October 24, 2016

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Interborough (Five Boroughs #4)

Interborough (Five Boroughs #4), by Santino Hassell
Publish Date:
October 24, 2016
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Format: ARC, provided by the author
Genre: adult m/m contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 5 STARS

(Synopsis) The Raymond Rodriguez from a few years ago wouldn’t recognize the guy he is today. He’s left his slacker ways far behind him and is now juggling two jobs and school. But the balancing act doesn’t allow much time for the man he loves.

David is doing his best to be supportive, but problems at work and his own insecurity leave him frustrated—in more ways than the obvious—whenever he goes to bed before Raymond gets home. The heat and affection between them is still there, but they barely have the time or energy to enjoy it. And it doesn’t help that Raymond is still hiding David from his colleagues.

The stress mounts so high that a vacation in paradise is filled with turmoil instead of harmony, and culminates on their return to the five boroughs with broken promises and heartache. They have to figure out how to stop allowing their differences to overshadow their love. It’s the only way they’ll make it to forever.

Thus far, each of Santino Hassell's Five Boroughs books have introduced a new couple - Michael and Nunzio, David and Raymond, Oliver and Caleb. In a departure from this pattern, Santino uses the fourth book in this series to revisit David and Raymond more than a year after they got together. If you're not familiar with the series, you might think this weird, but if you actually read Sunset Park, you'd know that their story never felt quite as finished as the others did. And, it wasn't. There were still some things these two had to work out. And that time has come. 

So many times in romance books, we read about these larger than life problems that couples have to endure - a billionaire with experience gets together with a regular person, an abusive stalker ex is out for revenge, a boss/employee forbidden situation. In Interborough, the problems that plague David and Raymond, however, are much more serious than any of those. 

Lack of time and insecurity.

These problems plaguing David and Raymond seemed so much more jarring to me because they're REAL. In most people's lives, we don't have to worry about stalkers or forbidden romances. But, busyness is something we all can relate to. In Interborough, Raymond's motivations are pure - he's going to school to get a degree, plus working two jobs in order to pay bills. But, the long hours are preventing him from spending quality time with David. This then causes David to feel less important to Ray. David's insecurities mount when faced with Ray's hot co-worker and the fact that Ray doesn't want to tell anyone he works with that he's bi. 

On top of all that, David's dealing with stuff at his own job and Ray has problems with his parents' old house that he and Michael are renting out. It's a perfect storm of land mines ripe for relationship destruction. And as each of those explosions detonated, I felt them. 

In the past, when stressed, I'd think of Raymond. His smile. How warm his body was when he spooned against me at night. Our lips together. The first time he told me he loved me. Now, some of those things were gone or happened infrequently, and all I had were memories. Memories were dangerous. They tricked you into thinking happy times were an achievable goal instead of long-gone ghosts of the past. 

Santino Hassell is an incredible writer. His words are evocative and raw and they take you right to the heart of the matter. I knew from reading Sunset Park that David and Ray love each other. That seems even more true now with more than a year of living together under their belts. It made their troubles that much harder to read about. You want nothing more than for these two guys to have their happy. They DESERVE their happy. So, when it eludes them again and again, I found myself shedding tears right along with them. 

"As much as I love being in love, I know that the existence of it isn't a magic ticket to a happy ending. And I know that as much as two people love each other, relationships don't always work, and then people split up and find other people to give it a go again. It's a horrible cycle, and I'm afraid that we're becoming part of it."

Interborough includes dual POVs, but my favorite place to be is inside Raymond's head. David wears his heart on his sleeve. It's never hard to tell how he's feeling or what he's thinking. Raymond is shrouded in a lot more mystery. He broods and internalizes things and bears his problems silently. He's not demonstrative and doesn't delight in extreme PDA like David does. So, the benefit of being privy to Raymond's thoughts about David and the pressure he was constantly under to do everything himself was my favorite part of the book. And, it confirmed what I already knew - Raymond is an amazing, wonderful man who loves David fiercely. 

I wanted to touch him. Pull him close and hold him tight the way he'd done for me back when I'd needed it so bad. Before I'd even known what the hell I'd needed. 

Despite the tears and gnashing of teeth, I made it through to the other side relatively unscathed. Honestly, the epilogue took a lot of the sting out of the earlier pain in the book. It's fantastic, and will leave you with such an incredible sense of satisfaction and contentment. I didn't want it to end. Instead, I went back and re-read my favorite parts. Certainly the sexy times - because why wouldn't you want to relive those?? They might be many months into their relationship, but the sizzle hasn't stopped even a little. 

If you haven't experienced Santino Hassell for yourself yet, I implore you - PLEASE. Check out one of his books. I promise you won't regret it. 

October 21, 2016

REVIEW: Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1)

Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1), by J. Daniels
Publish Date:
October 4, 2016
Publisher: Forever
Format: ARC, provided by the publisher via Netgalley
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4 STARS

(Synopsis) Fate. Hate. Love. Lies.

Which four letter word will change their lives forever?

Sydney Paige was never so mortified to hear the words "wrong number" in her life. She meant to tell off the guy who broke her best friend's heart but unleashed her anger on a perfect stranger instead. And now her world is turned upside down by the captivating man who wants to keep her on the line.

Brian Savage is living a life he's quickly come to hate-until Sydney's wild rant has him hooked and hungry for more. Soon the sexy woman on the phone becomes the lover in his bed. But Brian has secrets, and the closer he lets Syd get, the harder it is to shield her from the devastating mistakes of his past . . .

Four Letter Word was fun book. Don't get me wrong - it deals with some heavy emotional stuff at varying points during the story. But, what better way to meet your soul mate than through a wrong number phone call? It's like a scene from a movie. I can see it all play out in my head. Girl calls BFF's lying, cheating boyfriend and delivers some truly stellar insults (really - they were fantastic), only to discover that she did all that to a total stranger. 

Sydney is dealing with her own relationship meltdown when she incorrectly dials up Brian and rips him a new one. The next day, she's surprised when he sends her a text. And for the next few weeks, they talk and text for hours, becoming each other's lifeboat in the storms that are their lives right now. Brian is dealing with his own personal issues, and trust me when I say that the way he's currently handling them is not healthy. Like, AT ALL. But, his conversations with Sydney are the one thing he has to look forward to - the only time he smiles. 

My world was one miserable mistake-shaping second after another, except for the breaks in my misery that belonged to her.

The in-person near misses between them had me smiling. And then their first real in-person meet was seriously so perfect. J. Daniels couldn't have done it better. I really loved Brian. He's raw and edgy and blunt. But with Sydney, he's incredibly sweet and romantic and heart-stoppingly sexy. He also insists on continuing to keep his secrets, so you just KNOW that decision is going to come back to bite him at the worst possible time. 

The premise of the book is what encouraged me to read it - the whole wrong number thing was brilliant, I thought. This is my first J. Daniels book, so I have no prior experience with this author on which to draw from. But, upon finishing Four Letter Word, I went and added a few more J. Daniels books to my TBR. I really liked her writing style - it, at times, reminded me a bit of Kristen Ashley and her Chaos series. The clipped dialog and no-nonsense characters were very reminiscent of Ashley's series, but Daniels definitely had her own style that shined through.

Four Letter Word is written in dual POV, which was great since the two main characters don't even meet each other in person until nearly 50% through the book. So, at least we had that connection to both of them to keep the story moving well. Another positive? J. Daniels writes some super hot dialog. Syd and Brian had great chemistry when they were only talking on the phone, but when they finally get together - off the hotness scale. 

The side characters were developed really well, too, and I'm looking forward already to a story between Tori and Jamie, Shay and Stitch and Jenna and Cole. Now that J. Daniels is on my radar, I'm not planning on missing any of these stories. 

October 20, 2016

EXCERPT REVEAL: Ride Rough (Raven Riders #2)

Being the Laura Kaye fangirl that I am, I'm super excited to bring you an excerpt from her upcoming second Raven Riders novel, RIDE ROUGH. Check out this note from Laura herself, and then check out this smokin' excerpt from the book...

OMG you guys! I’m so excited! Because the first book in my new Raven Riders series is on sale for the first time AND I’ve got an advance excerpt from the second book here for you to enjoy! The Raven Riders is a new sexy contemporary romance series, and a spin-off from my Hard Ink world, about a different kind of a motorcycle club with a protective mission. Ride Hard tells the story of a naïve woman on the run who’s been rescued by the jaded and tormented president of the Raven Riders, who learns that she’s strong enough to save herself and the man she loves, too. Ride Rough is a second-chance love story that is so hot and emotional that I absolutely adored writing it! I hope you’ll check both out!

Now, enjoy this delicious tease from Ride Rough, coming 4/25/17, and grab your copies of BOTH! Thanks for reading! ~ Laura Kaye

It was one of Maverick’s favorite dreams.

He and Alexa had gone up to Swallow Falls in Western Maryland for a weekend getaway and were staying in one of the mini cabins at the state park. After a day of hiking and swimming and picnicking outside, they’d come back to their cabin tired and ready to crash, but getting naked for showers had sidetracked them for hours. And even once they finally fell asleep, Maverick was hard and ready every time he woke up, and he took her again and again, falling asleep still buried inside her . . .

And fuck if he wasn’t ready right now.

He burrowed his face in Alexa’s soft hair and banded his arm around her stomach. His hand filled with the soft mound of her breast. He pulled her back against his chest and ground his erection against the swell of her ass.

“Maverick,” she moaned.

Hell, yeah. He nuzzled her neck, kissed her there, tasting and nipping and sucking. God, he needed in her. “Fuck, Alexa,” he whispered.

Her hand gripped his. “Maverick.”

He rolled her under him and crawled on top of her, his body falling into the cradle of her spread thighs.

“Uh, Maverick.”

He frowned and kissed her jaw, her cheek, her mouth.

It was the kiss that did it. Something wasn’t right. The memory playing out in his sleep-fogged mind didn’t feel like the reality confronting his physical senses. His eyes blinked open.

And he found himself lying on top of Alexa. Not in the cabin at Swallow Falls years before. In the gray morning light of his house. Her wide hazel eyes stared up at him.

He reared off of her in an instant. “Fuck,” he said, coming to stand by the couch. Alexa looked stunned—and so fucking sexy that Maverick barely resisted crawling back on top of her. She lay on her back in his clothes, on his couch, her knees drawn up and falling out, her hair sleep-mussed and sexy. Jesus. He adjusted himself, unable to hide his raging hard-on, and scrubbed at his face. “Goddamn dream. I’m sorry, Alexa. I didn’t mean to do that.”

“You . . . you were dreaming. Of me?” she whispered.

His gaze narrowed. “Don’t ask a question you don’t want the answer to.”

She swallowed and licked her lips. “What if I do want it? The answer,” she added.

Years of need and longing roared through Maverick like a drug he’d mainlined. His thoughts spilled out unfiltered. “Damnit, Al. You’re laying there in my clothes in my house with your thighs spread after I’ve just woken up holding you. My skin smells like you. And I’m sporting an erection because of you. Don’t fuck with me.” The words came out harsher than he intended, but she couldn’t play with him. Not on this. Not when he cared so much. Not when he wanted so much.

Her mouth dropped open and her chest rose and fell a little quicker. “I’m not playing a game. I want to know.”

Planting his hands on his hips, Maverick studied her. Her beautiful, languid body. Her pretty, open face. Her eyes, honest and free of pretense. He felt pulled in a million directions. Between wrong and right, between taking advantage and taking care, between giving in and opening himself up to a world of hurt. “I was dreaming of you. Of us. Up at Swallow Falls.”

“That night we—”

“Yes,” he growled.


“Fuck.” He dropped his chin to his chest and closed his eyes. Trying to be bigger than his base needs. Trying to put her before himself. “Whatever is about to come out of your mouth is not a good idea.”


“I mean it, Al—”

“Maverick!” she nearly yelled. “Listen to me.”

His gaze cut up to hers in time to see her sit up a little and take off her shirt. Well, his shirt. Then she laid back again, her eyes on him, drinking him in, inviting him in. “What if I do want it?” she whispered.

Something inside him snapped.

He was on her in a second. Body covering hers. Hands going to her warm skin. Mouth tasting her everywhere—her shoulder, her throat, her cheek. His chest pressed against her breasts, her hard nipples evident, her excitement palpable. And then his mouth found hers. On a triumphant groan, he claimed her, his lips sucking, his tongue penetrating. His big hand found her breast and kneaded at the soft mound.

And Alexa was right there with him. Moaning, kissing him, clutching on to him. Her thighs wrapped around his hips and her fingers twisted in his hair.

Bad idea bad idea such a fucking bad idea.

Why did bad ideas have to feel so good?

Ride Rough (Raven Riders #2), by Laura Kaye
Publish Date:
April 25, 2017
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(Synopsis) Maverick Rylan won’t apologize for who he is—the Raven Riders Motorcycle Club Vice-President, a sought-after custom bike builder, and a man dedicated to protecting those he loves. So when he learns that the only woman who has ever held his heart is in trouble, he’ll move heaven and earth to save her.

Alexa Harmon thought she had it all—the security of a good job, a beautiful home, and a powerful, charming fiancé who offered the life she never had growing up. But when her dream quickly turns into a nightmare, Alexa realizes she’s fallen for a façade she can’t escape—until sexy, dangerous Maverick offers her a way out.

Forced together to keep Alexa safe, their powerful attraction reignites and Maverick determines to do whatever it takes to earn a second chance—one Alexa is tempted to give. But her ex-fiancé isn’t going to let her go without a fight, one that will threaten everything they both hold dear.

Ride Hard (The Raven Riders #1), by Laura Kaye
Publish Date:
April 26, 2016
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

(Synopsis) Brotherhood. Club. Family.

They live and ride by their own rules.

These are the Raven Riders . . .

Raven Riders Motorcycle Club President Dare Kenyon rides hard and values loyalty above all else. He’ll do anything to protect the brotherhood of bikers—the only family he’s got—as well as those who can’t defend themselves. So when mistrustful Haven Randall lands on the club’s doorstep scared that she’s being hunted, Dare takes her in, swears to keep her safe, and pushes to learn the secrets overshadowing her pretty smile.

Haven fled from years of abuse at the hands of her criminal father and is suspicious of any man’s promises, including those of the darkly sexy and overwhelmingly intense Ravens’ leader. But as the powerful attraction between them flares to life, Dare pushes her boundaries and tempts her to want things she never thought she could.

The past never dies without a fight, but Dare Kenyon’s never backed down before . . .

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense, including the Hard Ink and upcoming Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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