Live by Mary Anne Rivers

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Burnside #1
Published: 1/21/14
Reviewed by Anne

Destiny Burnside is out of work, nearly out of money, and still mourning her father’s recent death.  Every day she treks to her local library to use their computers for her job search.  The only silver lining to this daily trip is the chance to see the quiet, good-looking wood carver doing restoration work in the library.  

Hefin is the woodcarver, and he’s noticed Destiny, too.  They’re both pretty quiet and shy, though, so it’s not until he sees Destiny crying one day that he approaches her.  He just wants to help her feel better.  This leads quickly to a friendship and an acknowledged attraction between the two of them.  The only problem?  Hefin’s time in the US is limited.  He’s heading home to Wales after he finishes the library project.  Destiny’s ties to her small town are many and strong, and this sets them up for an affair they know can’t last, but can’t resist either.

This is a kind of cliched setup, but I thought it was a very original story.  In fact, about half way through I realized I didn’t really know how they would work things out.  Hefin NEEDS to go back to Wales.  Destiny is very needed by her family in Ohio.  And, yes, I could guess at how they would work it out, but the journey to get there wasn’t a sure thing for me, and it was very enjoyable!

Another strength of this story was that Destiny and Hefin aren’t traditionally beautiful people.  Well, ok, Destiny kind of is.  I’ve always envied red heads and all their freckles.  It’s clear that Destiny doesn’t see herself as beautiful, but even more clear that Hefin DOES.  And Hefin thinks of himself as “quite hairy” which is not exactly a romance-land hero!

These two are both functioning, but functioning broken.  Limping along, living with the losses they’ve been dealt, and finding the courage to reach for more.  It was heartbreaking in a good way to read, because, yes, you felt their heartbreak, but you also got to go along for the ride through their healing.

I thought the sex scenes were hot and well written.  The characters felt like real people and the conflict was believable.  The pacing of the story was slow, but very enjoyable for me.  I can’t wait for more for Mary Ann Rivers!!

Love a Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey

Love a Little Sideways (Kowalski Family, #7)
Grade: B
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Kowalski Family #7
Published: 11/26/13
Reviewed by Anne
195 pages

Liz, the youngest of the lodge-running Kowalskis is moving back home.  The only drawback to this situation is that she had a one night stand with Drew Miller, best friend to one of her brothers and chief of police.  That shouldn’t be too awkward, right? All she has to do is avoid him.  Except that as soon as she gets into town, she spins off the road and it’s Drew that comes to her rescue.  And he just keeps coming to her rescue.

This was a good story that I enjoyed, but it was always be “the one where they went camping again!” when I think of it.  Hilarious!  It was full of other enjoyable moments, too, though.  The pacing of Liz and Drew’s relationship was actually pretty slow and enjoyable. 

The main sources of conflict in the book were 1.)keeping their relationship a secret from Liz’s brothers and 2.) Liz not being sure what she wanted out of life and Drew knowing that he wants a wife and family.  The first one was resolved to my satisfaction.  The second one, after the leisurely pace of the rest of their relationship, felt a little rushed.

The Kowalski camping trip was great fun.  There were a LOT of secondary characters from other books that were getting jumbled in my head.  I finally decided I just didn’t need to try to keep track of them, and things went more smoothly from there.  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve read the other books and I like cameos from previous couples, but I think this book would stand alone just fine, since that’s essentially what it did in my memory!

It was interesting and enjoyable to read a story where the man was the one who was anxious to settle down and start a family.  That was a very nice twist.  But it’s really the relationships between Liz and Drew and their family and friends that make the book and keep me coming back to this series for more!

Marked by Lauren Dane, Vivian Arend, and Kit Rocha

Marked – Kit Rocha book by 2/10/14 blog
Grade: A
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Moderate Kink
Published: 2/10/14
Reviewed by Anne
305 ebook pages

I’m going to break this down into the 3 stories and review them separately.  As a whole I give the anthology an A.  It’s rare to have all the stories in a collection work for me like these did!  I highly recommend it, and the authors’ note in my ARC says that the ebook will be on sale for $2.99 until the end of February, when the price will go up to $4.99.  This book is a steal at $2.99!   I came away with 2 new series I want to follow and a great installment to Beyond, which I already loved.

Beyond Temptation by Kit Rocha
Grade: B+
Genre: Dystopian
Series: Beyond 3.5

Note: I really think you need to read this series in order to get the most out of it.  If you haven’t read it yet, go back to the start and read Beyond Shame – you won’t regret it!

So, Noah is not from Sector Four, but he’s doing some work that brings him under Dallas’ radar and he’s being brought into the gang.  He’s also looking forward to and dreading seeing Emma, little sister to his best friend.  They haven’t seen or talked to each other in years, and there’s some history between them.  Emma always had a crush on him, and he had feelings for her, but he’s got some secrets hidden that he doesn’t want her to know about.  He’s also having some issues seeing her as the strong and independent woman she is now, since his memories are full of her as a naive and innocent girl.

It’s a short story, so the main source of conflict is Noah’s big secret.  I don’t enjoy secrets.  The best thing about this one was the way Emma handled it when she found out.  She’s a strong woman and one who is offended at people trying to protect her by keeping secrets.  That was awesome!  Sector Four women in general are awesome, though!  

In other good news, Noah is a red head and likes dirty sex.  It turns out Emma does, too, and we get a lot of it.  This wasn’t my favorite in the Beyond series, but it still rates a B+.  They are all just so good!

Rocky Ride by Vivan Arend
Grade: B+
Genre: Contemporary, small town
Series: Thompson & Sons #1

Anna is a straitlaced cop with a good reputation.  Mitch is a mechanic with a biker look to him.  They’ve been meeting on the down low for sex, but he wants to push her for an actual relationship.  Their small town has some small minds that see biker and think criminal.  Mitch has to convince Anna to give their relationship a chance.

This story starts out with one of the hottest opening scenes I’ve read in a long time.  It’s a great start to a solid story.  Watching Anna relax and let her guard down made for a good read.  I got very frustrated at the choices Mitch was making toward the end of the story, but then Arend redeemed herself by having Anna really call Mitch out for his choices!  

The weak point in the story was the prejudice against bikers, or rough looking tattooed guys.  I haven’t ever really considered that as a big deal – but maybe I just don’t understand?  In any case, I just went with it and it worked.

The sex was hot, the heroine was independent and strong.  I loved it!

All That Remains by Lauren Dane
Grade: A
Genre: Dystopian, Triad*, futuristic
Series: Metamorphosis #1

Set in a post-plague future, which Dane describes on her website as not dystopian (and I agree) Summer meets a new man in her village, Charlie.  Summer isn’t too surprised when Charlie mentions he has a partner (in the physical sense) but she’s shocked when she meets him and it’s Hatch, her first love.  Summer and Hatch may still have feelings for each other, but there’s a lot of history between them and it’s not all good.  The three of them have a lot to work through if they want to make a commitment to each other.

This story was all the best of the Lauren Dane Brown Siblings/Delicious books I love, set in an interesting future where women are only a small portion of the population and very valued.  Summer is another strong woman who is sure of herself and doesn’t need a man (or men) to complete her.  She’s not ashamed of her sexuality – that was refreshing to read!  

Really my only complaint about this story was the overuse of the phrase “raining honey” which pulled me out of the story every time it came up.  Other than that, everything worked for me and I can’t wait to read more!

*Note – I used to mark any book with a 3 person (or more scene) as a “ménage” book.  I’m now using ménage for an uncommitted encounter(s) and triad for a story about the committed relationship between 3 people.