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Encore! - Jamie Salisbury Mary Stewart lives a quiet life in London where she can pursue the things she loves most photography and music. Daniel Kennedy is a world famous violin virtuoso and he and Mary knew each other years ago when they both attended Julliard. They meet again when Daniel asks Mary to take some pictures of him for his upcoming CD and while they work together, they discover there’s a lot of chemistry between them.

Jamie Salisbury writes a captivating, well written story that drew me in from the first page with strong, well developed and interesting characters. Daniel is larger than life, he has it all fame, fortune, looks and a gift that few people ever have. Mary is a strong individual and I admire the way she handles her famous family, especially her mother, but as her relationship develops with Daniel, she seems to lose herself as she becomes immersed in Daniel’s world. Daniel and Mary have a lot of things to deal with including his all consuming career and the fame that goes with it and also there are Mary’s secrets she’s afraid to share.

This is a novella and it’s the first book in the Encore series. It gives the reader a taste of what to expect as this series continues and we learn more about Daniel and Mary’s story. The rest of the Tudor family is also included in the story, so you can also catch up with Mary’s three famous brothers who were featured in the Tudor Dynasty series. Can’t wait for the next installment to find out what will happen next.

Reviewed by Karen for Cocktails and Books

Cut the Cards (Club Fantasy 3)

Cut the Cards (Club Fantasy 3) - Desiree Holt Cut the Cards is the third book in the Club Fantasy series by Desiree Holt. While this book is part of a series, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone novel with ease.

Kelly Leblanc is a sub that plays at Club Fantasy. She has played with most of the top Doms but has not found one of her own. She trust the owns of the Club to set her up with Dom’s. Tanner Sloat is a Dom who introduced a new game to Kelly. Tanner is Dom who know his limits and seems well trained.

The chemistry between Kelly and Tanner is blistering. The connection between Kelly and Tanner grows the longer the spend playing together. The sex scenes were scorching hot.

I found this book is very well written with a unique plot. The main and secondary characters were fascinating. At thirty-one pages long, this story had a well-defined beginning, middle and end. The ending of the story was a bit predictable but it was more the ride to the end that was more important. Overall, this was a great book.

Reviewed by Victoria for Cocktails and Books

Beyond The Black Curtain

Beyond The Black Curtain - Hayley White Ever is a writer in her spare time dreaming of a world filled with whips and chains and all different aspects of BDSM. It seems that Ever thought that kind of life was beyond her reach. Ever works as a telemarketer trying to survive. It seems that one chance encounter with Stroud and her world changes at a speed beyond her control. Ever does try to untangle herself when she thinks she is in too deep.

Stroud is a rich man who lost his wife several years ago. He is well versed in BDSM and is willing to train and show Ever all the different aspects of that kind of life. Stroud is a complicated and mysterious man. While he introduces a young Dom into Ever and his play time, its hard to understand his motives.

Brooke is a young Dom learning how to be a Dom. The more time he spends with Ever the more he is enchanted with her. The attraction is so bad on his side that he seeks her out outside the weekends. In many aspects without Brooke’s interference I am not sure a relationship between Stroud and Ever would not have happened.

Even after I finished the book, I was still at a loss as to Stroud’s feelings about Ever. I think he really only wanted her because Brooke was interested in her. I wonder if she did not call Stroud back home if he would have come home at all. It was apparent that Ever had feelings for Stroud and playing with Brooke whether Stroud is present or not complicates her feelings. Brooke made his feelings on the matter present almost from the beginning.

I found this book well written with a very believable plot. The main and secondary characters were interesting. The ending of the book kept me on my toes. I kept wondering how it was going to end. Overall, this was a great book.

Reviewed by Victoria for Cocktails and Books

A Duke's Wicked Kiss

A Duke's Wicked Kiss - Kathleen Bittner Roth 3.5 Stars

Marguerite and Suri Thurston are daughters of a duke. However, Suri is the illegitimate daughter of an Indian woman. Suri’s mom died in childbirth and her father rescued her and brought her home to his wife. The author describes the girls as having a very close relationship. However, Marguerite quickly told strangers Suri’s story of being illegitimate and left to die. That didn’t sound like Marguerite was such a great sister to me. I couldn’t imagine having the circumstances of my birth discussed with anyone and everyone. The adventure begins when Suri and Marguerite receive their first kiss from the same man, Lord John Fairfax. The kiss between John and Suri was electric or “wicked” and serves as the reason for the book title.

The kiss left a lasting impact on both of them for the 10 years they were apart. John and Suri were reunited while Suri was visiting Marguerite in India. This is where the story becomes suspenseful and dark. Suri’s character became very driven to achieve her own goals even at the expense of others. She was overly dramatic. Her selfish theatrics really made the rest of the book difficult to read. It seemed like everyone in the book had to cater to Suri’s whims. Even when it was explained to her that people could die so she could have her wish she disregarded their warnings and moved on with her desires. I was stunned at the casualties that mounted because of her actions. I never became vested in any of the other characters either. Marguerite seemed to be nice/nasty. John had a lot of issues from his family and past relationships. The other background characters added depth to the novel. However, none of the other characters really stood out.

The storyline was incredibly busy with betrayal, greed, sibling rivalry, espionage, and a governmental uprising. I can say that there was never a dull moment in the book, and I read it in one day. I felt like I had to stick with it until I finished it. I think the casualties and suffering of the child made the book seem dark. I like suspense, but this particular book went a little further than my comfort zone.

Reviewed by Michelle for Cocktails and Books

Mine Under the Mistletoe

Mine Under the Mistletoe - Kat Latham Ashley and Oliver are both battling some tough issues from their pasts. Ashley is embracing hers and moving forward but Oliver’s pain is still too fresh to deal with and he’d rather runaway than deal with it. Can the pair’s growing love heal all wounds, or will fear of repeating the past part them for good?

The synopsis gives a very detailed account of what happens in the book. What it doesn’t tell you is how wonderfully humorous Ashley and Oliver (Ollie) are. The couple has tangible chemistry and their story was a complete joy to read.

This is a short and sweet Christmas read that will melt your heart and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Reviewed by Elizabeth for Cocktails and Books

The Summer Heat

The Summer Heat - Elodie Parkes 3.5 Cocktails

This is a HOT summer read that will leave you breathless. Nate and Even are two sexy men who meet their new beautiful neighbor, Annabel and fall instantly into lust. Only problem is, they both want Annabel more than just to warm their beds. How do they decide who gets the girl? Do they let Annabel chose?

Annabel is irresistibly attracted to her neighbors. One of them makes a move first and the chemistry is off the charts. However, she feels the same attraction for both men and secretly wonders if she could have them both.

This is a story of making love work, multiplied. The book ended too soon for me, but it is a fun read, none the less.

Reviewed by Elizabeth for Cocktails and Books

The Accidental Kiss

The Accidental Kiss - Nicole Simone I'm going to be upfront, right here at the beginning, with this review. If not for the ending to this book, I would have rated this one higher. I loved the characters, the world building and the storyline. I thought the author's voice was engaging and kept me right in the story with the characters. But the ending of the book left me with my mouth hanging open wondering WTF just happened.

We meet Sky Noel as she and her mother begin the next chapter in their lives in Caster, Louisiana. It's her mother's hometown and she's hoping it's a place that will rid her of the ugliness she's been living since her best friend died in a car accident. Everyone at her new school is friendly, with the exception of the hottest thing since sliced bread, Daemon. He's rude, he's pushy and he's the only thing that's going to protect Sky from the evil coming after her.

We learn fairly early on what Daemon is and what he bartered in order to break free of the Voodoo Priest that holds his soul. But as Daemon protects Sky from those that want her blood and finds himself falling for her, I wouldn't help but hope their plan to rid themselves of the Voodoo priest worked and they release Daemon. Sky and Daemon balance each other. She humanizes Daemon, helping him to remember what he was before he was turned and he ground Sky, helping her realize how much more to her there is.

Nicole Simone gives us a fast paced, enjoyable read. I loved the characters and the setting for the story. But as I said in the beginning, the ending did me in. I was invested in these characters and what they were trying to do. When I reached the last sentence, I had to wonder if I maybe my review copy was missing something. Did the epilogue get left out? Is there another book coming that will explain how this ended? Of course, it's only now (as I write this review) that I see this is the first book in a series. So here to hoping, with fingers crossed, more will be explained in book 2.

Duke by Day, Rogue by Night

Duke by Day, Rogue by Night - Katherine Bone 4.5 Cocktails

Lady Constance Danbury is a wanted woman ----wanted by 4 very different men. Lord Burton is an older man known to be violent with women and use them for his own perverted sexual pleasure. He won’t stop until Lady Constance is his wife. His threats drive Lady Constance away from her home in England. Lieutenant Henry Guffauld is tasked with protecting her while she is on board a ship bound for Spain. He also falls under her spell. Unfortunately, Lady Constance’s trip is interrupted when pirates attack her ship. A deranged captain, Frink, attacks the vessel and acts without mercy. One of his commanding officers, Thomas Sexton/Percival Avery, finds Lady Constance in her cabin. After he sees her he knows nothing will ever be the same again. Too bad Captain Frink decides that he must have Lady Constance. But Thomas isn’t backing down.

The storyline takes off from there. The author does an excellent job of weaving suspense, drama, and romance together for a nonstop roller coaster ride. Every time I thought I figured out exactly what was going on and tried to predict the ending another twist happened. I was glued to this novel day and night until I could finish it. There was no lull in the story. There were also some areas where I found myself laughing out loud. I think the author’s description of Percival Avery and the confrontation between Percival and Lord Burton had me doubled over laughing. So the storyline had the best of everything suspense, humor, romance, and action.

The author did an excellent job of introducing characters and making them complex. I loved that the author took great care to share the self-talk that Thomas had while trying to figure out how to navigate his relationship with Constance while pursuing his own goals. Thomas and Constance had a passionate romance. The sizzle could not be denied. Constance was no shrinking violet. She was independent and unafraid to take a leap into the unknown. She also had a strong spirit and despite being plagued by nightmares she continued to display great courage. I loved the display of love that was woven throughout the storyline. Both Constance and Thomas had strong family ties. At the heart of these characters their love of each other is what drove them to act the way they did.

Don’t miss this gem..

Reviewed by Michelle for Cocktails and Books

The Troublemaker Next Door

The Troublemaker Next Door - Marie Harte **********************************Spoilers***************************************

I’ve read some of the author’s paranormal romance books and really enjoyed them. The synopsis of this book sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a shot. I really wanted to like the story but I was turned off from the very beginning.

Flynn and Maddie are both superficial people who deserved each other. I didn’t like either character and while I was hoping for them to grow up during the book, I was sadly disappointed. It didn’t matter what storyline it was, these two characters killed any enjoyment I would’ve taken in reading the book. Flynn is a plumber but he acts like he’s seventeen and constantly objectifies every woman he encounters that’s not related to him to “tits” and “ass.”

Maddie was something else altogether. She’s loud, obnoxious and broke up with her boyfriend because he wanted to spend too much time with her. Seriously? Well, it’s a good thing she hooked up with Flynn then. Maddie just wants a friends-with-benefits situation and Flynn is totally on board with that. That is until Flynn starts falling for Maddie and she kicks him to the curb as well. And, of course, she realizes she made a mistake and wants to apologize to Flynn but he is too busy trying to make Maddie jealous by “pretend” dating someone else. Ugh.

The sex scenes were disgusting. Flynn was a dirty talker and I usually don’t mind that but he was just vulgar instead of tasteful and pornographic instead of passionate. I ended up skipping every sex scene because, frankly, I was disgusted.

I applaud the author for her guts and her willingness to take risks, but this book is too risqué for me.

Reviewed by Elizabeth for Cocktails and Books

Winning Love

Winning Love - Abby Niles Mac Hannon “The Snake” is a successful cage fighter, but unfortunately, he’s been hiding from life since losing his wife, when an unexpected tornado tore through their town. Four years later, Mac reluctantly agrees to return to Kansas, where he and his wife once lived, to help a friend prepare for a fight. That’s where Mac meets Gayle, his friend’s next door neighbor. Gayle instantly puts Mac on edge, because while he’s attracted to her, his reaction to her makes him feel uncomfortable. Since his wife’s death he prefers his solitude and has no interest in dating. Gayle is a confident and assertive woman who goes after what she wants. Mac never has to wonder what Gayle is thinking, because she says whatever is on her mind and he finds her refreshing and sexy, but also a little scary. Gayle has a doctorate in meteorology, she’s a lot of fun, unpredictable and keeps coming on to Mac. I found it easy to like Mac and his vulnerability touched me. He’s strong and imposing, yet embarrassed when Gayle gives him a compliment and he isn’t sure how to deal with all her blatant sexual remarks.

I have to admit I was surprised by this book, because the cover features a fighter and although Mac is a fighter, he doesn’t spend much time fighting. This is a story about two people coming to grips with their demons from the past. Mac and Gayle are two troubled and scarred people who have tried to move on from their painful pasts and continue to live their lives, but are having a difficult time. They each deal with their tragedy in their own individual way. So although I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I have to say, when Mac and Gayle do get together, they are sexually explosive. This is the third book in the series, but each one is a stand-alone.

Reviewed by Karen for Cocktails and Books

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight - Anne Calhoun AFTERNOON DELIGHT is a captivating novella about Tim and Sarah, two people who meet and decide to have a no-strings-attached relationship. Tim has a very stressful job, he’s a paramedic and he uses random hookups to ease his stress. Sarah owns a food truck located in a park close to where Tim works. Tim first meets Sarah when she asks him to sample one of her healthy, nutritious meals after she watches him quickly cram unhealthy food into his mouth.

I enjoyed Tim and Sarah’s playful relationship and there’s a lot of chemistry between them from the moment they meet. Tim and Sarah each look at the world differently. Tim does everything fast because he is constantly dealing with death and tragedy and it gives him less time to think about what he witnesses. Sarah likes to take things slowly and she savors everything in life including food. She shows Tim that when he slows down and takes his time he will find more enjoyment, because some things in life are worth waiting for.

Reviewed by Karen for Cocktails and Books

How the Scoundrel Seduces

How the Scoundrel Seduces - Sabrina Jeffries How The Scoundrel Seduces is the third installment in the Duke's Men series. This was the first novel that I have read by this author. This book is part of a series, but I had no trouble at all following the storyline without having read the previous books. I immediately fell in love with the characters and the storyline. This book was a delight from start to finish.

Tristan Bonnaud, is his father’s illegitimate son. Tristan’s family is forced to move to France after his father’s death. While Tristan is in France he picks up skills that come in handy when he moves back to England and becomes part of an investigative agency. Tristan’s world changes forever when Zoe Keane walks into his agency’s office in desperate need of help. Tristan isn’t the only one that feels the sparks that fly between he and Zoe. Zoe is dead set against having Tristan handle her case. However, Zoe’s case fits tidily into Tristan’s plans to get revenge on the brother that betrayed him. And Tristan is the only one of the “Duke’s Men” that has the knowledge and background to help Zoe. Tristan and Zoe fight the desire that flows between them, but real love will not be denied. The passion blazes so hot that just reading a scene about a kiss sends the flames bursting off the pages. I loved the way the author described Zoe’s feelings in the heat of passion. It was humorous, but so realistic.

I loved, loved, loved all of the characters. Tristan appeared to be arrogant and self-centered, but he was really a little boy that learned to protect himself from rejection. Zoe is very intelligent, adventurous, and spirited. She took risks and wasn’t afraid to go against the conventional expectations for women. Tristan’s partner in the investigative agency is his other half-brother, Dom. Dom loves Tristan, and he is loyal to him regardless of the personal cost to him. Each of the characters was very complex and a joy to read. I even found myself feeling pity for the villain in the story. As the storyline developed you could easily see how the sins of the parents caused an array of difficulties for their children. I was totally vested in the characters and their storylines. The only sad moment was finally putting the book down. It was so good I took it to work with me because I couldn’t bear being separated from my characters until I knew that everything worked out for them.

I confess that this book took me on a roller coaster ride. It tugged on all my emotions, and by the end of it I felt like I actually knew the characters. I am definitely going to read the rest of the books in this series. Sabrina Jeffries has officially made it to my favorite author list.

Reviewed by Michelle for Cocktails and Books

Beauty and the Brit

Beauty and the Brit - Lizbeth Selvig I do love a good British hero in a book, but I just couldn't connect with these characters. I don't know what it was. DNF'd this one (which makes me sad).

Can't Let Go

Can't Let Go - Michelle  Lynn 3.5 Cocktails

I have loved all the Invincible books, but CAN'T LET GO was a little bit different. In Dex's story, we found the woman he was meant to be with wasn't someone he just meets, but someone he's known since he was eight, who he didn't always treat the best, but someone he would always be there for.

Dex and Chrissy meet through their fathers at a weekly poker game. They bond over their fathers and the gambling that takes precedence over pretty much everything else. But Dax lives a very different life from Chrissy's and she often feels like she isn't good enough for Dax or anything that has to do with his world. As a reader, I felt very sorry for Chrissy because she was in a pretty horrible situation that was not of her own making. And every time she tried to dig herself out of the hole she in, her father smacked her right back down again. Chrissy had grit and she had determination. She may have slipped a time or two, but she always managed to do what she needed to in order to start over. And when it was really bad, she knew she could always call her old friend Dex.

Dex was a frustrating man. You knew how he felt about Chrissy, he'd felt that way since he was a teenager, but he was insistent on keeping Chrissy at arms length. You wanted him to believe in his feelings and know that you can love people and things will be alright. But Dex is on stubborn man and he fights his feelings tooth and nail. Of course, he hurts the one person he doesn't ever want to. He eventually figures it out, just when he's about to lose what he wants, but he needed that push.

CAN'T LET GO didn't have the same emotional pull for me as the other books in the series, but it was still a solid entry. And Michelle Lynn sets up Rob's story perfectly. Suddenly we discover he's not really the a-hole we think he is. I can't wait to get more of him.

No in Between

No in Between - Lisa Renee Jones With every book that Lisa writes in this series just intrigues you more and more. The mystery reminds me of a time when mysteries were what made a book great. Lisa adds that element with this series, as well as romance that just gets stronger in every book. I say romance because that is what Chris and Sara have. They have a romance that isn't just about sex. They have learned to trust and not keep anything from each other. Not even Bossman Mark can not deny that what they have is real love. But I have to admit, Mark Compton is a mystery I would love to solve.

Do we finally find out what happened to Rebecca? You are going to have to read to find out.

Reviewed by BookBud for Cocktails and Books

Melt for Him: a Fighting Fire novel

Melt for Him: a Fighting Fire novel - Lauren Blakely MELT FOR HIM drew me in from the first page and I had an immediate connection to Becker and Megan. Becker is a big, strong, attractive volunteer fireman and is also the owner of the Panting Dog, a microbrewery. Megan returns to her home town of Hidden Oaks, California and is at the Panting Dog, when she literally trips into Becker. There is an immediate attraction between them and Megan agrees to go home with Becker. When she does, Megan is pleasantly surprised at Becker’s bedroom skills and wonders if one night will be enough.

I admire Megan’s feisty, free spirited nature. She rides a motorcycle, has tattoos and piercings, and is also a talented artist. She is a survivor and her way of coping is by living a nomadic life. She told herself she would never fall for a guy who has a dangerous job, so even though she is attracted to Becker, she tries to keep her distance.

Becker is a sexy, hot fireman, but also a good guy trying to recover from a devastating experience. He moves from Chicago to start a new life in California, but his memories follow him. He’s intense and brooding, but also teasing and the last thing he wants is a relationship because he knows his head isn’t in a good place. Lauren Blakely writes a delicious, steamy story with likeable, but flawed characters.

Reviewed by Karen for Cocktails and Books