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Marleen (Cavan, Ireland)

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Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
Inferno: (Robert Langdon Book 4)
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.50

3.0 out of 5 stars More of the same, 31 July 2013
And so we may have reached the point where Dan Brown / Robert Langdon and I have to part ways. I really enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons when I read them a few years ago. When I read The Lost Symbol I was starting to think that maybe it was just more of the same and now that I've finished Inferno I know that I was right. Dan Brown appears to have one story in him which he keeps on rehashing and which, it would appear, the public is only too delighted to continue reading.

Up to a point I understand why his books are so popular. There is a huge threat to the world, with both the exact threat and the possible solution obscured by symbolic messages and riddles that only one, unlikely, hero can decipher and solve, thus, hopefully, preventing disaster. Written down like this it should be a winning formula and if sales figures are anything to go buy, it is.

So, why isn't it really working for me any more?

If I'm honest, I have to admit that I have a hard time explaining exactly why the story just didn't work for me this time, but it didn't. I found it too easy to put the book down. This should be a page-turner and compulsive reading but proved to be anything but for me. I got bored with the long descriptions, the writing felt clumsy and I never experienced that sense of urgency that I get when I read a good book, especially a well plotted thriller.

And that is a shame because I was intrigued by the whole mystery revolving around Dante's Inferno and fascinated by the philosophies behind the threat Robert Langdon is trying to avert. I can't help feeling that this could have been a captivating read if only it had been about 100 pages shorter, if the interruptions of the action had been fewer and/or shorter, if there had been less repetition in the story, if the writing had felt less clumsy, if...

It doesn't seem fair to castigate an author for finding a successful formula and sticking to it. Lots of authors have built very successful careers on doing exactly that; James Patterson and Nora Roberts are two high profile authors that immediately spring to mind. And while my feelings with regard to Patterson are not too far of those I expressed above about Brown, I have nothing but admiration for Nora Roberts who can use her formula and still give me stories that feel fresh and new.

Still, the way things stand, and given the amount of new and exciting books being published every month, I think it is unlikely I will pick up the next Robert Langdon adventure when it comes out. Having said that, it will probably be at least two years until that moment arrives and knowing myself, there is a good possibility that by that stage curiosity will get the better of me and I'll be tempted anyway. Time will tell.

Together in Cyn: 1 (Members Only)
Together in Cyn: 1 (Members Only)
Price: £5.69

4.0 out of 5 stars HOT MENAGE A BIT TOO SHORT, 30 July 2013
I received my copy from Ellora's Cave through NetGalley.

Cyn has been in love and lust with fraternal twins Chris and Jared for as long as she can remember. She has never told them that though or that she has very kinky fantasies involving the two of them. She's too afraid that admitting to her feelings or acting on them would spoil the wonderful friendship they have. But, if they could read her mind, the twins would soon discover that there is only one reason why they never see her with a man:

"Because I'm in love with you and your twin. Have been for almost a decade. I've got a journal at home filled with what I want you to do to me and I'll never be brave enough to show it to you."

Cyn would rather do without than disappoint herself as a result of sleeping with somebody who isn't Chris and Jared and so:

"My sex life...well, visualize the Titanic sinking and you get the gist."

Nothing can convince her that her fantasies could come true:

"Chris and Jared were my every fantasy and I ached for them. I craved something dark and dangerous I had no right to want - not from them both."

Until she discovers that the twins have read her diary and not only know all about her fantasies but also share them. While she always knew that Chris and Jared liked her and wanted to look after her, she never imagined that their feelings could be any deeper. But now that the secret is out the men don't waste any time making sure that Cyn is theirs and knows it:

"You've always been more important than any house or club and that was before we claimed you."

Cyn may have had fantasies about submitting to the twins for as long as she can remember, she isn't sure she will actually be able to do that. Her background and past experiences make her weary of that which she graves. The twins however recognise something in her; they know that she is more than capable of fulfilling her fantasies:

"You were born to take pleasure so all-consuming it threatens to steal your mind, and mine. You were made strong enough to submit to not only one Dom but two. Two men who want to push every sexual limit you've every conceived of and fall with you over the precipice into something you never knew existed."

Or, as a new found friend in the twins BDSM club puts it to Cyn:

"Submission is a beautiful thing. Giving yourself so freely to someone else. Trusting them. Believing in them. It takes a strong woman to be able to do that."

It takes time, reflection, long overdue honesty and being forced out of their comfort zones for this trio to become what they were meant to be. For Cyn it means accepting, at last that:

"...they needed me to be nothing more than myself."

I'm not quite sure what to say about this book. I liked the idea behind the story, I liked the characters in it and loved the very hot sex scenes. On the other hand, because I liked the story so much I would have loved to see more of it. As much as I enjoyed the enticing descriptions of everything Cyn gets up to with her two lovers, I wanted to read a bit more about her back-story and the mental battles she went through as a result of what had happened to her. I longed to read more about what she had to work through in order to really give herself to the brothers. As it is, we don't find much about her thought-processes. And the same is true for the twins, especially Chris. As it is written it feels as if the back-story is only there to give the author an excuse to write very steamy and delicious sex scenes. And in this book the back-story is just too good and intriguing to be treated in that way.

But, and I know I'm starting to contradict myself here, I'm also grateful that the author didn't turn this book into one of those angsty stories in which the heroine is forever second guessing herself and we seem to play the "will she - won't she" game for pages on end.

I guess that what I'm saying is that I could have done with this book being maybe fifty pages longer. Fifty pages which could have told us more about the characters back-grounds and everything that Chris and Cyn went through in order to overcome their issues and reach their happy ending. As it was written both Cyn and Chris went from feeling completely incapable of submitting to or inflicting a certain act, to jumping, feet first, into a rather extreme version of exactly what they were so afraid of. That turn-around, while intriguing, would have been far more believable if there had been a bit more of a build-up to it.

For me this was one very hot, very explicit and extremely sexy story; an easy and enticing read that could have been more with just a bit more attention to the background story and the characters' thoughts and feelings. If, however, you are looking for a steamy story filled with sexy scene after enticing sexy scene than this is just the book for you. Jennifer Casey does know how to write hot sex very, very well.

Truth (Finding Anna Book 3)
Truth (Finding Anna Book 3)
Price: £3.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, Though-Provoking and Sexy, 30 July 2013
I received from Writer's Coffee Shop through NetGalley and rated it 4.5 stars

This is the third book in the Finding Anna quartet and really shouldn't be read unless you've read the first two books, "Slave" and "Need".

Brianna has come a long way since Stephan rescued her. While she is still easily scared and has little or no self-confidence she does feel completely safe with Stephan and trusts him implicitly. The arrival of her father on Stephan's doorstep almost manages to set her back to the scared and withdrawn girl she was only a little while ago. But once that threat appears to have been dealt with Brianna and Stephan are able to continue on the slow but steady road to her recovery.

And Brianna is making real progress. While she is still deeply insecure she is slowly starting to trust that Stephan really does want the best for her. And though she may not always like his methods, she knows that his demands on her are made only to help her. Watching Brianna while she discovers that being intimate with a man - having sex with Stephan - was pleasurable and rewarding rather than demeaning and painful was beautiful. The moment when she realizes that she loves him put a huge smile on my face.

"Swallowing I looked into his eyes. What I saw only confirmed what I already knew. I'd do anything for him. Be anything he needed me to be."

Something I really appreciate in these books is that the author takes her time. There are no miracle cures in this story. Hopefully the last book will proof that love does conquer all, but the first three books show us that it is a long way to recovery. Brianna has been through a soul-shattering experience that left her fearful, prone to panic attacks and withdrawn. It is taking lots of time, patience and love to get her to build up her sense of self again, to give her the confidence she needs to face the rest of her life and to make her belief that she is good enough; good enough for Stephan and good enough in her own right. It is a psychological journey fraught with fear and pain but one that shows that with love and patience overcoming the unthinkable is possible.

Too many authors take short-cuts when dealing with a scenario like this. Too often I have read about broken and scarred characters who meet their true love and almost instantly put their past behind them. Sherri Hayes, thankfully, doesn't. She takes the reader along the road Brianna has to travel and shows us the tiny steps she takes towards trust and love. She is not afraid to tell her story slowly, at a pace that matches Brianna's progress and includes all the inevitable set-backs she encounters.

Stephan is an equally realistic character. While, for a long time, it seems that maybe he is too good to be true, this book shows he is "only" human after all. He makes mistakes while trying to help Brianna and he has his own fears and insecurities. He needs Brianna to guide him as much as he needs to help her. The result is a heartbreakingly realistic and beautiful story that will have you smiling and crying, hoping for the best while fearing the worst and rooting for Stephan and Brianna all the way.

Another thing that really works for me in these books is that it gives a wonderful insight into the world of BDSM. It doesn't shy away from exposing its evil excesses while showing that in its true form it is all about love, communication and trust. Because there are characters in this book of both the BDSM and Vanilla variety, the reader sees both the prejudices against the lifestyle and the beauty of what it is when indulged in by two loving partners. And because Brianna, as a result of her horrendous experiences in the past, has to be introduced to all the various aspects of this relationship at a very slow pace, the reader is eased into the concept as well.

I'm really glad this book didn't end on a heart-stopping cliff-hanger like "Need" did. While it certainly ends on a crucial plot point and does leave the reader with a desperate need to find out what is going to be happening next, there is no sense of doom this time, only a profound sadness, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Having said that, I'm not going to enjoy waiting for the final installment in this series. I read somewhere that Sherri Hayes hopes to have it out in the first half of 2014 and I can only hope that by that she means January 1st. Because everything in this book indicates that the final installment is going to be intense and filled with developments. A lot still needs to happen if Stephan and Brianna are going to find their happily ever after, and keeping in mind the ending of this book, the road there is going to be anything but easy for this couple.

The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle 1)
The Darwin Elevator (Dire Earth Cycle 1)
by Jason M. Hough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fast Paced, Thrilling and with a sense of humour., 27 July 2013
"The builders came to Earth and constructed an elevator from Darwin, Australia into space. No one knows why, or if they will return"

Following the arrival of the cable, humankind has built space stations at various altitudes along the space cable. Living in the space stations are scientist, agriculturalists and other, privileged people. Several years later a plague envelopes the planet turning humans into feral animals. The only ones protected are the rare "immunes" and the people who live within a 9 mile radius of the space elevator which exudes an Aura of protection. Of course those living in the space stations are also protected, due to their isolation from earth.

Skyler Luiken is one of a group of scavengers who roam the planet in mothballed ex air force aircraft, searching for anything useful which can be sold to the elites who live in orbit. What's unusual about Luiken's team is that they are all "immunes" meaning that they don't have to use cumbersome haz-mat suits while out plying their trade.

The political balance of Darwin sits on a knife edge with Neil Platz in control of the orbital habitats and Russell Blackfield controlling the ground station of Nightcliff, the anchor point for the space elevator. The orbitals control food production, owned by Platz, who has his own dark secrets, and the ground-station controls the supply of Air and Water to the orbitals.

This is the setting for this debut novel from Hough. First thoughts are that I liked this first book in the "Dire Earth Cycle". There have been a plethora of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels released in recent years and it is reassuring to finally find one that doesn't make me want to "slash my wrists" after reading it. The main characters are well developed and, unusually for such a novel, actually have a sense of humour, something severely lacking in a lot of other books of this particular genre such as Hugh Howeys "Wool" series. Skyler Luiken is a reluctant hero, who more or less by accident finds himself drawn into the political battle for the ultimate control of mankind's destiny. He has to pit his wits against Blackfield who is a "baddie" in the true classical sense of the word.

And still, the power struggle may only be the start of humankind's problems; for the builders are returning...

The gulf in the quality of life between the "Orbitals" and the Darwinians is huge. The orbitals live in relative luxury, completely removed from the daily and constant struggle for survival which is the lot of most of the earthbound population, all of whom are dreaming of one day ascending to space to a life without fear of starvation or premature death.

This was a fast-paced and thrilling read. And while it is clear that there is more story left to tell I am grateful that the author didn't leave me stranded on one of those heart-stopping cliff-hangers that seem to be all the rage these days.

I was very pleasantly surprised with this first offering from Hough, who managed to instil a sense of hope and optimism, and not a little humour into a subject which too often is portrayed in a truly grim manner, and I look forward to the next two instalments in the series, "The Exodus Towers" and "The Plague Forge".

Escaping Reality (The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Book 1)
Escaping Reality (The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Book 1)

4.0 out of 5 stars A Hot and Exciting Romantic Mystery, 25 July 2013
I received my copy from Julie Patra Publishing through NetGalley.

Allow me to start my review with a confession: this book is marketed as a New Adult title and I'm not entirely sure what that means. I get Young Adult and I get Adult Fiction but I can't quite get my head around this new concept; I couldn't before I read this book and I'm not any clearer about it now.

Be that as it is, and leaving genre issues aside, I did really enjoy this book. Lisa Renee Jones once again brings us an intriguing story and compelling characters. And she builds the story up in such a way that it isn't instantly clear to the reader what exactly is going on. Why is Amy on the run? What has happened in the past? And why is Amy still in danger, six years after a rather mysterious but obviously devastating event destroyed her life?

If Amy has learned one thing over the past six years it is that she is alone. She can't trust anybody because she doesn't know exactly what or whom she's running from and because she realizes that everybody associated with her will be in as much danger as she is. And while she has, in the past, successfully kept people at arms length, she finds this is something she can't do with Liam after she meets him. With him she feels an instant connection, although that doesn't stop her from deflecting his questions and feeding him convenient lies:

"I'm so good at lying. I almost convince myself it's the truth."

Liam, a prodigy billionaire architect with a reputation for being reclusive takes an instant interest in young Amy and seems determined to stay close to her, despite her best efforts to run away from him. He appears to be aware that Amy is holding back on him but doesn't push her to reveal more than she feels comfortable with while at the same time insisting that she accepts his help and attention.

For Amy, her attraction to Liam and his interest in her leads to confusion:

"You're you, he'd said. Only that's the whole problem. I'm not me."

Because the biggest problem Amy faces is that although she knows she is in danger and suffers from horrendous flashbacks, she isn't entirely sure what exactly happened six years ago and has no idea why her life was hit by disaster:

"This man who knows where he has been and who he is. I know nothing of me, not even where I have really, truly been and why I am here. Why I exist."

And while Amy knows that it would be better, safer, for both of them if she could just stay away from Liam, her attraction to him and the way her mind and body respond to his attention seem to make this impossible:

"I am naked before this man but I am so much more. I am exposed, vulnerable, and somehow I feel protected and safe."

Liam seems to see, to understand, that Amy is lost, alone and afraid. He seems to instinctively know what she needs - an escape from her problems - and he is determined to give it to her:

"The lack of control is control. When you're hanging on to each moment, anticipating what comes next, it leaves room for nothing else. That's what I want to do for you."

Liam makes Amy feel things she's never felt before and never expected to experience. And while his need to control her and her life is both scary and overwhelming he also brings her the peace she needs to sleep without suffering from nightmares and sexual pleasures she didn't know she could experience:

Your new territory to me, Liam. I have never met anyone like you. You're overbearingly generous and overwhelmingly male, or maybe it's the reverse."

Liam seems to be well aware that Amy is at all times only one step away from disappearing from his life and does what he can to make sure she doesn't:

"And baby, I want you, and all I can say is you might be smart to run before I get any more into you, but please don't."

Until Amy overhears something that makes her question everything she thought she knew about this man, something that makes her take a radical decision...

This is another one of those books that ends on a cliff-hanger. And while it completely achieves its intended goal and leaves me yearning for the rest of the story it also leaves me a bit frustrated. Lisa Renee Jones writing and stories are more than good enough to make me go back for more without being "forced" to do so by cliff-hangers. Yes, I completely get why books end on cliff-hangers but that doesn't make me like them any better.

Initially I had one or two questions marks about this story-line. I just wasn't convinced that somebody who has been on the run for six years and has built her life around not trusting anyone and constantly looking over her shoulder would instantly trust a stranger, like Amy did when she meets Liam. I also felt that all the mysteries surrounding her new life and the coincidences she suddenly notices would have worried her more. After finishing the whole book though I've come to accept that after six years in the dark Amy has probably reached the point where she needs to change her life, take control of it, and Liam just happens to be the trigger. And once I accepted that, the whole story made perfect sense.

Lisa Renee Jones has given us a story that delivers on several levels. This is one hot love story as well as a compelling mystery. Add to that some fascinating characters and lots of tension and you have yourself a book that is almost impossible to put down.

So, cliff-hanger not withstanding, or thanks to a very gripping cliff-hanger - who knows - I will be trying to get my hands on "Infinite Possibilities" as soon as it becomes available. I'm looking forward to finding out exactly what has happened in Amy's past and why, and can't wait to discover exactly what is going on with Liam. It appears that this sequel is planned for October and that date can't come soon enough. Taking into account all the questions that need answering, I've got a feeling "Infinite Possibilities" is going to be even more exciting than this book was.

Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor)
Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor)
by G M Malliet
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Cozy, 18 July 2013
I received my copy from Constable & Robinson

On the surface, the village of Nether Monkslip is idyllic and peaceful; the perfect place for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. It certainly seemed the perfect escape for Max Tudor, a former MI5 agent, turned vicar after a horrible incident made him question his job and his life.

You don't have to dig very deep beneath the surface though to discover that Nether Monkslip, like most places, is nowhere near as perfect as it might seem. And the root of all of the village's issues can be traced back to just one woman, be it a very formidable example of the gender.

Wanda Batton-Smythe is the sort of woman who needs to be in control of everything and everybody around her and only capable of securing her imagined position by putting down everybody she encounters. And, with the Harvest Fayre only a few days away, nobody escapes the attention or the wrath of this very unpopular president of the Women's Institute.

When Wanda's body is discovered in the village hall on the day of the Fayre, it appears at first that she died as the result of an accident involving her allergy to peanuts. Max Tudor's secret service instincts kick in almost immediately though. He can't quite put his finger on it, but something appears wrong and he is convinced he is looking at the results of foul play rather than misfortune.

The police share Max' concerns and pull him into the investigation. As the vicar, Max has better insight into the villager's lives and more opportunity to sound them out than the police could ever have. But, with nearly every person in the village having a reason to dislike if not hate the victim and everybody's comings and goings confused as a result of the Fayre it will take a lot of talking, time and some deep reflection before the mystery is solved.

I'm not quite sure what to say about this book and feel a bit ambivalent about it. To start with the positives, I really liked Max Tudor as a character. The contrast between his past as an MI5 agent and his present as the village vicar make him a fascinating protagonist. It also allows the author to portray him as a seasoned yet gentle investigator. I also enjoyed the village setting and the various characters living there. And the mystery was well developed and presented; all the clues where there, available to the reader. The solution, while being a bit convoluted, made sense and fit the over-all story line.

On the down side, I wasn't too fond of the authors need to describe everything mentioned in the book in almost tedious detail. Max Tudor didn't enter a room or house without the reader being treated to long, and often irrelevant, descriptions of what could be found there. I found that these descriptions tended to drag me out of the story rather than pull me in and made me want to skim passages.

Another thing that failed to convince me were the numerous references to other works of fiction such as:

"For it was a truth universally acknowledged that a single vicar must be in want of a wife."

"The woman who liked to stir hornets' nests."

"She wondered if it were too soon to put the cat among the pigeons."

I'm sure there were quite a few other references but these stuck out for me. I can't quite make up my mind whether the author was trying to be clever or funny or something else altogether. On the other hand, this didn't iritate me so much as bemuse me, and it is quite possible that other readers would get a kick out of looking for and finding these references.

Overall though I thought this was a cute and cosy fun mystery. The book is well written, the mystery and its solution worked and were well plotted and Max Tudor is an interesting character. There are at least two more books to come in this series and I will definitely read the next book, "A Fatal Winter", before making up my mind about this series.

Bonds of Desire: Book Three of Wicked Play
Bonds of Desire: Book Three of Wicked Play
Price: £3.02

5.0 out of 5 stars Hot and beautiful menage, 16 July 2013
I received my copy from Carina Press through NetGalley.

This is the third book in the "Wicked Play" series and I think it is my favourite. While "Bonds of Need" and "Bonds of Trust" dealt with one-on-one relationships, be it in a BDSM environment, this book centres on a threesome.

Master Seth, one of the three Doms owning and running The Den BDSM club, and Allison (Allie) English haven't seen each other since Allie made her one and only visit to the club a few months ago. Unbeknownst to them, they haven't been able to get each other out of their minds.

Tyler Wysong is a new character. As a male prostitute working through an agency he finds himself submitting to a powerful and abusive Dom in one of the private rooms of The Den. When the Dom goes too far in his abuse, the owners of the club intervene and stop the scene. Their action comes too late though to prevent Tyler from being seriously injured.

Allie is called into the club by the three Doms for Tyler's sake. If he wants to press charges, they want to make sure he has the best possible representation.

As soon as Seth, Tyler and Allie find themselves together it becomes clear that there is a strong chemistry between the three of them. But with Tyler being injured and very stand-offish and Allie having all sorts of doubts and misconceptions about the BDSM scene, Seth's plan to introduce the other two to the pleasures of submission appear doomed from the start.

"The pull to Tyler was just as strong as the one to Allie - and just as wrong." (Seth)

A week together under Seth's gentle yet dominating guidance awakens strong and unexpected feelings in all three of them. Despite his resistance to Seth's attentions and his doubts about why he is actually in the Dom's loft, Tyler can't deny that Seth's presence has a profound effect on him:

"Just one touch, right there, and all of the tension dripped from him, leaving behind nothing but calm compliance."

Tyler may have been renting himself out as a sub, he has never, ever truly submitted to anyone. And now, in his vulnerable position, he finds himself wondering:

"What would it be like to truly, honestly, surrender and trust this man before him?"

And Allie has a lot to come to terms with as well. She can't deny her attraction to Seth and Tyler, in fact:

"Whether Allie admitted it to herself or not, she needed this. They all did for one reason or another."

And she has to admit that submitting to her partners is not something that stems from her being weak or Seth and Tyler taking advantage of her.

"She wasn't bound, she was freed. And with a long, slow exhale, she let go."

Allie, like many a new submissive before her, has to learn that submitting isn't about giving up your power to someone else. As Seth explains to her so very eloquently:

"It takes more courage to willingly give yourself to a Dom than it does for the Dom to tie you down...I can only have what you give me. In that way, you control me."

But it is not just Allie and Tyler who have to come to terms with their new feelings. Seth may be an experienced Dom, the feelings he has for his two guests and the hopes these raise within him for the future are new and confusing:

"Seth bit back a groan. They were so close and damn, but he wanted this threesome to work. He wasn't sure why or how it would succeed of if he wanted two subs, but he wouldn't let this slip away. Allie seemed to give something to Tyler that Seth couldn't and he wanted Tyler to have that. The man needed to know that he was more than his occupation. That there were people in the world who wanted him for who he was. And Allie stirred something in Seth he wanted to claim just as much as Tyler."

Their one week together is magical for all three of them. But after that week the real world awaits them again. A secret act of kindness from Seth manages to upset Tyler so much that he breaks all contact with the Dom and Allie. And Allie and Seth don't have a future if it doesn't include Tyler as well. It will take a near disaster to bring the three together again and give them another opportunity to embrace the unconventional but oh so tempting relationship.

"Yeah, she really could have them both. The future would sort itself out and it'd be okay, because not trying, not seeing, would be worse." (Allie)

There was a lot I loved in this book. First and foremost I really like Lynda Aicher's writing and characters. The story runs smoothly and has the perfect balance between general story and (very) sexy scenes. These characters are real and completely normal people and it is easy to identify with them, even if you may not be able to imagine yourself in a similar situation.

I also liked that this book shows that there is another side to BDSM. A side that doesn't involve pain or public displays of humiliation:

"Have faith in the three of us. No one is here to hurt the other."

In fact, the author goes one step further. What started out as a power-exchange has turned into something completely different but equally wonderful by the time all conflicts are resolved:

"But he wasn't their Master. He was their lover. That was perfect."

It is wonderful to see the characters grow and change while at the same time staying true to themselves in this story. And the change is biggest for Allie with her very traditional and conservative background and career-driven life. She has to grow a lot but it is worth every struggle when she realizes that:

"More importantly, she needed them both. They gave her balance where she hadn't known she required it."

And I delighted in the hotness of this book. While a ménage may be a bit much for some readers, it worked very well for me. I'm impressed with the way in which Lynda Aicher managed to write a very sexy story about a three-some without ever making it feel cheap or over the top.

Although these three books take care of the three Doms who own The Den, I really hope that Lynda Aicher continues with this series. And it does appear that she has created a wonderful opportunity to do just that in the epilogue. My fingers are firmly crossed that she will continue with this very entertaining, if slightly wicked, series.

Never Forget (Dc Nina Foster)
Never Forget (Dc Nina Foster)
by Lisa Cutts
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Start to a Fascinating New Series, 14 July 2013
I received my copy from Myriad Editions through Nudge

The investigation starts when the body of a woman is found. She's been stabbed several times and has been dead for a few days at least. Detective Constable Nina Foster is one of many officers recruited to help with the investigation into the death of the woman who turns out to have been a prostitute with an eight year old son.

It's not long after that a second body is discovered. Although there is no known connection between the woman and the second victim, his wounds seem to indicate a link between the two deaths.

As the investigation progresses the body count continues to rise and for a long time any connection between the victims remains obscure. When a link is at last established it also reveals a connection to a traumatic event in Nina's past. Now she has to add worrying about being allowed to stay on the investigation to all the investigative threads running through her head.

But even with evidence slowly pointing the investigators in the right direction, it will take a violent confrontation and a surprising rescuer to bring the investigation to a close and a rather surprising ending to the book.

This book is Lisa Cutts' first novel and mystery. Drawing on her own experience as a police officer she writes a realistic yet deeply layered mystery. In fact, this is a book that requires attention from the reader. There are multiple characters with complicated connections between them to keep track of. And, since this is the first book in a planned series, a lot of attention is also paid to establishing Nina Foster as a well-rounded and realistic protagonist.

Initially Nina seemed a bit of a stereo type, with her habit of viewing every single man she met as a possible date or partner and her constant preoccupation with wine. Taking into account Nina's background though I can only applaud the author for not making her main character a lot more neurotic than she was. Many authors I can think of would have taken this character and made her appear far more disturbed than Mrs. Cutts did, just to add drama to the story. With the story-line being what it is this book didn't need that extra dimension and I'm delighted she resisted what must have been a rather tempting opportunity.

The mystery is well plotted, the investigation realistically described and the resolution both exciting and believable. I had a bit of a problem keeping the various characters involved in the investigation separated in my mind. While it is completely realistic that an investigation as described in this book would involve numerous police officers, and it also makes sense to introduce the characters that will play a role in what is to be a series of mysteries in the very first book, I did find myself getting a bit confused at times. On the other hand, there were a few characters who I imagine will make return appearances in future Nina Foster mysteries, and those were described in such a way that I got a good impression of who they were and what role the play in Nina's life without taking any pace out of the thrilling story-line. I'm impressed with the balance the author managed to strike; she gave me enough information about her characters to keep me interested yet left me curious about future books with everything that hasn't yet been revealed.

The short of it is that I really enjoyed this book. It is wonderful to find a new series with an interesting and realistic protagonist, a well written story and a complex and well executed mystery. I'm going to keep an eye out for future Nina Foster mysteries. If this debut is anything to go by, the world is one very talented mystery author richer.

Wicked Games
Wicked Games
by Kelly Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.87

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life immitating Art?, 9 July 2013
This review is from: Wicked Games (Paperback)
When Kelly, a twenty-six year old adult literacy teacher, meets Alex the attraction between them is instant. But even on their very first date it becomes clear that Alex isn't like the men Kelly has dated before. He tells her to wear something red - a request (or is it an order?) she ignores - orders her drink for her without asking what she wants and shows her what happens to girls who don't do as they're told as soon as they get back to her house. A spanking isn't what Kelly was expecting at the end of her first date and she knows she should put a stop to it, but:

"...and as much as part of me wanted to jump out of his grasp and demand he leave, my body was a purring kitten under his touch, she wasn't going anywhere. My inner slut was well and truly taking over."

It is on subsequent date that Alex explains to Kelly that his passions are far from what is considered regular. He is into BDSM, wants to dominate the woman he is with and needs her to submit to him. Kelly is confused about what he has told her and doesn't really know what any of it means but:

"I couldn't lie to myself: I was intrigued. I wanted to know exactly what he had in mind, to experience the secrets his words hinted at."

A visit to a local fetish club and talk with the professional Dominatrix she meets there, clarify some aspects of this lifestyle for her but no amount of watching or talking can prepare her for the things she will experience once she decides that she does want to explore this world. Her attraction to Alex is too strong and her curiosity has been aroused by the way she reacted to that first spanking. And after her first full play session with Alex she has to admit that:

"Even if I never saw Alex again, I knew I wouldn't be the same person, at least sexually, as I had been before I stepped into that bedroom."

It isn't long before both Kelly and Alex have to admit that what they are experiencing is more than just sexual attraction and compatibility. Kelly falls completely under Alex' spell:

"The way he could switch from being the perfect gentleman to looking at me like he could strip my clothes from my flesh with just the force of his gaze made my mouth go dry."

But their relationship and growing feelings don't leave the far more experienced Alex unaffected either:

"...I feel like I'm losing myself in you. I was planning on keeping the orgasm denial going until tomorrow but as soon as I was inside you, I lost all thought. It was remiss of me."

But just as it seems that Alex and Kelly have found their way to happiness, a blast from Alex' past emerges to throw a spanner in the works; a spanner of such magnitude that it may just put an end to Kelly's happiness and newly discovered pleasures.

As you may have noticed, I've been reading a lot of erotic books lately. And quite a few of those books had stories about a character being somewhat sexually frustrated for reasons they couldn't identify, meeting someone who turns out to be into BDSM, recognises their need/want and sets out to seduce them and introduce them to the pleasures of submission.

The story in this book runs along those lines as well. Except that it isn't a story that sprung from someone's imagination. No, according to the cover this is "a real-life erotic romance". While reading this book I couldn't get over how much fact - or real life if you will - imitates fiction. And then I had to give myself a good face-slap. Fact imitating fiction? Probably not. It is far more likely that the people who wrote the erotic novels I have been reading and enjoying actually knew what they were writing about and got it so right that by the time I read a factual account of submission I had a hard time remembering that it wasn't fiction.

This book reads as easy as a good work of fiction does. The story is as gripping as any work of fiction should be and the characters - well they aren't really characters of course since this isn't a work of fiction - are fascinating. In fact it is because this book isn't fiction that the story is so intriguing. While Kerry does resemble a lot of the newly submissive characters you find in novels, Alex is a bit more realistic than most Doms you find in erotic fiction. He's no billionaire for starters and does make mistakes, can't always keep his Dom persona up and is as vulnerable as Kerry when the relationship is under threat. And, more importantly, he's not afraid to share those mistakes and doubts with Kerry.

This book fascinated me as did Kerry. I loved everything she discovered about herself and how she continued to explore her boundaries even while questioning herself.

"And so there was another line crossed, and yet more territory he had conquered."

I smiled when Anna, the Dominatrix gives Kerry some literature to learn more about BDSM: "The Story of O" and "Exit to Eden"; two works of fiction I'm well familiar with and which do, indeed, provide a lot of insight into the lifestyle.

I think this is a wonderful book for anyone who has been reading erotic novels and, like me, has found themselves wondering how realistic they actually are. This book does prove that the line between fact and fiction, like the one between pain and pleasure, is indeed a very fine one.

Decadence (Spice Rack)
Decadence (Spice Rack)
Price: £3.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and oh so Sexy, 6 July 2013
I really loved this novella. It is so nice to read a story about characters you can identify with. A married couple, caught up in their busy lives, juggling kids, home and work; we all know that it is only too easy to start taking your relationship for granted. Too busy during the day, too tired at night, all those important moments of intimacy tend to fall by the wayside and next thing you know you can't quite remember when the last time was you spent some time together, just the two of you, getting hot and sweaty without worrying about everyday problems or listening to sounds from elsewhere in the house.

This is exactly the situation Eric and Jessica find themselves in. And when Eric also forgets to kiss his wife in the morning it feels to Jessica that maybe they are in real trouble. Finding Eric at home looking oh so sexy and discovering that he has taken the day off to spend a spontaneous Mother's Day with her in the middle of October more than puts Jessica's mind at ease. And when she discovers that Eric has invested in the "Spice Rack" containing suggestions to spice up their life, it almost feels as if all her Christmases have come at once.
Eric couldn't be more delighted with his wife's reaction to his surprise. The "Spice Rack" more than delivers on its promise while the couple rediscovers old pleasures and indulges in a few new ones. When Jessica mentions that she has to go to her final, mysterious, dance class in the afternoon Eric finds himself wondering. Why is she dancing, is she really taking a class or is it just an excuse for something else? It isn't until they are both home again and Jessica shows him exactly what she has been learning during her secret classes that Eric realizes that his marriage is better than it ever was.

Like I said, I loved this story. It is extremely sexy in an everyday sort of way. No billionaires, no antics that you can barely visualize never mind imagine trying yourself and no protracted drama. This story is as wonderful as it is because everything that is described in these pages is something every couple could indulge in. Having that wonderful "Spice Rack" would definitely help when it comes to re-introducing spice into your love life - in fact, I'd pay good money for one of those - but even without that aid, following Eric and Jessica's example is something every couple can aspire to.

Karen Stivali has written a hot as hell and wonderfully sweet story about real people with thoughts, fears and feelings that are all too familiar. The writing is smooth, the reading is easy and hot and the balance between sexiness and back-story is just about perfect. The only downside I can think of as far as this book is concerned is that I, once again, managed to find myself an author to add to my "must read" list.

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