Category Archives: HarperCollins

Review: Summer of Surrender by Zara Stoneley

Title: Summer of Surrender by Zara Stoneley
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: HarperImpulse
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 182 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Blog Tour Company

Summary:

Sex is the only thing they have in common. Total surrender the name of the game.

James had it all. Good education. City job and a wife he would have been willing to die for. Their motto had been work hard, play hard, but she’d pushed the boundaries too far and he’d walked. Became the man he felt he needed to be. Detached. In control.

Free spirit Kezia lives each day at a time; sharing, loving and giving are unconditional. And sex is part of the sharing.

When fate leaves James and Kezia trapped together for the summer, her openness is an invitation he just can’t resist. The attraction is instant, the sex all-consuming. And as their fantasies become reality, James begins to realise that willing surrender is a far different pleasure to forced submission…

The Review:

Summer of Surrender by Zara Stoneley is a sexually-charged romance between two completely opposite characters who are absolutely perfect for one another.

Looking forward to some much needed alone time, James is not at all pleased when he discovers Kezia will be spending the summer with him. He is also less than thrilled by his intense attraction to the bohemian beauty but their passion for one another is impossible to resist. Just as things are heating up between them, their relationship is threatened by someone from Kezia’s past.

James and Kezia are a study in contrasts and that is what makes their pairing so wonderful. Kezia is an only child who adored her parents and fully embraced their wandering lifestyle. She is a delightful breath of fresh air-exuberant, open and confident with just a hint of insecurity stemming from her unconventional upbringing. In the aftermath of a tragic loss, Kezia is finally ready to put down some roots when she meets James.

James’s childhood was traditional and as an adult, he followed the predictable path to a successful job and marriage. After his divorce, he walked away from both his career and family and James now keeps tight control of every aspect of his life. He is quite enigmatic and it takes him most of the novel to reveal his secrets.

James and Kezia’s attraction to one another is sizzling hot and their sex scenes are quite steamy. With James, Kezia is finally able to explore her fantasies of submitting to a dominant partner. James relishes Kezia’s submissiveness but he also learns to relinquish control on occasion.

Zara Stoneley’s Summer of Surrender is a lovely, angst-free romance that I greatly enjoyed. James and Kezia are extremely charming and likable and they both learn some valuable lessons from one another. The plot is well-developed and unique and there is quite a bit of substance to the overall storyline. A must read for anyone who enjoys erotic romances.

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Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, HarperCollins, HarperImpulse, Rated B, Review, Romance, Summer of Surrender, Zara Stoneley

Review: Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness by Senta Holland

Title: Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness by Senta Holland
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Mischief
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, BDSM
Length: 200 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publicist

Summary:

A deeply felt and superbly written BDSM love story, Senta Holland’s Out of the Shadows explores the beautiful darkness in seven bedrooms.
Senta, a thirty something Londoner, travels around the planet looking for the man who can match her. The one she finds is her ‘Nai’, a high society American in Asia.
Senta’s story is both complicated and made more exciting by the fact that it unfolds in the dark world of BDSM, a world that can be hostile to single, independent females.
Highly erotic, deeply romantic and insightful this book shows the BDSM experience from the inside out, as reality, not just fantasy.

Links: HarperCollins Mischief * Amazon UK * Amazon US * Feature in Marie Claire Magazine * Review in CoffeeCakeandKink * Review by Netgalley/Goodreads

The Review:

Senta Holland’s Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness has to be one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. Part poetry, part stream of consciousness, it is a fascinating story about Senta and Nai’s BDSM relationship.

Senta is unapologetic about her desires and kinks, and I admire her embracing and exploring her sexuality. On her journey to find a compatible Dom, she learns from her mistakes and moves on when the relationship no longer meets her needs. With Nai, she has found her perfect match and Senta is willing to make any sacrifice to keep him in her life.

Written in diary format in first person, the narrative in Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness is quite unique and it takes some getting used to. The flow of the story is sometimes uneven as Senta’s thoughts veer from present to past without clear scene breaks. The passage of time is elusive and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy. Personal details such as age, previous relationships and career are glossed over.

The BDSM scenes between Senta and Nai are intense and quite graphic. Senta is very submissive and she embraces the spankings, beatings, whippings and canings she receives from Nai. There are no discussions of hard limits or safe words, and Senta submits to all of Nai’s demands. Their scenes later in the novel are not for the sexually faint of heart as Nai pushes Senta well past her boundaries.

Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness is not a typical romance but it is full of strong emotions. Senta Holland brings readers an intriguing and introspective perspective of what goes on behind the closed doors of a BDSM relationship.


Excerpt

Power exchange

I am looking at him.

No, he is looking at me. And I am taking it in, the way he looks at me.

There is promise and thrill in this exchange. And a lot of love and trust. I am strong, I am free, I am wild. Just as he, in everything.

And I am here by my own choice.

I take in his energy. I let it go down into my very core.

He can see exactly what is happening. I hold the moment. I am in control. He humbly waits for my decision.

I choose to surrender.

Slowly, the balance of power between us shifts.

I give myself to him. He takes my power from me.

This is a complex, sophisticated process.

And it is wonderfully erotic and deeply fulfilling and dizzyingly wild. And it can happen without a word, without touch. Breath by breath.

I submit. I submit to his domination.

That is what I want. That is what he wants.

I am his submissive. Maybe for a lifetime, maybe just for now.

The tension between us is generating its own charge.

Submission to him arouses me. This is my true sexuality. Not my social role, not at all, but my sexuality.

Like many sexual orientations, it needs the right match to thrive.

Looking at each other, we have found it.

I am naked.

He is fully dressed.

He reaches out towards me.

He could do so many things to me, right now.

My submission calls for them. My vagina is opening her soft red mouth.

I want to yield and I want him to meet my softness with ruthless force.

I long to be subjected. In my way.

He touches my hair. Follows the long strands down over my shoulder and to the tip of my breasts. I am still.

My hands are bound behind my back.

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Filed under BDSM, Erotic, HarperCollins, Mischief, Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness, Rated C, Review, Senta Holland

Review: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke

Title: If You Were Here by Alafair Burke
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Journalist McKenna Jordan is chasing the latest urban folktale—the story of an unidentified woman who heroically pulled a teenage boy from the subway tracks seconds before the arrival of an oncoming train. When McKenna locates a video snippet that purportedly captures the incident, she thinks she has an edge on the competition scrambling to identify the mystery heroine.

McKenna is shocked to discover that the woman in the video bears a strong resemblance to Susan Hauptmann, a close friend—and a classmate of her husband’s at West Point—who vanished without a trace ten years earlier. The NYPD concluded that the nomadic Susan—forced by her father into an early military life, floundering as an adult for a fixed identity—simply started over again somewhere else.

But McKenna has always believed the truth went deeper than the police investigation ever reached. What might have been a short-lived Metro story sends her on a twisting search that leads across New York City—and to dark secrets buried dangerously close to home. . . .

The Review:

If You Were Here is another intriguing mystery by Alafair Burke. This standalone novel has many unexpected twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing not only whodunnit, but why, right up until the novel’s stunning conclusion.

When McKenna Jordan sees the video of the dramatic rescue of a teenage boy from the subway tracks, she is stunned when she recognizes the rescuer as her missing friend, Susan Hauptmann, who vanished ten years ago without a trace. Determined to discover the truth of the woman’s identity, McKenna takes a second look at long ago events and what she uncovers threatens her career, her marriage and ultimately her and her husband’s lives.

McKenna Jordan is likable with all too realistic flaws and imperfections. She is tenacious in her pursuit of the truth about Susan’s original disappearance and her possible reappearance. McKenna is tenacious almost to the point of obsessive as she re-examines old and new evidence. When she uncovers a possible link between an old case she was working on and Susan’s disappearance, McKenna relentlessly pursues old and new leads that lead to shocking revelations.

The plot of If You Were Here is complex and it takes a while for the various story arcs to converge. The storyline is quite interesting but sometimes a little slow moving. Seemingly unrelated events will later prove to be quite significant and by the novel’s end, Alafair Burke beautifully ties everything together.

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Filed under Alafair Burke, Contemporary, HarperCollins, If You Were Here, Mystery, Rated B, Review

Review: True Love at Silver Creek Ranch by Emma Cane

Title: True Love at Silver Creek Ranch by Emma Cane
Valentine Valley Series Book Two
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Welcome to Valentine Valley, where tongues are wagging now that the town bad boy is back—and rumor has it the lean, mean ex-Marine is about to lose his heart! But like it or not, in a town like Valentine, love happens . . .

Adam Desantis is back—bruised, battle-weary and sexier than ever! Not that Brooke Thalberg is in the market. The beautiful cowgirl of Silver Creek Ranch needs a cowboy for hire, not a boyfriend—though the gaggle of grandmas at the Widows’ Boardinghouse thinks otherwise. But from the moment she finds herself in Adam’s arms, she’s shocked to discover she may just want more.

Adam knows it’s crazy to tangle with Brooke, especially with the memories that still haunt him, and the warm welcome her family has given him. But he finds himself in a fix, because tender-loving Brooke is so much more woman than he ever imagined. Can a soldier battling demons give her the love she clearly deserves?

Just about everybody in Valentine thinks so!

The Review:

True Love at Silver Creek Ranch, the second installment in Emma Cane’s Valentine Valley series, is a sweet romance with engaging and likeable characters. Strong family ties and a small town setting add to this delightful novel’s appeal.

Brooke Thalberg lives and works on her family’s ranch alongside her father and brothers. She is a strong woman, self-assured and comfortable being in charge. Brooke is beginning to feel like her life is missing something, but she cannot quite figure out what. That is until Adam Desantis comes back to town, shakes up her world and gives her life the purpose she has been looking for.

Adam Desantis’s childhood was far from picture perfect. His parents were indifferent and neglectful and in his attempt to get their attention, he got mixed up with the wrong crowd. His brush with the law turns out to be a blessing in disguise when the football coach gives him a second chance. Following graduation, Adam joined the Marines and left the small town of Valentine Valley far behind. With his service now behind him, Adam returns to his hometown when he becomes concerned about his grandmother’s health. His new job at the Silver Creek Ranch brings him a measure of peace as he comes to terms with both his unhappy childhood and the mental wounds from his recent tour in Afghanistan.

In the beginning, Brooke has a difficult time seeing Adam as the man he is today instead of the teenage boy she remembers. Unexpected insight from her mom and Brooke’s day to day interactions with Adam give her a new perspective on his troubled past.

The relationship between Brooke and Adam is slow-growing and conflict free. As his boss, Brooke is reluctant to make their relationship public. Adam reluctantly agrees with her, but it does not take long for both of them to grow weary of keeping their relationship hidden. And they both soon discover that keeping secrets in a small town is not as easy they think it is.

True Love at Silver Creek Ranch by Emma Cane is a multi-layered novel that is very easy to read. The secondary cast of characters is well-developed and quite charming. The small town atmosphere and close-knit family give the story warmth and added dimension. Brooke and Adam undergo personal changes that make them much more well-rounded, realistic characters. Overall, a wonderfully angst free novel that fans of contemporary romances are sure to enjoy.

Although True Love at Silver Creek Ranch is the second installment in the Valentine Valley series, it can be read as a standalone story.

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Filed under Avon, Contemporary, Emma Cane, HarperCollins, Rated B, Review, Romance, True Love at Silver Creek Ranch, Valentine Valley Series

Review: A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde

Title: A Cowboy for Christmas by Lori Wilde
Jubilee, Texas Book Three
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

It’s Christmastime in Jubilee, Texas, but Lissette Moncrief is having a hard time celebrating . . .

Especially after she accidentally smashes her car into Rafferty Jones’s pick-up truck. Yes, he’s a whole lot of handsome—from the tips of his boots to the top of his Stetson. But he’s no Christmas present. Lissy’s not about to let herself get whisked away by his charming ways and words . . . only to watch him drive away in the end.

But what Lissy doesn’t know is Rafferty’s in town just to meet her—and to give her a share in a windfall that doesn’t rightly belong to him. At first, he just wants to do his good deed and get out. But one look at this green-eyed beauty has him deciding to turn this into a Christmas to remember . . . making promises he’s determined to keep—whether she believes in them or not.

The Review:

A Cowboy for Christmas, the final book in Lori Wilde’s Jubilee, Texas trilogy, is a poignant yet heartwarming romance between a widow and her newfound brother-in-law.

Following her husband’s death in Afghanistan, Lissette Moncrief is stunned when she learns Jake named his half-brother, Rafferty Jones, as the beneficiary of his military life insurance and death benefits. The discovery that her son, Kyle, is slowly going deaf turns her world upside down and sends her into panic mode. Determined to find financial security and stand on her own two feet, she creatively comes up with a plan to expand her bakery business. But when Rafferty arrives in Jubilee to give Lissettte the money that rightfully belongs to her and Kyle, will Lissette forgo her independence and accept the charming cowboy’s offer of help?

Lissette’s marriage to Jake was over long before his death, so while she is saddened by his loss, she has quickly picked up the pieces of her life. Now realizing how much of herself she gave up in order to keep the peace with her troubled husband, Lissette is struggling to change from the passive, people pleasing person she has become. Lissette carefully weighs her options and does not rush into making decisions which often leads to her giving in to other people’s demands rather than rock the boat by expressing her own opinions.

Rafferty has a weakness for helping people in need. Caring for his mentally unstable mother and younger siblings forced him to grow up way too fast. His strong sense of responsibility will not allow him to walk away from Lissette and Kyle so he cleverly devises a plan that will keep him in Jubilee where he can help Lissette without wounding her pride.

Rafferty and Lissette are attracted to one another from their very first meeting, but neither of them is ready for a serious relationship. Rafferty is sensitive to Lissette’s need to stand on her own and he is careful not to push her in a direction she is not ready to go. He is supportive without being overbearing and he provides her with some much needed self-confidence. Lissette’s transformation from meek and mild to more assertive is a slow but realistic process. It is not easy to change lifelong habits, but with Rafferty’s assistance, Lissette stands her ground and emerges from a few skirmishes a much stronger woman.

A secondary storyline involving Lissette’s mother-in-law, Claudia provides added conflict. Claudia’s devastation over Jake’s death is compounded by Rafferty’s arrival in Jubilee. Deeply ashamed by her past actions, Claudia is terrified her secret will be revealed and she strikes out at Lissette in fear.

A Cowboy for Christmas is more serious than the other books in the Jubilee, Texas series. Lori Wilde deftly handles some difficult subjects with sensitivity and without angst. The romance between Lissette and Rafferty is sweet and while they fall in love over a short period of time, it never feels forced or rushed.

A Cowboy for Christmas is delightful novel with appealing characters and a sensational storyline that I highly recommend.

Read my reviews of the other books in the Jubilee, TX series HERE.

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Filed under A Cowboy for Christmas, Avon, Contemporary, HarperCollins, Jubilee TX Series, Lori Wilde, Rated B, Review, Romance

Review: Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie

Title: Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie
Publisher: HarperCollins
Imprint: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 448 pages
Book Rating: B+

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future. But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences. After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead—and that her life has moved on without her.

As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to
reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change. But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?

In Forgotten, Catherine McKenzie tweaks a classic tale of discovering who we really are when everything that brings meaning to our lives is lost.

The Review:

Catherine McKenzie’s latest release, Forgotten, is an engaging and fast-paced novel that is quite compelling. Emma Tupper’s month long holiday in Africa turns into six months when she first falls ill, then becomes trapped in an African village following a catastrophic earthquake. Emma’s return to England is not quite as easy as she expects when she learns everyone thinks she died in the earthquake. As she tries to pick up the pieces of her life, Emma discovers that the life she once lived may not be the life she now wants.

Emma Tupper is a career driven woman who is on the fast track to achieving her goal of partner in a prestigious law firm. But she puts her career on hold following her mother’s death when she receives her mother’s final legacy: a plane ticket to Africa, the one place her mother always dreamed of visiting. Hoping to connect with her mother and perhaps ease her grief, Emma takes a leave of absence from work, leaves her boyfriend behind and sets out on her journey to a place she never had any desire to visit.

When she returns home, Emma is ready to step back into her old life. But, as she quickly discovers, life has gone on without her. Her old job has been given to her nemesis, Sophie, her boyfriend, Craig, has a new girlfriend, and her apartment has been rented to Dominic, a photographer who is nursing a broken heart of his own.

Emma’s transition back into her life is not easy. Her employer will re-hire her, but Emma will have to climb her way back to the top. Is she ready to throw herself back into eighty hour workweeks to achieve her goal? Although her relationship with Craig was on shaky ground when she left for Africa, she is still stunned and heartbroken when she finds out he has a new girlfriend. Equally troubling are her conflicted emotions about her reluctant roommate, Dominic.

About the only thing reassuringly unchanged is Emma’s close friendship with her longtime friend, Stephanie. Stephanie is very supportive of Emma but she does not allow Emma to wallow in self-pity. She is quite perceptive, and her questions to Emma are insightful and thought-provoking.

Emma’s time in Africa is slowly revealed in bits and pieces throughout Forgotten. At first glance, it does not seem like her time away has changed Emma. At first frustrated by everyone’s insistence that she re-evaluate her life, Emma slowly begins to examine her life both before and after her trip and slowly comes to realize that her experiences have irrevocably changed her.

Forgotten is a fascinating novel that is well written with a unique storyline. Catherine McKenzie is an incredibly talented author with a true gift for creating three dimensional and appealing characters that readers can easily relate to. A realistic plot, witty dialogue and an understated romance make Forgotten a thoroughly enjoyable story that I highly recommend.

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Filed under Catherine McKenzie, Contemporary, Fiction, Forgotten, HarperCollins, Rated B+, Review, William Morrow Paperbacks