‘Crazy For Her’ by Sandra Owens

Crazy For Her CoverSTORY: When his best friend and fellow Navy SEAL, Evan Prescott, died in his arms on the battlefield, Logan Kincaid gave his word to watch over Evan’s widow. But for two years he kept his distance…torn between honoring his solemn vow and succumbing to his secret love for his fallen comrade’s wife. But when Dani Prescott desperately reaches out to Logan for the help only he can give, he rushes to her side—determined to fight for her safety as fiercely as he fights against his own buried desire.

Someone claiming to be her husband is stalking Dani and her infant daughter, making them virtually prisoners in their remote country home. Logan’s elite military training and high-risk security expertise have outmatched more dangerous enemies. But the real challenge will be the burning temptation that threatens to overcome Logan whenever Dani is near…especially when she reveals her own hidden passion.

BUY LINKS: Amazon

REVIEW: I was here once before. I remember the apprehension of reaching for the book of an author I greatly admire and love her historical novels, but was sweating bullets before I gave in and read her latest contemporary story. I find myself in the same situation again and while I’ve read and adored every historical romance this author has written, this contemporary story left me wishing she’d write more of historicals.

First, I am a sucker for a broken hero story and reading the blurb I was drawn to this one, but the blurb only scratches the surface of his tale. There is so much more happening and fast, that my emotions were scattered to the four corners of the world and they had a hard time catching up and connecting to either the hero or the heroine.

No matter how well the story is written, and Ms. Owens is a good writer, she never managed to fully convince me of Logan’s long carried torch for Dani, nor his long held secret about his childhood.

I wanted to believe that these two people really loved each other and I didn’t. I wanted to connect and admire both of these people as they triumph over their respective pasts, but something about them was off and left me cold and not caring. If I had one word to describe this story it would be ‘over the top’. I felt that the action, plot, suspense and mystery were all a bit over the top.

If you’re into military romance with a fast pace, some suspense, couple of ‘curve balls’ thrown in and plenty of sex, I’m sure you’ll like it. I wanted more than that.

For my reviews of this author’s historical romances go here and here.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

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Sandra Owens PicAUTHOR BIO: A native of Florida, Sandra once managed a Harley-Davidson dealership, before switching from a bike to an RV for roaming the open road (though she’s also chased thrills from sky-diving to upside-down stunt-plane flying). In addition to Crazy For Her—a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist for Romantic Suspense—her works include the Regency Romance novels The Letter, winner of the Golden Quill Award, and The Training of a Marquess, winner of the Golden Claddagh Award. A member of Romance Writers of America, and potential cat owner, she lives with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

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‘The Governess Affair’ by Courtney Milan

cm tgaSTORY: She will not give up…

Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.

He cannot give in…

Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…

REVIEW: This little gem started the whole Brother Sinister series. It tells the story of Hugo Marshall and Serena Barton.

Hugo is to Duke of Claremont what Ray Donovan [my newest TV obsession; Showtime’s best show of 2013] is to the Hollywood scene, a ‘fixer’ of problems. He makes the duke’s mistakes disappear. In this case, Hugo is given the task to get rid of a stubborn woman that has been plaguing the duke and that just happens to be Miss Serena Barton, and Hugh is having a hell of a time doing it.

This was an extraordinary story about two ordinary people that are brought together by circumstances that were out of their hands. Both characters were strong, and both were determined to fight and succeed in their task and I was fascinated with both. I eagerly anticipated the outcome and was elated with it.

I love stories of survival of the fittest, and this certainly was that, except we had two people that I rooted for, but one could only be the winner!

If you’ve never read this author, I urge you to snatch this novella [it’s still FREE] and start to read this series. It really is a little gem I hope you don’t pass up.

Melanie for b2b

‘The Heiress Effect’ by Courtney Milan

cm theSTORY: Miss Jane Fairfield can’t do anything right. When she’s in company, she always says the wrong thing—and rather too much of it. No matter how costly they are, her gowns fall on the unfortunate side of fashion. Even her immense dowry can’t save her from being an object of derision.

And that’s precisely what she wants. She’ll do anything, even risk humiliation, if it means she can stay unmarried and keep her sister safe.

Mr. Oliver Marshall has to do everything right. He’s the bastard son of a duke, raised in humble circumstances—and he intends to give voice and power to the common people. If he makes one false step, he’ll never get the chance to accomplish anything. He doesn’t need to come to the rescue of the wrong woman. He certainly doesn’t need to fall in love with her. But there’s something about the lovely, courageous Jane that he can’t resist…even though it could mean the ruin of them both.

REVIEW: I’m a big CM fan, and I’d read a paper bag if she wrote on it!

However, she chose to write another book, thank goodness, and surprise-surprise, I loved it.

I adored this heroine who was such a unique character. I guess that’s why I love CM’s books so much. She literally molds characters right in front of my eyes. I felt like watching Jane emerge from a cocoon and showing me all these colors, then sprouting wings, just like a real butterfly, and taking off into many directions all at once.

Oliver was a perfect match for her and he as well grew in character as we followed along while he got to know the object of his curiosity and love.

The romance between the two had a perfect pace as their friendship was testing their future. On paper, these two completely opposite characters would never fit together, but the author makes them real and so they complete each other perfectly.

If you’re a fan of Courtney Milan, this is a must buy, and if you’ve never read her work, this is a good book to start with, regardless of being a part of the series. Have no fear, it’s a stand alone.

Highly recommended.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Escape’ by Mary Balogh

mb teSTORY: After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.

Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.

REVIEW: At its annual meeting of the Survivors’ Club, the seven members have gathered together to revive their friendships and encourage one another toward full recovery and/or acceptance of the wounds and disabilities they received in the Napoleonic wars. One of their members, Sir Benedict Harper, works very hard to walk with the use of two crutches. His injuries have left him with devastating injuries to his legs. While it is a painful and slow process, his determination has helped him to succeed to this point.

Samantha McKay is the widow of Captain Matthew McKay and living at her home, Bramble Hall in County Durham. Only a short time married, her husband was sent to war only to return with disastrous injuries that left him bed-ridden and in pain for five years before he mercifully passed away. During those years, Samantha faithfully nursed him. Now, her prudish sister-in-law, Matilda, is living with her to reinforce her father-in-law’s strict rules of how a widow should live. But Samantha wants fresh air and some light much to the anger of Matilda.

When Benedict arrives in County Durham to take the air, he meets up with Samantha when he nearly runs her over while jumping a shrub with his horse. As they get to know one another, he has tea with her and she sees him at church all to the chagrin of Matilda. As Samantha has experience gained from nursing her deceased husband, she understands many of the difficulties that Benedict faces. They meet up at the beach and swim together which helps him by taking pressure off his legs and giving his body buoyancy while in the water. As they get to know one another better, they realize a physical attraction that neither of them has known for some time.

Will Samantha be brave enough to defy her in-laws and live her life as she wants and not by their puritanical dictates? What about Benedict? Although a wealthy man in his own right, what path will he choose to provide a satisfying life for himself and perhaps Samantha as well.

This is the third novel in the Survivors trilogy [The Proposal and The Arrangement] and I am looking forward to the rest of the stories with eagerness . These stories are so touching and have that magic touch that only Mary Balogh can do. I hope that readers will make it a point to read them. A good thing is that I don’t think it’s necessary they be read in succession.

FYI: this is from Mary’s website:

Book 4, “Only Enchanting, is due out on October 28, 2014. It is Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby’s story. Flavian sustained bad head wounds during a cavalry battle and suffered long-lasting brain damage. His abilty to think rationally and to speak coherently was greatly impaired, and he has huge memory gaps of which he is unaware. Frustration has made him prone to violent rages.

Book 5, Only a Promise, is due out in May, 2014. It is Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick’s story. Ralph was very severely wounded in battle, but worse than the physical wounds was the fact that he watched his three best friends from school days blown to bits before his eyes–and he blames himself for the fact that they were there. Note that Books 4 and 5 (and probably 6 and 7) will have very different cover concepts than the other three and differently conceived titles too as I move to my new publisher,

Book 6, “Only a Kiss’ (working title–it may change), on which I am currently working, is Imogen Hayes, Lady Barclay’s story. Imogen followed the drum and went to the Peninsula with her husband, a reconnaissance officer and a spy. They were captured together and he was tortured before being killed in her presence. She still suffers from the trauma of those events. And that leaves George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrook, who brought the other Survivors together when he opened his home as a hospital for severely wounded officers. George was not in the military himself, but his young son was and was killed. His wife committed suicide a month or so later. He is as wounded as the others and must find his own way of surviving and triumphing. His story will be told last in Book 7, which will probably be called Only Beloved.’

Connie for b2b

Complementary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Arrangement’ by Mary Balogh

mb taSTORY: Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

REVIEW: This is the second book in Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series and it is as good as the first one, The ‘Proposal’.

Both leads are written as Beta and I think that’s exactly why this story worked for me. We had Sophia, orphaned at fifteen, bounced around from one family household to the next,and whatever self-esteem she had, it was stifled. Yet she still persevered through her sense of humor and strong character.

Vincent was one of those heroes that were dead gorgeous, but he’s blinded in the war and his family [which consists of all women] is choking him with their ‘love and care’. He loves them all but once they try to ‘arrange’ a marriage for him, he decides to ‘cut and run’ from them for a little while and sort his feelings and life before he puts a stop to their meddling.

He decides to visit a home in the village where he spent his childhood. While there he meets Sophia as she lends him a hand when he finds himself manipulated by her Aunt and a cousin.

The story may not be original but it is solid, gripping and emotional with characters that feel real. Their romance is compelling and passionate. 

Ms. Balogh is a master when it comes to writing strong characters with depth and complexity. Another winner and a keeper.

Melanie for b2b

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‘The Proposal’ by Mary Balogh

mb tpSTORY: Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo is a gentleman in name only: a war hero whose bravery earned him a title, a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. Hugo doesn’t wish to court Gwen, yet he cannot resist her guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face. He wants her, but will she have him?

The dour ex-military officer who so gallantly carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, Hugo captivates her more—with his desire, with his love, and with the promise of forever.

REVIEW: ‘The Proposal’ is an excellent example of two people who have been deeply saddened by loss come together to help one another heal. Both Hugo and Gwendoline have wealth, yet Hugo is a simple man at heart. Together, they find trust, friendship and love.

The humor that Ms. Balogh has added to this novel is essential to the journey to help the couple heal from their pain. I certainly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Connie for b2b

MEL’s THOUGHTS: I’m 100% in agreement with Connie. This was a classic Mary Balogh. It was perfection. I honestly don’t know how she does it. She is consistent and I have yet to find anything wrong with her writing. Not that I’m looking.

I eagerly await every book she writes because I know I’m in for a treat and assault on all my senses. I welcome it. I want you to be assaulted, to be enveloped in her prose and her clever plotting.

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‘Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom’ by Vanessa Kelly

vk coarbSTORY: They are the Renegade Royals, illegitimate sons of the Royal Princes, each finding his rightful place in society—and the woman destined to be his perfect match…

Some men are born into scandal. Others pursue it with a passion. Griffin Steele, secret son of the Duke of Cumberland, is guilty on both counts. Yet somehow London’s most notorious scoundrel has been saddled with an abandoned baby boy—and with the unflappable, intriguing spinster summoned to nurse him…

Justine Brightmore may be a viscount’s niece, but she’s also a spy’s daughter, determined to safeguard the infant when his suspected royal parentage makes him a target. Yet how to protect herself from the rakish Griffin? Marriage might shield her reputation, but it can only imperil her heart, especially with a groom intent on delicious seduction…

REVIEW: In this second book of the Renegade Royals series, we meet Dominic again as he’s older and wiser; someone that’s taken interest in Griffin, our hero of this tale. We get to know Griffin’s background and at the same time we meet Justine who is on hand to help him take care of a little ‘package’ that’s delivered to his establishment.

Once more Ms. Kelly manages to suck me in and take me along on an intriguing ride through many obstacles thrown in the way of these two interesting and enjoyable characters. I found the story well told, fast paced and the romance sweet and sensual.

She never fails to take me away to another time and place. Every character she creates never fails to intrigue and her plots easily draw me in to a point that I’ve burned a few dinners.

The stories in this series are all written as stand alone, but for your best understanding of these renegades, men that have been fathered by Royalty but never acknowledged and left to find their own way; I do recommend you read them all. Read in order, [Intro novella is Lost in a Royal Kiss; 1st book is Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard; 2nd book is Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom and Tall, Dark and Royal, is another novella and Dominic’s story, which will be out in November; Book 3:  How to Plan a Wedding for a Royal Spy, coming in January, 2015 and Book 4:  How to Marry a Royal Highlander, coming in July, 2015.] they’ll enhance your reading enjoyment.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher