Surviving Raine by Shay Savage

Surviving Raine (Surviving Raine, #1)Surviving Raine by Shay Savage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I ever become shipwrecked or get stranded on a lonely island I want to be there with Bastian Stark. His survival skills are above and beyond everybody else’s! It seems fighting in a modern day munera sine missione does have its benefits.

I suppose he is the typical beloved anti hero who behaves like a complete jerk alot, but makes up for this by being caring AND hot once he decides to let go of his mean tendencies. Thanks to the 100% male POV we know what’s going on inside of him and understand why he is doing what he’s doing. I can’t say I am totally convinced that this is what’s going on in a man’s mind but I didn’t care for reality anyway.

I found the perspective very refreshing and a relief from the usual female point of view. I am quite familiar with a female point of view already and – to be frank – in romance novels I find it tedious, boring, repetitive and downright annoying most of the time. In Raine’s case I don’t think she would have annoyed me – no, she is a very sweet, forgiving, reasonable and down to earth person, but her trains of thoughts would not have been nearly as interesting to read as Bastian’s, I am sure (sorry).

I must admit, even though I am a sucker for sob stories, I found Bastian was laying it on a bit thick. Wasn’t he a little too needy? The “I’ll die if you ever leave” refrain was a bit over the top for me. Yeah, say it once if you must, but don’t go on non stop.

I read a few reviews of the Evan Arden series. It seems that there is another guy who “will die if she ever leaves” and then, when she does leave, hooks up soon after with a hoooker who can “heal” him. Not saying that this is a bad thing, people do leave sometimes and life goes on, but doesn’t this throw a cloud of suspicion over that lover’s oath? Sometimes a little less is more.

That being said Shay Savage pushed all the right buttons for me and I loved the story. I wouldn’t classify this as the typical romance with the usual frequent love scenes. Don’t get mislead by the heavy use of “fucking” and “cock”! There were some sex scenes, but the adventure of being thrown out on a life raft and land on a lonely island took a large part of the story. A good mix, a great couple, no idiotic misunderstandings and a somewhat happy ending – absolutely recommendable.

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Snowed in by Sarah Title

Snowed InSnowed In by Sarah Title
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

* I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. *

This is the fourth story in the Southern Comfort series, however even without reading the other three it was no problem to get into it. With a title like “Snowed in” I expected this to be a cabin romance, but I wouldn’t consider being snowed in for a day enough to be called that. Anyway, due to the nature of the story there is not much going on outside the romancing part. The romance was rather straightforward, no ramifications, no big obstacles, and not a lot of worrying.

I couldn’t quite feel the chemistry between Maureen and Gavin, even though I can’t complain about the development of their story together. I can’t really put a finger on it, but somehow it was all just a tiny bit too smooth. Then again, it’s a short novella, I can’t expect a too complicated plot.

The writing style was quite humourous and original. A romance starting with the heroine getting dumped while still in bed with her soon to be ex is quite different from the usual.

“Are you dumping me? In bed? While we’re still naked?” “Come on, you would have wanted a last hurrah,” he said, slapping her affectionately on her ass. “Anyway, don’t worry about it, I’ll give you plenty of time to find a new place. Now, hush, the weather’s on.”

Liked it. There were a few scenes with dialogue that was lighthearted and funny – something you don’t find too often in romance. Authors seem to think that falling in love and laughter don’t go together.

I also took an immediate like to Gavin’s neighbour Pippa who is about as unconventional as can be. Sound advice from an old lady who plays doctor with her boyfriend, TMI for everybody, but still, a nice touch.

The other books in the series will be worth checking out, I think.

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Win and Lose by TC Blue

Blurb: When Luzien Bascombe finds himself lost in the middle of more snow than he’s ever seen in his life, he starts to expect things he’d rather not. Like death. What he doesn’t expect is to find someone like Win out there in the middle of nowhere, and he really doesn’t expect to find himself falling for Win so quickly.

Winston St. James doesn’t know what to make of the young man he finds on his doorstep; not even when Luz makes it clear that he wouldn’t mind a bit of fun in Win’s bed. He does know that Luz has a life to get back to, though, which becomes harder and harder to accept. The world is never perfect, so when Luz has to go, he tries to make the best of things. Will Luz and Win get past their old hurts and take a chance on each other, Win or Lose?

Review: It seems to me that TC Blue has a preference for the lovers getting separated for some reason or other at one point in the story. And even though I know this and don’t like it I keep going back to reading her stories nevertheless. Why do I do it? Because the scenes when the two guys finally get back together again are irresistible. TC has a knack of writing love scenes that just work for me. Period. No matter what else happens in the story – and I am not saying that the storylines don’t work, they do – the love scenes alone would be making it worthwhile. I can’t put my finger on it, but for me they just do it.

The same here. Win and Luz (I’m pretty slow, I must admit, I only got the pun with the title when it was explained in the story, :-)) are so great together and feel so much for each other, it’s a pleasure to read about them. Once again they wouldn’t admit it to each other and it takes some time and work for them to figure everything out. In fact I had a slight problem with that because from what happens in the story they actually knew what was going on. At one point this happens:

Win wasn’t sure of how he was going to make things work, but he for damned sure would. Even if it meant closing up shop and moving to the city. Any city. There was no way he could give this up.

Only a little later Luz picks up this:

Win was just making an offer, Luz figured. Sort of. He thought Win was just putting it out there that if Luz was interested, he would be willing to see what might happen.

So, this should really settle the whole thing. Win wants more, offers it tentatively to Luz and Luz recognizes it for what it is. Luz knows that he, himself, is interested. So, what’s the problem? Why does he leave without admitting to wanting more if he knows that this is what Win wants, too? Win might not have been aware of the fact that Luz returned his feelings, because he never expressed them that openly, but Luz should have been aware of Win’s. But this was only a minor thing, and possibly I’m just pernickety.

This is a sweet story that pretty much focuses on the couple and their feelings and thoughts.

If you like cabin romance with hot love scenes and great guys, get it!

Available at Torquere Books


Captive by Scarlet Blackwell

Blurb: On the outs with his lover, author Gabriel Black retreats to work on a new book at his Alaskan hideaway, where he expects peace and quiet… instead Gabriel gets shock and surprise when an intruder breaks in and takes him hostage. His captor, Ethan, is far too handsome for Gabriel’s own good, and Gabriel decides that the best way to get free is to seduce his captor. The question is: Will he enjoy it too much to want to escape if Ethan gives in?

Review: Before I got this novella I looked around for Scarlet Blackwell and didn’t find much apart from her LJ, which seems to be fairly new as well. She mentions there that she writes about soulmates and also posted an excerpt for a new story called “Apathy”. I liked the excerpt and being a sucker for soulmate and for cabin stories I decided to give her a try.

It’s very hard to write about this story without giving away a major plot spoiler. I usually don’t mind mentioning spoilers, but in this case, it won’t do. If you know beforehand about it there is really no point in reading the story at all. So I’ll just write down what I thought along the way while reading.

Scarlet Blackwell throws us medias in res – I mean, really. Gabriel is burning some toast and within 30 seconds into the book Ethan is in the house. I like that. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading novellas and short stories. With short fiction there is no endless introductions, empty chatter and inconsequential “story foreplay” (if I may call it so). Here more so than in most, the action starts right away.

Ethan turns out to be a very dual character. He’s straight but obviously attracted to Gabriel. He’s brutal, but can be gentle. He’s cold-hearted, but can be caring. He’s not very sympathetic, but comforts Gabriel after the breakup with his partner. I found that strange. I thought to myself, what is wrong with this guy? Not that mixed feelings and opposing character traits are unusual, but in Ethan’s case it just didn’t make sense to me. We also don’t find out anything at all about him. Where does he come from? Why is he on the run? He’s on the news but that’s all we learn. Is he an escaped convict? Where did he escape from? What had he done? We know nothing.

Gabriel’s plan to seduce Ethan in order to get his gun backfires. The first time he enjoys it way too much to think of the gun. And Ethan seems to get a kick out of it as well. In fact for a straight guy he’s pretty intuitive when it comes to sex with another man. They both have some fun together a few times– well, it’s not perfect, Ethan still is reserved afterwards –, but Gabriel fucks everything up in the end by reaching for the gun after all. Bad move!

The sex scenes were pretty sensual and even more interesting due to the fact that Ethan seemed so ambiguous about his feelings. All the time I was wondering where on earth the soulmate thing came in. The pages to be read got less and less and no soulmate in sight. Well, the theme was there,  it got delivered fairly late in the book. I enjoyed reading the story very much but the twist about 4/5 into the book was nothing like what I expected. I must admit I felt a bit cheated. Probably I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. I was looking forward to a captor turning into lover sort of story, and I didn’t get that really.

Available at Dreamspinner Press


Untamed heart by Ally Blue

Synopsis: After killing the murderer of his lover hit man Leon thought he’d find peace, but instead sinks into depression and takes to drinking. His bosses, a dubious (governmental) organization, send him to a remote safe house in Alaska to recuperate. On one of his walks into the forest he is being attacked by a bear and only survives because a young man rescues him. Grim, a strangely subservient, fragile, yet strong boy takes care of him in his cabin in the woods. Leon realizes that Grim has been in an extremely abusive relationship that damaged Grim pretty badly and is resolved to free Grim of his past – and finds salvation himself.

Review: This was my first novel by Ally Blue, but certainly not my last. Leon – what an appropriate name for a hit man – is a ruthless killer without a conscience, but a tender and considerate man at the same time. Grim is a tough young man who has survived in the Alaskan wilderness on his own, but a deeply damaged soul who needs to please. He has been sexually, physically and emotionally abused since he was fourteen and that left mental scars that are hard to overcome. Leon is determined to help Grim to get rid of the hold the past has on him and by doing so he is being cleansed as well.

The story had a very good plot. The first part felt like a cabin romance, since Leon and Grim were secluded in that hidden cabin for a long time. When Leon’s organization came for him the pace changed from peaceful (at least on the outside) to, well, not really action packed, but determined activity on Leon’s side to escape himself, then free Grim and plan a future for them. Thank God, Leon had all the knowledge and contacts to do that.

When the moment came to get Grim out of hospital I was extremely impressed with how well they worked together. What a couple! They were good together no matter what they did, be it making love, gutting animals or killing adversaries. I liked that none of them was a goody-two-shoes, but both were real people with good and bad sides. Thank God Ally Blue didn’t take the easy way out and make Grim’s issues vanish into thin air once he had known Leon for some time. He was still dealing with them at the end of the book, which makes sense. Way too often in (especially straight) romance the hero is being "healed" the minute he gets together with the heroine. Not here. Grim is getting better, but he still has a long way to go.

The ending is the sweetest one ever. The outlook into the future for both of them leaves nothing to be desired, neither for Leon and Grim, nor for the reader.

Available at Samhain Publishing.


Feeling safe by Sonja Spencer

Synopsis: Larson, a police officer, rescues Calvin from a tricky situation with a burglar in which Calvin was injured badly. After taking him to the hospital he offers Calvin a place to stay for a few days, since Calvin can’t go back to his place. They both develop feelings for each other, but Larson is afraid that Calvin is suffering from a sort of reverse Stockholm syndrome and once he’s got over his initial trauma, Larson will be left behind, heart-broken. Calvin tries hard to convince him that his feelings are real and not the by-product of gratitude.

Review: This novella almost feels like a cabin romance. Even though we are not in a remote location and Larson still leaves to go to his job, Calvin and him mostly are just spending time at home, getting to know each other, reflecting their own feelings and planning how to make this awkward situation work for them. There is hardly any outside input, at least not much that has any relevance for the relationship between the two men.

I’m not a particular friend of stories with cops, ex-cops, detectives etc, which is weird considering that I enjoy reading detective novels. However, in this story it all works out perfectly. Larson and Calvin were attracted to each other right from the start, but due to a lack of clear communication (or rather understanding) they constantly misread the signs. I thought this was a bit odd because, even though one of them expressed his feelings, the other one still didn’t quite get them. Larson was constantly fretting that even though Calvin made it clear how he felt, this would change as soon as Calvin got a grip on his life again.

I liked the characters in the story a lot, even Larson’s cat didn’t bother me. Usually I hate stories with animals (or kids), but here I was ok with it. It had just the right length and was very enjoyable. If you like  stories with a plot focusing on the couple and no outside interference this is the right one for you.

Available at Dreamspinner Press



Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson

Synopsis: On the way home from a competition Fiona and her 8 teenage students are surprised by a snowstorm and have to seek shelter in a holiday cabin which is run by John. The Iraq veteran has bought the cabin seeking solitude to overcome his PTSD. Not that he acknowledges that he does suffer from PTSD, but he feels that he needs time to heal from the emotional as well as physical wounds he got in Iraq. When Fiona and her kids turn up at the cabin they turn his life upside down and, needless to say Fiona and John fall in love. However, John is not ready to open up to her.


Warning: contains spoilers!

I got this book as a free download during the celebration of Harlequin’s 60th anniversary. I’m not familiar with Harlequin, their various categories and what they mean in terms of topic, length, and sensuality. "Snowbound" is classified as a Harlequin Superromance. Assuming that Harlequin consider all their romances to be super in quality I suppose this classification specifies the length of the book.

And long it was, considering that nothing actually happened. Fiona and John meet, fall in love, but have to keep the lid on it because of the kids, meet later again, own up to loving each other, separate again, there is silence and agony for a few months, re-unification, end. I like books without a lot of external plot, especially cabin romance, so that was not the problem, but I think that the story could have been condensed a bit. Especially the scenes with the kids were a bit tedious and wouldn’t suffer from a few cuts.

Now, about John seeking solitude in a mountain cabin. Fair enough, a cabin is the perfect place if you are looking forward to being alone, but, for Pete’s sake, not a cabin where people go for their holidays. Why a war veteran who wants to heal by being along takes on the job of being an innkeeper is beyond me. Guests in a hotel search you out 24/7 to get things. Not only that, in this case John also has to cook three meals a day for a dozen people or more, provide them with snacks during the day, clean their rooms, do the laundry and what not. Admittedly he certainly is too busy too think about his issues, but he was explicitly seeking solitude. Doesn’t make sense to me.

I liked how the story developed and the overall feel of it. John is a scarred hero with a lot of problems. The fact that he doesn’t want to confide in Fiona is understandable. So is the fact that Fiona can’t accept that. The story was well written and made sense to me.

Other than what I usually read this book hardly contained any love scenes (love as in sex). There were a few scenes, but they faded out quickly. If you love steamy scenes and dirty talk, you might want to think twice about reading "Snowbound".

Considering that it was a free e-book I was more than pleased with it.

[rating: 3]


The Best of Jaid Black

Jaid Black is one of the noms de plume of Tina Engler, the founder of Ellora’s Cave. This should give any prospective reader an idea of what to expect.

"The Best of Jaid Black" consists of three novellas. I read only two, since the synopsis of the third didn’t interest me. So I’ll leave "The obsession" out of this.


Tremors: Marie is on an extended holiday in Sweden. On the way back from a museum opening, where she had met a mysterious man who left her feeling uneasy, especially since she’s told that he was a murderer. She has a flat tyre and tries to make her way through the forest back to civilization. In that forest she meets the very man, Fredrik, again. He takes her to his home and basically forces her to stay with him for a week. After that week, he will allow her to leave, if she still wants to.

Vanished: Lynne is driving in a lonely mountain area, has an accident and is found by Jesse who takes her to his cabin and nurses her back to health. It turns out that Jesse is an escaped convict, imprisoned for some pretty gruesome crimes.


Tremors: I’m a big fan of cabin romance stories, so this one was right up my alley.

Well, the initial situation is a bit forced, since it doesn’t make any sense to anybody with a bit of common sense. If you drive along a lonely road and your car breaks down, if you have no idea where exactly you are, if you don’t know how far and what direction the next village/house/dwelling lies, if it is the middle of the night and you can’t see a thing, wouldn’t you just go back along the road you came from to get back to where you started? Well, Marie – in evening attire – decides to head straight into a forest on a path that looks hardly ever used.

S P O I L E R S:

If you were ready to overlook this and just take the story as it was, it was a really good read. Fredrik, whose reputation was far from pleasant, turned out to be a very nice bloke, if somewhat on the stalker side. The fact that he burnt Marie’s clothes in order to make her stay would have had me livid in real life, but in the story I just thought it was hilarious. Between him and Marie was a really good connection, they just clicked.

The fact that his status as a monster in human form was totally exaggerated didn’t come as a big surprise. Marie saw through that pretty quickly. And this is exactly why I couldn’t quite understand her reaction to when she found out that he had staged her car breakdown (how he did that was never explained) and her subsequent flight. At that stage of their relationship I would have addressed this directly with him instead of running away.

Apart from all those little flaws It was an enjoyable read. What made it even exotic were the few bits and pieces of Swedish that were thrown in. I have no idea whether they were authentic – I sure hope so, but I know from experience that when authors throw in German language bits into their stories they usually turn out to be false.

If you liked that story I recommend you also read "Secluded" by Lisa Marie Rice, a novella included in the Secrets anthology no. 9 from Red Sage.

Vanished: Another cabin romance. This time the heroine has an accident and is being rescued by an escaped convict who carries her to his cabin, even though he is in shackles, and brings her back to health. That alone should gave given her some idea about his personality, but it didn’t. He was in death row as a supposed serial killer of women and has set up camp in the lonely mountain cabin. When she thinks he wants to rape and kill her (an assumption not totally out of the blue, but nevertheless quite premature) she behaves in such a stupid way that you could only cringe in embarrassment. I have no idea how one would react in such a situation, but her behaviour was absolutely humiliating. I could have done without that.

After she finally got over that episode she was alright, though. Jesse turns out to be a nice guy as well and – of course – innocent.

The story was a good read.

Both novellas totally centered on the hero and heroine without any interference from others. I like those kinds of stories, so I was quite happy with them both. I had read one short story by her before. "Hunter’s oath" in the anthology "Playing easy to get" is a story set in the underground Viking world. I thought I’d give her another try and wasn’t disappointed.



White Lies by Linda Howard

Synopsis (blurb): Nothing could have prepared Jay Granger for the arrival of two FBI agents at her door — or for the news they brought. Her ex-husband, Steve, had been in a terrible accident that had left him gravely injured. The FBI needed Jay to confirm his identity.The man Jay finds lying in the hospital bed is almost unrecognizable. Almost. Exhausted and afraid, Jay tentatively declares that he is Steve Crossfield. But the man who awakens from the coma is not at all as Jay remembers her husband. And he remembers nothing of their life together. Suddenly nothing is familiar. Not his appearance, not the intensity of his nature, not the desire that flashes between them. Who is this man? And will the discovery of his identity shatter the passion they share?

Review: If you are willing to overlook the absurd plot this is an entertaining read. I never read anything by Linda Howard before, so I can’t say whether this is her usual formula or not, but to me it was quite enjoyable up to a certain point. After that I felt sorry for the hero, becauseI started to dislike the heroine (see spoiler below).

I don’t really see any white lies here, though. I found it most disturbing that the heroine did not tell “Steve” right away when she found out that he is not her ex-husband. To leave someone suffering from amnesia believing that he is someone that he definitely is not, I don’t consider fibbing, but something quite serious. Her ludicrous reasoning behind her decision is intolerable. That whole charade could have continued if she had told only “Steve” himself. At least he would have known, but to everybody else he still could have been Steve. The idea that he would leave her behind is just as ridiculous. He was obviously already crazy about her and in order to keep this false identity up he would have had to stay with her anyway. At least she would have been honest with him. I didn’t like that at all.