Friday, December 19, 2014

Review: Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Night of a Thousand Stars
Deanna Raybourn
MIRA
September, 2014

Buy: ARE / AMZ / BN / KOBO

Rating: 4/5

About the Book

On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat's wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father's quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems. 

With only her feisty lady's maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear. 

My Review

I don't have many auto-buy authors, but with her recent historical novels Deanna Raybourn may soon be added to the list. Night of a Thousand Stars begins with a runaway bride who quickly puts a grand distance between herself and the altar...all the way to Damascus. With the intent of tracking down the man who assisted her getaway, Penelope "Poppy" March becomes embroiled in a dangerous hunt for treasure and discovers she can't tell the good guys from bad in her adventure.

Raybourn has a series of novels featuring a character Lady Julia, none of which I've read yet, but Stars alludes to the character, as well as Evie Stark in City of Jasmine - so Night is the book that links all of the author's worlds. If you've read her prior works you may appreciate the references, but it's not really necessary to have read City of Jasmine first. 

I enjoyed this story - the intrigue and the settings, and another delightful Raybourn heroine.

4 Stars

ARC received via NetGalley

Leigh Ellwood is the author of "Love's Dominion" in the WTRAFSOG 9 box set (AMZ ~ BN ~ Kobo) and "A Different Class" in the Box of 1Night Stands, Vol. 2 (All Romance ~ Kindle ~ NOOK).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two New Box Sets, 99 Cents Each!

Box sets are awesome, especially if you're able to put away several books in a week. This week two of my works are included in new box set releases. The first is the second collection of Decadent Publishing 1Night Stands. Seventeen stories from some of the top Decadent authors, and you'll find A Different Class in there! This set is 99 cents and available for a limited time so don't wait!

Buy Now! Decadent / AMZ / ARe 




The second set is Vol. 9 of What To Read After Fifty Shades of Grey. My contribution is a tweaked version of "Love's Dominion", a fantasy romance with some light kink. It is also 99 cents for a limited time. Over 1500 pages of sexy romance in this one!

Buy Now! AMZ / BN / Kobo

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Muddle: Here, There and Everywhere

I've set up the Here, There, Everywhere Reading Challenge as a personal goal - to read books that have molded on the TBR and to discover new to me authors. On my real-name blog I have listed 20 books I hope to finish in 2015. Here I'd like to share an addendum to the list that focuses on romance and books with romantic elements.

When it comes to romance I tend to stick to comfort zones. I imagine that's true for other readers - you read what you enjoy. People who wouldn't normally go for BDSM don't read it. That's cool. For the day job, though, it helps to be well-versed, but damn there are so many books. This year I want to mix it up.

I'll read a lot this coming year - it's one of the perks of the job. I want to make sure, however, everybody gets a chance. Here's what I have planned, at least one book in the following categories:

Romance Authors Everybody (But Me) Reads

1. One Nora Roberts romance
2. One J.R. Ward romance (The Bourbon Kings)
3. One Jude Deveraux romance
4. One Sherrilyn Kenyon romance
5. One Sandra Brown romance

Tis true, I haven't read one book by any of the above. *Slaps own wrist.*

Genres/Tropes I Don't Read

1. One Motorcycle Club novel (Reaper's Property by Joanna Wylde)
2. One Scottish Highlander romance
3. One M/M novel with BDSM elements
4. One MFM menage novel
5. One New Adult romance

Romance Authors, Diversity Edition
To be named as I choose them.

1. Island Bound by Kiru Taye
2. The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal
3.
4.
5.

In the interest of adding diversity to my reading list in 2015, I plan to seek out a variety of authors in the romance genre. I'm welcome to suggestions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sideboob Reading Challenge: Going Home by Danielle Steel

Getting closer. I had pledged as part of the Sideboob Hour Reading Challenge to try an early Danielle Steel I hadn't yet read. Makes sense to start at the beginning, and I happened to find a copy of  Going Home (AMZ / BN) during my most recent library run.

Home is a contemporary story - contemporary for its early 70s publication time - but I wouldn't call it a romance. When I opened the book to find a first person POV I held back a groan. It's not a POV Steel utilizes often, but the last one of hers I read with it wasn't a favorite. If first person has an advantage here, though, it prevented the dreaded info-dump before the action.

This is a story about a divorced mother, Gillian, who freelances as a set stylist. If there's a more technical term for what she does, it's not mentioned. Gillian lives in early 70s San Francisco on the fringe of late-era hippiedom, pre-Watergate. She falls into instalove with a film director, Chris, who's only looking for a good time. Chris is basically a self-absorbed asshole who does what he wants and waffles between romantic fool and "Look, a doormat with a vagina." Gillian fades in and out of TSTL territory with the guy, and when she becomes pregnant his solution is to have her move against her will to the other side of the country. He's so freaked out he can't even be on the same coast - how badly do you want to punch this guy in the back of the head?

With revealing the whole story, I'll share my likes/dislikes:

Likes

Steel's style wasn't all that bad. Later books of hers read like enhanced summaries - all tell no show. There's only a bit here, but for the most part the structure was good.

Not too many ellipses. Steel is the ellipsis queen, I swear.

Dislikes

Chris, the jerkiest jerk who ever jerked off

Gillian's behavior around him - she comes off as less assertive when he's around

Smoking and drinking while pregnant. It's a wonder we 70s babies aren't all f'ed up. I don't think Gillian kept an OB/GYN appointment through the whole book.

A sideplot with Gillian dating a playboy lawyer that didn't go anywhere.

An anti-gay slur late in the book that put me off

Neither a like or dislike, but an observation: with this first book you get a sense of the Steel formula readers will enjoy for the next four decades -

  • Woman with job/romantic struggles
  • Life-changing event that precedes the need for a job/move
  • The last guy the heroine meets is typically The One.
  • Ellipses aplenty
Having satisfied this requirement for the reading challenge, I can probably retire from Steel's readership. Home is her first, not her worst, so if you're looking for a gateway this is one to try.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Muddle: Imagine More Books

Today is the anniversary of John Lennon's murder. Typically a somber day for fans, made all the more gloomy by lack of sun where I live. We're up to 34 years now, and the writer in me continues to wonder what might have been. It would make for an interesting story, some people have written theirs, and it's always sat in the back of my mind. Maybe for 2015...as I have pondered going in another direction.

I didn't get to read much this weekend. My editor self was hit with a double whammy, so I'm pulling in extra hours to meet two deadlines. On top of this, I finished the story I am submitting to an anthology and will pull the trigger later today. This story is M/M contemporary, more erotica than romance, but enjoyable to read (I think). Next up is an F/F novella I'm writing for a spring box set to which I was invited. It is set in the Dareville universe, and probably will be the last story for that series.

Speaking of box sets, I'll figure into two coming up. I'll have details when I'm permitted to speak up. Jury's still out for me on box set participation. On the one hand, it's fun to be included with other great authors. I think I'd enjoy it more, though, if I knew for certain my stories were read. Feedback is always welcome, it gets lonely here.

I'm almost another book closer to finishing the Sideboob Reading Challenge. I'd talked about reading an early Danielle Steel, and as luck would have it I found Going Home (AMZ / BN). It's her first book, so a fitting choice. I'll have my post up soon - Steel doesn't take long for me to read.

As for 2015 writing, I had promised myself to semi-retire, but I find the pull too strong to resist. While the situation with you-know-who sorts out, I'm looking at a few possibilities:

1) Building a series off of "Fox's Holiday," the M/M shifter I wrote for Coming Together For the Holidays (AMZ / ARE / BN / KOBO / SMASH).

2) Writing another M/M story in the Class in Session series. Wouldn't have to be another 1NS imprint, maybe something longer.

3) Building a series off the story I'm about to submit.

Whatever I decide, I intend to write the multiple stories before submitting them. That way sequels are ready to go should the first be accepted. I may self-pub a few things as well. I have a few contracts coming up next year, so I need to decide what to do there. The Healing is still in book purgatory, but I have an idea for it.







Friday, December 5, 2014

TGIF: Time To Read Pt. IV - The Voyage Home

I just pulled the trigger on the audio version of Daringly Delicious (ARE / AMZ / BN). This is an M/F short with a BBW heroine, the first of two stories to feature chocolatier Trish and her man, Vinnie. Trish also appeared in Daringly Decadent and Dare to Act, and will show up in The Sweetest Dare, an F/F in progress. Trish is a favorite of mine in the Dareville universe, and the narrator did a good job with this story. The same lady is reading A Taste of Vanilla, which should be ready by next year.

Meanwhile, you can still pick up A Winter's Dare for 99 cents through next week. (ARE / AMZ / BNEventually I'll need to come to a decision about some of these stories. The contract for an M/M short through another pub expires in 2015, giving me enough to do another M/M print collection. Still, I'd rather concentrate on new work. I'm almost finished with my next anthology submission, then it's on to the next project.

Before I forget, Mundania/Phaze marked down all their Piers Anthony books to $1.99 each through next week. Great stuff there, go check it out.

Still Reading

The Best Awful by Carrie Fisher

I expect to finish this by the weekend. From what I recall of Postcards From the Edge, the preceding book, that story seemed more disjointed but it worked. Postcards the book is way different from the movie, there are characters who didn't make it to the screen, and Awful, while it flows faster (manic) sometimes feels like it's trying to hard. Humor becomes more of a defense mechanism, and I get the impression Carrie/Suzanne tries too hard to use it. Everything becomes a pun when it doesn't has to. But there are some great stretches in this one - a spontaneous trip to Tijuana that turns scary, for example.

I do like this better than I did Carrie's last two memoirs, though. Surrender the Pink remains my top pick of hers.

AMZ / BN

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn

Awful kept me up, so I'll finish this one after. Then Tarkin, I swear.

ARE / AMZ / BN / KOBO

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I'd like to do a Top 10 for 2014 as well, all romance. The list would be way different from others, since I read all over the place. We'll see.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guest Post + Giveway: Warlord by Lana Grayson

There's a giveaway below, don't forget to enter! Also, comment below to win a copy of WARLORD!

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Criminals As Heroes?

Romance seems to be getting darker and darker, and the male protagonists? Harder, arrogant, and more dangerous than ever before.  

And I love it!

Let’s be honest.  I work an eight-to-four job during the day, and park my butt on the couch at night to write.  That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get into trouble…unless you count forgetting to switch over the laundry.  My most recent brush with the law? The time I drove around for a day without the new registration sticker on my license plate.  

Hard. Core.

So, I’m not the wildest girl out there. But when I’m reading?  Give me the 1% bikers and made men, the criminal masterminds and the MMA fighters, and don’t forget the sinister and devilish billionaires with dungeons in their basement and helipads on their roof.

These are men who live outside the norms of society.  The alpha males who not only seize life—they conquer it with a flash of a blade or the curl of their fist.  They’re ruthless and brutal, pulsing with masculine energy, and they want nothing more than to dominate, punish, and reveal their desires to those wide-eyed heroines trapped in their web.

These “heroes” are the men our mothers warned us about, the stereotypes Tumblr posts about, and the featured criminals on the FBI Most Wanted list.  

So why do we love them so much?

I think it’s just a combination of the danger and the unknown.  Growing up, we yearned for Prince Charming to kiss us awake.  Gallant and brave and perfect.

But where’s the passion in perfection?  It’s the flaws, the danger, the darkness that offer the most excitement and danger and hope.  Redeeming the unredeemable, and loving the unlovable.  Whether it’s Christian Grey or Jethro Hawk, the criminals, bad boys, and dangerous men are the ones who make a book fun, thrilling, and super sexy.

Who is your favorite bad boy?

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Warlord by Lana Grayson
(Anathema #1)
Publication date: November 28th 2014
Genres: New Adult, Romance, Suspense

The only thing more dangerous than the Anathema MC is the club’s president.

Trapped.

For twenty-one years, Rose Darnell’s family dedicated their lives to the Anathema MC. For twenty-one years, she’s searched for a way out.

Bound to a world of bloodied knuckles and drug money, Rose believes her musical talent will rescue her from an abusive father and overbearing brothers. A chance audition and promising gig would free Rose from the outlaw 1%, but her brothers won’t let her escape the club’s shadow.

A rival chapter threatens Rose, and only Anathema’s president, Thorne Radek, can protect her.

Betrayed.

A traitor lurks within Anathema’s brotherhood, and Thorne will burn the world to scorch the rat. When an innocent diva with baby-bunny eyes and dark secrets needs his help, Thorne offers his protection and is rewarded with the ultimate bait. He may be the only man to distract Rose from her music, but helping him find the traitor will damn more than the club.
It will tear her family apart.



Purchase

Lana Grayson was born to write anything and everything to do with romance. Her favorite genres range from the dark and twisty to the lighthearted and sentimental—as long as the characters are memorable, the story is fun, and the romance is steamy. Lana lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, and, when she isn’t bundled in her writing chair, she’s most likely cheering on the Steelers or searching for the ‘Burgh’s best Italian restaurants.





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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cover Reveal: Revive by Tracey Martin

Revive by Tracey Martin
(Redzone #1)
Published by: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: May 19th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Science Fiction

Alone in a train station bathroom, Sophia Hernandez has no memory of who she is or how she got there. All she’s certain of are three things: her college ID is a lie, bad people are coming for her, and no one can be trusted.

The only clue to her past is the fellow student who finds her. Although Sophia’s gut tells her Kyle is lying when he claims he can’t help her, his touch makes her heart race. Is it because of a red-hot natural attraction, or a missing memory of something far more dangerous?

As two mysterious, menacing men chase them from the station, Sophia’s memories return in frustrating fragments. So do deadly skills she didn’t know she had. In the next forty-eight hours, a loved one’s life will be on the line as she sifts through a mounting tangle of secrets and lies.

Including the most heart-wrenching secret of all. Not only isn’t she a normal college student, she isn’t even a normal human.

Warning: Contains one girl who is more than she seems, one boy who knows more than he’s telling, and enough twists to give you whiplash. Expect explosions of all kinds.


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Tracey Martin grew up outside of Philadelphia, the lucky recipient of a drama-free childhood, which is why she spent so much time reading about other people's lives. It was while she was working on her doctorate in psychology that she had an epiphany--imaginary people are way more fun than real ones. And so she began writing. Never able to choose just one of anything, she currently writes both urban fantasy for adults and contemporary stories for teens. 

She likes her coffee simple, her music epic, and her movies to contain explosions. A city girl at heart, she doesn't understand how she and her husband ended up living in New Hampshire, but writing keeps her off the mean, small town streets. You can find her online at tracey-martin.com.

Author links:


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Stripped Bare by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin

Stripped Bare
Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin
Evernight Publishing
November, 2014


Buy: AMZ / ARE / BN / KOBO

Rating 3/5

About the Book

When Donovan Ramsey comes home from yet another business trip he realizes he and his long-term boyfriend, Nate Pearson, have drifted apart. Donovan is used to engineering solutions in his career, but he’s stumped on how to fix his dwindling sexual relationship with Nate.

After a late night internet search, Donovan finds a place that might be exactly what they need to rekindle the romance in their relationship. There’s just one catch: the idyllic Cooper Mountain Bed and Breakfast specializes in BDSM for couples.

Over the course of the weekend, the two men experience a taste of what the BDSM lifestyle has to offer. Will that taste lead to a stronger connection between Nate and Donovan, or will it ultimately be their undoing?

Be Warned: m/m sex, BDSM, public exhibition

My Review

This is a sweet story about two men reigniting their romance. Nate and Donovan have fallen into the "old married couple" pit and fear the magic is gone for good. The initiative in taking a weekend at a specialized B&B proves to bring back the spark. The buildup to sexual action comes slowly, and in parts the dialogue with Toby and Logan, the B&B owners, almost reads like a manual. Nonetheless, it's a nice quick read a fan of M/M and kink could enjoy.

3 Stars


ARC received for review from publisher

Leigh Ellwood is the author of "Holiday Bliss" in the HOT HOLIDAY TREATS box set (ARe - Amazon)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday Muddle: A Sale, A Read, An Edit

First up, still lots of sales happening. Enter BLACK at checkout at Phaze.com to get any of my eBooks and paperbacks for 35% off through tomorrow. Shop AllRomance.com today only for a 50% rebate on all my titles. From now through December 15, my Christmas short A Winter's Dare (M/F, interracial BM/WW) is marked down to 99 cents.

Holed up in Dare House Museum, Kate Robeson is content to live with the ghosts of the past. Finding a man can wait, much to her mother's consternation. Yet, when Kate discovers the ghosts haunting the oldest house in Dareville have their own plans for Kate, she quickly reconsiders her solitary position, and yearns for the missionary one!

When Devon Williams happens upon Dare House for a research project, Kate is instantly struck. The secrets he reveals of his connection to Polly Dare and her servant Athena are shocking, yet with a little push from some otherworldly friends, Kate comes to see that all work and no play makes for a dull winter, indeed.
ARE / AMZ / BN

I liked Kate. She appears in other Dareville stories, but she doesn't do much. I had planned to do more with her and Devon, but reasons. Instead, I'm 2K into an anthology submission due in January. It has to stay under 7K, but I don't expect any problems.

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I finished Normal by Graeme Cameron (AMZ / BN / KOBO) this weekend. It's on pre-order for an early 2015 delivery, I received an ARC. From my Goodreads review (under real name):

Well...not quite sure how to put this review into words. On the one hand, I enjoyed the author's style and the story's pacing. The PR cites Dexter and Natural Born Killers in advanced reviews, neither of which I've seen, but I can vouch for the dark humor throughout the book.

On the other hand, I don't typically like books that attempt to present a "likable" or sympathetic monster. We meet this nameless protagonist just as he's needlessly murdered a teenage girl and abducted another one. For reasons unclear he's keeping the survivor in a basement prison while he wreaks more havoc...until he gradually grows a conscience. He gets sloppy, his prisoner gets more demanding, and the story does take a comic turn from American Psycho to the Coen Brothers.

So, yes, I liked it. Maybe a part of me feels odd for doing so, but there it is.


I neglected to mention on Friday that I also finished Tinseltown (AMZ / ARE / BN / KOBO), mainly because I finished on Saturday. :P From my RL Goodreads:

After reading the synopsis, I was under the impression this book would focus entirely on William Desmond Taylor's. Instead, while Taylor's murder serves as one major point, TINSELTOWN strays to other scandals and conflicts in early Hollywood. Branching from Taylor's story are the battle of wills between Zukor and Loew for position as top dog, the Fatty Arbuckle trials, and the dubious behavior of various starlets tied to Taylor. 

Taylor's murder was never officially solved, though the author offers one plausible theory. It's fascinating to read of how some actresses supplemented their work income, but overall the book is slow to read through. If you were expecting Taylor as focus, you'll wade through other stories to get to the end.

Not a bad weekend for reading, better than most where I'd read a few clunkers in a row. This coming week promises a mix of new and older books gathering dust:

Night of a Thousand Stars by Deanna Raybourn - I've enjoyed a few of Raybourn's early 20th century-set stories. This one started with a bang, actually a runaway bride. It's short so I expect to be done within the next week. (ARE / AMZ / BN / KOBO)

The Best Awful by Carrie Fisher - I've had this on the pile for months. I loved loved loved Postcards From the Edge but hadn't realized she wrote a follow-up. I know I have pledged to read other books on lists but I need some levity right now. I have no idea why this isn't in eBook. (AMZ / BN)

I'm still plugging on that Tarkin novel. I really don't want to DNF - it's not that I don't like it or think it's not well written. Just difficult to get into the frame of mind for sci-fi, even though that SW7 teaser blew me away. Maybe Carrie's book will indirectly get me in the mood again.

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As for editing, I'm thinking of approaching Coming Together with a Treasures edition of the M/M works I have written for them. If I add The Healing to the mix I should have enough for a nice anthology for charity. I'm thinking of which company to benefit. Suggestions welcome.

The Twelve Days of New Adult Giveaway


Happy hop day! I hope you had a restful holiday weekend. December is always a busy month, no matter what I have happening. I've made it a goal to write a short for an anthology submission, and after that a longer work that might venture into NA territory. I have to see where the story takes me.

Well, we're all here today to talk New Adult. It's a new genre, rather newish, and many authors I know have delved into it. If anyone asked if I had one, I'd point them to Pure Bliss, a paranormal romance part of my Love is Bliss series:


Betrothed for years to Malcolm Weaver, Trisha Houlihan has grown tired of archaic panther shifters ways and wants to live on her own terms. A chance meeting with a hot stranger serves to spark her rebellion, but backfires when she discovers she's fooling around with her intended.

Malcolm isn't keen on old traditions, either, but there's something about Trisha that inspires him to make an exception. Trisha is certainly exceptional, unlike other she-panthers, and he is convinced they were meant to be, regardless of the circumstances that brought them together.

Trisha wants to resist, but her growing attraction to Malcolm proves problematic. Can these two find a balance between tradition and passion and create a happily ever after?


This could be one of the books won in my giveaway today. I'm giving away the reader's choice of two books (including anths and box sets) plus a $10 gift credit. Good luck!

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Wonder Blog Hop

Welcome to the Christmas Wonder Blog hop!

I love the Christmas season, but to be honest gifts do not interest me these days. I have enough things, too many things, and in 2015 I have my eye on paring down things I haven't used in years. If I want to listen to music, I go online. Same with movies and books. I read digitally, so that means fewer books stacked on the floor.

Oh, I still have books, but as I move forward I find that I prefer to go green. My library got a workout this year.

This year, my husband and I will do as last year: share the experience of a gift. For my little one, I might look into activities she can do with her Scout troop or plan a trip. She's still in the toy stage, and I suspect soon she'll want for bigger ticket items - the phone, the tablet. For me twenty-odd years ago it was the boom box. Can you still buy one of those?

What do you most look forward to during the season? Comment below and I will pick three random winners to receive two eBooks from my backlist. Age 18+, please, no purchase necessary to win.

Don't forget the big giveaway below. Good luck!


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