. These are the very same concerns Harper had in the first book as she took up with Remy. You just get protective of these characters and don't want them to get hurt. At the same time, it is a look into how women in the workplace are held to a different and often more rigid standard, especially when they're in a position of power.

Meader does also give us sneak peeks of future books by teasing us with tiny subplots. (Seriously, she has me excited for book 3!) I utterly enjoyed So Over You, and that it offers something new by featuring a strong, intelligent and capable female athlete who can go toe-to-toe with any other competitor on the ice. It's a fun and sexy distraction that you shouldn't miss!

~ Bel


// Enjoy this special excerpt from So Over You //



“This little job is the difference between you playing and not. Dancing with the Stars, Vaddy baby. It’s where all the washed-up pros end up.”
Annoyed at his reaction to her, he skated away, throwing out over his shoulder, “I will be playing, Isobel. You will have no say in that. I spoke with Moretti—it is clear why you have this job.”
Her brow crimped. Naturally, it was adorable. “Please. Enlighten me.”
“He is new and no doubt under pressure to bow to the owners. You can write your own ticket.”
“If that’s the case, I’d just appoint myself as head coach and be done with it.”
“You are also conscious of what the fans and media think, so you are starting small. Really, you could have called or texted, Isobel. Buying my contract seems like a lot of work to bring me back into your world.”
“You weren’t my first choice. But luckily your poor play this season meant Quebec was happy to offload you.”
He ignored the brief stab. The last six months had been difficult. Isobel understood this, yet they could not resist these little cuts.
“I think you wanted to be closer to me. Just like before, right, Bella?”
A blush crept up her cheeks on hearing his endearment for her.
He would test her. Make her angry and emotional. Make her cry. Because angry, emotional criers were not the stuff of coaches. If she was serious about a career in the NHL, she would hear worse.
She would get him game fit. He would get her battle ready.
He continued to needle. “Yes, I think that must be it. It seems that the female owners of the Rebels would like to abuse their position and use the players for their personal pleasure. Your sister and Remy DuPre—that is interesting.”
“Is it?”
“Harper may have duped a Rebel player into her bed, but please don’t imagine you and I will be renewing our acquaintance in a similar manner.”
 That got her attention, at last. Her creamy skin blazed, her crimson mouth twitched, and even from a distance he could see those melted-shamrock eyes darken. She looked like she wanted scream at him. Burst into tears. Slap his face.
Yes, Bella. Let us see if you can handle the barbs of every player, coach, and fan who will dismiss you. Let us see if you can handle me.
Fury powering her stride, she skated over, skidding to a halt mere inches from his face. As before, she was magnificent.
“You’ve found me out, Petrov.”
“I have?”
“It’s all an elaborate ruse. We bought your contract even though you really haven’t been performing well this season. Let’s face it, you’ve sucked donkey balls, Vadikins. But I convinced my sisters that I alone could bring you back to top condition. Make you a valuable asset to the team. I also made sure I’d be the only one working with you . . .” She leaned up on the tips of her blades, a balancing act that required great skill and remarkable ankle strength. Close enough that he could have slipped his tongue between his lips and tasted hers.
Her breath was a hot puff of temptation. “So we would have all this alone time.”
With that fiery gaze, she held his own.
Unerring.
Unflinching.
Until her mouth creased, and she broke into a laugh. He remembered that laugh. Just as before, it hit him right in the balls.
She used the edge of the iPad to poke him in the chest. “You thought I’d go to all this trouble to try to get into your hockey shorts, Petrov? I’m a team owner—I can have any of these Rebel boys with the click of my fingers!” She chuckled, clearly enjoying herself. “Despite what that supersized ego of yours thinks, the only performance I want from you is on the ice. Maybe if you spent less time carousing—”
“Carousing?”
“Yes, it’s nicer than calling you a club-hopping, vodka-sodden manwhore. Less of that and more effort on your day job, please. And don’t worry yourself that I’m interested in ‘renewing our acquaintance.’ I’ve had better lays with the Ukrainian delegation at the last Games.”
He had to say he enjoyed this sharp-tongued, quick-witted version of Isobel. But not enough to admit it to her.
“There is nothing you can teach me.”
“So sure, Russian.”
“I am positive.”
“We’ll see.” She skated back to the edge of the rink. “Again.”


// Giveaway //

To celebrate the release of So Over You, Kate Meader is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Enter here! 


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Rogue Affair (Rogue #2) by various authors

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When all else fails, find passion.

Even more new romances for readers who can't get enough of everyday heroes and for everyone who wanted more of the Rogue Desire Anthology...


Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review


I'm not sure where I've been but I was unaware of the the previous Rogue Desire Anthology but jumped at the chance to read the follow up, Rogue Affair. It features a series of short stories with a political or socially conscious slant to them, obviously a response to the current political climate. I've been slowly working my way through it - because of the nature of this anthology it can feel a bit overwhelming sometimes which is why I've decided to break up my reading and share reviews for the first few stories I've read so far. 

Such Great Heights by Adriana Anders 

Of all the authors involved with this project, Adriana Anders is the one I'm most familiar with and the reason I wanted to read this anthology. Her story about a journalist who accompanies a veteran whose personal goal is to climb up a mountain in honour of his friend, a deceased soldier was a bit of a tearjerker for me. It brings attention to the plight of our veterans when they return from their tours and the challenges they face trying to assimilate into society. O'Neal Jones almost runs Kurt Anderson off the mountain before she recognizes that she and Kurt used to go to high school. Kurt, who was the superstar athlete back then is a man of few words now and O'Neal who is ever the curious journalist knows that there's a good story behind his crazy climb up the mountain in the cold. Their reconnection thaws him out a bit as they swap stories about what life's been like since school. It's a sweet story with heart and by the end, Kurt who's been feeling lost, seems to have found some direction and it just might include O'Neal.

Fallasies & Flirtations by Amy Jo Cousins

This is one of those stories where I thought, "Can something this happen IRL, please?" Chicago Mayor Anna Fowler is a former actress. She also happens to be bisexual but is currently single. Oscar Aranda is a much younger (by twenty years) speech writer who's brought in temporarily to help while her office faces their latest crisis. He has worshipped Anna for a long time and can't believe that he gets to be in her presence. She notices him too and realizes that he's smart and capable and yeah, good looking. This is my second Amy Jo Cousins story and I'm still getting used to her writing. It did enjoy this story (especially being set in Chicago). I liked that she gives us an older female protagonist who's proud of her sexuality and a younger man who's confident in himself that he's not threatened by a successful woman.

Dedication of a Lifetime by Tamsen Parker

My first Tamsen Parker story and I loved it! Sean is a dedicated school counselor who's always concerned for students' well-being. Isaiah is his medical researcher husband who is growing increasingly frustrated with the way the political climate is turning. All the recent wins the LGBTQ+ community have gained the last few years are being threatened and he doesn't know how to handle it so he retreats inside his head, leaving Sean to wonder what's happening to their marriage. This one felt most personal to me because even when you remove the fact that it's about a gay couple, the issues they're facing here - miscommunication, shutting each other out - they're things that can happen in any marriage or relationship. It just so happens here that their problems are being compounded by society saying their lifestyle is wrong. I love this couple and I was hoping they wouldn't fall apart. Anyway, I'll be reading more of Tamsen Parker in the future.

Personal Proposal by Ainsley Booth

Another new-to-me author. Brianne has to quit her job at a national park because she kind of went rogue on the job. Until the firestorm dies down, her boss has arranged for her to work for his photographer cousin, Astrid in Canada. It'll be good for Brianne to clear her head and figure out her next move. Astrid doesn't really need an assistant but is simply doing this as a favour for her cousin. She's not used to Brianne's sunniness and would like not to engage but she can't resist. The two of them work well together but it's the sparks that fly that has them caught off guard, until Brianne decides that she should just take that step forward.

Work of Heart by Olivia Dade

This was so blatantly about a certain political leader and his family. Jenny Meyers is an artist who's commissioned to do an official portrait. David Redi is a journalist who only needs to find that next big headline to launch him into the stratosphere. They happen to run into each other on the same assignment and when something shady happens that has alarm bells ringing in Jenny's head, she contacts him to give him the scoop. They just have to be careful with how they approach this because it could mean their credibility and careers on the line.

The President's Protector by Kris Ripper

President West forms a close bond with her Secret Service Agent, Agent Ruiz who is transgender. This was an unexpected story and I liked it very much. It really focuses on their growing friendship and a few little flirtations here and there. Being a widow, it's not beyond imagination that she'd be longing for companionship and intimacy. I liked how this was written and I thought their connection was genuine.


So there's my review of some of the stories in Rogue Affair so far. I don't often read anthologies but it's been a great way to introduce myself to some new authors. And I appreciate that they've come together to speak out about things they care about. Some of the stories land on the heavier side, so you might try my tactic and read them in small stretches. They're good stories and each of them with a lot of heart.

~ Bel



Always Red (Red #2) by Isabelle Ronin

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THE RIVETING CONCLUSION TO RED AND CALEB'S EPIC STORY


Veronica "Red" Strafford's painful past has made trusting Caleb Lockhart difficult. But Red might have pushed Caleb away one too many times...

I want you to fight for me. Just as I fought for you. But you wouldn't.
I stood there, staring after him, tears pouring down my face.



Source: advance e-galley in exchange for an honest review


I so much enjoyed Veronica and Caleb's story in the first book, and completely fell in love with them as a couple. There was just something about their dynamic that just appealed to me that I was so distraught at the end when they broke up because of a horrible misjudgment. In Always Red, something is different. In fact, it feels like a completely different book because it tends more towards soap opera and dramatics. This time as Caleb and Veronica try to work out their problems they're hindered by Caleb's jealous teammate, Justin, and also his jealous best friend, Beatrice-Rose, who has resorted to extremes to break up the couple for good. 


So here's what didn't work for me: I felt Beatrice-Rose's character hijacked this story. She has some serious mental health issues that I felt were acknowledged but then just set aside. Her actions became too over the top for me that she became more of the cliche. I felt Veronica and Caleb's relationship suddenly hit the accelerate button once they got back together and that didn't feel right to me especially when she still had trust issues that keep popping up.


What did work for me and what I wish there was more of: Justin. He's the supposed friend who is insanely jealous of Caleb and we learned of this in the first book. He also suffers from becoming a cliche which disappointed me because I would've been interested in his backstory and his attempts at undermining Caleb whenever he can. 


I was really looking forward to Always Red and in the end, this sequel felt like a soap opera which was not for me. 


~ Bel