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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

2015 Year End Wrap Up + Giveaway!

Goodness gracious it’s December already! Who’s ready for Christmas? You can tell by my header that I am. Sadly, my little sister lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and I won’t be seeing her this year, or in the near future but she’s here in spirit and in my header along with my darling mother who puts up with my shenanigans and strange sense of humor.

Looking back on the year there were some highs (New Authors yay!) and some pretty bad lows. We lost our sweet Cooper boy in June and had a health scare with Mr. Pud about a month ago. We’re still hurting but we smile with joy at the memories we have of the little ninja.

In terms of books I was thrown for a bit of a loop. It seemed that a lot of my long time favorite authors just weren’t doing it for me anymore. They either started new series’ that I couldn’t get into or they changed their writing styles and in my opinion the magic of their stories was lost. I could understand one or two cases but 2015 seemed like EVERY author I had loved for years had changed and I had to “break up” with them.

But just like with every relationship that ends, there’s always a possibility for a new one and that’s just what happened this year. It was the year of the new-to-me author! This year I either fell more in love with 2014’s new-to-me authors and bumped them up to “Favorites” and “Auto Buys” or I discovered all new authors who jumped up to the aforementioned lists, much to my delight. This year’s list is slightly longer than previous years but that just means more books to love.

So, here it is, my 2015 End of the Year wrap up! My top reads of the year and ONE lucky person will get to pick which book from the list they’d like to read. Consider it my gift to you for sticking around and being lovely. In no particular order:

Hungry Like the Wolf by Paige Tyler

Hot alpha wolves that make up a SWAT team?

I would have to be stupid to have passed this one up. This was the book that introduced me to Paige Tyler and so far, she has yet to disappoint! Gage Dixon provided the “in” to get to know a bit about the men under his command and it definitely piqued my interest. Who wouldn’t want to be in the middle of 16 hot, sweaty, alpha males? Gage and Mac’s romance opened the doors to the other members of SWAT finding their “one” and provided some very steamy scenes between Gage and Mac as well but darn those wolves and their extra sensitive hearing and sense of smell! No privacy at all!!!

If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries

Sabrina Jeffries is one of the few authors who didn’t change on me and for that I am super grateful because her books bring me such joy. After spending years as a disowned second son, Dominik Manton has the title and a second chance with his first love. My favorite thing about this book is that Jane Vernon matured and became wiser in those years apart from Dominick, giving a new dynamic to their relationship. I will always remember this particular book because it introduced me to the love of my book life, one Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough. Yes, I fell in love with a deeply pensive, oh so serious secondary character, so sue me!

The Other Duke by Jess Michaels

Who knew that boredom and curiosity would lead me to another new-to-me author? Michaels’ style is a mix of erotic angst, humor and emotion. With this book I met a notorious family thrust into the social whirl of London after the eldest son inherits a very important title, and a skiddish bride. Rafe and Serafina’s tender but passionate arranged marriage was just my style of reading and I fell in love with the scandalous Flynn family who didn’t follow convention but rather made things up as they went along.

Touch & Go by Mira Lyn Kelly

New-to-me author Mira Lyn Kelly surprised me with the amount of longing, passion and angst between lifelong friends Sam and Ava. This one is one of my favorite Friends to Lovers stories because it blended the friendship aspect and the new lovers’ aspect very well and presented the very real challenges of transitioning from one to the other while still maintaining the original foundation of friendship. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, a fun supporting cast brought a lot of humor and insight into Sam and Ava’s complicated relationship.

Chasing Desire by Joya Ryan

Again, a new-to-me author who really turned up the heat and gave me fun, flirty, sexy characters to fall in love with. Autumn was a sassy, strong woman who just needed the right people in her life. Small town romances usually rub me the wrong way but not this one! The focus is on the main couple, friends and family didn’t meddle too much and most of all, it was a hot, hot, HOT romance. Huck Galvin was just too darn adorable not to love. He tries so hard to remember his manners around Autumn but they seem to challenge each other in everything except sex!

Total Surrender by Rebecca Zanetti

One of my FAVORITE series’ ever! The youngest Dean brother finally got his story. After being thought dead by his older brothers, Jory’s story had to reach that level that the previous books did and it totally did! Piper may have began as a woman desperate for her father’s attention but the woman eventually grew up and started to think for herself, making her a welcome addition to the group. There’s no shortage of action, suspense and near death experiences in this book. The entire series is beyond addictive and this one was no exception. Action, suspense, surprise and hot as hell passion is what this book delivers.

Bad for Me by Codi Gary

I actually read a book in this series as part of a book tour a while back and when I picked this one up it was like reacquainting myself with an old friend. One of my favorite themes in a romance is the scarred hero/heroine and in this one both characters where scarred. It shouldn’t have worked, all that baggage that Everett and Callie were carrying around should have made the book sound more like a melodramatic, depressing play but there was plenty of humor and passion put in along with some very real, very emotional scenes of healing. I couldn’t put this book down until I was certain they were going to be okay. The power of writing folks. It makes you care deeply about fictional characters.

Taking What’s His by Diane Alberts

When you think former Marine do you picture an IT guy? I know I don’t which was why I just had to try this one out by another new-to-me author. Holt was full of surprises but not as much as Lydia. This woman was a take charge kind of character. I loved how it felt like she was in charge and driving the story forward, not Holt. He was kind of along for the ride and Lydia kept throwing the guy off balance. It was great!

The Widow Wager by Jess Michaels

Yes, another title by Jess Michaels because seriously, this woman can write a love scene! Her heroines are never naïve ninnies even though the time period dictates that they should be. In this one, the hero gets so drunk that he gambles his way straight into marriage to the widowed heroine. What I loved about the heroine, Gemma was that she was already a widow with experience and that she was a passionate woman with needs not a naïve, scared little girl. Crispin and Gemma were an ideal match and I loved watching them fall in love as much as I loved their lust for each other and their verbal back and forth. Gemma was no fool and she kept Crispin on his toes from the moment they met to the very end.

A Scoundrel by Moonlight by Anna Campbell

The entire Sons of Sin series is amazing but this was the book that came out this year. James and Nell couldn’t be more opposite or more right for each other. Both of them were strong willed and wanted to protect their loved ones but they were on opposite sides of misunderstanding but that just made for some interesting obstacles and some rather heated moments! My inner geek can’t help but share that Nell’s appearance, particularly her hair is based off of Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen. I loved revisiting the previous books’ characters as well because each one is quirky in their own way.

The Unlikely Lady by Valerie Bowman

Another new-to-me author! I was surprised with all the new-to-me authors that wrote historical romance because I really struggle with the heroines in about 95% of HR because they’re stupidly naïve and way too skiddish to enjoy the overall story. Bowman was one of those authors whose heroines can walk the fine line of historical maiden and modern woman without ruining the historical feel of the book. Her heroine Jane Lowndes was smart, strong and modern for her time, making her a complete delight. The hero Garrett was equally surprising in that he hid his intelligence behind a silly bachelor façade. It was actually the gorgeous cover that snagged my attention and I’m so glad it did.

Sultry Groove by Eden Summers

Talk about erotic rock star romance! I love this lovely Aussie author and her Reckless Beat guys to pieces. There’s so much emotional turmoil, cheeky humor and hot sex that it’s ALMOST impossible to have a favorite guy from the band. The heartsick Sean was impossible not to love. This big hunk of love needed someone special and Melody was that special lady. I guess if I couldn’t have him to myself, she was a close second ;) Just one more full length book left in the series then I am going to feel like a little lost deer.

Vanished in Venice by Stacey Joy Netzel

Not only is Stacey a great lady and easy to talk to, she writes some of the most entertaining and unforgettable books! The entire Italy Intrigue series is a hoot and a half but this last book was my favorite! Nick and Rachel are connected by more than just the treasure they’re hunting. The entire book is a great combination of the two sleuthing, bickering and getting very personal with each other. The twists and turns in the plot had me reading until my eyes couldn’t stay open any longer and don’t even get me started on the giggling that happened at the most inappropriate times and with me in the most public of places.

Falling for His Best Friend by Katee Robert

The Friends to Lovers theme can either be really good or really, really bad and I’ve experienced both so this one was an easy addition to this year’s favorite reads. Avery Yeung’s desperation to have a kid aside, she was a fun character, easily fitting into the role of “Just One of the Guys” instead of a girl pretending to be a guy. I knew Drew Flannery didn’t have a chance against this type of woman and enjoyed watching him trip over his emotions.

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt

Another one of my longtime favorites who didn’t disappoint by changing their format this year! Elizabeth Hoyt has always delivered a strong story with believable characters. James Trevillion and Lady Phoebe Batten make unlikely lead characters, he’s lame and she’s blind but that’s what made their story, their passionate romance so much more than just another tale of love. It’s the obstacles that they have to overcome in their everyday lives, the obstacles that prevent them from being together (He’s a former dragoon captain and she’s a duke’s sister) that made their scenes range from humorous bickering to fragile friendship to red hot passion. The biggest bonus was watching the notoriously stoic Trevillion lighten up and be a man instead of a soldier.

Midnight Captive by Elle Kennedy

I just ADORE Elle Kennedy’s writing style, particularly in the Killer Instinct’s series. Her heroines are EXACTLY what they should be in a romantic suspense: Part of the action and not a wilting flower. Sean and Bailey set off fireworks in each other even when Bailey thought Sean was someone else. They’re both flawed, both dangerous and they needed to be with what they were caught in. The unpredictability of the action scenes is what keeps me coming back for more in this series along with the wry humor and the building up of whatever book is coming next.

The Marriage Contract by Katee Robert

Super surprised by this one. It’s darker than what I usually read the hero Teague O’Malley is a member of a powerful gangster type family and is ordered to marry the daughter of a rival family to ensure a successful “business” alliance. The woman in question is Callista Sheridan who was promised to a man from a third family but when that man ends up dead she’s forced to marry Teague instead. What ensures is a lot of dark, emotional moments as Teague and Callie try to survive the often violent world they live in all while falling in love. I really didn’t see how a forced marriage or marriage of convenience trope was going to work in modern times but Robert did it beautifully. And with a ton of scorching heat! The buildup to the explosive finish was exactly what I wanted and I can’t wait for more!

The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries

Jeremy Keane was a rascal, there was just no way out of it, he’s the American painter looking for inspiration and finding more than he bargained for. Lady Yvette was and will always be a favorite because YAY TALL GIRLS! I love a tall heroine that also has that spark of rebellion like Yvette. Jeremy was a big surprise too because he was happy for people to believe that he was nothing more than a lazy painter with too much time to get in trouble but he was actually a good man who would never take advantage of anyone which left Yvette in the position of having to pursue him. And also, more Edwin. RAWR.

Playing for Her Heart by Megan Erickson

Nerds get sex too!! Lol, Grant Osprey and Chloe Talley hooked up while they were in costume and in character and while Chloe says she doesn’t want a repeat, Grant is determined to get to know Chloe the woman not the cosplayer. I’ve read the previous book in this series and while I liked it, I didn’t love it like I did this book. Grant and Chloe’s cat and mouse courtship hid some very real issues for Chloe and that’s what really made this book work for me. It was more than just two adults who liked to dress up in costumes. Grant was an adorable dork of a single father and while I normally don’t like kids in romance novels, his teenage daughter was delightful! Did I mention that this book was SUPER hot?

Even the Score by Kate Meader

Another super hot romance from new-to-me author Kate Meader, this one had enemies Hunter Dade and Tess McKenzie meeting up again after Tess’ advice made Hunter’s fiance jilt him at the altar. Wanting to even the score but needing Tess’ help, Hunter offers to pay her to be his fake fiance. Needless to say, things quickly go from professional to heated and personal. Hunter and Tess’ misunderstandings kept them from really letting their guards down with Hunter believing that even though he’s a millionaire, Tess doesn’t see him as anything other than an uneducated man from a trailer park and Tess all but sure that Hunter will never forgive her for ruining his business deal, I mean wedding. These two weren’t so different at the end of the day and I loved watching them fall for each other.

Hold Me Until Midnight by Christina Phillips

Scarlett Ashford and Jackson Grayson are social opposites but they think more alike than they believe. Scarlett hires Jackson as a pretend boyfriend at her father’s wedding but these two get in way over their heads. Their chemistry is red hot and new-to-me author Christina Phillips gave me one more hero to add to my fictional boyfriends list. Jackson may have looked like a bad boy for hire but he was a big old softie. Scarlett needed more of a backbone. She wasn’t a bad character, just a bit of a doormat with her family. I like heroines with bite and spunk but overall, I really liked her dynamic with Jackson.

Kissing Vicious by Brooklyn Ann

Okay so I know Brooklyn Ann as the writer of some amazing historical paranormal romances but when I read this contemporary rock star romance I was in heaven! You see, Brooklyn Ann writes some pretty tough heroines but at the same time they’re vulnerable and still learning and growing. Kinley Black was something different, a female guitarist turned roadie. This girl could pull her own weight and hang with the guys. I loved how she wasn’t given special privileges by the band just because she was female. Kinley earned their respect and that just made this book so awesome to me. It was totally about Kinley, her life, her dreams, her romance. Quinn Mayne was just along for the hot, sexy ride.

Chasing Mr. Wrong by Joya Ryan

Small town golden boy (And part of the family the town was named after) Ryder Diamond has a one night stand with a woman he believes to be his blind date. But the next morning when he visits his sister at work, surprise, surprise because her new summer employee is no other than his one night stand who wasn’t his blind date. From there these two bicker and heat up the pages with Ryder wanting to preserve his image as a “Good Guy” and Whitney is the bad girl out to influence him. Whitney isn’t the bad guy here though; its Ryder’s outdated sense of image and propriety so the fun of this story was watching him become who he really was and giving Whitney a reason to stay instead of moving on to the next town. Such good fun.

The Name of the Game by Jennifer Dawson

This one was in a word, AWESOME! Hot but socially awkward professor + the sexy, confident bombshell + More fireworks than 4th of July! James and Gracie were so scorching hot together it was impossible to believe that they believed they disliked each other for two books. Watching them challenge each other and eventually fall in love was worth every moment I spent reading page after page. This series has humor, fun and sexy chemistry for a light but hot read. I loved this new-to-me author so much that after I read this book I rushed over to Amazon and bought the previous books in the series (Which were just as hot and just as fun).

Claimed by Elle Kennedy

This erotic Dystopian romance really made my day when I read it. Yes, I said DAY. It didn’t take me long to become so engrossed in Connor Mackenzie and Hudson Lane’s rocky but very erotic romance in a post war world that I didn’t sleep at all! Claimed is an Elle Kennedy book so I knew to expect some really hot scenes but dang these all but scorched my eyeballs off! Not to be overlooked was the very detailed world that was created and the characters that were introduced. The story isn’t always happy or pleasant but it does create an incredible impact on a reader who loves a tough story with lots of heat.

Rogue Knight by Regan Walker

I can’t have an End of the Year wrap up without including this wonderful author. Regan Walker ALWAYS puts her heart and soul into her books and you can tell by careful attention to detail that’s mixed with an emotionally engaging story. There aren’t many medieval romances out there these days, much less any like the ones Walker writes. Who would have thought a romance set in the years after the Norman Conquest would be so intriguing or so terribly romantic? Not me but not only was it both it sparked an interest in the Norman Conquest. I love romance novels that create an interest in a historical event! Sir Geoffroi de Tournai and Emma of York had to fight tooth and nail for their happiness, at times it looked like they were going to be the end of themselves but the struggle was worth it in the end.

A Bad Boy for Christmas by Jessica Lemmon

Not the first book I’ve read by Lemmon but certainly the first full length one so she’s considered a new-to-me-author. I really can’t read sugary sweet Christmas romances, they give me a tooth ache so this one was a true delight. Connor McClain and Faith Garrett were both lonely people who happened to be attracted to each other. More than that though, they were friends. I enjoyed their friendship as much as I enjoyed the attraction between them. Connor was really the best kind of friend a woman like Faith could ask for. Attentive, a great listener and very observant. Faith’s love of sweets was an endearing trait when a lot of heroines aren’t big eaters (I hate that) and her humor made her such a likable gal. The heat level between these two made my holiday season.

Deceived by Jess Michaels

A historical romance where an offhand remark made in an attempt to impress a vain girl backfires and makes an innocent the target of bullying for years. I loved that Josie wasn’t quick to forgive Evan for his role in her years of humiliation and bullying. He had no idea how bad it had been for her and needed to really see the role he played in it before they could move past that. These two were passionate but like in previous books in the Wicked Woodley series, the disappearance of Evan’s sister Claire hung over them and instead of bringing the book down it only built an anticipation of that moment that Claire is hopefully reunited with her family. And blast it! I wanna know what she’s been up to and how she’s survived on her own.

One Wild Winter’s Eve by Anne Barton

Charles Holland and Lady Rose Sherbourne’s tender but passionate love story was a highlight of my year. Another stunning cover to match the amazing story by new-to-me author Anne Barton (I reviewed the previous book in this series last year and loved it), it had the right mix of sweetness, heat and likable characters. Charles and Rose were such fun and their relationship felt so natural even though their social status stood between them. After I was done with this book it took me a few days to be able to pick up another book because I was still living vicariously through Barton’s characters.

Edge of Danger by Katie Reus

Who knew a kidnapping could lead to a passionate romance and open up so many questions instead of giving answers? Tucker Pankov was undercover in a previous book and managed to snag my full attention. I was so glad that he wasn’t what he seemed and that he got his own book because it introduced his friends who are part of an elite team targeted for assassination. Not only was Tucker a great character but so were his buddies who ranged from super serious to light hearted joker. And analyst Karen Stafford was a brilliant mind with a sense of humor and common sense to match. She may not have been a field agent but she handled herself so well in tense situations!

The Irresistible Rogue by Valerie Bowman

Another author I’ve only read one other time, I couldn’t not include a romance that was loosely based on The Philadelphia Story! If you’re not familiar with the movie or the play that won’t stop you from enjoying the story of Captain Rafferty Cavendish and his estranged wife Daphne Swift. There’s passion, excitement, spy games and for me the best part was that Daphne was part of it all! No staying at home for this quirky lady! It was more than just Daphne's willingness to participate in dangerous activities, it was that she was actually good at it! She wasn't a child playing games, she was a quick thinker and Rafe respected her more for it. I could totally see why he fell in love with her. Even though he did take forever to figure it out.

Reckless Rendezvous by Eden Summers

Technically it’s a novella but it still yanked my heart strings and gave me so many feels (Did I just say that?) there was no way it couldn’t be on the list. Leah’s emotional turmoil was something that was instantly relatable as was her actions when she ran back to Vegas. What I wasn’t counting on was the inked up stud named Logan to steal a bit of my heart too.

A Wicked Way to Win an Earl by Anna Bradley

A debut author and DAYUM did she impress with this one! I love historical romances where the heroine isn’t a complete ninny or an over the top damsel in distress. Delia was smart, sensible and strong. She had to be to stand toe to toe with Alec who was a natural leader even if he thought he knew it all. The hate to love story was executed in a way that showed how difficult Alec was without making him into a villain. And yes, I did enjoy watching the wretch suffer with his growing feelings towards Delia and his denials only rang more and more false as the book progressed.

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

Oh I hope this series continues for years to come because I adore Hoyt’s odd characters and raw sex scenes but what I really loved about the latest addition to the Maiden Lane series was the hero, Asa Makepeace. He’s such a grumpy bear, complete with a booming voice, short fuse and manners that would make anyone cringe. He’s rude, crude, cranky and utterly adorable. Then there’s Eve the heroine who, despite her background and questionable brother, has the guts to stand up to Asa and even better she gets him to fall in line. Don’t get me started on Asa’s carnal vocabulary, there’s no ice in the house right now.

Kill Without Mercy by Alexandra Ivy

Yay! This book just barely makes the cut because it’s out on December 29 and I haven’t even posted the review. But I’ve read it and it’s a solid and strong start to an all new series that has a very interesting group of men at its center. Rafe Vargas survived hell on Earth yet he maintains his sense of protecting the innocent or the weak, surprising for what he and his friends went through. However it’s Annie White that was the biggest surprise. Her background was something I hadn’t encountered before in a romance and that added a whole new level of intrigue to the entire story. I won’t say much more since I’m saving it for my review but you can already tell I loved it.

Bound to Darkness by Lara Adrian

One of the very few authors I’ve been with since the beginning, I am LOVING the new direction the whole series is taking. For this book there’s a rare female vampire who is totally kick ass. Carys Chase is such an independent female and a strong fighter. She wasn’t invincible but she sure put up a good fight. She’s passionate about everything she does, including loving one of the most dangerous cage fighters in existence, Rune. Carys and Rune’s love story comes complete with secrets, danger and of course parental objections but it is well worth reading. Lara Adrian balances blood, lust and love so well I read this one straight through the night as soon as it came out.

Wolf Trouble by Paige Tyler

Ah! My favorite of the series but I can’t give too much away! Let me just say that I enjoyed having a female in charge and a female that’s as likable and confident as Khaki Blake made this book the strongest in the series so far. It was fun to watch the proud Xander Riggs, second in command of the elite SWAT team as he got turned inside out by the new recruit. In addition to Xander and Khaki, there was a great team dynamic in this book that made me love these hunky wolves even more. They embraced Khaki and there was ZERO sexism among them. There was plenty of good natured teasing and camaraderie that will be hard to beat.

Well there you have it, my favorite reads of the year! And now a lucky person will get to pick one book in the list to add to their e-reader! I'll be sharing the blurbs and purchase links for each book on the list on the blog's Facebook page for you to see what each one is about!

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