Thursday, April 27, 2017

Swoon Thursday (#222): Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh!


Okami rolled onto his back, positioning her above him. He braced her chin in one hand, his lips traveling don her neck. To her bared shoulder. Back up to her ear.

Don't stop.

The rain battered down around her. Her heart slammed against her chest. Mariko finally closed her eyes, no longer caring about anything else but the feel of him. His hands at her back. His kisses across her skin. The stars could fall - the moon could crash from the heavens - and Mariko would not care.

When Okami broke away, his breath spilled from his lips in jagged slivers.

"Don't stop," she said without thinking. 

His response was a wicked smile. Wordlessly, Okami rolled again, pinning her beneath his mouth, covering her with his body. He slid lower. Watched her face as he blew a cool stream across her bare stomach. A thread of molten amber raced down her spine.

When Mariko trembled - sparks dancing across her skin - Okami laughed softly.

- ARC, page 270




I really enjoyed this book! And I adored Okami and Mariko. Some first kiss, eh? 😏

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (#226): Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson
Book Three of the Gold Seer trilogy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: October 10, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Leah Westfall, her fiancé Jefferson, and her friends have become rich in the California Territory, thanks to Lee’s magical ability to sense precious gold. But their fortune has made them a target, and when a dangerous billionaire sets out to destroy them, Lee and her friends decide they’ve had enough—they will fight back with all their power and talents. Lee’s magic is continuing to strengthen and grow, but someone is on to her—someone who might have a bit of magic herself. The stakes are higher than ever as Lee and her friends hatch a daring scheme that could alter the California landscape forever. With a distinctive young heroine and a unique interpretation of American history, Into the Bright Unknown strikes a rich vein of romance, magic, and adventure, bringing the Gold Seer Trilogy to its epic conclusion. Includes a map and an author’s note.



To be fair, I haven't read Like a River Glorious yet (though I do have it). I plan to binge-read that one and this conclusion novel! =)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey


Welcome to the release day blitz for Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey! This is the third book of the Romancing the Clarksons series, and it is a great addition. You can take a peek in the book below, and enter to win a copy!


My reviews:



About the Book:


Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey
Book Three of the Romancing the Clarksons series
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: April 25, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

This time, she's calling the shots.

Peggy Clarkson is returning to her alma mater with one goal in mind: confront Elliott Brooks, the man who ruined her for all others, and remind him of what he's been missing. Even after three years, seeing him again is like a punch in the gut, but Peggy's determined to stick to her plan. Maybe then, once she has the upper hand, she'll finally be able to move on.

In the years since Peggy left Cincinnati, Elliott has kept his focus on football. No distractions and no complications. But when Peggy walks back onto his practice field and into his life, he knows she could unravel everything in his carefully controlled world. Because the girl who was hard to forget is now a woman impossible to resist. 



Check out the series:

(Click on the image to go to Goodreads!)


About the Author:


Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans, and laptop, and drove cross-country to New York City in under four days. Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend, and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.

She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.  



Follow Forever Romance:



The Excerpt:

“I don’t know, Peggy.” He whirled on her, closing in until she was forced back onto the desk. “I had an All-American on my squad this morning and now I don’t. That’s all I know.” He pointed a finger toward the window. “I solve problems down on the field. Saving people isn’t my job.”

Saving people. God, there was such a wealth of regret and pain in those two words. But he couldn’t hear it and she couldn’t address it. Letting him know she saw right through his façade to the hurt beneath might force Elliott to close himself off. “You didn’t always limit yourself. Why are you doing it now?”

“Accepting things that can’t be changed isn’t a limitation. It’s realistic.”

“But how will you know if something can’t be changed unless you try?”

“When it comes to certain things, Peggy, trying leads to losing.” He was in her face now, the mint from his toothpaste familiar and inviting where it slid over her lips. “And I don’t lose.”

No one ever stood up this man but her, and she wouldn’t be cowed now. “No? You’re out a receiver.” She hitched herself up on his desk. “I’d call that a loss.”

The tips of his shoes met Peggy’s, his hands gripping the furniture on either side of her hips. “Who do you think you are, little girl? Coming into my office and telling me what I’ve done wrong?” His eyes were brilliant in their vexation, the attraction he was trying so hard to fight. “Where do you get the goddamn bravery?”

“The bravery is what you liked best about me,” she breathed, heat sizzling in a downward V toward her thighs. “Isn’t it?”

“No. That bravery is what almost led to my downfall.” His hands found her bottom, jerking her to the edge of the desk. “I resented it. Still do.”

“Liar,” Peggy whispered, easing her thighs wider. “You’re dying for an excuse to head for another downfall.” When her legs were as open as she could spread them, she leaned up to Elliott’s ear and let her breath shake loose. “One thrust.”

Elliott’s right hand came up out of nowhere, molding over Peggy’s mouth as his hips crowded into the notch of her legs. With a quick maneuver to recline her halfway back, Elliott’s erection found the apex of her thighs, delivering an aggressive pump against her underwear that sent a scream climbing up Peggy’s throat, only to be trapped by his hand. Knees jerking up out of reflex over the rush of sensation, an orgasm almost—almost— broke past the surface, sending her waters rippling out on all sides. Her legs wanted to hug Elliott’s waist, her voice wanted to beg for one more, one more, one more, but he shook his head, denying her, even though his gaze was hot, a low groan issuing from his harshly masculine mouth.

He leaned in and nipped the lobe of her ear. “Next time, ask for two.”


The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey


Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey
Book Three of the Romancing the Clarksons series
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

This time, she's calling the shots.

Peggy Clarkson is returning to her alma mater with one goal in mind: confront Elliott Brooks, the man who ruined her for all others, and remind him of what he's been missing. Even after three years, seeing him again is like a punch in the gut, but Peggy's determined to stick to her plan. Maybe then, once she has the upper hand, she'll finally be able to move on.

In the years since Peggy left Cincinnati, Elliott has kept his focus on football. No distractions and no complications. But when Peggy walks back onto his practice field and into his life, he knows she could unravel everything in his carefully controlled world. Because the girl who was hard to forget is now a woman impossible to resist. 

What I Liked:

I hate to say it, but I'm actually surprised that I enjoyed this book! I had pretty low expectations, because there are several tropes in this novel that I absolutely hate (and I'll get to them). Don't get me wrong, I adore Tessa Bailey and the vast majority of her books that I've read. But I wasn't sure that I would enjoy this one. If you'll recall, I was fairly certain I wasn't even going to read this book, after reading Too Wild to Tame. I'm happy to report that I liked this book much more than I expected!

Peggy and her siblings started their road-trip from California to New York, the four of them, and now it's just Belmont and Peggy (and Sage, Peggy's best friend). Aaron is in Indiana with his new girlfriend, and Rita is in New Mexico with her new boyfriend. Peggy knew the trip would take them through Cincinnati, where she went to university, and where she met a man that would change - and ruin - her life. Coach Elliott Brooks is known around the nation as the "Kingmaker", a legendary college football coach who has sent many football players to the NFL. He has always been focused on football and his religion, and so many Peggy came into his life three years ago, he isn't prepared for the temptation. Even three years after she left Cincinnati, Elliott has never gotten over, and Peggy has never gotten over him. Peggy was out to make him suffer, during alumni weekend, but it isn't Elliott alone who will suffer, and it isn't suffering along that they'll share.

I didn't even think I liked Peggy, after reading Too Hot to Handle and Too Wild to Tame. Sure, she's young fun and bubbly, but she seemed a little too much for me. And it was painfully clear that she was in some sort of denial, with four engagements broken (by her). But I liked Peggy a lot more in this book. It was clear to me that she has a lot of depth, she's friendly and kind, and she goes after what she wants. Yes, she wanted to make Elliott miss her like she missed him, and she wasn't planning on sticking around, but I liked how Peggy went after him again and again. She's relentless, even if she was totally clueless as to if she wanted more with him.

Elliott is an extremely successful college football coach and definitely not the type of guy that would bang a cheerleader. He has at least ten, maybe twelve or thirteen years on Peggy, and at the time, his wife had died about a year ago. At first it seems like Elliott didn't like how Peggy made him feel, but it became clear that it was because he didn't think he deserved her. Fast forward three years later, and he's still sinking in the guilt and shame. Elliott seems like a cold, hard man who is almost robotic, with his love of football and his religion. But he, like Peggy, has a lot of layers to peel back. I actually really liked how intense and sometimes scary Elliott is, with his commanding football coach nature. 

The two of them are such an interesting pair. One is hard and unfeeling, the other is bubbly and vivacious and flirtatious. But they are a great match, and this shows from page one. I like that Elliott only ever had eyes for Peggy, and vice versa. You know that annoying thing that some girls do, in which they flirt with other guys in order to make the one guy jealous? Yeah, I'm glad Peggy didn't play that head game with Elliott. Peggy may have been out to make him feel bad for breaking up with her years ago, but she wasn't malicious.

The chemistry is pretty hot, between these two, as expected. With Elliott's inner struggle, you can see him pulling Peggy close and pushing her away. There are a number of tug-of-war scenes that are unfinished and yet very hot. Bailey always does well with cooking up a good amount of tension and chemistry in a romance novel. I like how each of her romances are different, and the smoking chemistry too. Elliott and Peggy like things a little rougher than your average couple, which was interesting to see play out.

Okay, so I mentioned before that I really didn't think that I would enjoy this book, because it contained three tropes that I don't usually like (or just absolutely hate): 1) second-chance romances, 2) children, and 3) older man/super young woman. I actually found that NONE of these tropes bothered me, in this story! The romance was really swoony, sweet, sexy, and occasionally heart-breaking. But it wasn't too dramatic or angst-ridden - well, not as I expected. And the children part - Elliott has a young daughter in middle school. I mentioned that his wife had died a year before he met Peggy. Elliott has never had a wonderful parental relationship with his daughter Alice, but that changes a lot in this book. And the third, the older man/younger woman thing. I'm pretty sure there is at least a ten to fifteen age difference between Elliott and Peggy. And it comes up from time to time. But I actually didn't mind it that much, and it never really bothered me. 

So, in a nutshell, I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would! Probably because the drama/angst wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and those three tropes that I hate that are in this book didn't seem to bother me as much as they usually would. Even the ending of this book didn't irritate me - Elliott's grand gesture to win Peggy back was sweet, and very much warranted. Cute cute cute! 

What I Did Not Like:

I kind of wanted more of a resolution in terms of Elliott and his religion. You know from the start that he is Catholic and his religion is very important to him. But then that aspect kind of disappears, towards the end of the book. I don't think Elliott turned his back on his religion - the whole religion thing just kind of disappears. Since it was such a big part of the story in the beginning and sometimes in the middle, I expected it to reappear or have some sort of progression, towards the end. 

Would Recommend It:

While this isn't my new Romancing the Clarksons favorite (sorry, Too Hot to Handle still claims that spot!), I really enjoyed this book. It's nice when a book filled with tropes that you usually hate surprises you. If you're like me, and hate second-chance romances, books with children, and older man/super young women tropes, don't let these aspects of this book deter you! I'm not saying this book is for everyone, but I am saying that I was pretty convinced that it wasn't for me.

Rating:

4 stars. I liked this book! I'm actually not AS excited about Belmont and Sage's books (like most Romancing the Clarkson fans are), but I will definitely be reading it when its publication date rolls around. But I think I'm even more excited about Too Close to Call!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Review: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh


Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Book One of the Flame in the Mist series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.

What I Liked:

Flame in the Mist has been one of my most anticipated publications of 2017, and I had been looking forward to reading it for a long time. You know that feeling when you finally get a much anticipated book, and you're so excited, but you just can't seem to open it to start reading? I had this book over almost two months. I was scared. But honestly, I don't know what I was so afraid of, because this book was excellent, and I loved it.

I'm going to go ahead and tell you all that 1) this review will not do this book justice, 2) I won't be able to capture the complexities and intricacy of the plot, and 3) I will do my best not to spoil anything, because my goodness there is a lot of things that are unveiled slowly and could definitely be spoiled. Ahdieh has readers guessing right and wrong at every turn!

Mariko is on her way to Inako to marry the second son of the emperor. Her marriage has been arranged and she must bring honor to family. Her family is highly regarded, with her father being a samurai lord, and her twin brother being a powerful samurai with the nickname "Dragon of Kai". But her procession is ambushed, leaving everyone dead except Mariko. She escapes, and is determined to find out who tried to kill her. The Black Clan is the likely suspect - a bandit gang of warrior-like men who serve none but themselves. Mariko decides to try and infiltrate the Clan, dressed as a boy, and kill them all. They kidnap her, which works in her favor because she gains access to their encampment. But the longer she gets to know the Clan, the harder it becomes to kill them. What if Ranmaru and Okami weren't the ones that ordered her death? And who are these men, so clearly regarded by the Clan they lead? Mariko slowly discovers that no one is who they seem - and not just within the Black Clan.

First thing I want to address - I've heard people throw around the phrase "Mulan retelling" when describing this book. The thing is, I don't know how true this actually is. I will make attempt to hide the fact that I am quite ignorant in the facts of feudal Japan (the setting of this book), and dynastic China (setting of Mulan). I don't know enough about the history of China and Japan to really give you all a good discourse on the differences between the story of Mulan, and Flame in the Mist. But... I'm fairly certain that Flame in the Mist is inspired by Mulan, and not actually a Mulan retelling? Do you see the difference? Some aspects of this story seem to mirror those of Mulan (cross-dressing female, bring honor to the family, etc.). But this story is very clearly its own (in my opinion), and very clearly based on Japanese setting and culture (and not Chinese). Again, I'm no expert. There are many others who have spoken about this book and its culture/setting who know better than me. But in my opinion, I don't think this is a Mulan retelling. And if it is, it is very, very loosely written retelling. 

That being said, I loved how rich and vibrant the world-building of this book is. I've never read a book set in feudal Japan, and I was quite swept away. Ahdieh did a lot of research for this story, and it shows, with all of the italicized uses of Japanese words, all of the subtle and obvious references to Japanese culture, the names, the customs. 

Most of the story is set in the Jukai forest, where the Black Clan encampment is. The forest is creepy! There are magical beasts with yellow eyes and blood-thirsty trees who exact punishment on wrongdoers. Oh, you read that correctly. Has anyone watched Grimm? In the final season, there is an episode involving something called the jubokko. Look it up! The jubokko appears in this book. Thanks to Grimm (who decided to feature this Japanese legend in the show) and Ahdieh's imaginative writing, I could really picture the jubokko and its horrifying ways. 

So, this book isn't just a historic type of fantasy. It's a fantasy with magic and magical beasts and magical entities. I actually was not expecting that, so I was pleasantly (and unpleasantly) surprised when I came across the nightbeasts, and the jubokko, and strange abilities that some of the Black Clan members have.

I adored Mariko from the start. She is extremely willful and headstrong, and she is so intelligent and clever. Her clever mind is one of the things that saves her over and over, and earns her a place in the Black Clan. Mariko kept dwelling on the fact that everyone at home thought she was weird and strange, and to be honest I think that inner monologue could have been cut back a little (girl, we know, you're different from the other girls), but I liked her strength and uniqueness in character. She grows a lot in this book, though not all of it is obvious. I liked watching her open her eyes and see the world for what it actually is. Mariko has always been brave and strong, but she becomes a different type of brave and strong as the story progresses.

Okami is a fantastic hero/male protagonist. He is easily as important to this story as Mariko. While Ranmaru is the leader of the Black Clan, Okami is the best fighter, and the one that you can't get anything past. Okami seems hard and unyielding to Mariko, all leashed power and coiled tension. He has quite a bit of secrets, and the most important is revealed very, very slowly. I had an inkling about this one thing, and while I wasn't quite right, I liked the foreshadowing and seeds the author planted throughout the book, to make you think one thing or the other. Okami is an intelligent, intuitive, calculating, noble warrior who has been running from a certain decision. Okami's character growth is subtle, but it becomes a very real thing towards the end of this book.

Other secondary characters were so interesting to follow! Kenshin, Mariko's brother, plays a bigger role in the book as the ending creeps closer. Kenshin is honor-bound and duty-bound and he will stop at nothing to get his sister back. And then there are the members of the Black Clan - Yoshi, the jolly but deadly cook; Ren, the rude boy who is not as bad as he initially seems; Ranmaru, the leader of the Black Clan who has just as many secrets as Okami. I love how Ahdieh shapes all of her characters (primary or secondary) to be so unique and interesting, even when some are a little crazy.

I like that this book is written in third-person - the author does so well, writing in third person. We get Mariko's POV mostly, but occasionally we read Kenshin's, Okami's, and Ranmaru's. I wish there had been a few more Okami scenes, but oh well!

I found this book to be incredibly different from The Wrath & The Dawn/The Rose & The Dagger, in terms of the romance. You know how that duology had a sort-of (but not really) love triangle, in which Khalid and Shahrzad clearly love each other and only each other, but then there is the pesky and annoying fly that is Tariq, who has been in love with Shahrzad since childhood? Well, I am happy to tell you all that Flame in the Mist does not have any love triangle. No childhood friend-turned-love-interest. Not even the emperor's second son, who is Mariko's betrothed, is a love interest (we don't really see much of him). It's all Okami and Mariko! This book in general was not nearly as swoony romantic as Ahdieh's previous two books - especially with Okami not knowing that Mariko is a girl, for most of the story. But when he finds out, it all makes sense to him, why "the boy" is so odd and makes him feel uncomfortable and something. Okami and Mariko are fire together! I loved their interactions, when Mariko was "the boy" and especially when she wasn't. Again, this book isn't as romance-heavy as Ahdieh's previous books, but the romance is there and it is swoony. And love-triangle-free! Swooooon!

I was worried that I would have issues with the pacing of the book, because rich fantasy novels are often pretty slow, in the beginning. But no, this book starts off very quickly and takes off. I like that the author didn't waste any time starting the story - the first scene (besides the "prologue" scene) is Mariko's procession getting ambushed. Talk about an entrance! I was never bored while reading this book - if anything, I was highly entertained and really enjoyed myself!

You all must know the direction of this story, even by reading the synopsis of the book alone. Mariko cannot hurt the Black Clan members, which she decides towards the end of the book. But her brother can, and so can the emperor's second son. The emperor himself has a plan set in motion, as does his Royal Consort... as does his wife the Empress. Everyone has an agenda, even Ranmaru and Okami. The ending of this book is nonstop action and intensity, and the story does end in a sort-of cliffhanger. It's not a painful cliffhanger, but it will leave you wanting the next book immediately. 

What I Did Not Like:

There was nothing terrible about this book - for me. You'll come across some three-star reviews on Goodreads; I've read some of them and I think they're fair, and everyone is going to have their own experience with this book. If I'm being honest, I read those reviews before reading this book, and they deterred me a little from starting the book sooner. But I ended up loving the book. I didn't find Mariko annoying, I didn't really care to question her decisions (I would have done the same in many instances), and I didn't find the story slow or boring.

I would have loved more kissing, and more scenes from Okami's POV. He is so smart and shrewd, and reading in his POV was always incredibly intriguing. So there.

Would I Recommend It:

I loved this book and I recommend it to fellow fantasy lovers, anyone who thinks they might enjoy a story set in Feudal Japan, anyone who loves heroines who don't like to be pushed around by men, anyone who loves smart girls and clever boys, anyone who wants to be left in a state of constant hunger while reading the book (seriously, the food references. Gaaaahhhh). This is a huge publication in YA this year, and so there will be a lot of excited people and a lot of "meh I don't care for the hype" kind of people. I think that, no matter which type you are, you should read this book!

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I don't know that I can give this book five stars but hey, I might change my rating, depending on how much I like book two (I know, that is weird). I loved this book and I am looking forward to reading the sequel. I'm a little nervous about the sequel, but I have no doubt that Ahdieh can (and hopefully will) deliver a fair and mostly happy ending to the story. 


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Stacking the Shelves (#226)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, April 16th to Saturday, April 22nd?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:

I'm not going home this weekend, so I have nothing to show you! There are three packages at home. I really cannot wait to be finished with school, so I don't have to keep doing this random schedule with mail and going home! 


Gifted:



The first book of the Psy-Changeling series that has taken the world by storm! I've not read any of Singh's books, so this will be an experience for me. Thank you, Cora!


Reviews from this week:

    
(Reviews are linked!)


JHU Commencement in 31 days! I'm sorry, friends, but all I can think about is graduating and moving on to better, more stable/consistent things. Life is okay but stressful (academically) and I'm just trying to push through everything and graduate! 

Have a great week, everyone! =)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: Highland Hellion by Mary Wine


Highland Hellion by Mary Wine
Book Three of the Highland Weddings series
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

KATHERINE CAREW
Illegitimate daughter of an English earl... Abducted to Scotland at age 14... No family, no reputation... No rules

ROLFE MCTAVISH
Heir to an honorable Highland laird... Can't believe how well tomboy Kate can fight... About to learn how much of a woman she really is

Scotland is seething with plots, the vengeful Gordons are spoiling for a fight, and the neighboring clans are at each other's throats. All it takes is a passionate hellion with a penchant for reckless adventure to ignite the Highlands once more.

What I Liked:

I really enjoyed Highland Spitfire and Highland Vixen, the first two books in this series and the first two Mary Wine books that I've read. So far this series has yet to disappoint me! While I freely admit that I liked but didn't not enjoy Highland Vixen as much as I'd liked Highland Spitfire, I can safely say that I liked Highland Hellion a great deal, possibly as much as I'd liked Highland Spitfire.

In Highland Vixen, we met fourteen-year-old Katherine Carew, bastard daughter of an English earl, who Marcus MacPherson saved from arranged marriage. Six years later, Katherine is a woman now - but she is a woman who knows how to wield a weapon and handle herself against a man. Unfortunately this leads her to a bit of trouble, but it also leads her to Rolfe McTavish. Rolfe saves Katherine but he isn't going to let her go - not when he wants to protect her, teach her a little lesson in Highlander etiquette, and, well, he wants her in general. A stubborn, reckless English girl and an honorable, protective Highlander will take the Highlands - and England - by storm.

At first I wasn't sure if I would Katherine, because she seemed almost too headstrong. She has had too many freedoms granted, in which she knows nothing about running a home or raising children, but she knows more than enough about standing someone with a dagger or fighting them off. In the beginning, Katherine is excessively reckless, almost stupid, and very selfish. But she begins to see the error in her ways, and how set in her ways she has become. She sees how selfish she has been, and how easy she had it. I love that the author made her headstrong, fierce, and stubborn, but eventually, smart enough to recognize when she was wrong. 

Rolfe! Rolfe is a sweetheart, and a little different compared to the other heroes of this story. You can see how similar the ladies are - they are all stubborn and tough. But Rolfe is a little different from the other men. Yes, he is an alpha and he is protective, big, muscular, handsome, attractive, and commanding. But Rolfe is also very honorable, and follows a strict code of honor. He refuses to do anything that would dishonor his father, his clan, and his reputation. Rolfe is a good, good man, and he does right by Katherine every single time. He is all kinds of swoony, and not just physically!

I like this unlikely pair! The stubborn, tomboy-ish girl, and the honorable, duty-bound warrior. One is reckless and impulsive, the other is more stoic and occasionally wicked. It's almost an opposites attract romance (pretty much, it is)! From the start, Rolfe and Katherine have a great connection.

The romance is very sexy and swoony and delightful! Like the previous two books, the chemistry hits hard from the start, but unlike the previous two books, the sexy times erupt a little earlier (though not super early - just earlier than in the first two books). I liked this change in pace! Sometimes the romance in books one and two were frustrating, because you kept waiting for the characters to get it on. Rolfe and Katherine fall in lust very quickly, but falling in love takes a little more time. One thing that surprised me was Katherine's nature in the bedroom - I liked that both characters preferred things a little rough. You don't always see that type of chemistry in historical romance. 

The story was very engaging and sometimes a little tense. Katherine is captured by the Gordons, then rescued by the McTavishes, but Rolfe has plans that don't involve depositing her to the MacPhersons. But then Rolfe's father decides that he also has plans for Katherine, and so Katherine and Rolfe are back on the road, to England. It's a busy, busy story! An entertaining one, at that. I love how the author has so many Scottish clans interacting (either fighting, or calling temporary truces but still stealing each other's cattle). Part of the story is about bringing peace to Scotland and having the clans cease their warring, and so far, the author is moving that plot along really nicely.

I really enjoyed this third book in the series, despite being slightly wary of Katherine (from the beginning of this book - but that changed)! From book two, I expected her to be paired with a different love interest (her best friend, but he is not interested in her at all), but he isn't even in this book. I must say, Rolfe redeemed himself wonderfully, and I adored him. This book was great!

What I Did Not Like:

I can't think of anything specific that I didn't like. Maybe one small detail - calling those in the Lowlands "barbarians"? I always hate when the term is "barbarians", in any context.

Would I Recommend It:

If you historical romance, especially Scottish/Highlander romance, you should give this book a chance! The series in general (though maybe Highland Spitfire and/or Highland Hellion - you can probably skip Highland Vixen, though it definitely is good too). This is a really fun and sexy Highlander romance series that I've enjoyed so far!

Rating:

4 stars. I can't wait to read Highland Flame! We meet the hero of that book in this one - Diocail Gordon - and he is PERFECT. So swoony! I am so excited. Will I like him more than I liked Bhaic? Rolfe? We'll see!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Swoon Thursday (#221): What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum!


I am kissing David Drucker. I am kissing David Drucker. I am kissing David Drucker.

I  was wrong. I had assumed this would be his first kiss, that it would be fumbling and a bit messy but still fun. No way. Can't be. This guy knows exactly what he's doing. How to cradle the back of my head with his hands. How to move in soft and slow, and then pick up the pace, and then slow down again. How to brush my cheeks with even smaller kisses, how to work his way down to my jaw, and to soften the worry spot in the center of my brown. How to pause and look into my eyes, really look, so tenderly I feel it all the way down in my stomach.

He even traces the small zigzag scar on my eyebrow with his fingertips, like it's something beautiful. 

I could kiss him forever.

I'm going to kiss him forever.

I am kissing David Drucker, and yes, I've forgotten everything else.

Because his lips are back on mine.

Because this, right here, is the best kiss of my life.

- ARC, pages 233-234




I loooooooved this book! David is 😍 and Kit is 💜 and David and Kit are 😍💜😍💜

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Exclusive First Look and Giveaway: Forbidden Promises by Katee Robert


Happy Wednesday, friends! I know what you all are here for - the exclusive first look at Forbidden Promises by Katee Robert! Keep scroll to read it!


About the Book:


Forbidden Promises by Katee Robert
Book Four of the O'Malleys series
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: May 30, 2017

Official Summary:

Some lines should never be crossed . . . not even for love.

Sloan O'Malley just left her entire world behind-her family, her wealth, and even her real name. For the first time in her life, she's free. She can live the "normal" life she's always wanted. A life without fear. But there's nothing safe about her intensely sexy next-door neighbor.

Jude MacNamara has no room for innocence in his life. Only revenge. Still, he's never been able to walk away from the forbidden, and Sloan-who is every inch of pure, mouthwatering temptation-has forbidden written all over her. Only after it's way too late does he discover the real danger: claiming Sloan as his puts a target on her back. To protect her, Jude is willing risk everything . . . and to hell with the consequences.



Check out the series:




About the Author:


New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it 'a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension."  When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 



The Excerpt:

She nearly tripped over Jude when she opened the door, and that was the last straw. “What is your problem?”

He raised a single eyebrow, not looking perturbed in the least. “Sorry?”

“No, you’re not. You’re not sorry that you turned me down last night, or that you left in a hurry, or that you were an…an insufferable jackass this morning.”

If anything, his eyebrow inched higher. “You’re in a mood.”

“Are you kidding me?” She pushed at his chest, but he didn’t even pretend she had the strength to move him. “You weren’t interested last night, so you don’t get to waltz into the diner and order me to go out with you. I’ve taken orders my entire life, and I’ll be damned before I take one from you.” The outburst left her feeling deflated, but she clamped her mouth shut and refused to apologize. Maybe she was being the slightest bit dramatic, but that didn’t mean she was wrong.

Jude took a step closer, towering over her, his shoulders so broad, they filled the doorway. “Are you done?”

Just like that, she had a whole lot more to say. “Actually—”

“That was a rhetorical question, sunshine.” His big hand cupped the back of her neck, his thumb tracing over her jaw and up to drag against her bottom lip.

The touch shocked her into silence.

For a moment. “Jude—”

Apparently he wasn’t finished. “I didn’t say no last night because I wasn’t interested. I wouldn’t have apologized—twice—if I wasn’t interested.”

“But—”

“You want to know the truth? The truth is that I can’t look at you without wanting to strip you down, to run my hands over that tight little body of yours, to spread those sweet thighs and fuck you with my tongue until you’re screaming my name and begging for mercy.”

She swayed, her anger, her ability to think or move or talk or do anything except stare helplessly at him, all gone. She licked her lips, forgetting that his thumb was there, and stroked him with her tongue instead. His chocolate eyes went even darker, and he suddenly seemed larger.

Say something.
“You shouldn’t say things like that.”

“It’s the fucking truth, sunshine.” He stroked her bottom lip with his thumb, his hand gentle yet holding her in place easily. “You’re a good girl. I don’t have to spend any time with you to know that. You deserve better than the likes of me, even for a fuck. But that’s the difference between us. I’m not good. I might as well be the goddamn devil as far as you’re concerned, but I’ve never been good at walking away when I have my mind set on something. And, sunshine, I have my mind set on you.”

She couldn’t speak, couldn’t take a step, though she was at a loss if she’d move away from or toward him. It was like he held her captive with only a single hand, stalling out any and all reasoning ability.

Jude’s grip tightened, ever so slightly. “I was going to take you out. It’s not my scene, but I was willing to give it a shot. I changed my mind.” He stepped into her, his chest lightly pressed against her breasts, his thighs bracketing hers, his…Oh my good lord. His hard length pressed against her stomach, and it felt perfectly in proportion with the rest of his massive body, not that she was an expert on these matters.

His other hand came to rest on her hip, fingers bunching the fabric of her dress as he kneaded her. “Tell me to stop, and it’s done. I’ll walk away, and I’ll do my damnedest to leave you alone. Tell me to walk away, sunshine. Just say the words.”

She knew he was right. He was no good for her, and this would only end in tears on her part. The man wasn’t asking to date her. He didn’t want to get to know her. He was telling her all the things he’d do to her body.

But she couldn’t say the words to make him leave.

Sloan had never taken anything for herself in her entire life. She’d stayed in the background and gone with the flow and done everything in her power to play least in sight. Her brothers ran off any boy remotely interested in her, and she’d allowed it to happen. If her father had decided to move forward on his plans to marry her off, she would have walked down the aisle to a man of his choosing.

She’d never done a single selfish thing in her life until she asked Teague to help her escape.

Until she tentatively ran her hands up Jude’s chest, sucking in her breath at the way his muscles tensed beneath her fingers. Until she looked up into his stormy dark eyes and said the word that would damn them both. “Stay.”


The Giveaway:

Enter to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card from Katee Robert!