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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

End of the Year Wrap Up + Giveaway

It’s been a pretty interesting year here on the blog. I stopped overwhelming myself and dialed down on the number of review requests I accepted and instead focused on the fact that I had access to Netgalley and Edelweiss. I also found out that my local library sucks when it comes to their romance section, both in print and e-book (Can I give back my library card?), got picked to be in the Kensington KLovers Review Crew (Epic highlight of my year), and survived a total crash/wipeout of my portable hard drive which housed, among other things, a lot of my books. After a quick pity party for the loss of my portable hard drive, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and began from scratch.

2014 was… Challenging, to put it mildly. There was just too much drama on and offline for my tastes but you know how some people are, they live to gossip and cause trouble. They make it harder for me to meet the handful of good people that are out there.

But book wise, this year, like every year, had hundreds if not thousands of new releases but unlike previous years, there were an unusually high amount of amazing reads in the romance genre. That’s why this year’s wrap up is longer than last year’s! I just couldn’t limit it to 20, let alone 10! That’s good for you because ONE lucky commenter will win their choice of one of the books on my list!

Today also marks the beginning of my partial hiatus, it means that aside from blog tours for books I already signed up for, there will be no new posts until January 15! After that I’ll be back in full force with more reviews, and hopefully giveaways as well as a new weekly feature that I hope will catch on!

When the Rogue Returns by Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Books/January 21, 2014

Victor and Isa's second chance at romance took them ten years but the passion was still there waiting for them to find one another again. As the second book in Jeffries' The Duke's Men series, When the Rogue Returns was sexy and fun. Taking place away from London and in a small town, Victor and Isa work together to figure out just what happened on the night they were separated all while dodging those who want to separate them for good...
My Review l Purchase Links: Amazon l Kindle

Trust by Design by Stacey Joy Netzel
Self Published/April 1, 2014

Let's hear it for the computer nerds! Dean Daley needs to use Gina Allen in order to prove that his rival is stealing his software and causing his company to spiral downwards, Gina needs to land a job ASAP or else she’s in trouble. Author Stacey Joy Netzel always gives her books a light hearted side even when the odds aren't in the hero or heroine's favor by infusing the plot with silly moments and humor at the most unexpected times. The instant mistrust between the two kept them from acting on the immediate attraction they had for one another. Insta-lust can work really well for a romance, so long as it takes them a while to act on it like in Trust by Design.
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Blind Faith by Rebecca Zanetti
Forever/ May 6, 2014

This series is one of the few that has me trained like one of Pavlov's dogs. Nate Dean and Audrey Madison have a history that includes young love, passion and betrayal. Watching them reacquaint themselves in the present, as adults was explosive to say the least. The side benefit of this book was all the action, suspense and the continuing mystery of just what happened to one of Nate's genetically enhanced brothers. Zanetti does a fantastic job of setting up this particular plot within a plot without confusing readers. For me, it’s like getting two stories in one book. You get a passionate romance and a mystery that spans the entire series.
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The Scoundrel's Seduction by Jennifer Haymore
Forever/May 27, 2014

I have such a fondness for undercover agents, especially ones like Sam. His questionable lineage gave him a suspicious and quiet personality that was perfect for his job. However, there was also the matter of Sam’s missing mother, The Duchess of Trent. Having both a romance and mystery heightened my enjoyment, mostly in part to Haymore’s talent for creating interesting characters and engaging plots. Elise, the heroine, was a particular surprise. She started off so meek and quiet but quickly became someone who would risk everything to be free from the men who only see her as a pretty face and someone to do their bidding.
My Review l Purchase Links: Amazon l Kindle

A Virgin's Guide to Misbehaving by Jessica Clare
Berkley NAL, Penguin Group/June 3, 2014

Normally, I despise virgins in contemporary romance but in very rare cases, it works. This book was one of them. Elise and Rome’s rocking chemistry didn’t suffer one bit just because she was the big “V” and I never got ticked off because Elise was stupidly naïve. She was refreshingly honest and natural and Rome was rough around the edges with a soft heart. He didn’t patronize Elise but encouraged her to explore who she was as a woman and that my friends is a big part of what made the virgin work for me. Readers also get to catch up with the previous books' characters as well.
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The Secrets of a Scoundrel by Gaelen Foley
Avon Romance/June 24, 2014

Such a bittersweet book to read! I’ve been a fan of this author for so long and have a deep affection for The Inferno Club series because it got me through some really tough times. Nick and Virginia were so similar in temperament that I’m surprised they survived each other long enough to fall in love! Virginia was the only heroine in the entire series that could have ended up being a member of the infamous club of spies. I wish she would have been the only female member of the club, she would have turned it on its ear. This book tied as my favorite in the series with My Ruthless Prince.
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Straddling the Line by Jaci Burton
Berkley NAL, Penguin Group/July 1, 2014

One of the few sports romance authors I read and enjoy, Jaci Burton’s Play by Play series is a long one but it was Trevor Shay, the football/baseball superstar that stood out in my mind. Trevor and Haven brought so much chemistry and life to the series. Straddling the Line wasn’t about the big, sexy athlete saving the beautiful sports journalist, because while Trevor may have started off wanting to help Haven after her father’s death, it turned out he needed more saving than she did. Trevor’s secret was a bit of a shocker to me but it made me love the superstar athlete even more and that’s not easy to do with someone who doesn’t like sports.
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Lady Windermere’s Lover by Miranda Neville
Avon Romance/June 24, 2014

I wish I could say I “read it all for Julian” but that’s not true. I had never read a book by Miranda Neville before this year (shocking I know) so I didn’t know what to expect when I started this one. I was thrown into a world of stubborn men, proud women and one very enigmatic secondary character that I fell head over heels in love with. This take on the marriage of convenience trope didn’t bore me, instead it delighted me. CHARACTERS NAMES seemed destined to misunderstand each other forever and spend their marriage in wedded hell. Adding to the problem was Lord Windermere’s former best friend, Julian the Duke of Denford. *insert girlish sighs here*
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I Adored a Lord by Katharine Ashe
Avon Romance/July 29, 2014

Aside from being a fun, historical romance version of the game Clue, I Adored a Lord was an emotional read for me. The heroine Ravenna was a true animal lover, grieving the loss of her beloved dog. That loss carried on throughout the book and while throughout the book she began to heal, it never fully went away. Vitor was different as well. He spent years living in a monastery and had been pulled out to play babysitter for his legitimate brother, a prince. His romance with Ravenna was an unusual one too, they fell in love while investigating a murder together, not in a ballroom or in London’s busy society. I Adored a Lord was a murder mystery/adventure wrapped up in a tender romance with two characters that I definitely adored.
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Guarding Poppy by Christine Wenrick
Red Tree House Publishing/July 30, 2014

Who would have thought that when I read the Charmed trilogy by Christine Wenrick that I would not only enjoy the first person romance, but become addicted to the dark, gritty world in which it took place. Now with the second book in the spin-off series, Wenrick took me even further into the world of the Brethren, where no one is what they seem and trusting the wrong person could get the good guys killed. Alec and Poppy’s happy ending didn’t come easy; both characters had to bring out the darkness that lived within them in order to defeat their enemies. A great bonus was getting to revisit with the characters that started it all: Caleb, Olivia, Jax and Gemma.
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The deValery Code by Darcy Burke
Intrepid Reads/August 18, 2014

This one was so much fun. As a kid I was a huge fan of the Indiana Jones movies and I wanted to be Indy when I grew up. I just thought his life of adventure and treasure hunting was the best thing ever. Years later The deValery Code is written and I found myself going back to that 8 year old little girl who was so excited to go on an amazing adventure. The only difference this time is that there’s a heroine who is just as important in the plot as the hero. And the sexy times… The Indian Jones movies definitely didn’t have those. Rhys and Margery were the perfect team of explorers.
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Crave the Night by Lara Adrian
Delacorte Press/August 5, 2014

This book was just full of surprising details about Breedmates, the only women who can mate with and carry the young of vampires. Continuing a series that has already spanned number of books, Crave the Night charges ahead in the new direction previously started in Edge of Dawn. The offspring of the original cast of characters now has the spotlight and I couldn’t be happier, even if it does mean I see less of my favorite, Teagan. Nathan and Jordan as a couple couldn’t have surprised me more, they’re so different yet they complimented one another with Jordana drawing Nathan out of his brooding with her personality.
My Review l Purchase Links: Amazon l Kindle

How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries
Pocket Books/August 19, 2014

Tristan!! Easily my favorite character from The Duke’s Men series, the illegitimate son of a viscount, Tristan was a scoundrel through and through. His way with women did not extend to Lady Zoe. Their banter ranged from antagonistic to flirty but it was always entertaining. They worked well together and I enjoyed the glimpse into the Romany characters that were a part of Tristan’s life from the very beginning. How the Scoundrel Seduces also sets into the motion the events that will lead to a drastic change in Dominic Manton’s, Tristan’s half brother, life. My favorite scenes have to be in the beginning when Tristan and Zoe are getting reacquainted, or rather, picking up their bantering where they left off in the previous book.
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What a Duke Dares by Anna Campbell
Forever/August 26, 2014

What was NOT to love about this book? Camden and Penelope couldn’t be more opposite to one another in temperament and ideas yet they were well matched as a couple. Cam always had a strong presence whenever he appeared in previous books in the series so it stood to reason that he would need a strong heroine who wouldn’t put up with his bullying and sometimes standoffish ways. Who better than Penelope who had known him since they were young and once turned down a marriage proposal from him? While Cam had Penelope’s love and respect, he didn’t know that and watching a man as arrogant and stubborn as him have to work harder than he’s ever had just to gain what he wanted from Penelope gave him a major growth spurt in the personality department.
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One Night of Scandal by Elle Kennedy
Entangled: Brazen/September 8, 2014

First of all, the Brazen line has some of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of angst and sexual heat. Combine Brazen with one of my new favorite authors, Elle Kennedy and watch me go up in flames! Reed and Darcy had amazing sexual chemistry that was amped up by the “forbidden” factor. They shouldn’t want each other because Darcy is Reed’s best friend’s ex-girlfriend. The problem is, he’s wanted her since he first laid eyes on her. Yeah, it’s as hot as it sounds. I could go into detail about one of my favorite scenes with Reed and Darcy, but then I'd have to throw myself into the nearest ice pond.
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No More Mr. Nice Guy by Amy Andrews
Entangled: Brazen/ September 29, 2014

Another “Is it hot in here, or…” book from Entangled: Brazen. Mack Kennedy got dumped because he was “too nice” and Josie Butler broke it off with a “too nice” boyfriend. These two friends should never have looked twice at one another except that appearances aren’t what they seemed. Mack wasn’t really “too nice” and Josie wanted more spice in the bedroom, so much so that her best friend (and Mack’s sister) made her write down a sex “To Do” list that Mack happily helps her out with. I tell you, Mack and Josie had some of the sexiest, dirtiest and again, sexiest scenes this year.
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Broken by Laura Wright
Berkley NAL, Penguin Group USA/October 7, 2014

Laura Wright did a damn fine job of creating a cowboy hero that had me on the verge of tears because I just can’t find one of my own!! James was a horse whisperer of sorts who carries around the guilt of not preventing his sister’s murder when they were younger. He and his brothers suffered horrible abuse from their mother after the unsolved murder that drastically changed their personalities. Talk about a tear inducing background! Adding to the emotional turmoil, there are glimpses into the murdered Cassie Cavanaugh’s last days by way of journal entries. She describes her growing crush on an older boy whom she refers to as “Sweet.” So not only was this book one hell of a romance, it also had a strong emotional setting to it as well.
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Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
Grand Central Publishing/October 14, 2014

This series just gets better and better. I thought that with the end of the Ghost of St. Giles arc that the Maiden Lane series would end but thankfully, Ms. Hoyt plans to continue delighting readers like myself with more witty, engaging romances between somewhat odd characters. Apollo Greaves was the least “lordly” character from the entire series in my opinion. His time in bedlam had washed away almost all traces of civility and all he wanted was to live in peace. He and Lily Stump, an actress, made an odd yet believable couple. I say they were odd not because he was nobility and she was an actress but because he was a man of few words, she was a woman who made a living speaking lines, he liked to be alone, she liked to be around good people. Yet together they made such a romantic couple. *sighs*
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Midnight Action by Elle Kennedy
Berkley NAL, Penguin Group USA/November 4, 2014

Action, danger, second chance romance (sort of), angry sex and one pissed off queen of assassins were part of what made Midnight Action THE book of the year for me. I love action movies, but sadly, in today’s action movies there’s not a whole lot of true action HEROINES. A lot of eye candy for men sure, but they’re the helpless, spineless, can’t-hold-my-own-against-a-paperclip type that just tick me off. Up until now, Elle Kennedy’s Killer Instincts series has been incredible but it was the long awaited reunion between Jim Morgan, the leader of a group of mercenaries, and Noelle, the leader of a deadly group of female assassins. These two had such a painful, bloody history that turned them bitter and hateful towards one another. That animosity was obvious throughout the first three books that I couldn’t believe they were going to get a chance to fall in love! Aside from a tension filled history, Jim and Noelle had some secrets that needed to be revealed in order for them to have a sliver of a chance… But these secrets were doozies! Couple that with some really great action scenes, new and old characters and I couldn’t help but want to re-read Midnight Action over and over again!
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Her Lone Wolf by Paige Tyler
Sourcebooks Casablanca/Novermber 4, 2014

A late addition to this list, I wasn’t even aware of author Paige Tyler until I was offered a chance to review Her Lone Wolf along with her January release (Hungry Like the Wolf). This is one of those “I’m SO glad I said ‘yes’” moments that I’m sure is going to turn into a long term love affair between me and any books she writes. Another second chance romance (Hey, those can be steamy good!), Danica and Clayne didn’t part on the best terms and Clayne was convinced that Danica didn’t love him the way he loved her. Danica for her part, was forced to walk away from Clayne in order to protect him. What was so great about this book was the fact that Danica already knew Clayne was a wolf so there wasn’t any time wasted keeping her from finding out about Clayne. Then there was the mystery of the serial killer they were working to catch. There was such a great twist in the plot that I didn’t see coming.
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Undesired Lust by Eden Summers
Self Published/November 21, 2014

Eden is my go-to gal when I want some hot rocker lovin’. She just knows how to make a girl swoon over her Reckless Beat men! This one felt like it took a lifetime of waiting until I could read it. The resident asshole of the group, Mason Lynch actually didn’t deserve his reputation as a cold hearted fame whore. As much as he loved the fame that came with being the lead vocalist in a successful band, the price he paid for that freedom was definitely too high. With an Eden Summers book you’re going to get two things: Emotional turmoil and hot sex scenes, and with Mason and Sydney Higgins, there was more than enough angst to go around. Don’t think Undesired Lust is all moping, sexin’ and lovin’ though, that would be boring and pathetic. The guys of Reckless Beat tend to act like pre-pubescent teenagers when they’re together and it can be highly amusing (Just read the novella, Reckless Weekend to find out just how bad they can get). Nothing gets my attention more than snarky ass characters who love getting love.
My Review l Purchase Links: Amazon l Kindle

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean
Avon Romance/November 25, 2014

Okay this one took me off guard. I had read her Love by Numbers series which is where the heroine Georgiana first appeared. She is the sister of the Duke of Leighton (Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart) who at 16, was left pregnant and ruined. Now, she’s the heroine of her own story and she sure does make the scandal that her brother caused years ago look like child’s play. All of London society shuns Lady Georgiana but little do they know that she is the mysterious Chase, keeper of the darkest secrets of society’s elite. Georgiana did not disappoint me, she was still the same determined girl she was at 16. She still loved deeply and was willing to sacrifice herself to keep those loved ones from having to suffer like she did. Duncan West was a surprising but perfect choice for her. He keeps his own scandalous secrets and has been sacrificing himself to keep someone he loves safe. These two made not only a great couple but a force to be reckoned with.
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Revenant by Larissa Ione
Grand Central Publishing/December 16, 2014

I didn’t want to say goodbye to this world at all but that didn’t stop me from devouring the last Demonica/Lords of Deliverance book. Revenant’s true identity was a shocker that’s for sure but as hardnosed and cruel as he seemed, there was a soft, squishy part of him that he kept buried so deep it seemed like it would never appear. I alternated between laughing and wanting to strangle the fallen angel, which is of course, the reaction most had after spending time with him. Blaspheme was a different kind of heroine, she’s still a tough girl but she’s spent all her years running for her life so she doesn’t know anything else. Though I never felt like she hid behind Revenant, in fact, she does pretty well taking care of herself. A great bonus was seeing Reaver, Harvester, Eidolon and the Horsemen once more.
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The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville
Avon Romance/December 30, 2014

Another series I was late to, The Duke of Dark Desires is the last book in The Wild Quartet series and features the enigmatic Julian, Duke of Denford. I fell so hard for this character in the previous book, Lady Windermere’s Lover. There was something about his brooding, sarcastic personality that called to me as a reader. I didn’t expect to fall so hard for the entire story and its cast of characters though. Especially Jane Grey. As far as heroines go, she was one of the best historical heroines I’ve ever met. A side effect of The Duke of Dark Desires? I started reading up on the French Revolution.
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1 comment:

  1. What made my year memorable was breaking my arm...twice...same area


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