Stacking the Shelves (28)

The last Stacking the Shelves for 2012.  Wow!

And for the first time in over a year, all our books are on real shelves again. This deserves a celebration of some kind. Along with some serious moaning and groaning. Now that the books are finally out of boxes, we have to put them in order again. All 2,000  plus of them.

If you’ve ever wondered why I try so hard to get ebooks for review, that’s why!

Meanwhile, take a look at the fantastic new books I brought home, or downloaded, this week.

For Review:
The Better to See You (Transplanted Tales #2) by Kate SeRine
Devil in the Making Illustrated Edition (Devilish Vignettes #1) by Victoria Vane
Diana’s Hound (Bloodhounds #4) by Moira Rogers
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi
Jack Absolute (Jack Absolute #1) by C.C. Humphreys
Trickster by Jeff Somers

Dragonfly by Erica Hayes
Love Beyond the Curve by Kate Patrick
Red (Transplanted Tales #1) by Kate SeRine

Borrowed from the Library:
Naughty and Nice by Shannon Stacey, Jaci Burton, Megan Hart and Lauren Dane
Tainted Night, Tainted Blood (Kat Redding #2) by E.S. Moore (print)
To Walk the Night (Kat Redding #1) by E.S. Moore (print)

Review: All I Want for Christmas is a Duke by Delilah Marvell and Maire Claremont

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Historical Romance, Holiday Romance
Length: 209 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: December 5, 2012
Purchasing Info:Delilah Marvelle’s Website, Maire Claremont’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Two ladies. Two dukes. One Christmas. And scandal galore.

A Christmas anthology by two hot names in historical romance fiction…

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle

Lady Jane left her father, the Earl of Chadwick, and the ton behind to experience life on the stage. After a disastrous marriage, the widow is living on the edge of poverty, determined to guard her heart, when a secret admirer from her past demands a second chance.

Shy and retiring Martin Nicholas Pierce, the Sixth Duke of Somerset, has carried a torch for Lady Jane since her youth, but he is five years her junior. When she married another man, he left for Europe, determined to put her out of his mind. After returning to find Lady Jane free, he vows to replace the memories of her cursed Twelfth Night with a new beginning.

The Twelve Days of Seduction By Màire Claremont

Alexander Hunt, Eighth Duke of Berresford, is aware his ward’s governess isn’t quite what she seems. Although Miss Flint is beautiful and intelligent, she misrepresented herself to gain employment, and he threatens to give her the sack mere days before Christmas.

Desperate to convince the sexy duke not to tear her from the little girl she’s grown to adore, Adriana challenges him to seduce her before the Twelve Days of Christmas have come to an end, although she fears it may cost her heart. Alexander accepts the challenge, unconcerned that he has as much to lose, if not more, than the delectable Miss Flint.

Two Christmas romances, both featuring Dukes as the heroes. You’d think that these stories would be similar, but beyond that superficial detail, they’re not.

The Twelve Days of Seduction by Màire Claremont starts with one of the classic themes, the governess who falls for her employer. Of course, the author adds more layers onto that trope. The governess also falls for her charge, the Duke’s somewhat willful daughter. And she also falls for the whole gig. She wants to be part of a family, because she never was. Adriana Flint definitely bootstrapped herself up from the underclass.

When the Duke of Berresford discovers that she isn’t what she seems, he should give her the sack. What he wants is to finally take her to bed. Because all the things that were forbidden when she was his daughter’s prim and proper governess are not forbidden if he fires her.

Adriana wants to stay. She loves the child, she loves being part of a family. She might even love Alex, her Duke. But the trick is to get him to let her stay long enough to let him convince himself that she’s the right woman for him. Not as his mistress, but as his duchess.

I found this story to be quite entertaining, and very sensual, but it did break the willing suspension of disbelief quite a bit even though it had lots of Christmas spirit. Maybe it would take the Ghost of Christmas Present to make this one come true.

Escape Rating for The Twelve Days of Seduction by Màire Claremont: B

The first story in this duology is Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle. The story gets off to a slightly rocky start, but turns out to be an absolute polished gem by the end.

Lady Jane takes to the stage, and leaves the life she should have had behind in favor of the glittering world of being a singing sensation. While it might not be the same as being Lady Gaga in our time, Lady Jane has a musical gift that carries her beyond singing in drawing rooms for a few friends, think of Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes’ A Scandal in Bohemia. She has a major talent, and a need to share it.

But Ladies don’t sing on stage.

She has a secret admirer, a man who sends her beautiful letters, every night, letters that reveal his understanding of her true spirit. But she never knows his name. The man she marries claims to be the mysterious Mr. X turns out to have been stealing the letters to read in advance so he could pretend to be the man she loved but had never met.

When confronted with the truth, her husband has a stroke and dies instantly, leaving her a young widow, cut off from society.

Years later, she ekes out a living giving music lessons, unwilling to sing, unwilling to return to her family hat in hand, when a friend from her youth comes to her boarding house.

Martin Pierce has recently become the Duke of Somerset. He’s discovered that his great-aunt, cut off from his family long before he was born, is living out her remaining years in that boarding house.

And is surprised beyond all belief to find Lady Jane. Surprised, stunned, relieved. Gobsmacked, although that term hadn’t been invented yet.

Because when Lady Jane sang on the stage, she was in her early 20s, and Martin Pierce was a 17-year-old boy painfully in love with her. He was the real Mr.X. He loves her still.

Now that they are both adults, the five-year gap in their ages is immaterial, but the difference in their status suddenly looms very large. As does his secret.

Can they start over? Should they? Martin is no longer the shy boy he once was, and he knows that he has to try.

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson turned out to be utterly marvelous. Lady Jane’s pride was painfully well drawn, as was the spritely character of Martin’s aunt, Lady Ernastine. She’s a gem. Watching Martin take charge of his life is beautiful and powerful to watch.

Escape Rating for Merry Christmas, Mrs. Robinson by Delilah Marvelle: A-

***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: Five Golden Rings: A Christmas Collection

Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Mass Market Paperback, ebook
Genre: Historical Romance, Holiday Romance
Length: 100 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Date Released: December 11, 2012
Purchasing Info:Sophie Barnes’ Website, Karen Erickson’s Website, Rena Gregory’s Website, Sandra Jones’ Website, Vivienne Lorret’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

The holidays are a time for wishes, magic and, of course, love. Celebrate the season with this delightful collection of Christmas tales. What better way for Connor Talbot, Earl of Redfirn, to spend the holidays than convincing Leonora Compton that the only match she needs to make is with him!

The Duke of Ashton has had three years to plan for his perfect Christmas present—the Lady Eleanor Fitzsimmons as his wife. Now, all he has to do is convince the reluctant lady …

Phin Baldwin does not believe in Christmas magic … until the clever and beautiful Ginny Overton gets it into her head to show him how wonderful it can be when wishes come true.

Just returned from the Crusades, marriage is the last thing on Sir Caerwyn’s mind. But will he be able to resist Lady Nia, the thief of his boyhood heart, when she tempts him yet again?

Responsible Ethan Weatherstone is determined to save Penelope Rutledge—and her reputation—from her silly scheme, but can he save himself from the temptation of her lips?

There are five stories in this collection. And I read them all and definitely enjoyed them. But these are the two that stuck with me after I’d turned the last page.

Tempting Mr. Witherspoon by Vivienne Lorret takes the friends into lovers trope, dresses it up in Christmas wrapping paper, and does it proud.

Penelope Rutledge and Ethan Witherspoon have been close friends since childhood. Their families met when Penelope and her father moved in  to the estate next to Ethan and his mother, after both had been widowed. Ethan and Penelope shared the tragedy of losing a parent much too young.

Since then, they have both had a need to maintain order, but Ethan much more assertively so than Penelope. Now Penelope is in her 20s, and other needs are rising to the surface. She wants a family of her own. Her own children. A husband. And she loves Ethan. She always has. But Ethan is unwilling to risk their friendship. It would upset the order of things.

Penelope knows that she must leave if she is ever to get over Ethan and have any chance at happiness. Or even contentment. Ethan is certain that all of her plans for leaving represent a risk to her reputation, that they are all dangerous to the order of things. To the order of his well-ordered life.

But will he see the truth before it is too late?

This was a beautiful family story. And a sweet love story. Escape Rating for Tempting Mr. Witherspoon: B+

War of the Magi by Rena Gregory was simply terrific. This is also a story about a young woman with a widowed father. Ginny is also in her 20s, and also has just a bit of fancifulness in her very well-ordered life.

Ginny helps her father manage the shop in their village, but she does want a life of her own. It’s just that there hasn’t been a man who interested her, and her father does need her.

Her villlage has a tradition about the gifts of the Magi. Not the actual Bible story, but a statue. Each year, the right to keep the statue is won by lottery, and the keeper gets to put three wishes in the statue. Those wishes somehow manage to get granted. Not always, but fairly often.

This year’s winner is Phin Baldwin, a reporter at the local newspaper. Phin is from out of town, and he doesn’t believe in wishes. But he won’t give the statue to someone who does believe.

Phin also makes Ginny’s heart beat faster. Well he did. Now he’s making it beat faster out of sheer exasperation. So Ginny starts stealing the statue from Phin, and letting the villagers have it for a day at a time.

Sharing the wishes. Sparring with Phin. And, it turns out, making his heart beat faster.

Maybe wishes do come true.

The concept behind this story, the Magi, the wishes, and the town, and how Phin and Ginny get together, was more than terrific. Ginny finds a way to share the true meaning of Christmas with the whole village, have fun, and get her man. She makes him a true believer too!

Escape Rating  for War of the Magi: A

***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: That Night by Diane Dooley

Format read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Holiday Romance, Contemporary Romance
Length: 42 pages
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Date Released: December 12, 2012
Purchasing Info:Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

Lindy Hopkins works early, works late, always gets the job done and never, ever has incredible one night stands with handsome coworkers. Until that night. But it’s okay. She’s just going to keep on pretending that it never happened.

Alex Anderson never imagined that buttoned-down workaholic Lindy had the ability to transform into a table-dancing, champagne-guzzling femme fatale. Until that night. And it’s not okay that she’s been giving him the coldest of shoulders ever since.

Neither are prepared to face the other, but they have no choice. They’ve each booked the company Catskill cabin for a few days before Christmas and are both too stubborn to budge. Over mulled wine and under a blanket of snow, it’s starting to look like that night might happen all over again. But this time Alex is playing for keeps, while Lindy is determined that no man will come before her career. Will they find that love is forever or will it be just another night to remember?

A cute, sweet holiday treat. A lot like the reindeer cupcake I had last night. I’m not sure it would work any other time of the year, but for right now, utterly yummy.

Lindy Hopkins books the company cabin in the Catskills for the holidays because she doesn’t want to spend Christmas with her family. They exhaust her. And that’s a telling part of this story. Lindy is from upstate New York, but from a dying small town. And from a family that expected her to stay close to home, marry early, and live a conventional small town life.

Because Lindy didn’t do what her family expects, she does nothing but disappoint them. She is terrific, but because they can’t understand anything about who and what she is, all she feels from them is hurt. She can’t get anything right, so she just keeps trying harder. And harder. She has no life. We all know people like that.

One night, she celebrated a bit too much, and spent a glorious night with Alex Anderson, another rising star at the company. She expected to face a “walk of shame” the next morning, but nothing happened. Alex never told.

Lindy never forgot a single thrilling moment of that night, but she acted like it never happened. Men can have affairs with co-workers and no one thinks a thing of it, but there is still a double-standard. Lindy doesn’t want her work denigrated because she slept with Alex. She needs respect.

Alex wants more from Lindy than a one-night stand. So he arranges to be at that cabin for Christmas. They need to talk about what happened. Whether there is the possibility of more, or whether that was all that there was. But they need to talk about it at least once!

He’s playing for keeps. Lindy is just plain afraid. But until they finally talk it through, neither knows a thing. A little wine, a little snow, and a whole lot of truth might turn Lindy’s lonely Christmas into the best one she ever had.

Who knew that cheesy romance novels like “Kidnapped by the Greek Billionaire” contained a kernel of truth after all?

Escape Rating B: That Night is delicious late night reading pleasure. It’s just a cute, and slightly steamy story about two people who need to be alone together and start communicating to finally figure out that they really are perfect together.

***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: The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd

Format read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook, Large Print
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: October 30, 2012
Purchasing Info:Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

“I was in Paris the day the French Army was mobilized.”

In 1914, while visiting her friend Madeleine, Lady Elspeth Douglas’s life is thrown into chaos when war breaks out and the Germans quickly overrun Belgium, threatening France. Having just agreed to marry Alain, Madeleine’s dashing brother, Lady Elspeth watches him leave to join his unit, and then she sets out for England, only to find herself trapped on the French coast.

Caught amid a sea of stranded travelers, terrified refugees, and wounded men overflowing the port of Calais, the restless Elspeth—daughter of a Highland aristocrat whose distinguished family can trace its roots back to the court of Mary, Queen of Scots—decides to make herself useful, carrying water to weary soldiers near the Front. It is an act of charity that almost gets her killed when enemy shells begin to explode around her.

To her rescue comes Captain Peter Gilchrist, who pulls her away from the battle and leads her to safety. But before they can properly say good-bye, Elspeth and Peter are separated.

Back in London, surrounded by familiar comforts, Elspeth is haunted by the horrors she witnessed in France. She also cannot forget the gallant Peter Gilchrist, even though she has promised herself to Alain.

Transformed by her experience, Elspeth goes to London and enrolls in a nursing course, where she meets a fellow nurse in training, Bess Crawford. It is a daring move, made without the consent of Elspeth’s guardian, her cousin Kenneth, a high-handed man with rigid notions of class and femininity.

Yet Elspeth Douglas is a woman with a mind of her own, which—as she herself says—is a blessing and a curse. She is determined to return to the battlefields of France to do her part . . . and to find the man she has no right to love, no matter how far Cousin Kenneth may go to stop her. But before she can set things right with Alain, he goes missing and then Peter is gravely wounded. In a world full of terror and uncertainty, can the sweetness of love survive or will Elspeth’s troubled heart become another casualty of this terrible war?

A poignant, compelling tale brimming with adventure, danger, and love, The Walnut Tree is an enchanting holiday gift and a wonderful companion to Charles Todd’s acclaimed Bess Crawford series.

If you’re looking for something to tide you over until Downton Abbey finally starts up again in January, take a look at Charles Todd’s World War I Christmas romance, The Walnut Tree.

And if you happen to be a fan of Todd’s Bess Crawford mystery series, you’re in for a real treat. The heroine of The Walnut Tree is one of Bess Crawford’s London flatmates, so there is a glimpse into Bess’ world from a slightly different perspective. There’s even a touch of mystery.

But back to Downton. The heroine in this particular tale is Lady Elspeth Douglas. Like Sybil Crawley, she wants to do more in World War I than lament about the shortages and roll up bandages. Lady Elspeth goes through the rigorous training and becomes a surgical nurse, serving in France, until her guardian discovers where she is and forces her resignation from the service. Elspeth is well into her 20s at this point, but she is under her cousin’s guardianship until age 30 according to her late father’s will.

No one wants her to leave the nursing service. Elspeth is a damn good nurse and they need her. Badly. Desperately. But her cousin has the absolute legal right to do this. Makes you want to scream but this was quite legal. He thought, and many people quite agreed with him at the time, that serving as a nurse would make her unmarriageable. And, after all, that’s what upper-crust women were supposed to do-get married and make upper-crust babies.

Never mind what Elspeth wanted to do.

About the story. Elspeth was always somewhat different. Her late father raised her to be independent. And she is Scottish, not English. It does matter. She begins the war in France, waiting for the birth of that friend’s baby. And being courted by that friend’s brother. A man she had a terrible crush on when she and her friend were in finishing school together.

During the course of Madeleine’s pregnancy, Alain has been courting her quite assiduously, with the expectation that after the birth, he could go to Scotland to ask her cousin for her hand in marriage. All very proper. Elspeth thinks Alain is who she wants, but they never really have a chance to know each other. I’m not talking about sex. That’s not what this is about. They never have the chance to talk about what they really want out of life or what their expectations are for the future. They assume that everything will go on as it has always been.

Then the war intervenes. Alain asks her for her promise, but they are not engaged. Exactly, because he can’t ask her cousin’s permission. She feels bound, yet there is nothing formal.

And the world goes to hell. Germany invades Belgium, and Britain is dragged into the war. Her friend stays in Paris, and begs her to stay with her, when Elspeth should, as a British citizen, leave while she can.

After the baby is born, she finally does leave, and is caught up in Calais by the British troop movements. There are no ships for a civilian to take. She ends up nursing the wounded. Even untrained, she is more help than nothing.

And she finds Captain Peter Gilchrist, a friend of her family from Scotland. He takes her with his company, and makes sure she gets back behind the lines to the coast. The harrowing experience binds them together in a way that her brief relationship with Alain does not. But she gave Alain a promise that she cannot break.

But her experience on the coast of France has changed her forever. Enough so that she defies the expectations of her class and goes through the rigorous training to become a nursing sister. Enough so that she spends the entire war dreaming of one man while fully committed to honoring her promise to another. Praying that both of them make it through the war whole.

Some prayers are not meant to be answered.

Escape Rating A: Charles Todd (actually a pseudonym for the mother and son writing team of Caroline Todd and Charles Todd) do an excellent, as always, job of invoking the time, the place and the sensibilities of life in England in the WWI and post-WWI era.

As much as the restrictions on Lady Elspeth chafe us, our world is not hers, those are the times in which she lived. She had to deal with her world as she found it, not as we would. The Todds let you slip into her skin, and see the world as she did.

We feel Elspeth’s need to do her duty to the promise she made to Alain, and we understand why she feels it. Just as we feel her need to do her part in the war, no matter the personal consequences.

That those consequences are high, and different from what Elspeth initially imagined…well that’s what makes the story so marvelous.

***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: Red Hot Holiday by Anne Calhoun, K.A. Mitchell and Leah Braemel

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: Erotic Romance, Holiday Romance
Length: 262 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: December 3, 2012
Purchasing Info:Anne Calhoun’s Website, K.A. Mitchell’s Website, Leah Braemel’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

I’ll be home for Christmas…to fulfill all your dreams.

This holiday, a Mountie is determined to get her man. A widow finds a fireman who ignites her passions again. And two men unsure of their commitment discover a happily ever after—and a blindfold—under their tree. No matter your desires, this collection of three shorts is bound to treat you to all the joys of the season.

Edited by Angela James, this anthology includes:

I Need You for Christmas by Leah Braemel
Breath on Embers by Annie Calhoun
Wish List by K.A. Mitchell

All the stories in this holiday collection contain extra-spicy sex, but that wasn’t necessarily the point. Or at least it wasn’t for this reader.

I found it interesting that all three stories were about established relationships. There was no porn-without-plot here. Yes, there was a little kink, but it was really about love, and what worked for these relationships, these people.

Breath on Embers wasn’t merely my favorite story in this collection, it nearly broke my heart. This is a story about someone using noise, any kind of noise; music, work, sex, exercise, to distance herself from terrible, gnawing grief. Tess lost her husband two years ago this Christmas. For the past nine months, she’s been using FDNY Lieutenant Ronan O’Rourke as the sex part of that noise. He knows where she’s been. He lost a beloved uncle in one of the towers on 9/11. He’s lost comrades on the job. Tess makes him feel alive. He’s tired of her using him to help her deaden the pain. He knows they have more. This Christmas he’s going to prove to her that there is life on the other side of grief, if she’ll only take the first step across the yawning chasm.

This story is awesomely painful. And awesomely beautiful.

Escape Rating for Breath on Embers: A+

I Need You for Christmas is an updated version of O. Henry’s classic Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi, with a slightly kinky twist. In today’s society, what’s the biggest thing you can sacrifice for your lover? Your career? Your dreams. Ryan’s dreams were for his art. He’s a sculptor, and he’s finally starting to sell. Art is always a hit or miss proposition at best, and this is finally his “time”. Megan is a Mountie, and that’s her dream. The problem is that her dream meant 5 years being posted in Nunavut, while the death of Ryan’s parents meant that he had to stay in Toronto as guardian to his young step-siblings.  They’re going to college now. So he can leave Toronto, even if being out of civilization may cause difficulties for his career.

But Megan has had about enough of being away from Ryan. She’s been a Mountie, and she loves it, but she misses him. While she needs to serve and protect, outside of her job, she also needs the freedom of submitting to Ryan in the privacy of their bedroom.

And after the sudden death of Ryan’s parents, Ryan knows that no one’s tomorrows are guaranteed. Mounties get shot at in the Territories.

So they each plan a surprise for the other for Christmas, a surprise that should guarantee they can be together all the time. But there’s this little problem with surprises…

This story was sweet, and hot, and drives the reader crazy with wanting them to just TELL EACH OTHER already! But it’s oh so believable, that they want to be together and would do this. Terrific story.

Escape Rating for I Need You for Christmas: B+

Ryan and Megan in I Need You for Christmas were definitely into the D/s part of BDSM, but only to a certain extent, and they didn’t explicitly refer to it that way.

Jonah and Evan in Wish List by K.A. Mitchell don’t start out the story being part of the BDSM scene either, but when Jonah discovers a pair of wedding rings hidden in his boyfriend Evan’s desk drawer, he starts thinking of all the things he might like to try before he finally takes himself permanantly off the market, and in the “wish list” he makes of things he’d really, really like to experiment with, his imagination conjures up a whole LOT of BDSM ideas, with himself starring in the submissive role.

The only problem is that he can’t imagine his relatively buttoned-down, neat-and-tidy lover Evan presiding over those fantasies as the Dom. No matter how much that concept turns him on. And how much he loves Evan and wants him to be the man in his life forever.

Little does Jonah know that Evan is a dominant who has been suppressing that side of his nature, because the sex no longer interests him without an emotional component. When he finds one of Jonah’s “wish lists” after it falls out of Jonah’s pocket, Evan’s need to dominate Jonah comes roaring back to life. Jonah can have everything he wants, and Evan too, if he can just figure out how to ASK for it.

This story drove me just a little crazy, because of the communication misunderstandammits that were required to keep it going. But it was still fun.

Escape Rating for Wish List: B

***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.

Stacking the Shelves (26)

The year is winding down fast! For those who celebrate it, the Christmas Holidays are next week. For many of the rest of us, it’s a lovely excuse for a long weekend. For those who have to work next weekend, especially those working retail during the last frenetic shopping days, I salute you.

Especially your no doubt tired aching feet.

I tried to keep the books stacked on top of my virtual shelves to a minimum. Well, a minimum for me, anyway. A few still managed to tiptoe their way onto my iPad. These are all ebooks this time around, including the book I borrowed from my new library. (Haven’t said THAT for a while!)

Just what I need, another source of books to read! Yes!

For Review:
All I Want for Christmas is a Duke by Delilah Marvelle and Maire Claremont
Between Two Thorns (Split Worlds #1) by Emma Newman
Demon’s Curse (Imnada Brotherhood #1) by Alexa Egan
Double Enchantment (Relics of Merlin #2) by Kathryne Kennedy
Entity (Spectra #2) by Joanne Elder
The Fat Man by Ken Harmon
Grave Intentions by Lori Sjoberg
The Importance of Being Wicked (Millworth Manor #2) by Victoria Alexander
Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements (Millworth Manor #1.5) by Victoria Alexander
Real Men Don’t Break Hearts (Real Men #1) by Coleen Kwan
She Returns from War (Cora Oglesby #2) by Lee Collins
The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher
Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey
That Night by Diane Dooley
Unnatural Acts (Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. #2) by Kevin J. Anderson

Borrowed from the Library:
Enchanting the Lady (Relics of Merlin #1) by Kathryne Kennedy

Review: Romancing the Holiday by Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon and Christi Barth

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Holiday Romance
Length: 257 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Date Released: December 3, 2012
Purchasing Info:Jaci Burton’s Website, HelenKay Dimon’s Website, Christi Barth’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

We wish you a merry Christmas…and a happily ever after!

A memorable three-night stand gets rekindled in a cabin in West Virginia. An office romance is sparked by an impulsive holiday kiss. And two best friends scout locations for a marriage proposal and discover that they make a perfect match. ‘Tis the season for laughter, love and a lifetime of happiness.

Edited by Angela James this anthology includes:

We’ll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon
The Best Thing by Jaci Burton
Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth

When I picked up Carina’s contemporary Christmas anthology last year, I didn’t know that two of the stories in Holiday Kisses were part of ongoing series. It didn’t matter at the time. In my review, I really enjoyed Jaci Burton’s A Rare Gift, and didn’t care much for HelenKay Dimon’s It’s Not Christmas Without You.

But both those families are back! Those were the middle stories. Part one must be in the first Carina Christmas collection, Naughty and Nice. Clearly I must complete the set.

First, there’s this year’s contemporary collection to review. (Future reviews will deal with the erotic collection Red Hot Holiday and the sci-fi romance collection A Galactic Holiday. I can’t resist collecting the set)

This collection was a lot stronger than the Holiday Kisses collection last year, which for me had one home run, two strong base hits, and one pretty big miss. This year, the stories were all very good.

So what does that mean, you might ask?

My favorite story in the collection is Jaci Burton’s The Best Thing. There are multiple layers to this story, because Tori and Brody have so much going on in their relationship. Brody Kent is the last single brother standing of the Kent brothers. They own Kent Construction. They also happen to all be Tori’s bosses. But Brody, well, she’s had a crush on him forever, since she first moved into town when she was 16. The thing is, she didn’t have much of a family, and Brody’s parents adopted her. So if she and Brody mix pleasure with business, and it goes pear-shaped, Tori will lose her heart, her job, and the only family she’s ever known.

No man is worth that, no matter what kind of skills he might have in the bedroom. And rumor has it that Brody has plenty of skills. But since Brody took their mad flirting to a searing kiss at last year’s Christmas party, neither of them has been able to recover. Is it worth losing the safety of a sure thing to find out if they can reach wonderful?

Escape Rating for The Best Thing: A-

I was surprised at how good HelenKay Dimon’s We’ll Be Home for Christmas turned out to be. It’s the same family as It’s Not Christmas Without You, a story where I did not care for the characters at all. But in We’ll Be Home for Christmas, the Thomas brother involved is big brother Spencer, and although he’s also being idiotic, he gets his head handed to him much quicker. Lila Payne gets good and mad and stands up for herself in a way I could respect and empathize with.

Spence goes out of town for a one-night stand to let off some steam, and meets Lila. She’s just gotten divorced, and also wants to forget about her troubles. This is all fine, except Spence tells Lila his name is Austin Thomas. When Lila comes to town to take over her Uncle’s broken-down resort, no one is happy about the name switch, especially embarrassed (and happily married) Austin. The fireworks never stop after that.

Both The Best Thing and We’ll Be Home for Christmas are terrific in the way that their respective groups of brothers tease and joke and kid around with each other. In spite of some tragedies in both backgrounds, these are great families to read about.

Escape Rating for We’ll Be Home for Christmas: B+

My least favorite story in this year’s bunch was Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth. It’s a story about a geek hero who has always felt like a disappointment to his hard-charging corporate father. Kyle is planning to finally please dear old dad by marrying a woman he doesn’t love, in order to further the merger between his father’s company, and her father’s company. The only problem is that the woman is a bitch.

And he’s been trying to ignore his feelings for best friend Caitlin for too many years. Feelings that go way beyond friendship. Feelings that poor Kyle has no idea that Caitlin reciprocates.

The story is really cute, but I did wonder how oblivious these too could possibly be, considering how much time they spend together.

Escape Rating for Ask Her at Christmas: B-

***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? 12-9-12

“Hi honey, I’m home!”

Welcome to Seattle, where it rains every day. It does keep the grass green, and quite possibly some of the people. Things get just a bit mossy around here.

But home is where the cats are. Also where I finally have my computer back together. I missed my second monitor. And laptop screens are kinda puny, compared to a desktop monitor. Especially compared to two desktop monitors.

Until I saw Galen’s office. He has three. I’m not sure whether that would be bliss…or overload.

Enough with the geek envy. Let’s talk about books. But let’s first recap the books we talked about last week.

B+ Review: Wallbanger by Alice Clayton
Naughty & Nice; A- Review: Room at the Inn by Ruthie Knox, C- Review: All I Want for Christmas is You, B Review: One Perfect Christmas by Stefanie Sloane
B- Review: Heart of Atlantis by Alyssa Day
B+ Review: Stellarnet Prince by J.L. Hilton
B- Review: The Virgin and the Playboy/ B+ Review: The Virgin and the Best Man, both by Kate Richards
Stacking the Shelves (25)

What about this week? Well, now that I can see my calendar and type at the same time I can tell that the Holiday Gifts of Love Blog Hop is this week and not last week. Enough sleep is a wonderful thing.

Reviews lined up for this week include the Xmas anthology Romancing the Holiday from Carina Press, the “new adult” romance Losing It by Cora Carmack, and Taste Me, the first book in Tamara Hogan’s fabulous paranormal series, the Underbelly Chronicles. I can’t believe I missed that one when it came out. Wow!

Back to Losing It by Cora Carmack. What do you think of the label “new adult”? Do you think it’s going to have the kind of staying power that young adult has had? What does it mean to you when you see a book promoted as a “new adult” title? I’m really curious since this was a book I got sent for review by Library Journal, and they’re curious, too!

What’s happening on your blog this week? Reading lots of holiday books?


Review: Naughty & Nice by Ruthie Knox, Molly O’Keefe and Stefanie Sloane

Format read: ebook provided by the publisher through NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Holiday Anthology
Length: 210 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (Random House)
Date Released: November 5, 2012
Purchasing Info: Ruthie Knox’ Website, Molly O’Keefe’s Website, Stefanie Sloane’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance

’Tis the season for romance with three original holiday-themed novellas! Unwrap this festive eBook bundle and discover why these authors are quickly becoming the biggest names in the genre. Ruthie Knox tells a heartwarming contemporary story of first loves given the gift of a second chance; Molly O’Keefe releases the ghosts of Christmas past with a prequel to her novel Crazy Thing Called Love; and Stefanie Sloane weaves an irresistible Regency tale of fiery passion that burns deep on a cold winter’s night.

ROOM AT THE INN by Ruthie Knox

Carson Vance couldn’t wait to get out of Potter Falls, but now that he’s back to spend Christmas with his ailing father, he must face all the people he left behind . . . like Julie Long, whose heart he broke once upon a time. Now the proprietor of the local inn, Julie is a successful, seductive, independent woman—everything that Carson’s looking for. But despite several steamy encounters under the mistletoe, Julie refuses to believe in happily ever after. Now Carson must prove to Julie that he’s back for good—and that he wants her in his life for all the holidays to come.


Maddy Baumgarten and Billy Wilkins are spontaneous, in love, and prepared to elope the day after Christmas—that is, if Maddy’s family doesn’t throw a wrench in their plans. After all, Maddy’s barely out of high school and Billy’s a notorious bad boy. Maddy doesn’t care about Billy’s rough past—all she cares about is living in the here and now. But after Maddy’s mother stops speaking to her in protest, and a Christmas Eve heart-to-heart with her father leaves her with butterflies, Maddy starts to get cold feet. She loves Billy, but is she taking this big step too soon?


After being jilted by her fiancé, Jane Merriweather turns to her dear childhood friend, the Honorable Lucas Cavanaugh, for support—and unlocks the smoldering desire simmering in the man’s troubled heart. Frightened by his newfound feelings, Lucas flees to Scotland. But when the Christmas season brings them together again, one glance is all that’s needed to reignite his yearning. If Lucas can convince Jane that his intentions are as pure as the falling snow, they’ll turn a dreary December into a joyous Yuletide affair.

‘Tis also the season for Holiday anthologies, as Loveswept gets into the swing of the holidays with this trio of Christmas themed stories. Unlike the Carina Press holiday bundles, these stories are not available separately, so if you want one, you have to get them all.

I say that because, as with so many story bundles, one person’s cuppa tea is another person’s day-old coffee grounds. But this holiday treat is priced as a virtual stocking stuffer at $1.99, so it’s not a big deal. Or it’s a great deal, take your pick.

Speaking of picks…the pick of this litter is Ruthie Knox’s contemporary story, Room at the Inn. It’s also the longest story, so Ms. Knox has the most time to develop her characters and her background. Inn takes the second-chance at love theme and really works it. Carson and Julie are on more like their tenth chance. Maybe their twentieth. Carson comes back to his small upstate New York home town as seldom as possible, because two things always happen; he fights with his father, who he feels like he always disappoints, and he falls into bed with Julie, who he always leaves. He knows he’s breaking her heart every time, but he can’t resist her. And vice-versa. But he can’t stay in Potter Falls. He has an important job. One that takes him as far away as possible.

Until his father manufactures a breakdown, and forces him back for longer than 10 days, and life wraps him back in the place he left behind. He finally stays still long enough to see that his home, his old friends, his old frenemies, and even Julie, are not quite the same people he thought they were when he was 20, not now that he’s 35. And neither is he.

Escape Rating for Room at the Inn: A-

Molly O’Keefe’s All I Want for Christmas is You is a prequel short story to the third book in her Crooked Creek Ranch series, Crazy Thing Called Love. And it felt very short and slightly incomplete to me. There was too much backstory that I didn’t know about the town and the people, and I didn’t feel for why Maddy wanted to rescue Billy quite so badly that they HAD to get married on her 18th birthday. Too many of the motivations behind the events were missing for me. Especially since I know that this is not a happily ever after, just a set up for a later story.

Escape Rating for All I Want for Christmas is You: C-

The last story in the group is Stefanie Sloane’s One Perfect Christmas. This one is a Regency romance, and also a friends into lovers story. This one drove me crazy! It wasn’t long enough. I could tell that there was oodles of backstory between Jane and Lucas, but we only catch glimpses of it. They were childhood friends, having grown up on adjoining estates. But she’s loved him forever, and he never realized it until recently. Now she needs to marry for money, and would love to marry him. He even has money. It would be perfect. But only if he also loves her, which he does. Misunderstandings abound. There’s even a wandering donkey for comic relief.

This is a case of the story being bigger than the format allowed. I needed more!

Escape Rating for One Perfect Christmas: B

***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.