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On a Book Bender

Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan {Kelly’s Revisit Review}Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan
Series: Darkest London #4
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: Paperback
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Once a heart is lost in shadow . . .

Life has been anything but kind to Mary Chase. But the Society for the Suppression of Supernaturals has given her purpose. Now she's been tasked with catching a vicious murderer dubbed the Bishop of Charing Cross. But someone is already on the case-and the last thing he relishes is a partner.

Only someone who lives in darkness can find it.

Jack Talent has been alone with his demons for many years. He never expected to have the willful Mary Chase assist him on the Bishop case. Their age-old rivalry reaches new heights-even as their desire for one another reaches a fever pitch. Though he aches to bring her close, Jack's dark secrets are a chasm between them. With dangerous enemies closing in, Jack must find the strength to face the past . . . or risk losing Mary forever.

Oh, man! I adore this series!

Thoughts on Shadowdance

I’m a hardcore sucker for tormented heroes. Seriously. There’s something about those big, strong men trying to find their way back from the dark places that makes me all wibbly. Jack Talent gave me everything I needed in a tortured hero with a serious side of smolder. And when he directs all that smolder at Mary I LOVED IT! Especially since Jack and Mary haven’t had the smoothest relationship in the past.

(and, OH MY, when we find out the reason behind Jack’s antagonism. *goes all wibbly again*)

“We’re only offered a brief glimpse of Jack and Mary in previous books, so walking into Shadowdance was an experience that blew the characters into sharp focus.” – Amanda

Mary has her own emotional baggage to deal with and it’s just as dark as what Jack has. Yet, she’s learned to embrace life again and live as only an immortal can. Which isn’t to say she’s put her past behind her. She still has some lingering issues to deal with. Intimacy, for one. Her shock over enjoying Jack’s kisses (and might I just say his “hello” was a very effective way to get to know someone!) showed how far she still had to go. And, oh, what a journey it ended up being!

“Let it just be said: Kristen Callihan knows how to pull it all together masterfully.” – Amanda

We unearth some well-hidden secrets and see the darker side of our tortured hero. We also get to meet up again with characters from previous books and see how life has treated them since they found their HEAs. And the build up to the next book? *has ridiculous amounts of excitement*

“And I only want MORE. So you can only imagine my delight when I found out there’s a book FIVE and it’s out this year. Now if only I can manage the wait…” – Amanda



Let’s Hit Pause on Top Off Tuesday

in Top Off Tuesday

It’s that time again — Tuesday! — which means I attempt to brighten your day with half-naked men. Read on at your own risk.  Top Off Tuesdays was started by FeliciaChristi and me.  It is where we (and you!) share the book covers that make us swoon.  Head over to Felicia’s blog to share your Top Off Tuesday link or to see what everyone has posted.


If you’ve been around On a Book Bender a while, you know I delight in finding covers that are often so awful they’re good. Most of the time, I find those from Ellora’s Cave.

But there’s been enough crap floating around about Ellora’s Cave—personnel cuts and authors not receiving their royalties—that I don’t want to support the publishing company anymore. Not even to showcase their covers.

I could skip writing this post and find a non-Ellora’s Cave cover to share, which is usually my method when drama happens, but I feel compelled to say something. Partly because I need a moment of silence for all the covers we’ll miss out on, but more importantly, because as an author, I hate to see others missing out on money they’ve earned.

Sometimes, it’s a shitty world out there.

So I’m hitting pause this week.

Swept Away by a Kiss by Katharine Ashe {Amanda’s Review}Swept Away By a Kiss by Katharine Ashe
Series: Rogues of the Sea
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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A Secret Identity

When pirates storm Viscount Steven Ashford's ship upon the high seas, it brings him closer than ever to the nefarious criminal he seeks to ruin. Only one seductive detail threatens his victory: the scandalous beauty imprisoned with him, Lady Valerie Monroe. Temptation has never been so intoxicating or so forbidden, for Steven is disguised as a French priest. If they make it off the ship alive, to protect her from his enemies he must never see her again . . .

An Undeniable Love

Back in England, and under the ton's scrutiny for a reckless past she hasn't escaped, Valerie dreams of the breathtaking “man of the cloth” with whom she shared her greatest adventure. Then he reappears in society under his true identity, Viscount Ashford, but, despite the danger, their consuming passion cannot be denied. Now standing in the way of their desire are Valerie’s wounded heart, Steven’s lone destiny, and a villain who will stop at nothing to crush them both.

Needs more character motivation for me.

Thoughts on Swept Away by a Kiss

Back in May, I read a book called Wired for Story. It changed how I read (and write) stories. What it talks about is ultimately what I find Katharine Ashe’s books to be lacking: a deeper understanding of character motivation.

The reason motivation — often found in a life-changing event in the character’s past — is so important is that it tells the reader how the characters will react to the situations they’re put in. To truly feel like we’re a part of the story, some element of predictability needs to be there; we need to understand why a character acts a certain way.

And that, for me, is why I can’t get flaily about Katharine Ashe’s books (of which I’ve now read two and both had the same issue). They’re good stories, for sure. But things just seem to happen, and I didn’t always understand why. Because I didn’t “get” the characters.

So, we know that Valerie and Steven have some kind of event in their past that shapes who they are from the very beginning, but it often takes a couple hundred pages before we get the full picture. But by then, it’s not enough to make a true connection with either character.

What I liked about this book over When a Scot Loves a Lady, though, is no Scottish brogue to decipher. Win. Still a good story, but I’m uncertain at this point whether I want to continue reading more Katharine Ashe.

Ten Things I Love About You by Juila Quinn {Amanda’s Review}Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn
Series: Bevelstoke #3
Also in this series: What Happens in London
Published by Harper Collins
Genres: Historical, Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Ten Things You Should Know About This Book

1. Sebastian Grey is a devilishly handsome rogue with a secret.
2. Annabel Winslow's family voted her The Winslow Most Likely to Speak Her Mind and The Winslow Most Likely to Fall Asleep in Church.
3. Sebastian's uncle is the Earl of Newbury, and if he dies without siring an heir, Sebastian inherits everything.
4. Lord Newbury detests Sebastian and will stop at nothing to prevent this from happening.
5. Lord Newbury has decided that Annabel is the answer to all of his problems.
6. Annabel does not want to marry Lord Newbury, especially when she finds out he once romanced her grandmother.
7 is shocking, 8 is delicious, and 9 is downright wicked, all of which lead the way to
10. Happily. Ever. After.

Once again, JQ makes everything better.

Thoughts on Ten Things I Love About You

Ten Things I Love About You was more of a surprise read. Not because it’s surprising I read a historical romance. Or even that I read a Julia Quinn historical romance. It was more… I did not expect to find the book, and once I found it, I did not expect to read it so soon.

But found it and read it, I did. Because some days call for Julia Quinn books, and this was most definitely was one of those occasions.

Usually with historical romances, I find myself enjoying the heroine more than the hero (maybe because, for the most part, the world is set against women, and I like to see them prevail). But Sebastian. There really is something irresistibly charming about him.

Perhaps it’s his view of the world. Or his secrets. Or his view of the world and his secrets combined together, because that’s what makes him him. But, you know, I liked Annabel too. She wasn’t in the best of positions (in more than one way), and that was tough to see her caught between what she wanted and what she felt obligated to do.

And in typical JQ fashion, the secondary characters shone too. I want Louisa to have her own story. (Oh please oh please.) Annabel’s grandma was… a character. And some of the final scenes are pure gold. JQ really does make everything better.

I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre {Jenna’s Review}I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre
Series: 2B Trilogy #1
Published by Harlequin
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, General, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she's determined to make them come true. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, dating's the last thing on her mind. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B…. Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can't risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, the last thing he wants is noisy students living in the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia's and Ty's paths cross, and soon they can't stay away from each other. The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can't know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

A sweet and refreshingly romantic read

My Thoughts

In the movie “The Wedding Date,” there is a quote in a magazine article that drives the plot: Every woman has exactly the love life that she wants. There’s merit to the idea, I had to admit. And it’s certainly a significant theme in Ann Aguirre’s I Want It That Way.

College student Nadia Conrad moves into off-campus housing with three close friends and immediately (and quite literally) falls for another tenant in the building. As for that tenant, Daniel Tyler is just as attracted to his new neighbor. But the single father of four-year-old Sam has some strict ideas about his love life that certainly don’t include Nadia.

Ann Aguirre’s story is sweet with sultry and romantic tones, too. Her plot pulls together two characters at very different places in their lives in a believable way. The switch of certain gender roles was surprising in a good way, too. It was nice to read about a young single father who is so devoted to his son. And it was refreshing to see a young woman who really knows what she wants and be willing to be persistent and aggressive in going after it.

I always find love stories to be just a little contrived, just a little predictable. Even so, I enjoy the stories when they’re done right. And there is a lot that is right with I Want It That Way.


Girl with Book Lungs


Top Off Tuesday of Champions

in Top Off Tuesday

It’s that time again — Tuesday! — which means I attempt to brighten your day with half-naked men. Read on at your own risk.  Top Off Tuesdays was started by FeliciaChristi and me.  It is where we (and you!) share the book covers that make us swoon.  Head over to Felicia’s blog to share your Top Off Tuesday link or to see what everyone has posted.

Made for Two Champions Madison Hayes “Book 4 in the Made for Two series.”

On her twenty-fourth birthday, the queen of eYona must take her first lover. A competition is held and the strongest warrior wins the right to sleep at her side for a year. Yarionna has no choice in the matter she must share her body with the champion. Camp has been in love with the queen for six years. During that time, the brutally handsome eYonan warrior has honed his body into the ultimate fighting machine. He s determined to sweep the competition and make Yarionna his own.

Unpredictable, impetuous and exquisitely male, Lieutenant Matchstick Maloney is just as determined to win. The Spaceforce officer from Earth hasn t trained for six years but he s inventive and resourceful. In short, he ll cheat if that s what it takes to finally bed Yari. While both men fight in the arena for the right to claim her, Yarionna falls to the force of their passion in the bedroom. Together the three lovers discover a prize greater than any of them ever imagined.
-from Goodreads

When a Scot Loves a Lady by Katharine Ashe {Amanda’s Review}When a Scot Loves a Lady by Katharine Ashe
Series: Falcon Club #1
Published by Avon
Genres: Historical, Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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London gossips are asking: What use has society of an exclusive gentleman's club if no gentlemen are ever seen to pass through its door?

After years as an agent of the secret Falcon Club, Lord Leam Blackwood knows it's time to return home to Scotland. One temptation threatens his plans—Kitty Savege, who warms his blood like a dram of fine whiskey. But a dangerous enemy stands in the way of desire, and to beat this foe Leam needs Kitty's help . . .

Kitty never wanted to spend her holidays in a wretched country village! With snow up to the windows, escape is nowhere in sight. A roguish Scottish lord, however, is. His rough brogue sends heat from Kitty's frigid toes to her chilled nose, but she's confident she can withstand that. What she cannot control is the reaction of her guarded heart when she discovers this beast is no beast at all . . .

Not sure what happened, but good.

Thoughts on When a Scot Loves a Lady

I picked up When a Scot Loves a Lady when I was trolling the library aisles for new historical romances authors and thought, “That name is familiar,” so I looked up Katharine Ashe’s books and grabbed the first in the series. As one does when armed with Goodreads on one’s phone and an appetite for historomance.

But I’m not exactly sure what happened in When a Scot Loves a Lady. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoyed reading the book. I even stayed up late to finish. But I often found myself confused by the hero and heroine as they often seemed to jump back and forth between their feelings toward the other and it was difficult to sort it all out.

Then there was Leam’s Scottish brogue. It wasn’t fun to read. At all. Oh, I’m sure he sounds wonderful and he does, indeed, give Kitty tingles of heat with that voice. But a lot of his lines required reading more than once to figure out exactly what he was said, and that’s never fun. If you have to read a sentence more than once to understand it, it’s not a good sentence.

But, you know, the book ended well, and that’s always a plus in its favor. Has anyone else read Katharine Ashe? What would you recommend?


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins {Amanda’s Review}Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Series: Anna and the French Kiss #3
Also in this series: Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door
Published by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last? Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart.

Featuring cameos from fan-favorites Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, this sweet and sexy story of true love—set against the stunning backdrops of New York City, Paris, and Barcelona—is a swoonworthy conclusion to Stephanie Perkins’s beloved series.

Yup. It was worth the wait.

Thoughts on Isla and the Happily Ever After

For me, the shining part of Stephanie Perkins’s writing is that she’s able to tap into my memories of what it was like to be a teenager with a crush. And so there’s angst—and not a small amount of it—but as painful as it is to read sometimes, it’s real.

Or, it’s real the way you’d imagined it’d be, if it were you.

Oh, this book. Isla has loved Josh forever. And she’s never thought he’d be into her… until he is. Isla’s crush on (obsession with?) Josh never bothered me much because I’ve been there, being awkward around crushes.

But even so, part of me wondered when the other shoe would drop because, well, this is a book and it’s not conflict without a little angst and drama. And it’s the type of angst and drama I both dislike and completely understand. Also, the adult in me wondered who Isla was seeing: the Josh she’d romanticized or Josh-Josh. But… but…


‘Tis good. We got to see Anna and St. Clair (swoon), and Lola and Cricket. Also good. I’m happy with it. It was worth the wait for the happily ever after.

And yes, I totally went there.

PS. Anyone read the acknowledgments? Perkins’s paragraph to her husband was so freaking sweet.

Blue Moon Over Bliss Lake by Cate Masters {Kelly’s Review}Blue Moon Over Bliss Lake by Cate Masters
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 134
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
Add to Goodreads
Home for the holidays…

Sierra O’Brien and Carter Grove have a lot of history—and regrets between them. Their high school romance didn’t survive after he went away to college. Despite tremendous business success, Carter never found another woman like Sierra and has two failed marriages to prove it. Sierra’s luck wasn’t much better, but after being widowed, she heads back to Bliss to plan her future. The last thing either expected was to run into each other or to reconnect to the magic that once drew them together.

Can Sierra and Carter make it work this time or are they doomed to repeat the past and let the same mistakes drive them apart? In Bliss, the inexplicable is an everyday occurrence, and anything is possible—especially during a blue moon.

Okay romance, but I needed more

Thoughts on Blue Moon Over Bliss Lake

You know when you’re in the mood for a sweet, quick read? Yeah, I thought I was. This book certainly fit the bill, but I really wasn’t feeling it once I started reading. I guess I’m just someone who likes their romance a little more dangerous. Or bloody. I don’t know.

So. This book wasn’t bad. It’s character driven and it has a high school sweetheart trope I usually find irresistible. My problem (and it really is my problem. I’m aware of this. I like the action!) is that I kept waiting for something to happen. Sierra’s backstory was present (not-so-great marriage with a verbally abusive husband who apparently only married her to put one over on Carter), but I never got a real feel for the anguish she went through or WHY she stuck with her dick of a husband for so long. Carter’s romantic life was likewise glossed over and the ex (or soon-to-be ex) who could have been a bigger issue showed up and then faded away before anything too crazy happened.

At its heart, this is a book about second chances. I can see why some of the past was left vague, but I would have loved a deeper look at what brought these two lonely souls to the place their at now. Ultimately, it was enjoyable enough, but not really for me.

Kelly Loves Books... and you!


2fer Top Off Tuesday

in Top Off Tuesday

It’s that time again — Tuesday! — which means I attempt to brighten your day with half-naked men. Read on at your own risk.  Top Off Tuesdays was started by FeliciaChristi and me.  It is where we (and you!) share the book covers that make us swoon.  Head over to Felicia’s blog to share your Top Off Tuesday link or to see what everyone has posted.

After finally acknowledging his sexual attraction to the human scientist he’s been protecting, Daamon d’Vesti intends to return to Earth and act on it—only to learn he’s been matched to a female, and is expected to choose a co-mate and claim her. Torn between duty and desire, but unable to withstand the primitive, possessive hunger for Grayson, Daamon succumbs to temptation, allowing himself one taste, one day inside Grayson’s body before fulfilling his obligation to his people.

On the cusp of adopting a child, Grayson fights his fervent desire for Daamon, the mysterious friend and neighbor his foster son calls “Batman”. Mind-blowing sex isn’t enough, especially when Daamon infers his own future doesn’t include a male lover. But when a blackmailing ex threatens the adoption, Daamon proves to be not only the man Grayson wants, but also the hero both he and Parker need.

Inside Scoop: This story contains urgent, unforgettable male/male sex.
-from Goodreads

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