Publisher: Gallery Books

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Escaping Reality by Lisa Renee Jones

September 29, 2015 Contemporary Romance, Erotica, Reviews 0 ★★★★

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Escaping Reality by Lisa Renee JonesEscaping Reality by Lisa Renee Jones
Series: The Secret Life of Amy Bensen #1
Published by Gallery Books on June 17, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Pages: 337
Format: eBook
Source: the Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
His touch spirals through me, warm and sweet, wicked and hot. I shouldn't trust him. I shouldn't tell him my secrets. But how do I not when he is the reason I breathe? He is what I need.

At the young age of eighteen, tragedy and a dark secret force Lara to flee all she has known and loved to start a new life. Now years later, with a new identity as Amy, she's finally dared to believe she is forgotten--even if she cannot forget. But just when she lets her guard down, the ghosts of her past are quick to punish her, forcing her back on the run.

On a plane, struggling to face the devastation of losing everything again and starting over, Amy meets Liam Stone, a darkly entrancing billionaire recluse, who is also a brilliant, and famous, prodigy architect. A man who knows what he wants and goes after it. And what he wants is Amy. Refusing to take "no" as an answer, he sweeps her into a passionate affair, pushing her to her erotic limits. He wants to possess her. He makes her want to be possessed. Liam demands everything from her, accepting nothing less. But what if she is too devastated by tragedy to know when he wants more than she should give?

At eighteen, Amy lost her entire family in a horrific fire.  Since that time, her life has been upended by her memory loss, painful blackouts accompanied by flashbacks of her previous life, and mysterious instructions stop whatever she is doing and leave town immediately.  She doesn’t know who exactly is sending her these instructions – only that he has a tattoo on his wrist and is referred to as her “handler.”  Because it turns out, the horrific fire was the result of an arson plot to kill her family thanks to some hush-hush dealings her famous archeologist father was involved in.  Those people are still after Amy, so when she gets a note telling her to go to the airport immediately, Amy picks up and is on her way to Denver.  En-route, she encounters Liam Stone, a recluse billionaire architect, who expresses immediate interest in Amy.  Is it safe?  Is he safe?  Or will Liam be the next in a line of victims?  Because everyone who has ever been close to Amy has died.  Is Liam and whatever they have together worth the risk?

This is the first in the “Secret Life of Amy Bensen” novels, though as I read, there were so many questions that I felt as if I was reading the second or third book in the series.  We don’t know anything about what happened to Amy’s family or why.  Amy doesn’t either, for that matter.  But it’s enough of an interesting premise that I wanted to keep reading.  But there’s a warning: This book ends on a cliffhanger!  We still don’t know why Amy is running, who this mysterious “handler” person is, or what happened to Amy’s family.  But we do get some information that begins to paint a picture of Amy’s backstory and I hope these plot threads will continue to weave together as the series progresses.

Amy suffers from blackouts and amnesia.  She doesn’t remember much of anything before her life became a long series of aliases and cities coordinated as strategic hiding places by her “handler.”  But what we can glean from Amy is that she is a brave, headstrong woman with a definite sense of what she is and is not willing to do.  Her survival skills are honed and she trusts her instincts.

Liam is a little…intense.  Money is not object to him, so he spends it frequently and generously on Amy, making sure she has everything she could possibly need in a new city and then some.  At first, this came across as sweet, then it started to become a little creepy and overbearing, before finally turning into freakishly controlling.  I’m not sure what to think of Liam, to tell you the truth.

I wouldn’t classify this as erotica (yet), but rather contemporary romance.  There are a few sex scenes in this novel, but they don’t overpower the main narrative nor are they terribly explicit.

This book will have you looking twice at every single character Amy encounters.  Friend or foe?  You tell me!  Can Amy even have friends?  Every character seems to be hiding something and when coupled with the general uncertainty of what happened to Amy and why she is always running, the paranoia ratchets up as the book progresses.  This made for a very interesting read since I was constantly wondering what was happening and if I could trust these characters.  I’m excited to continue reading the rest of this series!

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The Master by Kresley Cole

April 28, 2015 Contemporary Romance, Erotica, Reviews 0 ★★★★★

The Master by Kresley ColeThe Master by Kresley Cole
Series: The Game Maker #2
Published by Gallery Books on February 17, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars
Everyone fears the Master...

Rich, irresistible politician/Mafya boss Maksimilian Sevastyan prefers tall, obedient blondes to fulfill his... complicated desires. That is, until the icy Russian encounters a disobedient brunette whose exquisite little body threatens his legendary restraint.

Except her.

Catarina Marín was a well-off young wife until her world fell apart. Now she’s hiding out, forced to start working as an escort in Miami. Her very first client is beyond gorgeous, but when he tells her what he plans to do to her, Cat almost walks out of the door.

If pleasure is a game, play to win.

After their mind-blowing encounter burns out of control, the lovers crave more. If they escape the deadly threats surrounding them, can Maksim overcome his past—to offer Cat his future? Only then will she tempt him with what he really wants: her, all tied up with a bow.

I never in a million years thought anyone could write a book that turns a escort-ordering mafioso into a drool-worthy, enticing hero, but that is exactly what Ms. Cole has managed in THE MASTER.  From the first couple of chapters, I was honestly thinking that there was no way I was going to enjoy this book – the heroine just agreed to become an escort with no discernible reason to do so and the hero is one of those uber-macho, control-freak types who (at that point) has no redeeming qualities.  Boy was I WRONG!!  This book was amazing!

Cat is a quick-thinking, loud-mouthed heroine with a big, fat secret.  Call it bluster or bravery, she isn’t afraid to stand up to Maxim and take precisely what she wants.  Maxim is a man used to getting exactly what he wants – tall, blonde, and compliant – so when Cat shows up on his doorstep, he’s thrown for a loop.  He’s a no-nonsense business man who definitely doesn’t do romance.  Until Cat.

The chemistry between these two is off the charts!  Sex comprises a hefty portion of this book and the scenes are smoking hot.  Yet I never felt like the sex scene compromised the plot – Cat and Maxim’s sex sessions always made sense within the narrative (not like some books which just seem to have a sex scene for the purposes of having a sex scene).  In fact, sometimes it seemed like sexposition – important plot points told through the action of the sex scene.  And, of course, these characters engaged in one of my favorite romantic tropes, the love/hate dynamic.

Incredibly hot and such a fun read!  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this genre.  And you don’t have to read the first book in the series to enjoy THE MASTER.

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Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

February 27, 2015 Contemporary Romance, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Wallbanger by Alice ClaytonWallbanger by Alice Clayton
Series: The Cocktail Series #1
Published by Gallery Books on February 14, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 385
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Caroline Reynolds has a fantastic new apartment in San Francisco, a Kitchen Aid mixer to die for, and no O (and we’re not talking Oprah here, folks). She has a flourishing design career, an office overlooking the bay, a killer zucchini bread recipe, and no O. She has Clive (the best cat ever), great friends, a great rack, and no O. Adding insult to O-less, she also has an oversexed neighbor with the loudest late-night wallbanging she’s ever heard. Every moan, spank, and—was that a meow?—punctuates the fact that not only is she losing sleep, she still has—yep, you guessed it—no O. Enter Simon Parker. When the wallbanging threatens to literally bounce her out of bed, Caroline, clad in sexual frustration and a pink baby-doll nightie, confronts her heard-but-never-seen neighbor. Their late-night hallway encounter has…well…mixed results. Because with walls this thin, the tension’s gonna be thick. A delicious mix of silly and steamy, this is an irresistible tale of exasperation at first sight.

I read this book in a single afternoon.  I made lunch and dinner with one hand.  I ignored my phone and didn’t even look at the door when letting me dogs out in the yard.  I ignored the outside world entirely because I honestly could not put this book down.

Caroline is feisty and full of snark.  Simon is confident, charming, and oh-so-delightfully cocky.  Their encounters begin with a standoff in the hallway over their shared bedroom wall and Simon’s not-so-quiet sexcapades with his harem of women that are literally shaking paintings off Caroline’s wall.  A mutual acquaintance forces Caroline and Simon to call a truce to their war-of-the-wall, thus setting up what I think is one of the finest examples of friends-turned-lovers romance I’ve read in a very long time.

The dialogue is snappy, witty, and had me laughing out loud for much of the afternoon.  And you could cut the amount of unresolved sexual tension between Caroline and Simon with a knife.  (Seriously, there was so much build-up that by the time they finally got together, it was almost anti-climactic.)

Now, I will say that there are a few scenes towards the 75-80% mark that fall flat, particularly the chapter where the characters are coming back from Tahoe and the POV jumps around and around into each character’s head.  This was disappointing as the characters’ thoughts were quite juvenile and frankly the whole thing just seemed like filler.  Actually, the whole trip to Tahoe could’ve been cut significantly.

But in the end, this was still a delightful afternoon read.  It’s light and fun with a great big dose of spot-on humor.  Pick this up if you’re looking for a book with wicked, innuendo-laced banter and sizzling comedic romance.

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If I Were You by Lisa Renee Jones

October 28, 2014 Erotica, Mystery, Reviews 0 ★★★½

If I Were You by Lisa Renee JonesIf I Were You by Lisa Renee Jones
Series: Inside Out #1
Published by Gallery Books on September 13, 2012
Genres: Erotica, Mystery
Pages: 357
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-half-stars
How It All Started...
One day I was a high school teacher on summer break, leading a relatively uneventful but happy life. Or so I told myself. Later, I'd question that, as I would question pretty much everything I knew about me, my relationships, and my desires. It all began when my neighbor thrust a key to a storage unit at me. She'd bought it to make extra money after watching some storage auction show. Now she was on her way to the airport to elope with a man she barely knew, and she needed me to clear out the unit before the lease expired.

Soon, I was standing inside a small room that held the intimate details of another woman's life, feeling uncomfortable, as if I was invading her privacy. Why had she let these items so neatly packed, possessions that she clearly cared about deeply, be lost at an auction? Driven to find out by some unnamed force, I began to dig, to discover this woman's life, and yes, read her journals--dark, erotic journals that I had no business reading. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I read on obsessively, living out fantasies through her words that I'd never dare experience on my own, compelled by the three men in her life, none of whom had names. I read onward until the last terrifying dark entry left me certain that something had happened to this woman. I had to find her and be sure she was okay.

Before long, I was taking her job for the summer at the art gallery, living her life, and she was nowhere to be found. I was becoming someone I didn't know. I was becoming her.

The dark, passion it becomes...

Now, I am working at a prestigious gallery, where I have always dreamed of being, and I've been delivered to the doorstep of several men, all of which I envision as one I've read about in the journal. But there is one man that will call to me, that will awaken me in ways I never believed possible. That man is the ruggedly sexy artist, Chris Merit, who wants to paint me. He is rich and famous, and dark in ways I shouldn't find intriguing, but I do. I so do. I don't understand why his
dark side appeals to me, but the attraction between us is rich with velvety promises of satisfaction. Chris is dark, and so are his desires, but I cannot turn away. He is damaged beneath his confident good looks and need for control, and in some way, I feel he needs me. I need him.

All I know for certain is that he knows me like I don't even know me, and he says I know him. Still, I keep asking myself -- do I know him? Did he know her, the journal writer, and where is she? And why doesn't it seem to matter anymore? There is just him and me, and the burn for more.

Sara McMillan finds herself in possession of an abandoned storage unit belonging to Rebecca Mason, a woman who has mysteriously disappeared.  Sara finds Rebecca’s journals containing entries scandalous, erotic entries detailing Rebecca’s relationship with her dominant boyfriend and her exploration of the BDSM world.  Sara wants to return the journals and other belongings to Rebecca.  She goes to the art gallery where Rebecca works.  There, she meets Rebecca’s boss Mark who offers Sara a summer job.  She also meets Chris Merit, a famous artist, with whom she begins a romantic relationship and who introduces her to the dark, kinky world of Dom/sub relationships that remind her of Rebecca and her mysterious lover.

Sara is a schoolteacher who, while she enjoys her job, yearns for an exciting, fulfilling life.  The mystery surrounding Rebecca brings Sara into contact with exactly that – a new job in a field she loves, meeting artists, attending parties, dating a passionate man who is a bit of a mystery himself.

In this first installment of the trilogy, Sara meets and begins dating Chris Merit.  Chris is an artist who likes to remain as anonymous as possible.  He’s passionate and harbors a particular dislike for Sara’s boss Mark.  He is a control freak and he is frightened by the emotions Sara stirs within him because it threatens the tight control he has otherwise been able to keep on his life.

Sara and Chris both come from privileged, but damaged backgrounds.  Neither fully trusts the other and that causes some problems and adds to the mystery surrounding Rebecca.

I am a little concerned about Sara’s willingness to allow Chris to push her around a bit – more than I think is healthy considering the short time the two characters knew each other.  I also don’t understand Sara’s pressing desire to find Rebecca – as in, there wasn’t a plausible explanation for Sara’s actions.  I like a good mystery, but Sara’s character takes the “find Rebecca” mission above and beyond what I think any other person might do in a similar situation.  Granted, Sara is a schoolteacher conveniently on summer break, but surely she had other plans or things to accomplish with her time before Rebecca’s journals landed in her lap.

This is the first in a series, so perhaps some of these questions will be answered in later books.  This installment ends on a cliffhanger, so I’m certainly eager to continue reading.  Side note: Ignore the comparison to Fifty Shades of Grey.  It’s a poorly executed marketing ploy.  The two books do not compare – If I Were You treads lightly on the BDSM and has a decent plot with good pacing and characters.

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