Deep Autumn Heat by Elisabeth Barrett

Deep Autumn HeatBook: Deep Autumn Heat (Loveswept)

Author: Elisabeth Barrett

Series: The Star Harbor Series

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Lexie Meyers moved from California all the way to Star Harbor, Massachusetts to build her business, mend a broken heart and begin her life again. She’s successful, well-liked and has big plans for the future. Those plans do not include a man. She’s staying single after the last disaster made her flee the West coast. So when Sebastian Grayson – famous chef, former-son of Star Harbor, ex-bad boy and well-known womaniser enters her diner – although struck by his good looks, his arrogance and rudeness makes for a disastrous first impression. Having put him in his place, she wants nothing more to do with him; but Seb is attracted to her confidence and no-nonsense attitude. Despite his brothers’ warning that he should stay away from Lexie, he just can’t help himself. (Did I mention he had three other brothers, all hunky with a twin thrown in? Well, he has…)

As Lexie gets to know Sebastian better, she realises that there is more to him than his strong physique, arrogant nature and predatory gaze. She respects his work and the feeling is mutual. She is attracted to him, but is determined to protect her heart from what must be for him, just an autumn fling. Besides, she has more to deal with in the shape of a psychotic former-lover who may just have moved halfway across America to stalk her once more. If that wasn’t enough drama, she also has a competitor who is dying to find out what she puts in her famous coconut cake and make it her own!

Why you should read this: This book is the first in the Star Harbor series, featuring the fabulous Grayson brothers. I’ve never been to Cape Cod, but the narration really made me feel as though I was experiencing it first-hand. Lexie, for me is a good combination between gutsy heroine and damsel in distress. When she’s in trouble, she accepts the help! The backdrop of this story was the culinary world and what’s better than good food and sexy times? Sebastian Grayson is hot, arrogant but also a character that shows depth and is capable of changing his ways. I’m really looking forward to reading more about this family.

What you might hate: There’s nothing to hate about this book – there’s a lot of book for your money; there were a few sub-plots I wasn’t completely sold on but overall, the pace of the book was on-point.

Rating: I give this a solid 3/5 – I love Loveswept books and this is a great addition to it. It’s great opener to what will probably be a great series. The cover says it all – hot hero, astride a motorbike. Enjoy the ride. Look out for Blaze of Winter, which is Theo’s story, who just happens to be Sebastian’s twin!

Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

Book: Big Boy

Author: Ruthie Knox

Series: Strangers on a Train (different authors)

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Mandy is struggling under the weight of inherited-motherhood, a poorly-paid job and student loans. Her only respite is the fact that every fourth Thursday in the month, she meets up with HIM. Each time, he plays a different role from a different era and she plays right along with him. They meet in the museum among the vintage trains and there, they lose themselves in each other for a few hours. He’s an enigma to her and seems content to keep up the role-play without getting to know the real Mandy. No surnames and no personal details. No complications.

Mandy thinks this is what she wants at first, but the longer they know each other and the more intense their meetings get, the more dissatisfied she becomes with not knowing a thing about him. When they meet as themselves at a work function, Mandy is introduced to Tyler and she is disappointed when he doesn’t acknowledge her in any way. Mandy is forced to confront the situation and takes a risk for the possibility of more. Can what they have develop into a relationship, or is this the most Tyler can ever give her? Both are struggling with their own burdens and responsibilities and are just looking for an escape.

Why you should read this: For such a short story there is a lot of good story – you get a sense of each character and the way they interact with each other is very real. You’ll be drawn in from the first and you’ll be sad when you reach the end so quickly.

What you might hate: I hate when I read comments about novellas – “it was great, but it was too short!” Duh – it’s a novella! Having said that, I can sympathise, as I did want more – because it was great and I wasn’t ready to leave Mandy and Tyler.

Rating: 4/5 – Ms. Knox does it again. Yes we wuv her here at Romantic Fiction, we’re practically her stalkers cheerleaders, because she produces such great stories that leave you wanting more!

A Happy Accident by Evan Tyler

A Happy AccidentBook Title: A Happy Accident

Author: Evan Tyler

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Kindle Hyrum meets Bobby Carter, aspiring musician from Ohio, when he and his band decide to make a name for themselves in Manchester, England. He is smitten from the first and sets about romancing her and convincing her that they are both destined for great things. Kindle is not so easily convinced – she’s been through disappointments before and life has been difficult. Life gets even more difficult when the pair decide to marry, due in part to the fact that both are too proud to back down first. The band is less than supportive and things get ugly.

During the nine months that Kindle and Bobby are together, things change at a heady pace. The band’s success is taking off, Kindle and Bobby find themselves expecting a child and Kindle’s nemesis Betty White has her sights set on Bobby.

Why you should read it: This book is beautifully written. (It’s based loosely on Steve Tyler’s life.) It evokes the time (early 80s) very well and having lived in Manchester for most of my adult life, I got a kick out of the story being set there. The book is heavily infused with music of the time, which set the action in context. This isn’t the sort of book we review usually on fiction – as it’s smut free, but the tender scenes between the couple are well-pitched.

What you might hate: Bobby Carter starts off very naïve and his naivety comes across as simpleness more often than not. He’s not equipped to fight for what he wants and at times is cowardly. Kindle is surly, lashes out at those trying to help her and she really is very spiteful at times. For this reason, she really tried my patience. The band members are a bit two-dimensional and really heartless – I couldn’t believe the way they behaved!

Rating: Difficult – as the writing was spot on – it had its own music about it. That would get 4/5. The story – I felt at times it floundered and would have appreciated the pace of the book to have moved at a steadier rhythm. This is part one in a three-part story and I’m not sure where it will go from here. Happy Accident should come with a warning – it is NOT a love story in the traditional sense. If you’re after a happy ending, you won’t find it here. It’s well worth a look however, for its attention to detail and for music lovers. So overall, I give the book 3/5.

Release Me by J. Kenner

Release meBook: Release Me

Series: (Book One, Stark Trilogy)

Author: J. Kenner

Basic Story: Nikki Fairchild is determined to make a name for herself in the world of technology and strike out on her own, free from the influence of her controlling mother. Unfortunately, before she’s able to do that, she needs to learn the business side of things before she can go it alone. That means working for an unscrupulous and sleazy boss, who has no qualms in parading her in front of potential investors in order to ‘seal the deal’.

So one night, when she’s drafted in to sweeten up potential investor – mercurial billionaire Damien Stark – and after Damien snubs her rather abruptly, she is determined to be independent and self-reliant at all costs. The encounter with the strange and impolite billionaire sets in motion a series of passionate encounters and before long, Nikki is wondering whether an intense relationship with such a man will help resolve her own troubled past, or will make her lose all sense of who she is.

Why you should read it: I like variety in my reading however, there’s something quite comforting about coming back to a familiar story every so often – the brooding billionaire harbouring dangerous secrets; the damaged, yet sassy heroine looking for a strong man to make it all better. Despite the many comparisons you can draw to FsoG or the Bared to You series, the author has done a good job of setting the story in a different setting. The heroine is set for success and isn’t whiny or a ball-breaker. She’s very likeable. Damien is hot, hot hot but likeable. Some books really do exaggerate the hero’s dominance, whereas Damien is quite at ease with himself and his kingdom.

What you might hate: While I like escapism and don’t mind reading about characters who aren’t in the slightest bit affected by the economic recession, if you’ve had it with the whole bdsm-lite, rich man’s private jet-hopping, can buy anyone and anything he wants, then this one is NOT for you. It follows a tried and true pattern – it’s part one of three books and I think we all know where they’re headed. I don’t mind this though. It’s like comfort food in book form for me.

Rating: 3/5 – for trying to put a slightly different spin on a very familiar, if somewhat overdone theme. I am looking forward to reading Book 2 – Claim Me, which is out in April and I’ll be reviewing it nearer its release. I love Damien Stark and as a couple, they are hot, hot hot.

Losing It by Cora Carmack

Losing ItBook: Losing It

Series: Losing It #1

Author: Cora Carmack

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Bliss Edwards is uptight, has verbal diarrhoea and basically shouldn’t be let out in public by herself. About to graduate from college, she’s determined to lose her virginity once and for all. Only trouble is, she has no confidence or idea how to go about it. When her friend Kelsey frog marches her to the nearest bar to scope out the talent, she thinks the night will be a bust. That is until she sees the blonde-haired intellectual reading at a table. The pair strike up an easy and flirtatious rapport and before Bliss knows it, she’s leaving the bar with him, headed back to his place.

Could this finally be it? Could she really have struck gold for her first time? Maybe not. After a rather entertaining panic attack, Bliss flees the scene (her own apartment) and is resolved never to see the beautiful Garrick Taylor again. Life is never that simple for Bliss however, as she learns the next day at school. Guess who will be filling in as her Drama teacher for the next few months…

Why you should read this: This is an entertaining romp about the life and trials of the truly awkward. Bliss is probably straddling the autistic spectrum in some of her behaviour and things she says, but as the heroine, you do feel for her (while cringing inwardly). Garrick (British) is the perfect hero: calm, patient, sexy and self-assured – hot too! He’s the perfect antidote to Bliss’s stupidity.

What you might hate: If you usually favour a strong heroine who makes the right decisions, doesn’t sabotage her own happiness etc. etc. then I don’t think this book will be for you. She’s none of these things. She’s awkward and lacks an internal filter. But she is funny as hell!

Rating: 3/5 – Bliss’s saving grace is that the stupid things she does are pretty hilarious – adopting a cat to get out of lie was genius. I read this in a day and it had me laughing and frustrated in equal measure. Give it a go.

Along Came Trouble by Ruthie Knox

Along Came TroubleBook: Along Came Trouble

Author: Ruthie Knox

Series: Camelot series #2

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Ellen Callahan has her hands full as a single mother, full-time lawyer and twin sister to über-famous singer Jamie Callahan. She’s busy keeping all the plates spinning and dealing with her alcoholic ex-husband, who’s slowly trying to worm his way back into her life. Her brother’s fame has brought unwanted attention to her door and paparazzi can be found on her lawn on a regular basis, due to the fact that her pregnant neighbour Carly has just split up with her brother.

In a bid to protect his sister and Carly’s privacy, Jamie hires the services of Caleb Clark. Security specialist an ex-military man, Caleb is sexy, self-assured and interested in Ellen. She’s clearly attracted to him but she’s more concerned about his plans for her property. Sure he’s handsome, has a body that won’t quit and looks at her as if she were dessert, but she’s not going to let any man boss her around and tell her what to do. So begins the battle of wits between Ellen and Caleb. Caleb’s determined to do his job but Ellen is not prepared to concede any ground. The pair open negotiations on the required security measures but also on becoming friends-with-benefits, but soon find that in matters of the heart, the lines soon become blurred.

Why you should read this: Caleb Clark is THE ideal hero. He fought for his country, he’ll fight for Ellen and he loves his family. He’s not a pushover; he’s sexy as hell and has a heart of gold. He gets things done and doesn’t take any prisoners. There are some really adorable scenes between the sparring pair (think Maddie and David from Moonlighting) and they really sizzle.

What you might hate: I liked Ellen. Then I hated Ellen. Then I really hated Ellen. Finally, I liked her again, despite wanting to slap her upside the head on more than one occasion. I love a strong heroine, but one who is so clueless about her own feelings, made me want to scream at times. It did create great tension however, and when the opportunity to redeem herself came up, she did not disappoint. So I guess I can forgive her for her stupidity and stubbornness.

Rating: 3/5 the women in this book and independent, which is great, but they are serious ball-breakers to the men that love them. It doesn’t seem to do them any harm in the end, but I defy you not to tear your hair out at key points of the book. This was a fun and sexy read.

March 6 is Ruthie Knox day!

Hi everyone – Onnica here.

I’m an unabashed fangirl of Ruthie Knox and when she said that she’d stop by Romantic Fiction for part of her blog tour, Judith and I were pretty excited! Ruthie has very kindly given us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Along Came Trouble and I for one cannot wait to read it (hint, hint). It will be out on March 11, 2013 and is Book #2 in the Camelot series. If you haven’t yet read Book #1 How to Misbehave then start there (and sit on the naughty step too, as I told you to read it weeks ago!)

But enough of me – here’s Ruthie!

RuthieHi there, lovers of romantic fiction! You are my people.

I’m here today to talk about Along Came Trouble, my latest novel (and longest so far). Out next week from Loveswept (Random House), it’s the second story in my Camelot series. Since darling Onnica gave the first story in the series, How To Misbehave, a 5/5 rating, I feel as though I am in good company. Of course, this probably means she’ll hate Along Came Trouble. Because sometimes life is that way! Moving along . . .

So Along Came Trouble is, in a sense, a bodyguard book. But I think of it as a book that’s really about what happens when a woman meets the right man at the wrong time and has to decide how much of herself to give him when she doesn’t feel like she’s got any self to spare. And most of all it’s about how hard it is to find a balance between dependence, independence, and interdependence—and how love can lift our burdens and help us become better versions of ourselves, if we are brave enough to let it.

In this little snippet, the hero, Caleb, is attempting to sweet-talk the heroine, Ellen, into letting him come into her house so he can talk to her about security. She’s just fired him, and she’s not feeling too receptive. Carly, the neighbor who is mentioned, is an old friend of Caleb’s. She’s also the reason for the paparazzi—she’s been dating Ellen’s brother, who’s a pop star.

I swear, it’s not as confusing as it sounds.

He threw her his best smile, keeping his hands in his pockets and his tone light and easy. “Any chance I could come in for a glass of water while we talk about this? Driving off bad guys is hard work.”

“We don’t have anything to talk about. I already told you, I don’t need a bodyguard. Now if you’ll excuse me, I—”

“I’m not a bodyguard. I’m a security specialist. A thirsty one.”

He smiled again, and Ellen gave a minute shake of her head. Her arms crossed over her breasts and the challenging lift to her chin said, No way.

He’d pushed her too fast.

It was a shame no one had thought to give him a heads-up about Ellen. Caleb expected a hassle from Carly—Carly lived to be a pain in his ass—but he’d figured Jamie Callahan’s sister would be used to security. She’d seemed happy enough when he gave her a hand with the paparazzo.

His mistake.

“You were going over to Carly’s,” she said. “She can give you something to drink.”

“Carly’s pregnant. She doesn’t have any beer.”

“I thought you wanted water.”

“I wasn’t going to push my luck until I got inside your place.”

Her lips pursed, then flattened back out. She had such a wide, expressive mouth. Not that he was supposed to be noticing, but it was the kind of mouth a guy noticed. The rest of her, too—soft, curvy. Lush. You’d think, looking at her, that she’d be all warm welcome, but then her eyes said, Piss off, I can take care of myself.

“You know Carly, then?” she asked.

“Sure, we go way back. Went to school together and everything. She’s thrilled to have my protection from the Huns.”

Ellen looked around. “I don’t see any Huns.”

“You never know when they might turn up.”

“If they do, I’ll call the police. You can stick with Carly. She actually needs some protection.”

Damn. Charm wasn’t working.

A massive thank you to Ruthie for that excerpt – if that hasn’t whetted your appetite then maybe the cover below will. The words ‘bodyguard story’ are still hanging in the air like a cartoon speech bubble over my head…

Happy reading!

Onnica and Judith.

Along Came TroubleAlong Came Trouble by Ruthie Knox

Camelot series, Book 2

Releases March 11, 2013

Ruthie Knox’s Camelot series continues in this sizzling eBook original novel, featuring two headstrong souls who bump heads—and bodies—as temptation and lust bring nothing but delicious trouble.

An accomplished lawyer and driven single mother, Ellen Callahan isn’t looking for any help. She’s doing just fine on her own. So Ellen’s more than a little peeved when her brother, an international pop star, hires a security guard to protect her from a prying press that will stop at nothing to dig up dirt on him. But when the tanned and toned Caleb Clark shows up at her door, Ellen might just have to plead the fifth.

Back home after a deployment in Iraq and looking for work as a civilian, Caleb signs on as Ellen’s bodyguard. After combat in the hot desert sun, this job should be a breeze. But guarding the willful beauty is harder than he imagined—and Caleb can’t resist the temptation to mix business with pleasure. With their desires growing more undeniable by the day, Ellen and Caleb give in to an evening of steamy passion. But will they ever be able to share more than just a one-night stand?

True Love Story by Willow Aster

TrueLoveStoryBook: True Love Story

Author: Willow Aster

Reviewed by: Onnica

Basic story: Sparrow Fisher is a good girl – she’s the apple of her parents’ eye. The Pastor and his wife want her to have the life they’ve had – married at nineteen to a pre-approved, suitable boyfriend. The only problem is that despite her polite demeanour, Sparrow is not going to have her life planned out for her. She likes her boyfriend Michael very much, but when he proposes, her fight or flight instincts kick in. She continues with her plans to attend school in New York with her best friend Tessa. Before her departure she meets Ian Sterling, a well-known and respected musician whom she has admired for years. He is visibly bowled over by her on their first meeting and so begins a love/hate story that spans five years. They fall for each other rapidly, only it becomes clear than Ian has secrets and seems unable to love Sparrow the way she loves him. After secrets emerge and betrayals are uncovered, Sparrow has to decide whether true love is enough to fix a shattered heart.

Why you should read it: This is a roller coaster of a story. It spans five years of a relationship, told in flashback. The suspense at times killed me; (which is why I demolished the story in less than 24 hours) the passion between Sparrow and Ian is dramatic, touching, sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing. There are some sexy times too which are hot but not over the top. I felt it was pitched perfectly. This is also a stand-alone book – so you get closure and an enormous sense of well-being at the end of the story.

What you might hate: Ian does go a little bit mad after losing the girl – you’ll see what I mean, and at times it does feel a little bit melodramatic. However, the likeability of the characters and the fact that you’ll be rooting for both of them kept me engaged to the very end of the story. I know a lot of you out there hate cheating too, so it will be interesting to see what you all think.

Rating: 3/5 – an impressive debut from Willow Aster. I really enjoyed her narrative style and her gentle humour. I’ll happily read more of her books in the future if she continues to write heroines like Sparrow and heroes like Ian. What can I say, I can never resist a musician!

Dark Light by S.L. Jennings

Dark LightBook: Dark Light

Series: The Dark Light Series

Author: S.L. Jennings

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: After nineteen unremarkable years on the planet, where Gabriella Winters has basically flown under everyone’s radar, she is about to discover that turning twenty will transform her life beyond all recognition. On her twentieth birthday her adopted parents decide to reveal who her birth-parents were. It turns out that she’s not mediocre at all. Instead, she learns that she is part Light Enchanter (a race of sorcerers created to help Humanity and spread Light) and part Dark One (or Warlock to you and me). On her twenty-first birthday she will become the Chosen one; the bridge between light and dark, who has the potential to heal the rift and end the enmity between the warring factions.

Her birth-mother Natalia fell for a Dark One named Alex and their union created Gabriella – a unique being, prophesied to bring peace to the two worlds. This didn’t go over too well with either side and her parents were killed. Not everyone is happy about an all-powerful, magical being and Gabriella soon finds that she is in a race to stay alive until her powers mature. When girls of a similar age start turning up dead in her neighbourhood, Gabriella knows it’s only a matter of time before they will come for her.

To further complicate matters, the night she meets an intense dark stranger at her birthday party her peaceful life is distorted further. Dorian Skotos – tall, Greek, devastatingly handsome, seems determined to know Gabriella better. She’s been warned to trust no-one beyond her close-knit family, but will common sense prevail over the undeniable pull towards her new friend?

Why you should read this: if you love a good paranormal story like me and also very smexy times, then you need to read this book. It’s well-edited, the pace moves along at a good speed. You get to know the characters and Gabriella is shaping up to be a pretty formidable heroine. Dorian – he is a great hero. He’s mysterious, doesn’t say a whole lot, smoulders at the right moment but is a character with depth. I cannot wait for the next book, which is out 15 March 2013.

What you might hate: I know from discussions on Twitter that some people aren’t happy about serialised books and I agree to a certain extent but this series has A LOT of potential – I hate having to wait as much as the next person, but I have a feeling it will be worth it.

Rating: 5 sparkly stars out of 5 – it really deserves it. I was captivated from the start, stayed up way too late last night finishing it and I loved the world that S.L Jennings created. Read it!

How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

Book: How to Misbehave (Novella)

Series: The Camelot series

Author: Ruthie Knox

Reviewed by: Onnica

Basic Story: Amber Clark is a good girl – has been her entire 24 years on earth. She wants that to change. She gets her wish one day when a tornado hits the town, trapping her and building contractor Tony Mazzara in the community centre where they both work.

Amber has always admired him from afar, never daring to do anything about it. So when they enter the dark basement to wait out the storm, with only each other for company, there’s no choice but to get to know one another. Tony is nothing like she imagined. He’s strong and taciturn yes, but also afraid of the pitch blackness of the basement. In the short space of time, they find out many things that challenge their pre-conceived notions. But will their mutual passions outlive the storm outside?

Why you should read this: Usually, I’m not a huge fan of the novella, as the pace usually speeds by without the reader getting a proper feel for the characters. Not so with this book! Amber is a likeable, doe-eyed heroine with courage and the confidence to speak up for herself. Tony could have been a meathead Italian-American, but he was so much more. I loved them both.

What you might hate: The fact that once the story gets going, it ends! But don’t worry, this is a series and the rest of Amber’s family will get their own stories. (I was ridiculously happy about this news, as Ruthie will confirm as I took to Twitter immediately!)

Rating: 5/5 – yes you read right – I’m giving it five out of five. It’s a highly enjoyable, surprising, racy read that you can pick up and enjoy in one sitting. I’m a huge fan of Ruthie Knox and it’s great to be reading more from her.