The Promise by Kristen Ashley

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Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

review

“You were mine, even when you were his.”

Kristen Ashley truly has one of the most recognisable and inimitable voices of today, and while her books carry her signature prose in every single sentence, each one of her series has a different kind of ‘feel’, a different type of ‘undercurrent’ tying the stories together, and creating a unique, addictive reality to immerse and lose ourselves in for as long as we can. I have adored every book I have ever read by this author, but this series gets to me like no other because of its inspiring themes, because of the way it focuses on families, old and new, on what constitutes a family, and on what people are willing to do for the ones they love. A story of second chances, of forgiveness, of seizing the opportunity to correct past mistakes and ‘make it right’, of having the courage to capture one’s happy ending even when you don’t believe you deserve one—this is a story that stole my heart from the get-go and made me incapable of walking away from these characters for weeks after I first read it.

“Benny Bianchi was always going to be a promise at the same time Benny Bianchi was the prize at the end of a crazy life.”

We met Frankie and Benny at the end of At Peace, and have been anxiously waiting for their story to be told ever since. Once the girlfriend of Benny’s late brother Vinnie, Frankie has been shunned by the Bianchi family for seven long years. Wrongly blamed for all of Vinnie’s mistakes shortly before and leading to his death, she has endured and carried her penance in silence, punishing herself for something that was never her fault. She has missed the Bianchis every single day, needed and longed for their love and acceptance since her own family is one she could never depend on, but it is Benny Bianchi’s loathing that has stung the most. Frankie has had a soft spot for the younger Bianchi brother ever since they were kids, but after years of being ignored and hated by him and his family, she has had enough. Once her penance is paid, Frankie is ready to start over, far away from her memories, far away from everyone who has ever made her feel inadequate and unworthy, but that is the very moment when Benny finally realises what has been in front of him all along and what he stands to lose if he lets her go.

“We’re talkin’. You don’t like that, I don’t give a f*ck. Seven years I’ve been f*cking up. Right now, that shit ends.”

Benny is not a man accustomed to women not being receptive to his advances, having successfully ‘played the field’ ever since he was a teenager. But he has also never wanted a woman the way he wants Frankie, nor has he been willing to fight for one the same way. Frankie is unlike any woman Benny has ever met or bedded, her feistiness making her irresistible in his eyes, but the beauty of her heart making her impossible to walk away from. Determined to heal the breach and give her everything she has ever wished for in life, he pursues her relentlessly but patiently.

“Honest to Christ, Frankie, you think I’d wait since high school to get my shot at makin’ you mine and then I’d let a four-hour drive and a f*ckin’ year lease beat me?”

However, as desperately as she’s always wanted the kind of life Benny is now offering her, she is terrified even more of losing him and his family once again. Her feelings for him grow stronger every day, and yet she keeps succumbing to her fears and pushing him away, convinced that she would only end up being a source of heartbreak for the man she always cared for, even if letting him go would mean breaking her own heart.

“Benny should have a good woman. Which meant he had no business being with me.”

Aware of all of Frankie’s misplaced hang-ups due to her family’s emotional fickleness, Benny’s patience has no limits as he remains confident that with the right kind of love and nurturing she would eventually see herself as everyone around her sees her. The unmistakeable pace of the story allows us to get the full effect of Benny’s gentle persistence, the best kind of example of a man in love who is willing to give the woman of his dreams all the time her mind needs to catch up with what her heart has known all along. Their chemistry is explosive, making our skin tingle every time they exchange a simple touch, but it is the everlasting nature of their feelings for another that have our own hearts clenching and bursting at the seams. There are scenes that literally have our pulses racing and our knees weakening from the way they are so deliciously erotic and heart-warmingly sweet all at once. Sometimes it’s an entire scene, sometimes all it takes is a simple word, but even the simplest of moments between the characters can be so emotionally charged, we are constantly fighting to catch a breath.

“Never loved another woman. Not in my life. Waited until I got it right. I got it right.”

The love and support of a good man can be all it takes to erase a lifetime of self-doubts, and Benny and Frankie’s story shows us how much true love can empower a person. And how much beauty can be found when one loves patiently but persistently. By the end of this book, I felt like I knew every facet of these characters’ complex personalities, they felt real to me, familiar. It’s a story that warms your heart from the inside out, and leaves you with a deep sigh of contentment. I kept flipping back the pages, hoping to make that feeling last as long as I could, hopelessly addicted to a high that only a Kristen Ashley book has ever been able to give me. And I’m still flipping’…

“Minute by minute, honey.”
“Minute by minute, baby.”

5stars

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The ‘Burg – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters
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For You: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
At Peace: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Golden Trail: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Games of the Heart: Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Promise: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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The Author

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Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake.

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

Connect with Kristen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

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Fiercely independent Camille “Cami” Camlin gladly moved on from her childhood before it was over. She has held down a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at The Red Door, Cami doesn’t have time for much else besides work and classes, until a trip to see her boyfriend is cancelled, leaving her with a first weekend off in almost a year.

Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating co-eds before he even graduated high school. His friends wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident turned his world upside down, Trenton leaves campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt.

Eighteen months later, Trenton is living at home with his widower father, and works full-time at a local tattoo parlor to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at The Red.

As the baby sister of four rowdy brothers, Cami believes she’ll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trenton Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever—even if she is the only reason their already broken family could fall apart.

In the first installment of the Maddox Brothers books, readers can experience the rush of reading Beautiful Disaster for the first time, all over again.

review

“I’ve had a lifetime of wrong. You’re the only thing that’s right.”

I should probably start this review with a small confession—I was not a Beautiful Disaster groupie when everyone was proclaiming their undying love for Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox and naming their daughters Abby. Not because I did not like it, but simply because I never read it when it was first released, and thus never embraced the craze. As curiosity got the better of me and I finally decided to dive in, while I appreciated why this story was loved so desperately by so many readers out there, I think I was too old to swoon over nineteen-year-old bad boys and obsessive first loves. But I totally got it. I got why this story, this tumultuous type of relationship, appealed to such a wide and varied audience, and how it earned such a loyal cult following by providing the reader with the type of escapism that reminds us all of our first loves, of how impetuous our young hearts once were, and of how crazy and hot-headed that first rush of hormones truly made us. This book, once more, is a reminder of it all, albeit on a more subdued level, but still succeeding in re-awakening the memory of those troublesome years when we were finding ourselves, our place in the world around us, and navigating through life on our own for the very first time, regularly losing ourselves in the oblivion of it all. And all the while adamantly believing that every feeling, every emotion, every mind-blowing ‘first’ was the sum of all we would ever get to experience in life.

“No one has ever wanted someone as much as I want you.”

As we return to the delicious world of the Maddox brothers and the young women who steal their hearts at last, we finally get to know Trenton “Trent” Maddox, Travis’ elder brother and the son their widowed father depends on the most. A bad boy of sorts just like his younger brother, Trent’s heavily tattooed façade and hot temper give the impression of walking through life without feeling deeply or becoming emotionally attached to anyone, but nothing could be further from the truth. Beneath this defiant mask hides a sensitive and heartbroken young man whose fear of experiencing loss again, coupled with never having faced his past traumas, have made him a brewing pit of anger and irritability. But just like every fire has a source, every yin has its yang, and Trent’s ‘antidote’ comes in the form of a brown-haired pixie with curves in all the right places and an outspoken personality to match.

“It’s a small town. You shouldn’t have burned all of your bridges.”
“There’s a few I haven’t lit a fire under. Yet.”

Camille “Cami” Camlin is the girl next door, the oldest child and only girl in a family of all boys, a young woman whose confidence does not stem from the effect she has on the opposite sex, but rather from her self-awareness and determination to be independent in life. And unlike most females of her age, she has remained impervious to the Maddox charm while growing up, and even more so in her early twenties as she has watched them add notch after notch to their headboards. Trent and Cami have known each other all their lives, but were never friends as such. His reputation has always preceded him and thus made him an unwelcome dating candidate in her eyes.

“I’d seen him flirt, seduce, and evade since we were kids. There was absolutely no trick Trenton Maddox could play that I wouldn’t be ready for.”

However, when a Maddox sets his mind on something, he is not to be easily persuaded to change it, and once he enters Cami’s life, Trent is there to stay. Ignoring all her insistent attempts to drive him away and discourage his efforts, he makes himself at home in her daily life, becoming a friend she didn’t know she needed, loyal and protective, all the while not making it secret that he wishes for more. Or that not even Cami’s long distance relationship with a boyfriend she rarely sees would deter him from pursuing her.

“I was just thinking now was as good a time as any to acknowledge that you’re perfect and it wouldn’t suck if you fell madly in love with me anytime soon.”
“I have a boyfriend.”
“Speed bump.”

The more time they spend with one another, and the more he treats her as if the world revolved around her, the more she starts questioning everything else in her life and facing it all one by one. Trent represents the mess, impulsiveness and uncertainty her past has taught her to fear and avoid at all costs, but he is also the mirror of many qualities she has always wished to eradicate in herself, and the more she allows herself to accept him as he is and all that he embodies, the more she starts accepting those traits in herself, no longer perceiving them as flaws. On the other hand, Cami is a grounding force for Trent’s volatile Maddox gene, his desire to make her love him making him want to be the type of man to deserve her affections. They are opposites in so many ways, and yet when they are together, those differences are what makes them so perfect for one another.

“Have you ever wanted something that you knew you shouldn’t have? That it was wrong on every level, but you knew you needed it?”

This is in essence a story of two people becoming each other’s passage into adulthood by giving one another the courage to grow up and face their fears. It’s a story that held me enthralled from the very beginning, happy as a clam to indulge in the simplicity of the fantasy of a ‘bad boy’ falling for the ‘good girl’, of a boy pursuing a girl relentlessly, shamelessly and with all his might. I did feel throughout the entire story, however, like I was missing a vital clue, a key of sorts to unlock the motivation behind the heroine’s actions, and I have to admit that until the very last page, she was a paradox to me. But then everything came together all of a sudden, the puzzle pieces all magically falling into place and I found myself speechless, frantically cataloguing the clues we were given unsuspectingly, and finally understanding her character. A few gaps in the story still left me wishing they had been explored and capitalised on more to make it an even more cohesive and emotionally richer storyline, especially references to past events that clearly affected the characters in a way that they now needed to overcome them. But I am hoping that subsequent instalments in this brand new series will fill those gaps and that as we got a new glimpse into Travis and Abby’s story, we will get a similar one into Trent and Cami’s as well.

This book is an absolute treat for the Beautiful Disaster fans out there, old and new, and one cannot help but fall in love with yet another Maddox brother. It left me greedy for more and with a sudden interest in getting “cashmere comfortable”.

“I’m a f*ckup, but I’m going to get it figured out. I swear. Just . . . don’t give up on me, okay?”

4stars

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Connect with Jamie: Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Maddox Brothers is a spin-off of the Beautiful Disaster series
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Beautiful Disaster: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Walking DisasterAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
A Beautiful Wedding (novella): My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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Follow the Beautiful Oblivion Blog Tour and enter for a chance to win a set of signed limited edition hardcovers by clicking on the image below…

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Tied With Me by Kristen Proby

TiedWithMeA man whose lifestyle is so different from her own…

Nic Dalton’s cupcake bakery is thriving. She serves both rock stars and locals alike, content with her growing business. But one adventurous night out with her best friend, Bailey, turns her life upside down. She meets a handsome stranger who makes her skin sizzle and her heart race. Their one night together is explosive and unexpected, but when he has to suddenly leave without taking her phone number, Nic resigns herself to never seeing him again.

…What will it take to trust and submit to his every desire?

Matt Montgomery is one of Seattle’s finest. He works hard, loves and protects his family fiercely, and is loyal almost to a fault.

And he has a penchant for bondage.

Matt enjoys the way a woman looks wrapped up in his ropes, and makes no apologies for his preferences. When he meets Nic at a fetish festival, the small, beautiful woman catches his eye, drawing him to her. His one night with her was everything he’s ever looked for in a partner, but is cut short because of a family emergency. Even before he sees her again weeks later, he knows he’ll never get her out of his system.

And he’ll do whatever it takes to make her his.

“Give in to this, Nic. Let me prove to you that I will be one of the best decisions you ever make.” –Matt Montgomery

review

“Is this the restraining portion of the evening?”

I’m going to be honest with you. I might have a little addiction to Kristen Proby’s special flavour of smuttilicious romance, her stories somehow always managing to melt my heart and turn me on at the same time. She’s dazzled us with a charming movie star, a tattooed rocker with a dirty mouth, a bossy businessman, a professional football player with a heart of gold, an ex-Navy SEAL, and now she is trying to further ruin us for all men by feeding our fantasies with a police detective with a penchant for bondage. Is this psychological torture ever going to end? What could be next – a Montgomery biker? Be still, my poor beating heart…

“Do you belong to anyone?”

Nic is the quiet and unassuming owner of a popular cupcake bakery, a woman whose tireless dedication to her thriving business leaves very little free time for romantic pursuits. Nic’s medical conditions have taught her very early on in her young life that her health would always be her greatest weakness, and that she could never count on having the type of future most women take for granted. Resigned to her fate, she has focused on achieving financial security instead of creating a family, knowing that there would never be anyone else to take care of her if need be, and that the only person she could always depend on is herself. When her best friend decides to inject some excitement into Nic’s uneventful life by taking her to the local erotic festival, what starts as “not her thing” ends up being the first genuine thrill she’s ever felt.

Matt Montgomery is a police detective, a natural protector and nurturer whose very particular Dominant tendencies in the bedroom have kept him from finding the right type of woman to satisfy both his sexual proclivities as well as his desire to form a family. He has always lived a double life, his romantic conquests never getting introduced to the rest of the Montgomery clan, his relationships kept short-lived and private. When Nic walks into Matt’s life, he is immediately drawn to her innate submissiveness and he wastes no time to make his desires heard.

“I don’t typically come on this strong, but I want to f*ck the shit out of you right now.”

She might not believe to possess a submissive bone in her body, but her body says otherwise and very soon they are exploring the kind of relationship neither of them has ever had in the past. It’s a game of give and take as neither of them are truly set in their ways, but they quickly find a pace to suit them both.

“I’d like to lick him. Except, he would rather tie me up. And the part that scares me is that I’d like for him to tie me up, too.”

But as soon as Nic’s life becomes filled with happiness and she starts picturing a happily-ever-after with Matt, her old insecurities raise their ugly head, making her deny herself what her heart aches for the most – a man who would stand by her no matter what and a family that would love her unconditionally. Family is the connecting element in this series, continuously intertwining these characters and their stories, and in this instalment, the focus is on what truly constitutes a family bond.

The bondage aspect of the story only adds a kinky component to the bedroom scenes, and it remains more of a spice rather than a full flavour until the very end. This is not what I would call a BDSM type of romance by any stretch of the imagination as none of the characters fully embrace the lifestyle or behave consistently in that manner. Matt’s dominance in the bedroom is more of an occasional taste for control between the sheets rather than an unwavering routine, as he rarely behaves like a true Dominant.

If I could wish for anything different in this particular book, it would be a somewhat richer plotline. All the focus is on the growth of the emotional connection between the characters, and I felt at times that a more plot-driven approach would have benefited the overall story. But apart from that, this is another extremely enjoyable instalment in the With Me In Seattle series by an author whose love stories continue to excite me and make me crave for more, and it is not to be missed.

 “Stop trying to top me, stubborn woman, and enjoy.”

4stars

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Read an excerpt
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With Me In Seattle – Reading Order and Purchase Links (standalone novels)
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Come Away With Me: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK
Under the Mistletoe With Me (novella): My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Fight With MeMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Play With Me: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Rock With Me: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Safe With Me: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Tied With Me: Amazon US | Amazon UK

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The Author

Kristen Proby_pic croppedKristen is the USA Today bestselling author of the popular With Me In Seattle series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong characters who love humor and have a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves.

Kristen spends her days with her muse in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.

Connect with Kristen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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The Giveaway

To win a signed paperback copy of Tied With Me, please enter below. By entering, you are accepting the following Giveaway Conditions. This contest is open internationally.

Enter giveaway here…

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Black Box by Cassia Leo

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Three fateful encounters…
Two heart-breaking tragedies…
One last chance to get it right.

Over the course of five years, Mikki and Crush cross paths on three separate occasions. Their first encounter changes Mikki’s life forever, but their second meeting leaves them both buried beneath the emotional wreckage of a violent attack. Mikki is left with more questions and grief than she can handle, while Crush is forced to forget the girl who saved his life.

Now nineteen years old, Mikki Gladstone has decided she’s tired of the mind-numbing meds. She books a flight to Los Angeles to end her life far away from her loving, though often distant, family.

Twenty-one-year-old Crush has always channeled his blackest thoughts into his music, but he’s never had great aspirations. He decides to fly to Los Angeles to record a demo of the only song he’s never performed in public; a song he wrote for a girl he doesn’t even know: Black Box. He has no expectations of fame and he’s never felt like his life had any purpose… until he meets Mikki in Terminal B.

When Mikki and Crush cross paths for the third time in Terminal B, neither has any idea who the other person is; until they slowly piece together their history and realize that fate has more in store for them than just another love story.

review

“I hate that you saved me. But, most of all, I hate that you love me because now I love you and I don’t know how to make it stop.”

It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a blue moon a book manages to grab me so fiercely that I not only end up spending the whole night enthralled by the story, unable to put it away, but I also cannot stop reflecting back upon it, and feeling the myriad of emotions that it stirred up in me from its very first page. Black Box is not a book about the rosy side of life, or perfect characters with perfect lives. This is a story about two damaged individuals whose fates keep touching at every crucial moment in their young lives, continually tying their destinies to one another and making them each other’s lifeline. It shows how desolate, helpless, monochrome a person’s mind can become when filled with desperation, but it also gives us hope that that big, gloomy cloud does not have to determine the rest of a person’s life.

“Do you think saving someone’s life cancels out taking another person’s life?”

Mikki is a girl whose bipolar disorder coupled with recurring suicidal tendencies have made her determined that her only way to escape her unhappiness is by ending her own life. Crush is a young man whose unsurmountable guilt has emotionally isolated him from the people around him, convinced that no good deed could ever erase the burden of his past mistakes. They meet at an airport, headed for the same destination, but while Crush hopes the trip would help him escape all the pretences of his privileged life and find a new direction, Mikki dreams of finally putting a stop to her own suffering. It all might have started as a chance encounter, a cancelled flight leaving two lost souls stranded in the middle of a snow storm, but the more we learn about these two characters, the more we realise their whole lives have been leading up to this moment.

“Don’t tell me I don’t know you when I’ve spent the last three years trying to forget you.”

Over five short days, Mikki and Crush get to know each other and as their pasts unravel, we discover an astonishing puzzle of intertwined destinies where each piece shows the tremendous power of the human spirit and how inescapable fate can truly be. The time they spend together in their temporary little bubble gives them both an escape from their everyday lives, as well as forcing them to expose their demons and give each other a reason to seek the light at the end of the blackness of their own minds.

“I feel like I’ve known you all my life. I don’t want that feeling to go away. I want to know you all my life.”

This story deals with some very serious issues of mental illness, as well as the emotional repercussions of sexual abuse and bullying, but while those topics were handled with great care and accuracy, the overwhelming feeling this book leaves us with is one of hope and unwavering love. Mikki’s condition is not romanticised or trivialised to fit a stereotypical vision of a love story, but it is shown realistically in all its unpredictable ferociousness. It drives the story, it drives the characters and their actions, but it does not render them helpless. It only shows the true capacity of the human spirit and how much adversity a person is capable of coping with without breaking. This might be a story describing a grave human condition, but it is also a beautiful romance between two people who were born to save one another and whose connection is the very thing that anchors them to this life.

A tale of beauty born out of misery, of love conquering all, this is one of the most sensitively and candidly told stories I have ever come across and it has been a true privilege reading it.

“In the process of finding the girl I fell in love with three years ago, I found my best friend.”

5stars

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CRUSH

Three months before the flight

This is the fourth girl this month. I can tell by the way she leans her head against the inside of the passenger window with her eyes closed, arms folded protectively across her belly, that this is going to be easy. She’s going to make this so easy.

But it won’t be easy for me. It never is.

I pull into the parking lot of the fast food burger restaurant and she doesn’t open her eyes, but she reaches for the door handle as soon as I hit a speed bump. I slam on the brakes just as she flings the door open and juts her head out the car so she can vomit. A cool autumn breeze sweeps through the darkness of midnight and the sour smell of her sickness fills the inside of my car. I grab a bottle of water out of the cup holder and tap it against the side of her thigh. She turns her head lazily and stares at it with a vacant expression; bubbly drool dripping from the corner of her mouth.

“Sorry,” she says, grabbing the bottle. She swishes some around inside her mouth and spits out the vomit-laced water. She rinses a few more times before she takes a measured sip and tosses the half-full bottle into the empty parking lot.

“Are you okay?” I ask, knowing the answer to this question is fully dependent on whether she vomited enough of the tequila she was guzzling at Harry’s house thirty minutes ago.

She slams the passenger door shut and leans back, eyes closed, like she’s ready to fall asleep. I guess I can do it while she’s sleeping.

“No, I’m not okay.” She laughs a tinkling, annoying laugh that makes me instantly think this is a huge mistake. Then she turns to me and her eyelids slowly flutter open. She gazes at me with that heavy-lidded, come-hither look I’m so used to seeing. “Maybe you can change that.”

I’m counting on that.

I can’t remember her name. That’s all I can think as I reach for her hand and flash her a sly half-smile. I bring her bony hand to my lips and something about her seems off. The skin on her palm is too rough, calloused, like she’s been working on the docks for the past three years instead of ….

She bats her lashes at me as I kiss her knuckles and I try not to gag at the smell of her hand. It smells like lime and vomit. I carefully set her hand down in her lap and she instantly reaches for me with her other hand, her fingers locking around the back of my neck, pulling my face to hers with a desperate urgency.

She opens her mouth and her teeth bang against my upper lip. Ugh. This doesn’t feel right, but I have to do it. There’s no other way.

I let out a phony chuckle. “Slow down, sweetheart.”

Her other hand leaves her lap and both her arms are now locked around my neck, pulling me toward her. She wants it. She wants me. I’m not surprised. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I have no problem attracting girls. It’s getting them to leave me alone that I find much trickier. This has worked to my advantage for the past three years. When your mission is to get as many girls in the Boston area naked, this is a great advantage to possess.

She nips my bottom lip, a bit too hard, and I try to pretend-chuckle again, but I’m actually starting to get annoyed. This girl was quiet as a mouse at Harry’s parents’ house thirty minutes ago; now, eight shots later, she wants to f*ck me in the middle of a McDonald’s parking lot. This is too easy.

“Hold on. Let me at least park the car.” I murmur this as I gently pull away from her, then I drive the car around the back of the restaurant and park behind a dumpster shelter, which will hide us from the main road.

I reach for her face and her eyes widen as she pushes my hand away and climbs into my lap. She attacks my mouth and that’s when I know that this is not the girl I want. This can’t be her.

Her long, light-brown hair and the scar over her eyebrow, combined with the demure demeanor and the fact that she was born and raised in Brockton all made me think, This has to be her!

But a sick dread grows in the pit of my belly with each lascivious lick of her tongue, lapping across my lips as if they were covered in tequila. The hint of vomit on her cold, wet tongue is making my stomach roil; and I know. It’s not her. But I have to try.

My fingers find the bottom of her tight peach sweater and she flinches a little. I pull my head back to look at her face. Maybe I was wrong. But her face is slack with alcohol, except for a feverish need in her eyes. She smiles what is supposed to be a sexy smile, but it’s just clumsy.

I have to get this over with.

“Take off your shirt.” I pause for a moment, gauging her reaction. She looks a bit confused, so I add, “Please.”

She chuckles and she yanks off her sweater, revealing a light-pink, lacy bra and breasts that appear … wrong. It’s not just the fullness of her breasts, but there’s no tattoo over her heart. And that’s when my heart sinks.

Her hands reach for my face as she leans in to kiss me and I grab her wrists; turn my head to escape her vomit-breath. I swiftly grab her by the waist and hoist her back into the passenger seat.

“What’s wrong?” she asks in a small voice that reminds me of the girl she was before those eight tequila shots. The girl I mistook for someone more important.

The Author

cassia leo_picNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo grew up in California and has lived in three different countries. She loves to travel and her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills. She is the author of the Shattered Hearts series (RelentlessPieces of YouBring Me Home) and the Luke and Chase series.

Connect with Cassia: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Always by Kindle Alexander

always

Born to a prestigious political family, Avery Adams plays as hard as he works. The gorgeous, charismatic attorney is used to getting what he wants, even the frequent one-night stands that earn him his well-deserved playboy reputation. When some of the most prominent men in politics suggest he run for senate, Avery decides the time has come to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. With a strategy in place and the campaign wheels rolling, Avery is ready to jump on the legislative fast track, full steam ahead. But no amount of planning prepares him for the handsome, uptight restaurateur who might derail his political future.

Easy isn’t even in the top thousand words to describe Kane Dalton’s life after his father, a devout southern Baptist minister, kicks him out of the family home for questioning his sexual orientation. Despite all the rotten tomatoes life throws his way, Kane makes something of himself. Between owning a thriving upscale Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Minneapolis and managing his long-term boyfriend, his plate is full. He struggles to get past the teachings of his childhood to fully accept his sexuality and rid himself of the doubts brought on by his religious upbringing. The last thing he needs is the yummy, sophisticated, blond-haired distraction sitting at table thirty-four.

review

“… when kindred souls meet, they are destined to be together, always.”

Love is beautiful. Love is timeless. Love is love. You can package it whichever way you wish, but nothing can take away from the fact that finding true love is also one of life’s greatest and rarest gifts. And while love can sometimes be an illusive foe in real life, it is never scarce in fiction, an endless number of fairy-tale romances feeding the dreamers in all of us. But then once in a while a very special book comes along giving us one of the most beautiful love stories ever told, one that transcends time, distance, gender, religion, or current opinion on whom we should or shouldn’t love, and shows us the true meaning of love. This was that book for me. This was the book that fed my own hope. And this was the book that redefined love in my eyes.

“I don’t regret anything. You made me the man I am today.”

Avery Adams is the charming and confident grandson of a former US President, a prominent lawyer in his own right and a man with a bright political future ahead of him, but Avery is a man whose high profile life forces him to separate his public persona from his personal one. His love life is nothing more than a string of meaningless sexual encounters with men he rarely has any interest of seeing again. When he walks into a little Italian restaurant in the middle of Minnesota, he has no idea that night would become the most important night of his life.

“Any doubt or reservation Avery had been able to muster fled as he looked up into Kane’s blue eyes and realized he’d met his one. Kane was meant for him. A chance dinner at a Midwestern restaurant had produced his other half. Who would have thought?”

Kane Dalton is a successful restaurateur, a man who justifies his own lack of a stable love life by putting his work first, but his reasons for never truly committing to someone heart and soul can be traced all the way to the frightened eighteen-year-old son of a pastor whose family kicked him out when he told them he was gay, with not a dime to his name, and no one to call his own anymore. Kane does not hide his sexuality, but his father’s cruel parting words have never left him, making him believe deep inside that God condemns men like him and that happiness would never be given to someone who chooses to live their life in sin.

When Kane and Avery meet, the spark of electricity between them is unquestionable, their attraction palpable, but nothing about their first night together feels temporary or finite. Their personalities complement each other, their priorities in life are perfectly aligned, their feelings for one another mirror each other from the moment they lay eyes on one another, and there is no doubt in anyone’s eyes that they are each other’s true match.

“You have to feel it. I can’t be alone in this.”

This is a stunning love story that spans over four decades and it managed to move me profoundly at each pivotal moment in these two men’s lives. Their devotion and pure love for one another are the constant thread in the story, showing us how uncomplicated love can truly be when two people put each other first, always. Their story also shows how resilient and stubborn love can be, how important it is to accept ourselves before others can accept us, what the true meaning of family is, and how BEAUTIFUL life can be when the person standing beside you loves you unconditionally and supports everything that you are and everything that you do. Kane and Avery’s timeless romance, however, does not focus solely on them being a same sex couple – their love is and remains the focal point of the story until the very last page. I adored this book, I cannot remember the last time a story made me smile or cry so many times, its incredible pace being one of its greatest features. And while I plan on re-reading this book in the very near future, I must admit the ending was the only thing I did not fully connect with, for very personal and purely subjective reasons. I am not sure this was the ending this story needed, but I trust and admire this author’s talent enough to respect her choice.

Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned m/m reader or if you’re stumbling into this genre for the very first time, I urge you to give this extraordinary book a chance. I have no doubt whatsoever that it will leave you speechless. And on a personal note, I’m hoping that Oscar Wilde got it right when he said that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”, because with stories like these, I’ll never stop hoping.

“We’re gay, we’re in love, and we’re married. It’s not wrong. We’re not wrong!”

5stars

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If you found this review helpful in any way, I would be so grateful if you took the time to click on this link - it will take you to my Amazon review for this book where, at the bottom of the review, you can select ‘yes’ or ‘no’ where it asks you, “Was this review helpful to you?” – Thank you so much!

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“Honey, that was the clown company on the phone. They aren’t coming either. I think we just need to call this off,” Kane said, absently placing the phone back on the wall mount. Avery was packing the last of the hotdogs and chips into a grocery bag, not paying him any attention. Autumn and Robert were bundled up head to toe in their matching snowsuits and snow boots. They stood waiting by the back garage door, both children stood staring up at him and Avery. Uncertainty, as well as maybe some disappointment were clear in their eyes. Kane couldn’t help his small smile as he looked back at their children. Avery had even added decorative birthday party hats on top of their already tied hoods.

Today was their sixth birthday party, and a late in the season snow storm was just beginning to blow in. The giant tent, ponies, and caterer had already canceled this morning as the unexpected, unwanted storm began to build outside.

“We don’t need that stuff! We got this birthday party thing down! It’s not every day your children turn six years old!” Avery declared, grabbing the bag and the juice boxes, heading toward them. “We’re the Adams! We don’t need anything but ourselves to make this a great birthday party! Right?” No one answered as Avery walked past them and opened the garage door, letting the ice cold air in, chilling them all.

“Let’s go! Pile in the truck for birthday party time!”

* * *

“Incoming, Robert! Watch yourself!” Avery yelled, diving in front of Robert, taking him off his feet seconds before a snowball would have hit him squarely in the face. Avery tried for a tuck and roll, letting the next snowball hit him. That was one thing he’d taught Autumn – take no prisoners, and his sneaky little daughter had let Granddaddy Paulie and Kane distract Robert while she came in from the side.

“Are you okay?” Avery asked, looking down at Robert’s face, wiping away the snow that had landed there when they rolled.

“Yes! Thanks Dad!” Robert’s face beamed happily up at him. The moment stole his heart and he bent in placing a quick kiss on his son’s forehead.

“Good. Now we gotta get them back!” Avery started to stand, only to have Autumn suddenly jump on his back and the snowball in her hand smacked him in the face. She’d watched him pull that same move on Kane when they first got to the park today and now she was getting him back.

“We Win! Daddy, we Win!” Autumn yelled, and Avery took the moment for his own surprise attack, carefully flipping his daughter over and dabbing her with just a little snow in the face. Her grin matched Robert’s who was still down beside her. He quickly kissed her forehead and brought them both to their feet.

“I think we still won, right, Daddy?” Autumn asked. Her long blonde hair was slipping free of her hood, and her bright red cheeks glowed as she ran toward Kane and Paulie who were making their way back over to them.

“You did real good, baby. They never saw you coming!” Autumn launched herself into Kane’s arms, where he hauled her up, settling her on his side.

“I think Granddaddy Paulie needs to be on our team next time. Autumn doesn’t need any help planning her strategies out.” Avery laughed, as they met in the middle, close to the tent he had erected when they first arrived. The portable heater was keeping it warm, but so far they hadn’t needed the relief for anyone except Kennedy who hadn’t ventured out for the snow ball fight.

“Mom, are the hotdogs ready?” Avery yelled. She didn’t even lift the flap to respond, she just yelled back.

“If you like them black on one side, I’ve got them ready!” Autumn reached out for Avery and he took her as they made their way to the tent.

“I don’t like black on my hotdog,” she whispered in his ear. And the move Autumn had just pulled now made sense. Avery wouldn’t make her eat the hotdog, where Kane would make her at least take a bite. Robert was right there beside them, working hard to keep up in the snow. He slid his hand in Avery’s and tugged.

“I don’t like black on my hotdog either, Dad,” he said. They had double teamed him! He looked over his shoulder to see if Kane had heard any part of their exchange. Apparently he had because he was already shaking his head no. Now he was in a spot. Avery knew Kane wanted him to say they needed to at least try and eat the food, but his babies were only six-years-old one time in their lives. Ignoring Kane, he gave the declaration as he flipped open the tent.

“Mom, we are forgetting the dogs and going straight for the birthday cake!”

“Whatever they want, but get inside here quick and close that flap. It’s too cold out there.” Autumn and Robert both squealed in delight, dessert before lunch never happened! Avery held the tent open for Paulie as he ducked in, but closed it as Kane got closer.

“Don’t be mad,” Avery started. Kane had always watched their diets so closely. He knew those hotdogs weren’t just run of the mill, grocery store wieners. They were quite possibly handmade chicken hotdogs from a health food store Kane had found.

“You should have at least made them t…” Kane started but was stopped by Avery’s kiss on his lips.

“It’s their birthday.” Avery smiled at Kane’s slightly upturned face and leaned down to kiss Kane again.

“They’re kissing again!” Autumn called out and Avery looked down to see her face sticking out of the flap. Her hood was off, her hair a crazy blonde mess but her smile took his heart.

“Of course they are,” Paulie’s gravelly voice boomed out.

“Come on! This is the best birthday ever! Nonnie has the cake ready.” The last part came out as a squeal and the tent flapped shut.

“How could I say no to that? “ Avery asked, lifting the tent for Kane.

“You need to learn how,” Kane said, ducking under the flap. Avery made sure he hid as he slid his hand down Kane’s ass cheek, only to get the are-you-serious glare in return from his husband. But in his defense, there weren’t too many times Kane’s ass stuck up in the air like that without him being prepared for more. Avery shrugged and gave a chuckle as he followed Kane inside the warm tent.

The Author

Best Selling Author Kindle Alexander is an innovative writer, and a genre-crosser who writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and erotica in both the male/male and male/female genres. It’s always a surprise to see what’s coming next!

I live in the suburbs of Dallas where it’s true, the only thing bigger than an over active imagination, may be women’s hair!

Usually, I try for funny. Humor is a major part of my life – I love to laugh, and it seems to be the thing I do in most situations – regardless of the situation, but jokes are a tricky deal… I don’t want to offend anyone and jokes tend to offend. So instead I’m going to tell you about Kindle.

I tragically lost my sixteen year old daughter to a drunk driver. She had just been at home, it was early in the night and I heard the accident happen. I’ll never forget that moment. The sirens were immediate and something inside me just knew. I left my house, drove straight to the accident on nothing more than instinct. I got to be there when my little girl died – weirdly, I consider that a true gift from above. She didn’t have to be alone.

That time in my life was terrible. It’s everything you think it would be times about a billion. I love that kid. I loved being her mother and I loved watching her grow into this incredibly beautiful person, both inside and out. She was such a gift to me. To have it all ripped away so suddenly broke me.

Her name was Kindle. Honest to goodness – it was her name and she died a few weeks before Amazon released their brand new Kindle eReader. She had no idea it was coming out and she would have finally gotten her name on something! Try finding a ruler with the name Kindle on it.. It never happened.

Through the course of that crippling event I was lucky enough to begin to write with a dear friend in the fan fiction world of Facebook. She got me through those dark days with her unwavering support and friendship. There wasn’t a time she wasn’t there for me. Sometimes together and sometimes by myself, we built a world where Kindle lives and stands for peace, love and harmony. It’s its own kind of support group. I know without question I wouldn’t be here today without her.

Connect with Kindle: Website | Facebook | Goodreads
The Giveaway

To win one of the following prizes, please enter below. This contest is administered by Kindle Alexander.

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Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye

hardasyoucanFive dishonored soldiers.

Former Special Forces.

One last mission.

These are the men of Hard Ink.

Ever since hard-bodied, drop-dead-charming Shane McCallan strolled into the dance club where Crystal Dean works, he’s shown a knack for getting beneath her defenses. For her little sister’s sake, Crystal can’t get too close. Until her job and Shane’s mission intersect, and he reveals talents that go deeper than she could have guessed.

Shane would never turn his back on a friend in need, especially a former Special Forces teammate running a dangerous, off-the-books operation. Nor can he walk away from Crystal. The gorgeous waitress is hiding secrets she doesn’t want him to uncover. Too bad. He’s exactly the man she needs to protect her sister, her life, and her heart. All he has to do is convince her that when something feels this good, you hold on as hard as you can–and never let go.

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“… her life was a house of cards, one light blow away from falling to pieces and disintegrating to nothing.”

There is nothing more exhilarating than discovering a new series that suddenly keeps you glued to its pages until the wee hours of the morning, unable to even blink away because your heart is racing so fast and your curiosity won’t let you quit. I have to say that when I first dove into this story, I already knew what a tremendous storyteller Laura Kaye is from some of her previous works, such as the very sexy novella Hearts in Darkness, but I never expected to embrace this story so passionately, to find it to be so riveting and unique, and to be craving more so soon… more of the fast-paced storyline, more of the characters, and more of Ms Kaye’s spectacular style of writing. This is one of the most well-rounded books I have ever read, such a brilliant combination of romance, action, suspense, and drama – it’s a book that has it all and it left me frantically flipping those last few pages wishing they’d magically multiply tenfold.

In the first book of the series, Hard As It Gets, we were introduced to the five dishonored Special Forces soldiers who are now on their last ‘mission’ together to salvage what is left of their reputation and to make some sense of the mystery surrounding their former commander’s criminal actions. While, in that book, their second-in-command, Nick, found his happily-ever-after in the arms of their former commander’s daughter, this story now centres around Shane, Nick’s best friend, and the woman he saves from a life of unhappiness and abuse.

“A man who refused to hit a woman. How freaking miserable was her life that a man such as that was so damn unique?”

During the team’s second rescue mission, they come across Crystal, a woman who appears to be nothing more than a waitress in a seedy strip club belonging to the man they are trying to take down, but the moment Shane lies eyes on her, he sees the pain hiding behind her subdued demeanour. And his saviour instincts immediately kick in.

“Crystal was well aware that much of her life was a lie, a charade, a play in a never-ending series of one acts wherein the climax determined whether she lived or died, remained free or got lost forever in the dark, seedy, underbelly of the world.”

Crystal is a woman with very few options in her life. Forced to work off her father’s debts and stuck in an abusive relationship with one of her boss’ main goons for the sake of her sister’s health and safety, she counts down the days to when they would escape and start a new life elsewhere, trusting no one around her since no one has ever given her a reason to put her trust in them. She hides the marks of her past and present abuse, ashamed of them and believing them to be signs of her own weakness, unaware that every one of those marks makes her a true survivor. For five long years, Crystal has relied on no one to take care of her and her sister, except a man who proved to be the greatest monster of them all, making her distrustful of all people offering their help. But Shane slowly gets under her protective armour, only to discover a woman desperately aching to be loved and cherished.

“Her heart told her Shane might well be the most dangerous man she’d ever met because he made her want, wish, maybe even dream.”

He sees Crystal’s inner strength and brave defiance in her every action, and the more he gets to know her, the more he falls for the fearless young woman who has always put herself second. Amidst life-threatening circumstances and constant peril, they let desire draw them to one another, finding solace in each other’s touch and affection, but Crystal’s inability to embrace her dreams and see herself worthy of true happiness only show how beaten down and disheartened life has truly made her.

“Shane was… a rock in the middle of the raging sea, a refuge she might claim if she had the strength and the will and the nerve to fight for it. To believe she deserved it.”

A flawless tale of passion, survival, sacrifice and love, there was not one dull moment in sight for me during this entire roller-coaster ride of a journey. I was not prepared to let it end, to let the characters go, and was only too happy to discover that the background storyline would continue in future instalments of the series. I strongly urge you to surrender your senses to the skilful strokes of Ms Kaye’s imagination and fall in love with her stories as wholly as I have.

“Even if she only got to have him for a short while, she would remember him for the rest of her life as the man who had held her hand and helped her step onto the path to finding herself again.”

5stars

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Hard Ink – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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hardasyoucan

Hard As It GetsAmazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | iBooks
Hard As You CanAmazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | iBooks
Hard to Hold On To (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | iBooks (19 Aug 2014)
Hard to Come By: Amazon US | Amazon UK (25 Nov 2014)

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The Author

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

Connect with Laura: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Rare and Precious Things by Raine Miller

rareandpreciousthings_322x500The fourth part in the New York Times bestselling series, The Blackstone Affair: A bright beginning for two damaged souls fighting for their hard-won love, and the promise of a new hope to secure their happily ever after.

Fresh from an idyllic honeymoon along the Italian coast, the Blackstones prepare for the birth of their precious baby and the challenges of settling into a new home. But things get complicated when specters from the past reappear to threaten the very foundation of their relationship. Ethan and Brynne will have to fight harder than ever for each other.

Rare and Precious Things is the story of two people who both need the other in order to be complete, but learn just how “rare” their brand of love is when they have to risk everything in order to hold onto it.

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“In the hours of the darkest kind, Brynne has ever been my light. My lover who saw inside my battered soul and freed me.”

And so we come to the conclusion of the stunning love story between the very irresistible Ethan Blackstone and his beloved American girl, Brynne. A most idyllic marriage of heart-warming romance and skin-tingling erotica, The Blackstone Affair has been one of the most titillating and flawlessly written series ever to feed the romantic in me, and it has been a bittersweet experience having to bid farewell to such beloved characters. Alas, all good things come to an end and this is an ending no Blackstone fan will want to miss.

“You made me want you. You made me want…a life. You were my greatest gift of all, Ethan James Blackstone.”

We find the loving couple on the cusp of their new life as husband and wife, only four months after they first walked into each other’s lives, but hopelessly enamoured with one another and committed to a long life in each other’s arms. We are given a very intimate insight into some of their most private and treasured moments together – their wedding, their wedding night and their honeymoon – and with alternating points of view, we are shown the unquestionable level of dedication and pure unadulterated love binding them to one another. Their every touch speaks a thousand words, their every word reveals what lies in their hearts, and they all express the endless gratitude they both feel for having found each other when their pasts had given them no indication they would ever find such joy.

“I knew more happiness and love than I’d ever experienced in my life, and now understood how precious it was to have that love.”

While the previous instalments in the series showed us a much more dominant and possessive Ethan, in this book we get to see him as the adoring and devoted husband to the woman he sees as his salvation. Their intense physical relationship that has always been the pinnacle of their connection still remains, but the passion between them has reached a point where being joined together heals them, soothes them, wards off the demons from their pasts and renews their hope that they would be free of them someday. We see them being a lot more playful with each other now that they are married, there is a new much more relaxed dynamic between them and they have both changed as a result of Brynne’s pregnancy. But while Brynne has welcomed her impending motherhood calmly and effortlessly, it is quite a sight to watch Ethan acting as the anxious father-to-be.

“How in the goddamn hell will I survive the birth of this baby, Brynne?”

As they rush to prepare for the arrival of baby Blackstone, Ethan and Brynne are also desperate to find peace within themselves in order to be the kind of parents they wish to be to their unborn baby, their ugly pasts still finding a way to meddle in their happiness. In so many ways, this book is Ethan’s journey from the darkness brewing inside him to a place of peace and renewed perspective. Brynne’s love is the very thing he has needed to want to free himself from his nightmares and her relentless support is the spark that sets it off.

I must say that it is so refreshing finding a hero who makes us fall in love with him without him being of questionable morals or proclivities. While Ethan Blackstone is indeed a dominant, possessive and controlling male, his alpha tendencies are reserved to the bedroom, and his every action only reflects his unwavering adoration and respect towards his beautiful American girl. This has been a love story that has thrilled me, moved me, fascinated me, and in the end, left me with the goofiest grin on my face. An absolute delight start to finish.

“Brynne was my life. The last piece of my puzzle that had finally completed me.”

5stars

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Read an excerpt from Ethan and Brynne’s wedding night
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The Blackstone Affair – Reading Order and Purchase Links
naked2 allin2 eyeswideopen4 cherrygirl rareandpreciousthings_322x500
Naked: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
All In: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Eyes Wide Open: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Cherry Girl (spin-off novel): My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK
Rare and Precious Things: Amazon US | Amazon UK (28 Feb 2014)
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The Author

R Miller_picRaine Miller has been reading romance novels since she picked up that first Barbara Cartland book at the tender age of thirteen. And it’s a safe bet she’ll never stop, because now she writes them too! Granted Raine’s stories are edgy enough to turn Ms. Cartland in her grave, but to her way of thinking, a hot, sexy hero never goes out of fashion. A part-time teacher and writer of sexy romance stories every other chance she gets pretty much fills her days. She has a handsome prince of a husband, and two brilliant sons to pull her back into the real world if the writing takes her too far away. Her sons know she likes to write stories, but gratefully have never asked to read any, thank God! Raine loves to hear from readers and to chat about the characters in her books.

Connect with Raine: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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