Guest Post: Christine Bell’s Top Ten Songs for Knockin’ Boots To + Giveaway

My very special, and very, very funny, guest today is Christine Bell. Christine is here to celebrate the release of the second book in her Dare Me series, Down and Dirty, with a Top Ten list that probably says a lot about Christine’s sources of inspiration. If her list doesn’t inspire, maybe her stories will dare you. Check out my reviews of Down for the Count and Down and Dirty to see just how daring Christine can be!

Christine, take it away!

DaD-500pxThanks so much for having me, Marlene! I’m thrilled to be here as part of the Down and Dirty Blog Tour. *drags in over-stuffed duffel-bag* *thunks it on the floor* I brought a LOT of stuff with me. *looks around* Nice digs you’ve got here, by the way. So where to begin?

First, I come bringing a CONTEST. *rifles through bag, pulls out CONTEST* It’s an awesome one, especially for readers who like clothes and shooz! My main character, Cat Thomas, is a fashion designer, and as such, she’s always decked out in the hippest fashions. Want to dress like Cat? Click on the rafflecopter and see all the ways that you can enter to win a $300 shopping spree at the clothing retailer of the winner’s choice!

[Coho Salmon male in spawning colors.  Picture by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Pacific Region, used under the CC-BY-SA 2.0 license]

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Pacific Region

The second thing I brought *digs through bag* *pulls out whole salmon* *frowns* *tosses over shoulder* Ah! Here it is. *holds up EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT proudly* A short, exclusive excerpt of Down and Dirty, which is the second book in my Dare Me series. Check it out, and stick around to see the THIRD thing I brought. (You will like it. Pinky swear. So will your husband or boyfriend).

Okay, so this is one of my FAVORITE scenes, where Cat has decided the best way to get over Shane is to fix him up with someone else. They’ve signed him up for an online dating service, and Cat is starting to realize maybe this wasn’t the best idea…

Forty-five minutes later, their bellies full of beef stew sopped up with thick slabs of buttered sourdough bread, they sat back in front of the computer with their coffee and Cat logged in.

“Okay, it looks like you’re in.” She clicked on his profile and the desktop dinged. “And you have a message. Probably them welcoming you to the site, maybe some tips about how t—”

Before she could finish, it dinged again. Then again.

“Maybe they have a welcoming committee,” Cat said, clicking into the message center. Eleven new messages stared back at them, one of which was indeed a welcome from the president of The rest had numbers next to the subject lines, along with tiny thumbnail pictures.

All of them of women, lining up for a piece of him. Nuts.


“Well,” Cat said brightly, pushing away from the table to let him get in front of the screen. “Seems like there was a hole in the market for someone like you at this place. You’re a hot commodity already.”

“So what do I do now?”

“Click on their avatars, read their messages, and see if you like any of them.”

“How will I know that from one message?”


“You won’t. But at least we can weed some out. The maybes we can put into a separate folder, and then the yeses you can set up short dates with.”


“Jesus H., can you turn that thing off?” she snapped. “It’s very distracting.”

He didn’t care that she sounded like a shrew, because her reaction could only mean one thing. She was jealous. Satisfaction surged through him, and he vowed to redouble his efforts.

“Sure thing.” He lowered the speakers, then clicked on the first message in the list. “Deedee Coruthers.”

An image of a waifish blonde filled the screen. Cat looked at it for a long moment, lips pursed. “Hmm…don’t you think her right eye looks lazy? Like it’s not really up on what the left one’s doing, and doesn’t care much to find out?” She made her eyes go slightly crossed. “It’s off-putting in person, I bet, because you don’t know which one to look at.”

He looked at the photo more closely, and while Deedee wasn’t a stunner, she didn’t look cross-eyed. More like tired. “I guess a little…”

She didn’t pay him any mind, already moving along to the next one. “Let’s see, what about her? Sara Mitchell. She calls herself an artist. That probably means she doesn’t have a job. She’s also a vegan, which means you’d have to deal with her meat-shaming you.”

He’d never been meat-shamed before. It sounded bad.

“And she probably does macramé,” Cat continued. “So that crap will be hanging all over your house before you know it.” She x-ed out Sara and pointed to another photo a few messages down. “She looks nice.”

“Her?” he asked incredulously, sliding the cursor to blink under a masculine face.

“Yeppers. She’s got an honest smile. I like that.”

“Greta Doyle,” he recited, clicking to enlarge her photo, which only succeeded in making her look even more like a man. “She likes sailing, waterskiing, and backpacking. Her favorite show is Nancy Grace, and she works as an occupational therapist.”

“Sounds perfect for you.”

So what did you think?! Cat really stepped in it this time, right? Okay, so I hope you enjoyed the all the thingz, and that brings me to my third and final thing, which I predict will be the MOST useful (aside from the salmon):

My “Top Ten Songs You Need to Add to Your Ipod in a Playlist Titled ‘Knockin’ Boots’ (That You Can Listen To While You’re Knockin’ Boots)™

If this doesn’t get things cookin’, I don’t know what will!

1. How Does it Feel – D’Angelo
2. Secret Garden – Quincy Jones featuring Barry White, Al B. Sure, DeBarge
3. Lost Without U – Robin Thicke
4. No Ordinary Love – Sade
5. Cry to Me– Solomon Burke
8. My Love –Justin Timberlake
9. Knockin Da Boots – H-Town
10. Electric Feel – Katy Perry (cover of MGMT song)

And a bonus one (because my husband is reading over my shoulder and MADE me add it).

11. Summertime – Miles Davis

Question for the readers! What should I add to that playlist????

christine bell picAbout Christine Bell

Christine Bell is a romance author and also writes erotic romance as Chloe Cole. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys. If she gets time off from her duties as maid, chef, chauffeur, or therapist, she can be found reading just about anything she can get her hands on, from Young Adult novels to books on poker theory. She doesn’t like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold ‘Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate–or, like, a ninja maybe. Christine loves to hear from readers, so please contact her through her website. You can also find her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.


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Review: Down and Dirty by Christine Bell

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
17411381Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Dare Me, #2
Length: 127 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: February 3, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

He was a dare she’s never been able to resist…

Cat Thomas has never been the kind of girl to stick. A self-professed infatuation junky, she latches on the newest, hottest guy on the block, then finds a reason—real or imagined—to dump him. When she accepts a dare to rekindle her high school flame and jump in bed with her brother’s best friend, Shane Decker, she knows she’s in trouble. She can’t resist the man, even after all these years apart, and that just won’t do.

Shane has come back to town for a couple reasons. The biggest one? He’s tired of living away from those he loves, including Cat. But now she’s spooked and will do anything to drive a wedge between them, including trying to fix him up with other women through an online dating service.

What does he have to do to make her see that settling down doesn’t mean settling, and he’s ready to spend a lifetime proving it?

My Review:

Some people are way better at straightening out other people’s lives than they are at figuring out what’s going wrong with their own.

Cat Thomas is definitely one of those people.

In Down for the Count, the awesome first book in Christine Bell’s Dare Me series, she knew that the cure for her best friend Lacey’s discovery of her cheating fiance was to run away with the best worst man she knew, even if that man happened to be Cat’s brother Galen. Maybe especially because it was her brother. Now Cat’s BFF is her sister for reals.

The only problem is that Lacey knows all her secrets, and is now part of the family. Including the secret that Cat has never gotten over her crush on her brother’s best friend Shane. The man who ruined her junior year in high school by going all protective on every boy who came near her.

The man who kissed her senseless one night when she tried to go skinny-dipping in the lake.

She’s never forgotten that one, very long (and long-ago) stolen kiss. Unfortunately, no other man has ever compared to it, although quite a few have been allowed to try. Cat always finds some flaw in them, and then she’s off another adventure, brave or otherwise.

What Cat doesn’t know is that Shane has never forgotten either. It’s been nearly ten years since that one irresistible kiss, and it’s past time for them to explore the chemistry that makes Cat run away whenever Shane gets close.

Cat’s also long past being underage jailbait. And Shane is tired of waiting for her to grow up. He hopes that she has.

What is behind Cat’s love of adventure? Does she want more from anyone, even Shane? Most important of all, what is she really afraid of?

Escape Rating B-: The relationship between Lacey and Cat is a terrifically solid friendship. Cat helped Lacey get past a truly awful breakup in Down for the Count, and now it’s Lacey’s turn to help Cat see some “home truths” in Down and Dirty.

There’s also plenty of heat to make this book live up to its title! Cat and Shane can’t manage to be in the same room without setting each other on fire, even when they are trying to pretend that they aren’t. Although Shane isn’t really pretending. He’s come back home because he wants to pursue a relationship with Cat, she’s the one who is commitment-phobic.

Cat still has more than a bit of growing up to do as this story starts. I liked her better in Down for the Count. Of course, it is easier to straighten out someone else’s life! She’s never figured out why Shane was so over-protective when she was a junior. She thought he hated her. While she might have thought so then, sometime in the intervening years she should have gotten a clue, or at least figured out the ramifications if she had managed to seduce him then.

One of the most fun characters in the story doesn’t have a lot of “screen time” but has one heck of an impact. Shane’s mother is a manipulative matchmaker, but she does exactly what is needed to get Cat to realize that she can have a real relationship with a good man and if it’s the right person, she doesn’t have to give up her dreams. And that her own mother didn’t either.

Entangled Publishing Down and Dirty Blog Tour

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-24-13

Sunday Post

It’s officially Spring! It may or may not feel like Spring where you are on the planet but it is officially Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. (For those in the Southern Hemisphere, happy Autumn!)

In Seattle, Spring blew in on high, chilly winds, but we seem to have gotten some sun. Don’t envy me too much, it’ll rain again soon. And again. And again.

Some things happen only once. Like winning the Lucky in Love Blog Hop. The lucky winner  of the $10 Amazon Gift Card was Stacey P.

Night Demon by Lisa KesslerBut you still have plenty of time to enter some of the other giveaways from last week. Lisa Kessler is giving away four prizes to celebrate the launch of Night Demon, the latest book in her Night series.

One lucky winner will take away a copy of Jeanette Grey’s fabulous new romance, Take What You Want. Check out the giveaway details here.

And all sweet with no bitter at all, Nina Croft is giving away a copy of Bittersweet Blood, the terrific first book in her new paranormal romance series. Details here on that giveaway.

Take What You Want by Jeanette GreyThis week’s complete recap:

Guest Post: Night Demon Launch Party + Giveaway
A- Review: Take What You Want by Jennifer Grey
Interview with Jennifer Grey + Giveaway
A- Review: The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
A- Review: Bittersweet Blood by Nina Croft
Guest Post: Nina Croft’s Top Ten Movies + Giveaway
B Review: Border Lair by Bianca D’Arc
Stacking the Shelves (39)

Looking ahead to next week, I have two guests again. Christine Bell will be here on Tuesday, with a laugh-out-loud guest post that is totally apropos for her latest book, Down and Dirty. Because the book was more than a little of that, but all in pursuit of a good story. You’ll see in Tuesday’s review.

Temptation by Kathryn BarrettThursday my guest is Kathryn Barrett, as part of the tour for Temptation, her romance set in Amish country, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I’ll confess that I wanted to read this tale of a Hollywood actress “tempting” an Amish furniture-maker because my husband grew up in Lancaster! Kathryn will be here with a guest post and I’ll be reviewing this modern take on Adam and Eve.

Both tours have book giveaways!

Looking ahead to the following week, April 4-5 is my second annual Blogo-Birthday! The blog and I have back-to-back birthdays. The blog is 2. I’m not saying. This will be a Hobbit-type birthday, which means that I give away presents. Come and celebrate with me!

Reading Reality Blogo Birthday

Dual Review: Holding Out for a Hero by Christine Bell, Ella Dane, Tamara Morgan, Nico Rosso, Adrien Luc-Sanders

Format read: ebook copy provided by the publisher for review
Release Date: 14 January 2013
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Number of pages: 550 pages
Formats available: ebook
Purchasing Info: GoodreadsAmazon, Barnes and NobleRead an excerpt


Scarlett Fever, by Christine Bell and Ella Dane

After five years in training, it’s finally time for Scarlett Fever and her fellow superheroes to leave the United Superhero Academy and test their powers out in the real world. There’s only one problem. She’s been assigned to partner with arrogant, by the book, and irritatingly hot, Blade of Justice.

Blade’s whole life has gone according to plan, and he’s more than ready to move on to the big time, protecting a metropolis of his own. But his perfectly ordered life is derailed when he’s teamed up with the fiery maverick, Scarlett Fever.

Sparks fly the moment they arrive in Plunketville, Oklahoma, as they each set out to force the other to request a transfer. They soon discover there’s more going on in this single stop-sign town than blowing up mailboxes and cow tipping. If Scarlett can get Blade to listen to his gut, and he can teach her to use her head, they just might have a fighting chance.

Ironheart, by Nico Rosso

Vince might be hard as steel, but he’s not invincible. Not when iron touches him, especially in the hands of an evil minion. Not when Kara ran away after a whirlwind affair, just when he thought he might be falling in love. And definitely not when she returns, looking for his help.

The archvillain TechHead is coming for Kara and her superhero teammates, and he’s determined to use their combined power to create the ultimate weapon. But Kara can’t fight him alone. She needs Vince’s brutal skill, though being with him means she risks losing her beloved secret identity, leaving her nowhere else to hide.

When TechHead makes a play to capture Kara, Vince has more to lose than just his heart. But he will do anything for the woman he loves, even if it means putting his heart on the line again.

Playing With Fire, by Tamara Morgan

Fiona Nelson has always been one hot ticket—even before she took the conversion serum that gave her superhu¬man abilities. Fiona’s powers come at a price: lack of human contact, or she won’t be the only thing burning. When she loses control of her emotions, her fire powers run rampant… and she’s hurt enough people already. Including herself.

But when the man behind her conversion returns to black¬mail her into helping him gain power, the only person she can turn to is Ian Jones, the man who broke her teenage heart. The man determined to expose the criminal known as Fireball, whose explosive escapades are just a little too close to Fiona’s M.O.
Ian is convinced Fiona’s dangerous, convinced she’s Fire¬ball, and convinced he’ll damn himself if he doesn’t resist a heat that’s always drawn him to Fiona like a moth to a flame—but Ian has his own secrets.

And he’ll learn far too soon what happens when you play with fire.

From the Ashes, by Adrien-Luc Sanders

Sociopath. Killer. Deviant. Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called that and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded count¬less crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire.

Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate research¬er, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.

One kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges ev¬erything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. But when his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of hu¬mans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile deeper, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?

Our Thoughts:

Stella: With Marlene we are both big superhero fans, so when we heard that Entangled Publishing released this new anthology full of thrilling superhero romance novellas we were more than excited to read them and then later duel about the stories. To keep it from being too long we decided to restrain our discussion to only 2 of the 4 novellas: Scarlett Fever by Christine Bell and Ella Dane and Playing With Fire by Tamara Morgan. So Marlene, en garde! 😉


Scarlett Fever by Christine Bell and Ella Dane

Marlene’s Thoughts: Superheroes and sasquatch. I’m not sure whether the question should be what do those those two things have to do with each other, or whether it’s even possible to make a romance out of them, let alone in Plunketville, Oklahoma.

I should have looked to see if there really was a Plunketville, Oklahoma.

The opposites-attract trope can make for a fun romance, and the heat amps up twice as fast in the middle of a scorching Oklahoma summer. Especially when your cover is to live in a trailer park in air-conditioning challenged Plunketville. (I can’t help myself, I just love the name Plunketville, as long as I don’t have to live there)

And one of you is a fireball-throwing rookie-superhero. Partnered with a control-freak rookie-superhero who prides himself on being, not just too cool for school, but too cool for everyone. Especially the out-of-control fireball known as Scarlett Fever.

Blade of Justice is all about being cool and controlled. He dislikes anyone and anything that colors outside the lines or refuses to plan every operation to the last detail. Superheroes like Scarlett.

Too bad that when General Hammer hands out assignments to their graduating class from the United Superhero Academy, he assigns Blade and Scarlett to Plunketville to discover the mysterious anomaly in the hot, dusty, ugly small town.

Their cover says they’re married. Scarlett changes that program immediately. She tells the locals they’re siblings.

It takes less than 24 hours before one of the local waitresses decides that Blade is the hottest thing she’s ever seen.

And before Blade starts to wish that his “sister” had stayed his “wife”.

Then the evil ramps up, Blade and Scarlett start off not sure whether they are still school frenemies, or partners.

But the supervillain in town just wants Scarlett gone. And Blade realizes that coloring outside the lines is more fun, and more powerful, than being in control.

Verdict: Scarlett Fever reminded me of Tiffany Allee’s Heels and Heroes. Everyone knows there are superheroes, there are regular schools for them, it’s an accepted part of the world. This means that everyone also knows that there are supervillains.

It was obvious who the supervillain was. Not what that person’s power was, but who they must be.

What was fun was watching Scarlett and Blade fall for each other. They have a lot of preconceived notions, because they did not get on at school. When they are forced to rely on each other in the field, they discover that a lot of their negative feelings towards each other were a mask for something else.

This was just a fun story. And the characters of Sherwood and Nestor were an absolute hoot.

I give Scarlett Fever 3 and 1/2 radioactive stars.

Stella’s Thoughts: It was by pure chance I read Scarlett Fever, namely that it was the very first story in the anthology and I started with it and I have to say in my opinion Holding Out for a Hero started out with a bang.

Scarlett Fever starts with the graduation exam at the Superhero Academy, where  Scarlett Fever and Blade of Justice fight the graduation battle before being assigned to be each other’s partner for the next year. Their mission is in Plunketville, Oklahoma, and the small town provided a colourful location with several memorable secondary characters.

Scarlett and Blade are complete opposites: Scarlett is fiery, feisty, spontaneous while Blade is cool, level-headed and responsible, he is the ice to Scarlett’s fire, and the sparks crackle between these two. I loved their banter and their loaded silences as well, Blade was a hero the reader could have a serious crush on, while Scarlett was a likeable and very entertaining heroine with her huffing and puffing. The story was truly a superhero romance because Scarlett Fever was just as much about the explosive chemistry between Scarlett and Blade than the superhero mystery, and I absolutely enjoyed both!

She had to admit, it was easy to see Blade’s appeal. He exuded strength and confidence, and he kissed like the world was about to end.

Oh yeah, he definitely does… Can I just say yum? 😉

Verdict: Some people on Goodreads called Scarlett Fever silly, but I don’t expect to take my cartoon superheroes seriously (really, how could you take a hero who is called Blade of Justice seriously? lol 😉 ). But what I expect is lots of action, tongue in cheek humour and tons of fun and Scarlett Fever delivered! If you are a fan of Jennifer Estep’s Bigtime series you’ll love Scarlett Fever as well, and I sincerely hope Christine Bell and Ella Dane will give us more stories in this universe, because it was a lot of fun, and I personally would LOVE to read many more similar superhero stories! 😀

I give Scarlett Fever 4 and 1/2 fiery stars!

Playing With Fire by Tamara Morgan

Marlene’s Thoughts: Fireball was framed, over and over and over. Although this story has a happy ending, this is not a happy story.

Fiona Nelson seems to have been a victim of her own life. She willingly took the conversion serum that gave her the power to spontaneously create fire at a touch, but willing is somewhat of a relative term when it comes to Fiona and men persuading her to do the wrong thing..

She catches fire whenever she loses control of her emotions. She can’t allow anyone to touch her, because, well, love makes you lose control of your emotions. Sex just plain makes you lose control, whether you do it for the right, or the wrong, reasons.

And most of the people, especially men, who have touched Fiona have not done so with love. Or even like. Fiona has some serious self-esteem issues.

Or, as way too many people in her hometown referred to her, Fiona was the town bicycle. Every man got to ride her. She let them. Sex made her feel better. Momentarily. Then she felt worse.

The man who gave her the serum was one of her “lovers”. Now he’s her persecutor. General Eagle, out to save the world from the converted. He calls them the corrupted.

Fiona finds herself asking for help from the first man who told everyone she was so easy. Except Ian was just a boy then, and now he’s a researcher trying to prove the converted really exist.

Without revealing that he is one.

Fiona’s reappearance in his life is Ian’s chance to make up for having wronged her, all those years ago. His only excuse then was that he was young, and stupid, and didn’t speak up for himself very well. Because nothing much happened.

Now he can save her. Or condemn her to death.

Verdict: This story made me sad. It wants to be a superhero story, but it ends up being, I want to say a supervillain story, but not even that. Everyone is a victim. Fiona is a victim. Ian is a victim. Eagle is kind of a victim.

I wanted to kick Ian’s friend in the balls. Twice. he was just an arse beyond reason.

The government doesn’t come off too well either. They mostly manipulate. This story ended up as a sad mess.

I give Playing with Fire 1 and 1/2 sputtering stars.

Stella’s Thoughts: I am a fan of Tamara Morgan’s stories, I enjoyed Love is a Battlefield and her latest release Confidence Tricks was phenomenal, so yeah I admit, that her story was the reason I was the most looking forward to reading this anthology, but sadly Playing with Fire as Marlene just said made me sad as well.

Due to a natural disaster (something about an asteroid hitting Earth) a conversion serum was developed, many people excited to see what supernatural abilities it would develop for them took it without knowing anything about any potential side-effects and consequences, one of them being Fiona, who developed the power to generate heat and fire with her bare hands. Eight years have gone by and although she has come a long way handling this unique ability of hers, she still has a thin grasp on control whenever her temper flares. But with Fiona we don’t see any positive changes this superpower brought to her life only the bad: how for the past 8 years she had to relinquish all kind of human contact, relationship and had to resign herself to a life of loneliness and solitude.

The problem was that this story was depressing on all levels: Fiona had awful teenage years, she had a reputation of the “high school slut”, and it was not due to false rumours and gossips because she really did do the whole football team as Fiona tells us. And even after that not only the world but mostly Fiona objectified her body and traded sexual acts for any kind of human contact: attention, compassion, companionship. Fiona’s past not only made me sad for the young vulnerable girl she was and still is, the problem is that I don’t feel her opinion of herself, on the matter of sex and her self-esteem have changed.

Besides a superhero who still hasn’t risen above her sad past, the hero also made me sad. His best friend was a jerk and even at the last rescue didn’t manage to redeem himself to me. And I wouldn’t call the romance romance as it didn’t have much time or space to develop, since both the hero and heroine were stuck in very different places than the hero and now, at times stuck in high school and their guilt ever since, then trying to escape the threat looming.

Verdict: Although Playing with Fire had a mutant human heroine, somewhat her attitude doesn’t make me think of her as a superhero. I felt sorry and sad for her, and just wanted to hug Fiona and tell her it will be alright, but one of my problems is that I’m not sure at all it will be. The universe in the story seemed very dystopian to me, and I seriously can’t think of any friendly or trustworthy person there. Don’t write off Tamara Morgan based on this story, try one of her contemporary romance for something lighter and fluffier.

I give Playing with Fire 2 and 1/2 stars!

To read Lea’s review of From the Ashes by Adrien-Luc Sanders CLICK HERE.

To read Marlene’s review of Ironheart by Nico Rosso  CLICK HERE.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Down for the Count by Christine Bell

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Dare Me #1
Length: 128 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: October 1, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Truth or dare…

When Lacey Garrity finds her groom in flagrante delicto in the reception hall closet with her bridesmaid, she’s saved by her best friend’s older brother—childhood tormentor, crush, and boxing bad boy Galen Thomas. Galen’s solution is both exciting and dangerous. What better way to forget the mess of her life than go on her honeymoon with a hot guy who can’t promise anything beyond today?

…or TKO?

Galen had been counting on Lacey’s wedding to put her out of reach—and out of his mind—once and for all, but their steamy Puerto Rican escape is testing all his boundaries. Now that Lacey’s embracing her inner bad girl, Galen is tempted to throw in the towel and claim her for himself. But with the biggest fight of his career on the line and an important business merger threatening to derail Lacey’s resolve, their romance might be down for the count before it even begins.

It’s not so much that Galen Thomas is a bad boy, so much that Lacey Garrity has been way too much of a goody-two-shoes for most of her life. Lacey has been so busy attempting to please her impossible mother, and everyone else around her, that she’s never let herself figure out what it is she really wants. She’s too busy being worried that something might go wrong, and that she’ll get blamed for it.

Lacey just knows that her mother (whom her friend Cat properly nicknames “The Admiral”) is going to blame her when she finds her just-married groom in the linen closet of their reception hall with her other best friend, Becca. And, oh yes, he was banging her bridesmaid.

Lacey’s marriage to Marty the bridesmaid banger is so over. And it should be. (Men named Marty are so seldom any good. The last decent guy named Marty was Marty McFly. Back to the Future was a LONG time ago.)

But Lacey needs a quick rescue from the reception, before Mother Admiral swoops down on her. Enter Galen Thomas, who is not just her best friend’s older brother, but the guy she’s had a crush on since she was about 10. Of course, she’s not 10 anymore, and what Lacey feels is a lot more than a crush. But she’s been so beaten down by failing to meet everyone’s expectations that she can’t see what’s right in front of her.

She is way better than Marty ever deserved, and that Galen sees her as a whole lot more than just his sister’s best friend. When Lacey was 10 and he was 13, that would have made him a perv. But they’re all adults now, and he hasn’t seen her as just a kid for a long time.

But hitting on your sister’s best friend is usually a way for a guy to end up dead, in a manner of speaking. So Galen has tried to just be friends.

In the moment where Galen has to choose between getting Lacey out of that awful reception, and breaking every bone in Marty’s body, Galen chooses to save Lacey. And that’s where Down for the Count turns into a marvelous friends-into-lovers romance.

It’s also Lacey’s journey out from under the Admiral’s command. Because she has to get all the horrible messages from her mother out of her head, as well as get rid of her ill-considered marriage, before she’s ready to be in love with the man who has always wanted her.

Escape Rating A-: Christine Bell has written a terrific friends-into-lovers romance in Down for the Count. The opening scene at the wedding reception, where Lacey finds her erstwhile groom in the closet, just made you feel for Lacey, and want to deck Marty. But you can feel Lacey start to grab her own life for the first time.

Lacey is a “poor little rich girl” character, but once she starts to break from the mold, she really breaks out. At the same time, you do see her struggle. It’s hard to stop hearing all those little voices that tell you people will judge you if you don’t do everything just right. The author has captured her internal struggle excellently.

The central core of the story is Lacey and Galen’s romance, and it’s both steamy and sweet. Lacey’s always had a crush but never felt good enough, lively enough, pretty enough for him. And until they were adults, that three-year age gap was a yawning chasm. But now the timing is almost right. Watching them work for a relationship makes this story sing.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Wife for Hire by Christine Bell

Format Read: ebook provided by the publisher
Number of Pages: 118 pages
Release Date: August 18, 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Formats Available: ebook
Purchasing Info: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website | Goodreads

Book Blurb:

He needs a wife for three weeks…

Owen Phipps is out for revenge. His mission? To expose the man who stole his sister’s money and dignity. All he needs is a “wife” who can play along. Too bad his last best hope is an actress who tries to mace him with perfume when he offers her the role of a lifetime.

Lindy Knight is a real sap. She loves too hard, feels too deep, and often finds herself saying yes when she should be saying “Let me think about it.” She can’t believe her good fortune when Owen offers her more than enough money to hold off foreclosure until she can find a job. Three weeks at a resort, money she desperately needs, and she gets to help bring a criminal to justice? Score.

It seems easy enough until the first time a couples bonding game turns intimate, and they realize how dangerous their mutual attraction could be. Can they keep their hands to themselves long enough to find the evidence Owen needs? Or are the close quarters more temptation than they can handle?

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

There’s a reason the “pretending to be married” trope is a tried and true. Done right, it can be oh so much fun. The trick, in a contemporary romance, is to find a good enough reason to set up the scenario, and an equally good reason why the two principals can’t just jump into bed to cut the sexual tension.

Christine Bell definitely latched onto a winning formula in Wife for Hire. The pretense is reasonable enough, Owen is getting revenge against the swindler who took his younger half-sister for $750,000. Yes, you read that right three-quarters of a million dollars. The problem is that the con artist has set up an expensive “couples marriage saving” retreat. Which means Owen needs a wife, and he hasn’t got one.

Oh yeah, and his sister does not want him to do this. She’d much rather lick her wounds in private, thank you very much. So this entire thing is all very much on the QT. Owen needs someone outside his family circle, and away from his business.

Enter Lindy. She’s very much an amateur actress. Very much an amateur everything. She needs the money for the job, because she gives everything of herself to everyone she meets. She takes in stray dogs and stray widows. She mentors stray kids. She wears her heart on her sleeve.  Bleeding.

The one thing that Lindy is, is totally genuine, about everything. While she needs the money she’ll earn by helping Owen settle the score, she takes the job because she can tell that he needs the help. He needs to fix things for his sister.

And because he’s the sexiest man she’s ever seen in her kitchen. Or anywhere. They are only pretending to be married when other people can see them. Not in private.

Because Lindy believes in love. And Owen doesn’t. Which doesn’t stop him from wanting, not just Lindy’s body, but also the warmth she brings to every room, and the way her smile lights up the heart he’s always sworn he doesn’t have.

Verdict: Wife for Hire is just plain fun. If you’re looking for a sweet, sexy story that will make you smile and laugh, and sigh over the happy ending, this is a terrific one. Owen and Lindy seem like opposites on the surface, the hard-nosed business tycoon and the bleeding heart, but underneath they are both lonely people who have found different methods to keep that loneliness at bay.

The reason that Owen initially hires Lindy involves some suspense that wraps very nicely around the romance, and gets resolved quite satisfactorily as well.

I give Wife for Hire 4 1/2 stars.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.