REVIEW w/ EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne

Oxford Book Four; Standalone

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♦BLURB♦

New York City’s hottest bachelors are stirring up trouble in this fun, flirty Oxford Novel, as a love triangle forces a feisty beauty to choose between winning back Mr. Right or giving in to Mr. Wrong.

Taylor Carr has it all—a sleek job in advertising, a stunning Manhattan apartment, and the perfect man to share it with: Bradley Calloway. Even after Bradley dumps her for a co-worker on move-in day, Taylor isn’t worried. She’ll get her man eventually. In the meantime, she needs a new roommate. Enter Nick Ballantine, career bartender, freelance writer—and longtime pain in Taylor’s ass. Sexy in a permanent five-o’clock-shadow kind of way, Nick knows how to push Taylor’s buttons, as if he could see right through to the real her.

Nick’s always trying to fix people, and nobody could use a good fixing more than Taylor. Sure, she’s gorgeous, with mesmerizing silver eyes, but it’s her vulnerability that kills him. Now that they’re shacking up together, the chemistry is out of control. Soon they’re putting every part of their two-bedroom apartment to good use. Then Taylor’s ex comes crawling back to her, and Nick figures she’ll jump at the chance to go back to her old life—unless he fights for the best thing that ever happened to him.

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

I Knew You Were Trouble is an enemies-to-lovers romance with the added bonus of a roommates dynamic. Pitting together two complete opposites, LL employed her signature wit and humor to slowly and sexily bring together the wandering worker hero and the always-serious heroine with wonderful results.

Fascinating and probably one of the least Lauren Layne like heroines to-date, Taylor’s deep-seated emotional wall created a true enigma of a woman. LL portrayed her very well, giving Taylor just enough warmth to counteract her icy demeanor. She was like a newborn in the world of emotion and I quite enjoyed seeing her use those legs for the first time most especially with the one man who saw under all of her layers. With a man like Nick, the always-supportive kind, Taylor was truly out of her depths, and he, too, battled that life-long wall she’d erected. But all of those qualities and agitation worked very well together, ramping the tension higher and higher.

I love a good angst-y romance that has animosity-conflicted relationships where they didn’t want to want the other, but the attraction was so instinctual that nothing could stop it, and you get that with I Knew You Were Trouble. As co-workers, as roommates, these two fought that sexual tension at every angle, but their resistance was halfhearted at best. It wasn’t my favorite of the series, and I assume it’s because these are pretty new characters whereas in the others we had met each guy/gal and gotten to know them prior to having their book, but I certainly still loved it. Nick’s charm and Taylor’s sass led to an explosively sexy love story…one with all the fun we expect from an LL book.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

Bradley froze when he saw her, and she was pretty sure she saw the urge to turn and run flicker across his face.

Again she felt a stab of disappointment. In him. And in herself for apparently having misread him. She’d thought he was better than this.

Bradley’s eyes moved between her and Nick, and though he didn’t look all that surprised at seeing them bickering, his gaze grew hard as he saw Nick’s hand on Taylor’s face.

Nick, naturally, took his sweet time removing it, and she resisted the urge to kick his shin.

“Morning, Bradley,” Taylor said, pleased that her voice sounded calm and friendly. As well it should. She’d had plenty of practice over the better part of a year pretending that she and Bradley were nothing more than colleagues.

Other than a few close friends who knew they were dating, they’d done a mostly decent job of hiding their romantic relationship from coworkers. Better than she and Nick had done hiding their antagonistic one.

“Hey, Taylor. Nick,” Bradley said.

He entered the room and reached for a coffee mug, turning his attention toward the other man. “Didn’t realize you’d taken on another assignment. What for?”

“Not sure,” Nick said, checking his watch. “Have a meeting with Cassidy in a few to find out.”

“Here’s hoping it’s an offsite gig that takes you far, far away. Maybe he needs someone to cover Siberian winters,” Taylor said to Nick, even as she watched Bradley out of the corner of her eye.

“Don’t need to travel to find severe winter. It doesn’t get any chillier than right here,” Nick retorted, waving his hand over her head in a storm cloud gesture.

She shoved his hand aside, her attention still on Bradley, who was determinedly avoiding her gaze.

Coward.

It was going to be darn hard to get him to see reason when he wouldn’t even make eye contact.

Nick, ever too perceptive for his own good, noticed the tension and gave a quick look between her and Bradley, his gaze turning speculative.

She shot him a warning look that clearly said, Don’t.

He shot an answering smile that clearly said, Watch me.

“Bradley, don’t suppose you’re in the market for a roommate?” Nick asked, his voice deceptively casual.

Bradley’s head snapped up, and finally, finally his blue gaze collided with Taylor’s. Dammit. Why did he have to be so beautiful? He was like a mischievous angel, all twinkling blue eyes, dimples, a sexy cleft in his chin, dark blond wavy hair . . .

“What?” he asked Nick distractedly, still looking at Taylor.

“Taylor here wants to share her original crown molding with someone.”

Bradley winced, and Taylor felt a little surge of gratitude toward Nick. He couldn’t have known it, but it was the perfect jab. She and Bradley were both into prewar architecture—had eaten up the broker’s description of all the building’s original elements.

Taylor should be sharing that crown molding with Bradley. And he damn well knew it.

His eyes met hers in silent misery—an apology that she wasn’t quite ready to accept. Heck, she wasn’t even ready to acknowledge it, because she had no intention of being dumped. Not by him, not by any man.

Taylor ignored the guilt written all over Bradley’s face as she held his gaze. “Yes, it seems I unexpectedly have a free bedroom and more rent than I can afford. If either of you knows anyone looking for a roommate . . .”

Bradley’s handsome face twisted regretfully, and he set his coffee aside, taking a step toward her, apparently forgetting—or not caring—that Nick was still in the room.

“Taylor. Damn it. I told you—”

“Actually, I do,” Nick said, interrupting.

Taylor forced her gaze away from Bradley’s pleading face toward Nick’s smug one. “You know someone who needs a roommate?”

“Yup.” He crossed his arms and watched her.

She made an impatient gesture with her hand. “Who? It can’t be one of your ex-girlfriends—I don’t want to inadvertently hear any gross details about you. And not one of your frat-boy guy friends—my living room isn’t cut out for Call of Duty.”

“Yeah, because that’s all I do all day.”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay, for real, who is it?”

His grin was slow, sly, and the very definition of trouble. “Me.”

 

♦SERIES♦

Each book is an interconnected standalone.

6 - Irresistibly Yours

Oxford Book One

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2 - I Wish You Were Mine

Oxford Book Two

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6-someone-like-you

Oxford Book Three

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

LaurenLayne-Headshot-Official

Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels.

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to Manhattan to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals.

Lauren currently lives in Chicago with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you’ll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).

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NEW RELEASE & REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: All I Am: Drew’s Story by Jodi Ellen Malpas

This Man #3.5; Standalone

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Ellen Malpas comes a new novella in the This Man series. You don’t need to read the series to enjoy this story, but if you’re already a Jesse Ward fan, just wait till you see the advice he gives Drew about falling in love.

I thought I had control.  I was so, so wrong…

I don’t need a relationship.  I have Hux, a decadent club where I quench whatever raw desire I choose.  I take pleasure and I give it – no strings attached.  So when Raya Rivers comes in asking for someone cold, emotionless, and filthy… well, no man ever takes his wicked pleasure quite the way I do.

Only Raya is different. Vulnerable. And carrying some deep sorrow that gets past all my carefully constructed walls and inexplicably makes me care.  Now craving controls me.  Ice has given way to red-hot need.

But Raya has no idea about my other life – my real life.  That I’m daddy to an adorable little girl.  My two worlds are about to collide with the force of a supernova.  Once Raya knows the truth, will she be able to accept all I am?

 

♦4-STAR REVIEW♦

I was worried that I wasn’t going to remember Drew nor his connection to the This Man series, but Malpas treated All I Am as if nothing had come before it. With the perfect amount of new mixed with old, Drew’s story felt like exactly that: his story. Novella or not, there was a great completeness to his story.

Sexy, erotic, and mixed with a tangibly explosive magnetism, Malpas led us on a journey of a man, scorned by the ultimate breach in trust, from his detached sex life to finding a connection in a sea of nameless faces. It certainly didn’t feel like a short story but instead a densely-packed love story with a devoted single dad who, secretly, has a whole lot of love to give. Drew’s charm and presence drew me in, but it was the quiet and raw nature of Raya that kept me turning the pages.

Because All I Am was told strictly in Drew’s point-of-view, it lent a unique perspective on how this sort of instinctual-level connection can wreak havoc on a male’s mind. I think Malpas captured that very well, and it allowed Drew and our beloved Jesse & Sam to have this wonderful Bro Group, adding humor, fun, and a general good warmness to the story. It was a quick read, but a very good devour-able story.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

‘What do you want, Raya?’

She steps toward me tentatively, as if she’s questioning what she’s doing. And when she reaches me, her chest pressed to mine, she gazes up at me. ‘I don’t know.’ Her eyes are wild and unsure. ‘But I know that every time we’re close, something powerful takes over. And you’re trying hard to fight it. You’re warm and cold. What are you scared of?’

‘You.’ My mouth is on her before I can think better of it, and I’ve lifted her from her feet before my tongue breaches the seam on her lips. We should talk, but this is the only thing I know what to say right now, and when her arms circle my shoulders, her mouth opening up, inviting me in, I know she’s okay with it. I know she gets it.

With one arm around her waist holding her to me and one secured on the nape of her neck, I walk to my office, my kiss deep, my blood racing, my heart bouncing off my ribcage. I set her on her feet and take the hem of her dress, pulling it up over her head, losing her lips for just a second in the process. She wrenches my shirt open, scattering buttons in the process, her hands immediately finding my skin beneath. My forward steps encourages her backwards, our kiss deepening as she unfastens my trousers and I push her knickers down her thighs.

We’re all over the place, desperation getting the better of us, a mess of tongues, hands and bodies. I pull some strength from nowhere, seize her hands and break our kiss, breathing heavily. Her unsure brown eyes soon prompts me to start ridding myself of the rest of my clothes, all under her watchful gaze. Until I’m naked.

‘This wasn’t supposed to happen,’ she whispers.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Jodi Ellen Malpas author photos

Jodi Ellen Malpas was born and raised in the Midlands’ town of Northampton, England, where she lives with her two boys. Working for her father’s construction business full-time, she tried to ignore the lingering idea of writing until it became impossible. She wrote in secret for a long time before finally finding the courage to unleash her creative streak, and in October 2012 she released This Man. She took a chance on a story with some intense characters and sparked incredible reactions from women all over the world. Writing powerful love stories and creating addictive characters have become her passion, a passion she now shares with her devoted readers.

 

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NEW RELEASE & REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: Roar by Cora Carmack

Stormheart Book One

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In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

♦3.5-STAR REVIEW♦

With beautiful world-building and unique fantasy elements, Roar takes readers on a fantastical journey of storms and its storm hunters and Stormlings. Born without storm magic, Princess Rora’s landed in the toughest spot to protect her kingdom: arranged marriage. But what comes of it is a great adventure.

There isn’t a lot I can say because I don’t want to spoil the different elements in the book, but the entire process of magic and storms was truly very fascinating. There’s a whole host of secondary characters that encircle the story giving it depth and diversity, and I enjoyed their roles in the story and how they shaped Rora’s journey. Since it’s the first in a series, Carmack did have to set the scene and go into as much detail as she could in order to place us in this world, so it may seem like the story is a bit slow in parts, but aside from the necessary reasons for it, it was exciting and thrilling when the story became its own beast and ran away from her.

Rora’s sort of this naive noblewoman, one whom readers may have some trouble loving at every moment due to this, thrust into a world she never thought existed with a young man who both thrills and frustrates her to no end. At times their connection seemed forced or inorganic, but then it would fix itself in the next breath, which felt like growing pains of an author trying to figure out how to capture their ups and downs. It certainly didn’t stop me from reading or enjoying the story, it just would’ve been a stronger story had those growing pains not existed.

I’m greatly looking forward to the next installment to see where this cast of characters will lead us. Roar has some great twists and turns I didn’t see coming, but looking back on it there were little clues secretly placed throughout the book and I love that she alluded to them in varying ways. It’s such a unique premise for a story and world, one which I really loved delving into and learning all about. I know Carmack will find her stride in the next book since everything has been laid out, and I cannot wait to jump back in.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

“This life is not glamorous,” Duke told her. “We travel constantly. We sleep on the ground most nights. When we’re not in danger from storms, we’re in danger in cities where we are considered criminals. This life is not for the faint of heart.”

“There are things I do not know, things I will have to learn. But I am capable. I am familiar with sacrifice. I know what it is to make hard choices.”

“Tell me you’re not considering this,” Locke said to Duke.

The old man was silent for a long moment, both Locke and Roar looking to him for support. Duke rubbed at his mustache, a habit of his when he was thinking deeply. “Let’s think about this, Locke. She’s smart. And determined.”

“She’s a child.”

Roar’s shoulders hunched in Locke’s peripheral vision, and he swallowed back the guilt. He could apologize later. For now, it was imperative that he won this argument.

You were a child when I brought you into the fold,” Duke said. “She’s a young woman with a good head on her shoulders. And if this is what she wants, I’m inclined to at least hear her out.”

Just like that, Roar’s shoulders straightened, and Locke turned to watch a devastating smile bloom across her mouth. His weakness when it came to her only made him more cross.

“What skills do you have?” he snapped at Roar.

“Skills?”

“Yes, skills. What can you do? Or do you just plan to tag along for the ride?”

A flush spread over her cheeks, and her voice was tentative when she answered, “I’m good on a horse. Very good.”

Where in the world would she have learned to ride? He quickly hardened his expression. “Horses are fine for travel, but they don’t do well in storms. They, unlike you, have good survival instincts.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Locke could have sworn he felt an updraft—the first sign that bad weather could occur—and he knew that this time he had pushed too far.

Roar marched toward him, spearing a finger into his chest and said, “I can read and write. I can speak Taraanese, Finlaghi, and Odilarian. I can read maps. I know enough about grassland vegetation and wildlife to survive without a market to buy food and drink. I’m good with knives and a bow. I learn quickly, and I’m not afraid of hard work. And I’ve spent my entire life reading as much about storms as I could get my hands on.” For a moment, her voice cracked under the weight of her anger, but she took a huffing breath and continued: “I’m good with numbers. It’s been a while, but I think I can probably still draw the constellations from memory, which should make me decent at navigation. I can—“

“Enough.” Locke’s voice came out in a deep rasp. He captured her long, delicate finger in his fist before she could continue poking him. He felt short of breath at the sight of her—livid and lovely. “Enough.”

The old Locke might have kept arguing, and Roar would have met him toe-to-toe. But if becoming a storm hunter had taught him anything, it was that fighting head-on wasn’t always the way to win. Sometimes strategy was required. He met Duke’s eyes over her shoulder, and if he had thought Roar looked smug before, she had nothing on his mentor. The man raised his eyebrows in a challenge and asked, “You?”

He hated the idea of bringing someone into this dangerous life, but if it was going to happen regardless, he sure as hell wouldn’t hand her safety over to anyone else, not even Ransom. And at the very least, it would give him the opportunity to change her mind. He gritted his teeth and nodded his acceptance.

 

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♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Cora Carmack is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Since she was a teenager, her favorite genre to read has been fantasy, and now she’s thrilled to bring her usual compelling characters and swoon-worthy romance into worlds of magic and intrigue with her debut YA fantasy, Roar. Her previous adult romance titles include the Losing It, Rusk University, and Muse series. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages around the world. Cora splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City, and on any given day you might find her typing away at her computer, flying to various cities around the world, or just watching Netflix with her kitty Katniss. But she can always be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her website.

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NEW RELEASE & REVIEW w/ GIVEAWAY: The Story of Us by Tara Sivec

Standalone

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How much can a man take before he breaks?

1,843 days. That’s how long I survived in that hellhole. They tried to break me, but I resisted. And I owe it all to the memory of warm summer nights, the scent of peaches, and the one woman who loved me more than I ever deserved to be loved. Now, I’ll do anything to get back to her.

Only Shelby Eubanks isn’t the girl I left behind all those years ago. She’s someone else, a stranger. My Shelby-my little green-eyed firecracker-would never give up her dreams, would never disappear into her mother’s ambitions. But I won’t give up on her. On us. I may be broken, and scarred, and not the man I used to be, but I will do whatever it takes to remind her of the story of us.

 

♦3.5-STAR REVIEW♦

In typical Tara Sivec fashion, The Story of Us is an emotional twisty-turny second-chance love story. With a man who has been a prisoner of war for five years, held and tortured along with his best friend, and his family believing he had died, the story starts off with a climactic start. The only thing that kept his body going each day was the thought of Shelby back home and how much he yearned to return to her even when they didn’t part well before he left. Gut-wrenching and emotional, this story is full of secrets, twists, romance, and the angst one would expect between two lovers who have been apart for so long.

Due to the way the relationship was given to us, I had a difficult time really connecting with them as a couple. If it were told in a more linear fashion rather than dropping us in with so much already invested and not showing us what brought and held them together in the beginning, I may have been able to insert myself more with them; instead those little snippets were held off for too long. It certainly didn’t take away the fact that this story was emotionally gripping and full of that stomach dipping sexual and emotional tension, and if I was still able to be affected by their story with those things missing, I could only imagine how powerful it would have been had I connected more. It’s certainly a story well worth reading and experiencing firsthand.

 

♦EXCERPT♦

I just need a moment alone, to remember how to breathe and to remember how to push the hurt away so I can go back out there and do my job. Hold my head high with a smile on my face and pretend like dancing with Eli, being close to Eli, and letting him rain insults down on me, didn’t cut me in half.

As soon as I turn the handle and push open the office door, I feel something solid slam into me from behind, moving me faster into the dark room. I trip over my feet and an arm slides around my waist to steady me before whirling me around. I smell his soap and recognize his firm hold on me before the moonlight shining in the floor-to-ceiling windows behind me illuminates the shadow of his face, but that doesn’t stop the rapid thumping of my heart as the door is kicked shut with a slam and my body is turned and pushed roughly against the wall next to it. With the first touch of his hands, the first feel of the heat from his skin against me, I’m lost. I’m drowning in a pool of desire I’ve only ever felt with him, and I never want to come up for air. Every inch of my body is on fire, begging for more, needing everything I’ve been missing, but knowing everything about this moment is wrong. This can’t happen. I can’t want this and I certainly can’t act on what I’m feeling.

Before I can shove him away, shout at him, and tell him to let me go, his mouth is on mine. His chest pins my arms between us and I clutch a fistful of his dress shirt in my hands when my lips automatically part for him. His tongue quickly pushes into my mouth and I feel tears prickling behind my eyelids when I taste him, so familiar and so beautiful it breaks off yet another piece of my heart. One of his hands moves from around my waist and I feel the heat from his palm as it slides against the side of my neck to the back, his fingers gripping tightly to the hair at the base of my skull to hold my head in place. His kiss is punishing and hard and I can do nothing but hold tightly to the front of his shirt as our tongues battle together and I try to remember how to breathe.

 

♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦

Tara Sivec is a USA Today best-selling author, wife, mother, chauffeur, maid, short-order cook, baby-sitter, and sarcasm expert. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and looks forward to the day when they all three of them become adults and move out.

After working in the brokerage business for fourteen years, Tara decided to pick up a pen and write instead of shoving it in her eye out of boredom. Her novel Seduction and Snacks won first place in the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards 2013 for Best Indie First Book and she was voted as Best Author in the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards for 2014.

In her spare time, Tara loves to dream about all of the baking she’ll do and naps she’ll take when she ever gets spare time.

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