**Shades Of Desire**
Ten titillating tales from USA Today, bestselling and award-winning authors. Step into the world of some of the freshest voices in romance. From spicy secrets to sweet second chances. Come find your perfect shade of desire.
Now this anthology is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. And let me tell you, with 10 books combining for 47 out of 50 possible stars, it is worth so much more than the $0,99 these ladies are charging for the Kindle edition. Below, I’m going to post the blurb and my review for each story that appears in the collection.
LIAR, LIAR by J.A. Coffey – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Divorced certified fraud examiner Jessica Barlow catches liars for a living. Sparks fly when she’s assigned to investigate a dating website owned by a man determined to guarantee she finds love, even if he has to pretend to be a client!
Review: From the beginning, this one sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. Floyd kept me on the edge of my seat, which doesn’t usually happen with a pure romance story (you know, the kind that doesn’t have any outside conflict-murder, kidnappings, or general mayhem). I found myself drawn to the characters and the story and I couldn’t put the book down. I loved the way the writer crafted a clever tale proving that anything can happen when nothing is as it seems.
Knowing that Jess joined LoveLines as a legitimate client but then gets tasked with investigating the company AND that Matteo is wiling to pose as a client to thwart an investigation he fears is taking place, creates an aura of suspense. You know that things are going to go sideways, you just are unsure when. So while you are waiting for the hammer to drop, you get to know the characters. Matteo’s dedication to his family and his work is admirable as is Jess’s quest to rebuild her life and prove herself. Their attraction is immediate and intense despite their reluctance to open their hearts. This attraction leads to some pretty steamy encounters. The drawn out, sensual scenes keep you hoping that these two will get their HEA.
I give this story a 5-Star rating.
DANGEROUS FLAMES by Wendy Ely – USA Today Bestselling Author
Blurb: Sometimes good men are taught to do evil things and it takes the strength of a sheltered woman to make things right. When Gabi learns of her father, she is asked to leave for her own safety. Fine. She’ll go… but she is taking her secret love with her, even if it’s at gun-point.
Review: Ah… A tale of hidden/forbidden love. Well, that’s my main impression. Gabi has hidden her feelings from Mik because she fears he doesn’t feel the same. They were once close friends but being sent away to school in Europe when she was 15 prevented her from finding out if they could be more. Mik, well, he has his own reasons for keeping his feelings secret and it has everything to do with the warning he received from the girl’s father- head of the Family his father works for.
This one has a little bit of everything- Mafia business, family crisis, assassination attempts, hidden treasure… and that’s just the outside plot. The relationship between Gabi and Mik is complex and the desire to proclaim and simultaneously hide their desire manages to confuse the hell out of them both.
I liked the story a lot and I think the author did a great job crafting an intriguing story. The tale was full of rich detail and made me consider things I’ve never thought about in regards to the Mafia life but it still managed to focus on the details of the interpersonal relationships of the characters.
Now, I will say the copy I have had some errors- missing words and punctuation that caused me to have to stop and figure out the author’s meaning. And in one paragraph the words absurd and absorbed were swapped around. I also noticed a slip on the name used for a character- I can’t go into more detail without treading into spoiler territory so I’ll just stop there. Overall, the story was well done and I give it a 5-Star rating. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
A DECADE FOR DARIUS by Dorothy Callahan – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Jess never forgot her first kiss, especially since it came from the guy who taught her everything she knows about antiques, her livelihood. But if she wins the priceless inheritance, Jess will risk losing Darius Covington all over again.
Review: This one was hard for me to rate. It kinda falls in between a 3 and 4 star but after thinking about it, I went with the higher rating because the characterization was that damn good.
Now, the prologue was a bit problematic for me. I didn’t get sucked in right away. It actually took me a while to get my thoughts in the story. Some of the imagery came off as awkward; like when the author talked about “balloon of opportunity deflated, making pbbffftt noises…” I kept thinking the girl had intestinal issues which would make impressing the guy all the more difficult. I also found that while there was a lot of description, the kiss itself (which is mentioned in the tagline) isn’t really described, I wasn’t even sure it really happened at first… I figured something that important would have been better defined.
But once I got past the prologue, I enjoyed the characters and the rest of the story immensely. I loved the interaction between Jess and Darius- even when they were at odds, they managed to be all goo-goo-eyed towards each other. The internal conflict in each as they warred with their feelings while dealing with the external conflict over the inheritance was great. It really helped define the characters and show that love at first sight (or first kiss) may be more than a myth.
The secondary characters were well written. Jess’s GBF Jeremy is probably one of my favorites though. The dude was crazy and funny and one of the most likable characters I’ve seen. He was a man on a mission; determined to see his BFF happy, despite her objections. He was also outgoing, flirtatious and a bit pushy- definitely someone I’d want in my corner. I also liked the teen who worked for Jess even though I felt for the kid for some of the abuse dealt to her by her colleagues. Her chipper demeanor, slightly inappropriate comments, and the way she takes the good-natured teasing reminds me of my teenager.
Not all the characters were likable, but the unlikable ones were still well defined and created to be miserable excuses for human beings. Callahan really shows great talent in creating both likable and hate-able characters that are so well defined, you feel like you know them personally.
The story itself was entertaining. I found myself surprised by some of my wouldn’t it be nice if thoughts actually happened. It wasn’t that the story was predictable, it just ended exactly like it would have if I’d written it. Needless to say, I found myself drawn to the story, even when it lagged.
For the most part, it held my attention and kept me either intrigued or laughing out loud and sharing the funny parts with others. The parts that I struggled with were the intimate scenes. I found they were a bit long and they felt more dragged out than they needed to be. I don’t know if it was my frame of mind or what but I couldn’t really feel the same level of emotion during the sex scenes as I did the rest of the book. Another issue I felt interrupted the flow of the book was strange word usage, particularly the word rue. Although I know the way the author used it wasn’t incorrect, it was redundant in some parts and felt awkward in others- I don’t think I’ve ever come across it used as a noun unless it was referring to a plant before, it’s always been a verb to me so that took a little getting used to.
Overall, I say that this one is a good read and I recommend it to anyone who wants a romance with a little bit of angst and a healthy dose of intrigue.
STILL HOT FOR YOU by Diane Escalera – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Shay LaCosta screwed up a damn good marriage. Now she’s on a mission to get a little submission, and get her hunky husband back in her bed.
Review: This one was different. While most romances focus on the beginning of a relationship and follow the couple as their feelings grow and they work towards their happy-ever-after, this one focuses on what comes after. Happily-ever-after includes work. A relationship can easily become stagnant and eventually spoil–it is the reason this country’s divorce rate is so high.
I like the way the author focuses on a couple that have already said their I-dos. It shows a realistic facet of relationships often neglected in fiction. It breaks the popularized notions of married sex and shows that people can continue to have exhausting sex lives even after they’ve been married for years. Especially when a disagreement threatens their fairy-tale-ending.
This story was very well written. The characters were very realistic as were their problems, concerns, fears, hopes and dreams. The sex was steamy and the scenes fit well with the concept of the book. I love the term ‘Booty Camp,’it perfectly describes Shay’s attempt to save her marriage.
This one ranks in at 5-Stars and I look forward to reading the other stories in this trilogy and finding out what’s in store for Dylan’s brother and cousin.
HIS BEDPOST QUEEN by Lena Hart – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Athena Lewis has a sharp mind and an even sharper attitude. Except when it comes to “Davie,” the only man who’s ever truly made her feel safe. Yet to protect the only family she has left, she must embark on a mission that goes against everything she believes in, and that includes using the last trick she has left. Her body.
Review: Everyone has heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” so it should come as no surprise that Las Vegas serves as the backdrop for story filled with cons, organized crime, opulent casinos, scandal, and lots of hot sex.
This book kept me intrigued. The relationship development between David and Athena is unconventional. She waltzes into his life after fourteen years with a job to do and the skill set to get it done but she can’t shut down her emotions. David doesn’t even recognize the woman before him as the kid he used to know until it is too late. Then things get more complicated as they discover she isn’t the only one after information that could ruin him.
I liked the characters. I liked Athena’s strength and her loyalty to those she loves. And I loved David’s protective nature and his atypical reaction when he discovered who Athena was. I loved the pace of the book and the way the author kept throwing more information to challenge my perceptions. There is a great deal of sexual content but it fits the story well and it doesn’t effect the flow of the story. The romantic elements of the story are settled in the end but the mystery surrounding the rest is left open.
This one earned 5-Stars as well. I look forward to reading the other books in the series and finding out where the rest of the story goes.
RESISTING DESTINY by Chanta Rand – Bestselling Author and Debut Author of the Year
Blurb: Thrown together for ninety days by a spiteful judge, womanizing attorney, Cayson Sullivan and street-smart hustler, Destiny Jackson find the only thing they can agree on is their red-hot attraction for each other.
Review: A hot-shot lawyer working pro bono in night-court manages to take on a case that lands him in front of a judge he’s avoided since a one-night-stand years before. If that wasn’t bad enough, the harder he fights for his client, the more the judge puts the screws to him. In the end, he finds himself responsible for Destiny, a young woman who puts her trust in the wrong people.
Through the story, Cayson is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. Does he follow his brain and do what he knows he should or does he let his libido do the thinking for him. He is walking on a tight-rope and one slip can cost him. While Destiny is in awe of Cayson and his co-worker Phaedra who make it their mission to help her turn her life around. She is determined to take the opportunity to make something better for herself. Her quandary comes in later when she has to choose between her old life and the one she has worked to build since that fateful night.
There are some outside conflict but the internal conflicts take center stage. These conflicts, for both characters, are well defined. They waver between logic and passion, knowing that if they give in to the latter, their lives will be forever changed. Although succumbing to desire isn’t the only action that can bring change to their lives. Watching characters evolve and change because of the circumstances of their lives, makes a story great. These characters end up forever changed because of one another–they learn, they grow, they love.
The passion between the two is another aspect I liked. They have this intense desire that steams up the pages but one or the other manages to break away leaving the other more confused than ever. The author teases the reader with this stop-and-go romance throughout most of the book as the characters decide what they truly want.
This 5-Star read is part of a series. I loved Cayson’s story and I can’t wait to read the rest of the Sullivan brothers’ books. I have a feeling this family’s saga is gonna be worth checking out.
TRUSTING LOVE by Emma Leigh Reed
Blurb: Pregnant and running from her abusive boyfriend, Chloe Wilder takes refuge in the sleepy coastal town of Arden. Police chief, Jayden Peterson, thinks the worst crime that could happen in Arden is jaywalking. Could the real danger be the two of them falling for each other?
Review: For me, one of the hardest story-lines to handle is one centered around abuse. Even though, in this book, the abusive acts all happen off stage, the notion remains at the front of my mind.
I will give the author credit. Chloe’s mentality–the fear, distrust, and isolated aspects or her character–are all typical responses to abuse and made her a very believable character. The same holds true (to an extent) for Jayden. The traumatic event in his past has him questioning his ability to protect the frightened Chloe from the dangers he feels she’s running from.
The problematic area for me was the development of their relationship. I don’t think that the time frame the story takes place in is a believable amount of time for two people that damaged to find love. It feels more like insta-love than true emotion.
I did think it was a sweet story. I think it would have been better if it was a little longer or at least covered a longer time span. As it is, I think this is a 3-Star read.
WOUNDED by Cindy Stark – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Battle-worn soldier, Jerry returns home intending to avoid his ex-fiancée. The shrapnel that wounded him pales in comparison to the gash she left in his heart. Kimber lost everything when she broke off her engagement, and she’ll fight to win him back.
Review: Every once in a while, I come across a story that not only speaks to me but feels like it was ripped from my own soul. This was one of those stories.
My husband served in the Army for the first 5 1/2 years of our marriage and he spent a year in of it in Iraq. I understand first hand the fear of loosing someone that important. It cripples you. Stark did an incredible job of capturing that in Kimber’s character. Her initial reaction is one of fear and then she learns to cope by accepting what she once rejected.
Soldiers don’t have it easy at all. Not only are they duty bound to do what needs to be done, they have to learn to live in two worlds–military and civilian. I thing Stark demonstrated that through Jerry’s character. Even though the story takes place away from his military experience, everything about his life is tempered by it. He insists on not showing weakness, not to his family, not to his friends, and not to the woman who broke his heart. He keeps part of himself separate, almost like he doesn’t fit in to his old life anymore.
The realism of the story pulled at me and sucked me under. I couldn’t get enough, despite having to wipe the tears off my face. Of course, it did more than make me cry, it also warmed my heart. I love meddlesome friends that do what they can to fix things for those they care about. It’s even funnier when its a bunch of dudes. AND I’m a sucker for the love-conquers-all theme so it is no wonder that I loved this story.
This quick, emotional, 5-Star read has me adding Cindy Stark to my watch list. I can’t wait to read more.
SPANISH NIGHTS by Valerie Twombly – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Armand has lost everything. His magic and his freedom are taken when an evil curse is placed on the Jinn, but a newcomer to town may be his savior. When evil emerges from the shadows, Makayla learns she must choose between her mortality and Armand’s freedom.
Review: With this book, Twombly introduces the world of the Jinn and takes the phrase ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ to a whole new level. As usual, she creates a rich world and amazing characters and gives them a story that will suck you in. Don’t expect to be able to set this 5-Star book down.
One of the things I love about this book is the way Twombly manages to balance HOT sex scenes and the emotional connection between Armand and Makayla. The way fate brings her characters together and then the ways their relationship changes their outlook is well crafted. It’s never a conscious I’m-gonna-change-for-this-person thing but a love-changes-me-whether-I-like-it-or-not.
There was also a cleaver little tidbit for anyone familiar with Twombly’s other books. Being a Disney junkie and familiar with the hidden Mickey concept, I got a big kick out of finding the caveat hidden in the pages.
I enjoyed this introduction to the world of the Jinn and can’t wait to read more.
MR. RIGHT NOW by Kristina Knight – Bestselling Author
Blurb: Dumped by her celebrity boyfriend, unlucky-in-love author Casey Cash needs a break. But, between the male escort trying to get into her bed and the tabloid reporter intent on getting her story, Casey might have been smarter to stay in New York…
Review: I would call this 5-Star book a perfect summer read.
Funny and steamy, this fast-paced book kept me entertained but also had me guessing. I never felt that I knew where the story was going, instead my mind was always wondering what direction the story would take. Believe me, I’ve read enough romances to concoct all sorts of scenarios but I liked the way it went much better than some of my off the wall musings.
Some of the elements made me think of A Midsummer Night’s Dream- Casey’s editor Jane, playing the part of Puck, manages to make a disaster of the vacation she insists Casey take. Of course, much like the play, being trapped in the wrong situation some times leads characters on the right path. You just don’t know until the end if it all works out.
My one issue with the story was a couple of paragraphs where a secondary character’s name changed briefly. For a second I was wondering “Who the hell is John?” then I realized John was Wally from the chapter before. Other than that, I thought this was a very well written story and I will be looking into Knight’s other books in the future.