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Holiday Kisses: A Holiday Romance Collection
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Dark Wolf - Kate Douglas

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

I don't know exactly what to say about this book. I loved it. I hated it. It was hot. It left me cold. I was all over the place with this one. And I think I have to say that I kinda liked it!

This book was such a departure for me and it felt so different than anything else I've read that I want to do this review a little differently. I want to do this chronologically so that I can get my thoughts organized and properly cataloged!

So at the beginning of the book, I was really confused. The main character, Lilly, was talking about how the Chanku (shapeshifters) had been out in the open, with the general population being aware of them for a while now. And it seemed like it was reality, like our own dimension, because characters were talking about California and Montana. So I wasn't really sure when or where I was. It seemed like I would have to plod along, not having any idea but eventually, the author clues you in to what's what. You just can't be impatient like I was!

Once you get that all cleared up, you can relax and get to know Lilly, the heroine of the book. Lilly is a little bit like royalty. Her father is the super alpha male over all of the Chanku and he's very respected and very beloved. Lilly is next in line but she's special in many other ways. I think the author didn't even get really that far into all of Lilly's gifts. But maybe you'll get more of that in future books in this series. Anyway, Lilly is the perfect heroine! She's tough-as-nails and totally badass. But she's also longing for more. And I don't mean sex. She's looking for the whole package. Not just the man, but the man and the closeness and the kids and the family but it all starts with the man and there's just no one on her radar. Until now...but first, she'll have to solve the mystery of who is raping and killing women in the Bay area and Montana, near her family property.

Hoping to keep public favor on her side, Lilly goes to a benefit honoring her father and there she meets the son of her father's enemy. The son's name is Sebastian and he is also something of a mystery. His father certainly seems evil so is Sebastian truly his father's son? That's something I really loved about Sebastian and how the author made me feel about him. You don't know if he's bad or not. You really hope he isn't but you just don't know! And then, we find out that he's not able to remember where he was or what he was doing during the murders so it looks really bad for him. But you already like him so much and he just seems like he couldn't possibly be the killer! And he has such respect for Lilly and he aches to have a loving family like she does. But you just don't know and it delicious!

Another thing I wanted to mention is the Sexy Time. Whoa whoa whoa. This was seriously hot. There was TONS of sex! But you're going to need to have a VERY open mind. I won't give too much away but let me tell you what kinds of Sexy Time to expect: male on female (of course), female on female, male on male, a threesome with two females and a male and I think even a 4 foursome. And maybe even a teensy bit of animal sex. It really shocked me because I wasn't expecting anything like this! Usually, shapeshifter books have their characters in a strictly monogamous relationships. The same sex sex scenes didn't do too much for me but since I've never really read many before, it didn't bother me. I don't know that I'd go out in search of same sex romance novels but if one had it, I would still read it. As long as it had my kind of Sexy Time in there too! LOL!

Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were definitely some flaws in there but nothing that ruined my day. And maybe they weren't even flaws; they were just parts I didn't like. But there was plenty to like. All of that sex - unusual and usual - was all wrapped up in love. Sebastian and Lilly love each other. Alex and Annie love each other. Everyone in the pack loves each other. And it's not a dirty, filthy, "Oh yeah baby" kind of love. It's a true, honest, real, pure love and even if the different type of sex turn you off, that kind of love probably won't.

Even with all the freaky deeky, I'd still recommend this book. But I'd only recommend it to someone who has already read this type of book or to someone who has a very open mind. If you DO like this kind of book, I think there will be more in the series to come, so you should keep your eyes open for them! Enjoy!

Claim Me - J. Kenner

Review posted on Kindles & Wine

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on all things erotic. But I do know what I like in erotica, I know what I like in romance, and I can honestly say that I loved this book. This may have some erotic elements and more Sexy Time than your average romance, but I think that Claim Me is a book that will speak to anyone looking for an intense love affair.

Claim Me is an incredible book! It has such an intense relationship between the hero and heroine that I dare you not to fall head over heels into this story.

The heroine is Nikki Fairchild. She’s a grown woman that had a pretty crappy childhood, which has obviously shaped her adulthood. Nikki developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms, mostly cutting. She hasn’t cut herself in years but the thought of doing it is never far from her mind. Any time there is turmoil in her life, she thinks about it. Weirdly, that is one of the things that I like and dislike about her. It sucks that she used to do this, but the fact that she refrains from hurting herself now shows what strength she has and how much she’s grown. Nikki feels her emotions so strongly it’s no wonder this book is so intense!

Another reason I really liked Nikki is because she just keeps plugging away no matter what. Paparazzi hurling hurtful questions? Shove through the crowd and get inside or away from them. Her boss is a disgusting letch? Get a new job! Get laid off? Get a different new job! I mean, nothing keeps this chick down! I like seeing a career-minded woman in books like this, especially when her job becomes part of the narrative. We all have jobs, right? Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom and get paid in chocolatey kisses or you work outside the home and get paid in cold, hard cash, we all realize that our jobs have an effect on our home lives. So to write a story where a woman’s job isn’t clearly identified and fleshed out is just beyond the realm of my ability to set aside reality. Luckily, in Claim Me, Nikki’s jobs and, more importantly, her career aspirations are an important part of her story and she doesn’t set those aside because a man steps into her life. Oh, one last thing that I have to gush about Nikki: I really love how she’s swept away whenever Damien is around. I imagine it would be exhausting to be that amped up and horny all the time, but it seems to work for Nikki. It’s so much fun to be caught up in Damien along with her!

Speaking of Damien Stark…oh-la-la! I love this man! Sure, he’s a mega-rich venture capitalist and inventor. Sure, he’s an über-famous ex-tennis player with tabloids and legitimate newspapers tracking his every move. He is every man you’ve ever fantasized about and then some! But he’s also complicated and, well, just delicious! He’s so romantic and surprises Nikki with spur of the moment getaways, which are always fabulous.

Even if you didn’t read Release Me(Book 1), you’ll quickly realize that Damien has secrets. I think that his secrets are part of the reason Nikki isn’t quite sure where her relationship with Damien stands. This is a common theme in novels that have a hero who is beyond wealthy and has a complicated or dark past. Our heroine wants more, doesn’t know where she stands, and is hesitant to ask for more. Claim Me has this theme, but I think that this author does a better job than anyone else has with it. She humanizes Damien in a way that I haven’t read or experienced before with other damaged heroes. Somehow, you can feel that Damien wants to be closer to Nikki…he just has no idea how to do it. And the more that Damien reveals about himself, the more I liked him.

Overall, I loved this book! Nikki and Damien have some major breakthroughs but they also have some serious setbacks in their relationship. The Sexy Time is VERY plentiful but it’s pretty vanilla—no kink or whips and chains, so no need to worry about that. In fact, I think I enjoyed this story so much that the Sexy Time was just extra stuff. Can you believe I’m saying that?! I can’t, but it’s true! I’m so hooked on these characters and I’m invested in how they work through their issues. Plus, now I’m intrigued about what happens with a couple of minor characters – Nikki’s friends Ollie and Jamie (I think that Ollie is going to do something bad in Book 3, but that’s just my own paranoia coming out). One thing is for sure: I’m going to have a VERY hard time waiting for Book 3 to come out!

Bottom Line 
I hope I’ve made it clear, but in case I haven’t, I LOVED THIS BOOK! The combination of plentiful Sexy Time and characters that I’ve come to love has made this one of my favorite books (and series) of all time. You don’t really need to read Book 1 before reading Claim Me, but they both are amazing so why wouldn’t you?? If you liked E.L. James or Sylvia Day's entries in this genre, you’ll definitely like this one…except J. Kenner'sStark Trilogy blows everyone else’s out of the water.

Rating: A+

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

A Playboy's Love Affair - Emily Quinn

This book defies convention. Sure, sure, its a Contemporary Romance but it could be a lot of different things. And I like ALL of those things it could be!

First off, I don't know why this popped into my head when I was reading it but I thought that if you took out all of the modern-type references, this could be a Historical Romance! Maybe it was the cover art on the book or maybe it was the references to contracts and reputations. I don't know and it's probably just my own twisted brain getting in the way. But I really liked it. It has all the things that I love about Contemporary Romance (cell phones, women with careers, hot water, indoor plumbing) but for me, it still had a Historical kind of feel to it. Whatever, on to the juicy bits!

Carly Mitchell is seriously a chick that has it all figured out. Well, compared to ME she does! She's got an amazing career as an Interior Designer, she's got a great wardrobe (no easy feat), great friends and a pretty great fiancee. Umm, until she catches her fiancee cheating on her with his secretary (of course!). We don't get a lot of info about the bastard fiancee but it doesn't matter because he's a means to an end. Later, when Carly sees him approaching at a party, she wants to save face but also wants to avoid talking to him so she does what any sensible woman does: she kisses the closest guy she can grab! LOL! Ok, well, it wasn't EXACTLY like that but she DID want to piss her ex-fiancee off and there would be no better way than to be "caught" making out with notorious playboy, Alex St. Jones. See? That's what I like about Carly! She sees a problem and figures out a solution. Boom, done. She's strong and practical and that's pretty great. But she also doesn't take crap from people either. I guess, for me, Carly is pretty much an ideal heroine. She's got all the good things and just a dash of vulnerability, which makes her very likeable.

Alex St. Jones on the other hand is the ideal playboy. Uses women as he pleases and them leaves them. He comes from family money but has made his own fortune in the architecture business he formed with his friends. He's so much fun to HATE when we first get to know him! Carly's brilliant idea to avoid her ex ends up costing Alex millions of dollars since Carly's ex had just signed this huge agreement with Alex's firm. Needless to say, the deal is off and Alex feels that Carly owes him something for his troubles. See??? Isn't he such a bastard?!?! LOL! He draws up this contract and Carly agrees to it. Maybe this would never happen in the real world but come on, Carly kinda digs this guy so why the hell not? I don't want to go any further into the details but you see what kind of guy Alex is, right? Not much to like. No, really... I really didn't like him. At all. But then you start to see little bits and pieces of why Alex is the way he is and it makes a little more sense, but more importantly, I found myself not hating him!! And then, I found myself liking him!! The author was absolutely toying with my emotions aaaand I think I like it! LOL!

Throughout the book, the POV switches back and forth between Carly and Alex. Now, I don't know how the author did it but I found myself sort of rooting for whoever's POV it was at the time. Like, when it was Carly's POV, I totally got where she was coming from and I was all kinds of Team Carly. But then, when it was Alex's POV, I was thinking that Carly was unreasonable and Alex had the right of things. Usually, that's not how it works for me. I find the character that I like and that's who I root for. Not so with this one. The author is devious and it's just not fair! LOL! Something else that was unusual was how NOT formulaic this novel was (look at my big words!). I mean, we all know the usual way that romance novels go. This one made a couple of route deviations along the way and I was pleasantly surprised! You think you're about to either get your HEA way too early or some terrible tragedy is about to occur but then you're going off literally to a place you didn't anticipate. And then you think that the novel is winding down and that you're about to get Alex proposing to Carly somehow and Boom! Another thing comes up! I mean, I think it was at least twice that I was thinking, "Well, this is going to be a shorter book than I thought and I hadn't realized that this was a novella but it was pretty good..." and then Alex does something surprising or Carly reveals a detail that I did NOT see coming and it's another emotional hurdle that these to have to get over together.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I think that the cover art might be a little misleading since Alex looks like he's from 1800's England but then Carly looks more modern, but that's just me being nitpicky since I couldn't find much to not like about this book. Oh, the first couple of chapters were a little confusing for me. I couldn't tell if we were reading a flashback or if things were happening out of order. Its only the first couple of chapters and it's evident pretty quickly what's going on. One other thing I liked: the author has put in these little faux snippets from a celebrity watcher show and I thought that was really clever and neat. Not that I would ever watch one of those shows.... ;)

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes naughty playboys! I might even recommend this to someone who normally reads Historical Romances because I still stick by my guns and say that this occasionally feel like it has some historical sensibilities to it, even though I can't put my finger on it. And no, it's not just the cover!!! LOL! Either way, this is a fun read that has plenty of surprises. I can't wait to see what the author has for us next!

How To Tame Your Duke - Juliana  Gray

Review and excerpt posted on Kindles & Wine

This book was a lot of fun to read! One of the main reasons that I can call this book “fun” is because of our heroine, Emilie. She combines two characteristics that I like but don’t always go together: boldness and 1800s modesty. Now before you think that I need my feminist card revoked, hear me out! When I talk about 1800s modesty, I mean their prudishness about racy topics like sex. It’s so funny to have a character go from one scene where she’s being ravished—or, even better, DOING the ravishing—to the next scene where she’s embarrassed or outraged when someone mentions anything about sex. In How To Tame Your Duke, Emilie is more in the “doing the ravaging” camp and is embarrassed by talking about it after. There were a couple of funny scenes where Emilie is being teased by her uncle and by the hero, Ashland, and her reaction is perfect and hilarious!

Ashland is a great hero and a perfect match for Emilie. First, he has this crazy past where he was in the military as some kind of specialist. It reminded me of something like a Navy SEAL Team but with only one dude! He was renown for being able to sneak into places with a stealth that should be impossible for a human. We don’t ever really find out how he’s able to do that, but we do know that his military service led to his disfigurement; he’s missing an eye and a hand. I wasn’t able to glean any additional details about Ashland’s military service or about how he was injured, but it does seem to affect his self-esteem. He actually blindfolds Emilie the first few times they are together, because he’s so sure that she will reject him if she sees him. However, this wouldn’t be a very good romance if she DID reject him for that, so I’m sure you know how that ends up!

My only issue with this book is that I felt I was missing a little bit of information about quite a few things. It’s totally understandable if a book is in the middle of a series, but How To Tame Your Duke is the first book in Juliana Gray's ew Three Princesses series, and it seemed to me that details surrounding Ashland’s injuries, which had bearing on his personality, would have been important information to have. I really wanted to know how he was injured. I wanted to know how the “ton” reacted to those injuries when he first came home (you KNOW how nasty and gossipy they are). Did he blindfold every woman he’s slept with since then? I could go on, but you get the point.

Aside from the lack of details in some sections, I really enjoyed this book! Ashland and Emilie are so hot together! And they are together often (wink, wink). But they’re also really sweet to each other, even when Ashland is a little overbearing for Emilie’s taste. Of course, it is 1800s England and that’s pretty much to be expected. It’s still fun to see Emilie fight against those social norms with the man she loves and who she exasperates on a regular basis!

Bottom Line 
I really enjoyed How To Tame Your Duke! The hero and heroine are unconventional, which makes the story feel fresh. There is plenty of sexy time, and there’s also a little dash of mystery and intrigue. I’d recommend this to anyone that wants to read a romance novel that departs from the typical.

Rating: B+

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach

Just a quick review for this book.

You should really know what the book is about just from the title. Having said that, you should also know better than to eat while trying to read this book. I, however, did NOT know better. Trying to eat a turkey sandwich while reading about cannibalism and animal testing was an exercise in ultimate stupidity. But that's not really the point, is it?

I've read a couple of books about death, like The Lazarus Effect (but I have no idea who the author was or what the complete title was) and sure, of course they're morbid and a little scary but they're also really very interesting, and in the case of "Stiff", it was wonderfully humorous!

I know, so weird, right? A book about death being funny? But how else are we to examine something that literally means the end of everything for us? Besides, this isn't so much about death as it is about what happens AFTER we die.

Author Mary Roach interviews people and goes to places that I'd never even thought about. She attends a memorial ceremony that a California university medical students hold for their cadavers (you wouldn't believe how moving it was) and she interviews the people who work with cadavers in the automotive safety industry. She visits the famed Body Farm (you CSI devotees know what I'm talking about) and talks about scraping putrescence off of her shoes (Ewwww!) and then going to lunch afterwards (Double EWWWWW!). She details what happens when a body is cremated and what happens when they aren't. You find out how embalming helps and how it doesn't. She also looks at what the future choice we might have, other than simple burial.

There is SO much information in this book that even with all of the topics above, I've only scratched the surface of what the author covers.

I know that this is probably an unpalatable topic for a lot of people. But if you can get past your squeamishness, you'll be richly rewarded with a thoughtful, thoroughly researched and extremely funny treatise on what can happen after we die and how much control we can exert over that.

I would highly recommend this non-fiction book to anyone who has any kind of an interest in what happens after we die: whether you want to donate your body to science or just want to make things easy on your family. This book poses questions and gives answers but most importantly, makes us laugh about a subject that there is usually very little to laugh about.

Night of the Dark Horse - Janni Nell

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

Although the title doesn't suggest it, this book is part of a series. And although it's classified as a romance, there is extremely little inside. Having said all that, I still really enjoyed this book!

Our heroine, Allegra Fairweather, is a paranormal investigator with a guardian angel. I really enjoyed reading about Allegra. The novel is from Allegra's point of view, which I really liked since this was also a mystery and it was nice to not know what was really going on and finding things out as Allegra found them out. She's constantly getting herself in one kind of trouble or another and you might think that it would get irritating but it really isn't. She's got such a great sense of humor about all of it and she isn't just blindly rushing into danger for shits and grins. She genuinely cares about the people she's trying to help, so when she picks a fight with the town bully who is a man that is about a foot taller than her and outweighs her probably by 100 pounds, it doesn't seem foolhardy. It seems like its a great idea! So she's brave and hilarious and she comes to Ireland to investigate Pooka attacks. A Pooka is a mythical animal that forces you on a midnight ride and it may end up hurting or killing you. You can imagine how much trouble she gets into with a horse that can speak and understand English! But Allegra doesn't care about the trouble she gets into because she's determined to help the people of the small town of Dingaleen.

Allegra isn't alone on her case. She has her trusty guardian angel, Casper, to help her when she finds herself in a pickle. But Casper has been acting strange lately and hasn't been showing up as quickly as he used to. He also isn't able to help Allegra as much because whenever he's injured, he takes much, much longer to heal. At the start of the book, he's still recovering from adventures they had in a previous book, so his weakness is really evident right off the bat. But it's very clear that he and Allegra have something between them. It's something that neither of them has acted on but since the Powers That Be have forbidden it and are hinting at Casper's retirement, I was wondering what Allegra was going to do about it. I have not read previous Allegra books so I'm not able to compare but I didn't think there was very much of Casper in this book. I would have liked to get a better idea of who he was but I still found that I really liked him. 

I think that classifying this book as a romance does an injustice to it. I was expecting a lot more Sexy Time and it just wasn't there. I don't care for fantasy novels, especially the ones with fairies, leprechauns and wizards. Once I started reading this novel, I almost didn't finish it because it had plenty of those elements. Then, with very little romance, I was even less interested. But I can tell you without a doubt that I am SO glad I stuck with it! This was so much fun! I loved watching Allegra get into trouble and then get herself out of it. All of the side characters were lots of fun and added a lot of heart to the book. I'm really interested in going back and reading some of the other books in this series.

I don't want to give away any more details about the story than I already have. I would recommend this book to people who like mystery novels with a plucky female heroine and to people who like fantasy-type novels. If you're looking for a full on romance, this may not be for you. I'm not saying there is zero romance but what's there is very small and its more of a longing romance since Allegra and Casper aren't allowed to be together. No matter what you're looking for, anyone who wants to read a fun book would be thrilled to take a journey with Allegra Fairweather!

The Rule-Breaker - Rhonda Nelson

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

I really liked this book! While I was reading it, I found myself thinking about some of the Robyn Carr novels I've read in the past. But don't worry, Sexy Time Lovers... there is plenty of Sexy Time in The Rule Breaker. I think this book reminded me of Robyn Carr books because this one takes place in a small town inhabited by families that are very close. The feeling of community was definitely something that was in this book and I think that was one of the reasons that I enjoyed it so much.

Another reason is the heroine, Shelby. I thought she was great. She's a very honest woman and, of course, she's hard working. She owns this clothing store where she designs and makes all of the clothes! She's a seamstress and she also has a few employees who are assembling her designs at a pretty rapid pace since she's trying to expand her business to the internet. So she's also ambitious! Also, Shelby is a woman after my own heart when she's talking about her insatiable sweet tooth and all of the temptation she faces with a bakery next door to her shop. Ugh, I can feel her pain! Anyways, Shelby is a great match for our hero, Eli.

Eli is a soldier and he's a very honorable guy. When Micah, Eli's best friend (and Shelby's former fiancee) kills himself, everything changes for him. Eli can't believe that his friend would leave the way he did, which is essentially to leave Eli picking up the pieces and lying to everyone about the way that Micah died. It twists and turns in Eli's gut, the way he has to be duplicitous or at least, less than honest, about that event. But his tribulations are going to continue when he arrives back in his home town to help build and be in attendance for the dedication of a memorial to Micah. It's bad enough that he's going to have to be reminded of so many memories and to lie to Micah's family but he's also going to have to be around Shelby. Shelby, who he feels it's completely wrong to have feelings for. But he does have feelings for her and he's going to have to deal with it.

There is a little bit of a mystery in this book. Shelby has been receiving threatening letters regarding Micah's death. It's not really central to the theme and I personally think that it's pretty easily solved. I kind of figured out who the perpetrator of this mystery was right away. I almost felt like this portion of the story was added so it seemed as if there was an additional conflict. I was never particularly scared for Shelby so I'm not sure what purpose it served. This is pretty much the reason that I didn't give it the highest rating.

The thing I liked the most about this book was that Shelby and Eli sort of had a jump start on their relationship. Sometimes, in some novels, it feels like we have to slog through exposition and all that just to get our hero and heroine together and admitting that they have feelings for each other. Shelby and Eli already had feelings for each other. They were friends, of course, and they were brought even closer by Micah. More than that, Eli had a thing for Shelby for years and Shelby had a thing for Eli. So their relationship was on fast forward almost. They're already practically in love and they share this grief over Micah's death which brings them even closer. It was great.

I would definitely recommend this book but I accompany my recommendation with a warning: have some tissues ready! There are definitely some sad moments and there are some really poignant moments. It's a tear jerker, for sure. But it so good that I hope you overlook that part. You'll be thrilled with the HEA and you'll love the sense of community you feel as you get to know these wonderful characters.

My Double Life: Wild and Wicked - Joanne Rock

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

The author of this double feature, Joanne Rock, has herself a new fan! I loved these books! BUT, I'm feeling like torturing you a little bit so I'm only going to give you a run-down of the first one. Trust me, one you hear about this one, I won't NEED to tell you about the other. So hop to it and go pick up this "2 for the price of 1" double feature!

My Double Life was so much fun. Now, I'm a chick that loves books set in California. I'd never be able to afford to live there since I have 4 giant dogs who need a yard to run in so I have to live vicariously through the heroes and heroines of my favorite romance novels. I'll admit that that was one of the reasons that I enjoyed this book so much. But now that I have that off my chest, I can give you the rest of the reasons; the reasons I think YOU are going to like this book.

Courtney is an awesome heroine. She is so incredibly relatable. She's a CPA but right now, she's a researcher at a risk management/wealth management firm. She has a speech impediment - she stutters when she's nervous or around new people (but she doesn't like the word 'stutter') so she had a very hard time interviewing and just feels thankful that she was given a chance. Of course, she's capable of so much more but she's happy where she's at. I was rooting for her from the very beginning. She's so sweet and kind and caring. She's a really great friend, even if she DOES have a hard time getting comfortable with people. She's a very hard worker at her job and now she's working on being more confident. After a bachelorette party held at gym that specializes in pole dancing exercise, she finds that she loves it! She has no desire to be a stripper but she loves the freedom of feeling like someone else and letting her inner goddess out. It's SO MUCH FUN to watch her transform from her shy, unassuming self into this sexy, bold dancer! Gah! She's great!

Trey is awesome in his own way. He's the son of a Hollywood legend. But he's trying to make his own way, not follow in his father's footsteps. That must be just fine with Trey's dad since it seems that he tries to thwart Trey's every attempt to make it on his own. Trey doesn't get it... he doesn't get why his dad wants to undermine everything he does. So Trey goes to this risk management agency so that he can see what he needs to do so he can start up his own company. So Hollywood is in Trey's blood. But he's not some douchey Hollywood-type. He loves the movie business, he loves making movies. He's willing to work hard to get what he wants. Sure, he's gorgeous, but he's also a sweet and warm guy. 

Trey meets Courtney when he goes to the risk management company where Courtney works. Well, actually, they sort of meet. Trey introduces himself to Courtney because he's immediately drawn to her and he's not sure why. Courtney stammers and rushes off to her cubicle. Not an auspicious meeting, for sure. But it's only the beginning for these two.

Another great aspect to this book was that it's a Hollywood-type novel but it doesn't have any of the skeevy Hollywood-types. It definitely shows the nice, shiny side of Hollywood and to be completely honest, that's the side I want to read about. I know it must be tough to actually live in LA and be around all of those perfect people and ugh, all that traffic! But I want to read about the fun stuff! And this book delivers!

Also, just the concept of this book appealed to me. I think it's going to appeal to a lot of you too. I think there are lots of women out there who are like Courtney. We have our day jobs, which we love or not, but we have these, sort of, secret desires. I don't mean sexual; I just mean, things we wish we could do. It was great to see Courtney be bold and daring and to see her go out on a limb like she does. I could almost feel the rush that Courtney feels when she lets go!

Obviously, I highly recommend this book. It was so much fun but it also tackled some serious issues with the characters. I really think that if you give this book a shot, you'll love it. Plus, you'll get a second, equally awesome book to read... for free!! :)

Northern Rebel / Daring in the Dark (Harlequin Blaze Series #748) - Jennifer LaBrecque

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

Ok, I have a bone to pick with author Jennifer LaBrecque (the author of this book). I live in SC and I'm loving the early spring that we always have. Then I start reading Northern Rebel and I find myself longing for snow and the rustic Alaskan frontier! It sounded to gorgeous and remote and I'm already trying to figure out how I can take a vacation up there! But enough of my vacation plans, let me give you some juicy bits about Northern Rebel/Daring in the Dark.

We start off meeting Delphi (I love that name). She's a nurse in a doctor's office and feels very lucky. She loves her job, enjoys her co-workers and really respects DeWitt, her boss, the doctor who owns the office. That is, until he comes on to her. When she turns him down, he gets her blackballed from the entire medical community in Atlanta! Having not a lot of options, she accepts her college friend's offer of a temporary nursing job in Good Riddance, Alaska. Delphi figures she can go to Alaska, lick her wounds and can return to Atlanta when this whole thing blows over. I really liked Delphi from the get-go. I think that a lot of people can identify with having a skeevy boss so having Delphi have to deal with that was a genius move. Plus, Delphi handled it with more class and dignity than I would have been able to manage. Then, when Delphi just wanted to be left alone so she could wallow in her misery, I could totally understand that. After you've been burned so badly by someone you trust, you just don't want to trust anyone ever again. Delphi really personified that feeling and brought it to life. But of course, her plans to be miserable and alone are immediately put to the test...

Lars marches right on in to Delphi's life and proceeds to make it hard for her to stick to her plans! Lars is on leave from the military where he's a bomb disposal tech. He's come to Alaska for his brother's wedding and he meets Delphi on the entirely-too-small-plane to Good Riddance. He sees her prickly demeanor but he can't help poking at her. He might seem really annoying and Delphi is definitely not impressed but you can't help but like him. Lars is such a great counterbalance for Delphi. She's hurting and mistrustful and he's just this gorgeous, over the top charming guy who's determined to bring her out of her shell.

Together, Delphi and Lars are equal parts hilarious and hot! On the way to Good Riddance, Lars keeps bugging Delphi for a date and she acts like she doesn't want to go. But of course, she kind of does. That's not to say that Delphi's mistrust is an act - it isn't. But she can't help but be charmed by this devilishly handsome man who keeps getting her to smile when she doesn't want to smile. Once Lars starts getting past Delphi's resistance, that's when the heat comes in to play. Their first date is at this gorgeous hot springs at dusk. Delphi sees these dragonflies swooping and diving on the springs and it just sounds so gorgeous. I won't get into what happens after that but when I say Lars and Delphi are hot, I'm NOT talking about the hot springs!! I don't have any complaints about this book. The only thing that I think someone may not like is how Lars uses military terms constantly. Going out on a date is a mission. The person choosing where to go is the mission commander. Delphi calls Lars "Sergeant" or "Marine". I'll admit that there was enough of it that I noticed it but it didn't bother me. In fact, I thought it was pretty cute, especially when Delphi starts using the same terminology. But I can see how it might grate on someone's nerves.

I liked Northern Rebel more than Daring in the Dark but they were both entertaining, hot novels. I would highly recommend this "2 for 1" book to anyone who is a fan of contemporary romance novels!

Forbidden Fires - Jodie Griffin

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Forbidden Fires is book 3 in the Bondage & Breakfast series by Jodie Griffin, but I didn't feel like I was missing anything. In fact, I didn't even realize that it was part of a series until I was looking around on the interwebs for more information on the book! And let me tell you: Forbidden Fires is a GREAT title for this book! Phew!

Delia is a police officer in the Boston area. And she's a damn good one. So it isn't a huge surprise when her assistance is requested on a case coming from the Fire Marshall's office. What surprises Delia is WHO requests her assistance. It's Colin, the Fire Marshall himself, who Delia was romantically involved with the previous year. They broke up but neither of them has been able to move on. Delia is great. I love a tough heroine and Delia certainly fills the bill! She's brave and strong and has a bit of a temper. I really like that because it can be fun to see the heroine tear the hero a new ass! LOL! 

I couldn't help but love Colin too! Delia may have her temper but Colin just can't seem to keep his mouth shut around her!! He's always got a smartass comment on the tip of his tongue. And even when it would be WAY smarter to keep those comments to himself, he just lets them fly. I swear, it was like he physically could not hold them in! The best part about Colin is that he regrets having let Delia walk out of his life. Maybe if he had tried harder to keep her, she might have stayed around and she might not have, but Colin misses her. She's a great investigator and he'd want her on ANY case but the fact that he enjoys her company and missed her is an extra added bonus.

In case you haven't read the blurb, you should know that this is a BDSM novel (with emphasis on Dom/sub). You should also know that this is a seriously hot novel! But if you haven't read much BDSM erotica, don't be afraid! Delia and Colin are new to it as well. So you'll be experiencing your first Dom/sub scene along with them. Although Delia and Colin are combustible together, the author doesn't hit you over the head with the eroticism. The crazier, more intense scenes are taken really slow which also makes the hot stuff hotter since it feels more like a slow burn rather than a quick flame out.

I really enjoyed this novel! It's got some laughs and some mystery and a lot of hot sexiness!! I think anyone who is interested in erotica would enjoy this book because the author guides you through the Dom/sub relationship in a way that makes sense and helps you to identify with the characters. Even if you're on the fence about this subject, this would be a great book to find out if you DO like it. I really think this book has a little bit of something for everyone and I would highly recommend this book!

Waking Up to You: Waking Up to YouOverexposed - Leslie Kelly

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

This was another of the Harlequin Blaze: 2 For 1 books. All of the ones that I've read so far have been really solid, good books. Waking Up To You/Overexposed by Leslie Kelly was a little less fun than some of the others but was still a great read.

We start with Waking Up to You, which was set in one of my favorite places: California. Candace is a costume designer for the movies. She's been best friends since childhood with Tommy, who is now a quickly rising movie star. Tommy has a secret though: he's gay. And he feels like he won't be able to fully break into mega-stardom if people know he's gay, so he convinces his best gal pal, Candace, to marry him. But just for a few years and he's even going to spring for a 2 week European "Get Laid As Much As You Can" trip before he and Candace reveal their engagement... LOL! Yeah, right! I really liked Candace a lot because of her devotion to her friend. She reluctantly agrees to Tommy's scheme not for the money he's promised her and not for the fame or the fancy parties. She agrees to it because Tommy has always been there for her and she's nothing if not loyal. She agrees that Tommy won't make it in Hollywood if he's "outed" and since rumors are already swirling, she knows she has to do this for him. Loyalty is only one of the reasons Candace was likeable to me. Later in the book, she keeps Tommy's secret, even when it would be to her benefit to tell someone the truth about their arrangement. Maybe this is an aspect of her loyalty but it felt like something else. Like, she made a promise and she's going to stay true to her word and keep that promise no matter what it costs her. How could you NOT like her?

But Candace's grandfather, who just purchased an old, run-down winery, has taken a bad fall so her European Sexy Time Fest will have to be cancelled so she can help him out. While at the winery, Candace meets the sexy groundskeeper, Oliver. The funny thing is, Oliver has his own secrets to keep. He's come to work at the winery to get away from his old life as a prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office after he became a whistleblower and exposed some dirty dealings in the DA's Office. He felt dirty, inside and out, and thought that doing hard manual labor might clean his soul a little bit. I really liked Oliver because you could see how seeing the dregs of humanity would just rip your insides out after a while. Plus, he essentially lost everything just for telling the truth and for having some ethics. And he really cares for Candace's Grandfather and plans on working at the winery for as long as her Grandfather will allow him. I mean, there's tons of reasons to like Oliver; he's just an all-around good guy!

Together, Candace and Oliver are smoking hot! They are sort of similar and sort of a case of opposites attracting. They both hold true to their sense of right and wrong which is how they're similar but Candace is essentially about to start living a HUGE lie which will give her a lot of benefits and that's the opposite of Oliver losing it all for telling the truth. The Sexy Time between them is ridiculously.... well, sexy! LOL! I was really worried about how it would all turn out since I liked Tommy and I liked Oliver. The author kind of surprised me but most people would probably see the ending coming a mile away. I didn't but I loved it anyways!

Overexposed was fun to read. It's got very traditional Italian families and two people fighting against those traditions. Izzie and Nick manage the expectations of each of their families in different ways but its those different ways that bring them together. 

Izzie is a masked, mysterious dancer at a club where Nick has recently taken a job as special security... for Izzie. They haven't seen each other in a decade so he doesn't recognize Izzie under that mask. It takes a while but eventually Izzie recognizes Nick. She doesn't reveal her identity to him though. There is no way that she's going to make this easy on him!

Although we've seen this trope in other novels (most recently here: http://harlequinjunkie.com/review-my-...), Overexposed is a great iteration of it. I had a blast going along with Nick and Izzie as they are discovering themselves and seeing each other in a whole new way.

Overall, I enjoyed both Waking Up to You and Overexposed. I would recommend this book for any fan of super hot contemporary romance!

No One Needs to Know (Harlequin Blaze Series #744) - Debbi Rawlins

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :D

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

No One Needs to Know by Debbi Rawlins is a pretty good book. I don't think it's going to blow anyone's mind but if you're interested in a light but serious read, this one may be for you.

Annie Sheridan is hiding. She used to be a high class fundraiser in New York, but when funds went missing, she turned tail and ran. She didn't do anything wrong but was humiliated because she'd obviously trusted the wrong person and her reputation is in tatters. She ends up in Montana, working under a fake name at Safe Haven, an animal rescue. She lives on so little... it was actually distracting for me. She doesn't really have any food in her "house", just a couple of microwave burritos in the freezer. Her "house" is really more of a shack with indoor plumbing. Don't get me wrong: she's happy to live that way. Every dime they receive in donations goes to the animals and their upkeep. Annie keeps nothing for herself. And it's really noble and everything but it sort of took me right out of the story. I was worried about her starving to death! But then, she doesn't really have any food but she's drinking bottled water?! That would be the FIRST thing I cut out! Drink outta the hose, lady!! Anyway, my point is that I sort of liked Annie and I sort of didn't. I love animals and I wish I could help them all. So I really like that she essentially runs this shelter and she's doing it on a shoestring budget and puts everything she has into it. I loved that about her. But I thought she took it a little far sometimes, with the no food thing and the living in a glorified shack. Although I DO get it. She feels guilty about getting duped back in New York and so this is sort of how she's doing penance, by doing without. I just didn't fall in love with her.

Then there's Tucker Brennan. He is what is known as a "gentleman rancher". He's filthy rich but owns a ranch and actually has a hand in running it and he really DOES know the business. His brother, Christian, was Annie's business partner back in New York and Christian was also burned when the money went missing. Tucker has been searching for her ever since she disappeared since he figures that she stole the money and is somewhere living high on the hog while his brother had his own reputation ruined. So Tucker just wants her to come back to New York to answer for her actions. I liked Tucker. He seemed like he had his act together. Not that it should be a surprise since he runs this giant ranch like he was born to do it. The more you get into the story, the more you like Tucker because its not like he only wants Annie to be brought to justice. He really just wants to know the truth and he figures Annie may know more information that she THINKS she knows. So when he thinks he finds her at an animal rescue in Montana, he goes to see for himself, under the guise of maybe wanting to donate money to the rescue. But when he meets Annie, the sparks fly and suddenly, nothing seems so simple anymore.

Annie and Tucker were pretty ok together. There was a lot of angst and longing even though this book takes place probably over a week or so. There's not a lot of Sexy Time so if you're really into that, you won't find much here. You do get deep into Annie and Tucker's motivations though so if you like a lot of soul searching, you may like this one. There's some side drama with Tucker's brother and mother that I thought was a little interesting. But the main thing that bothered me about this book is that the person responsible for the charity money going missing is never really brought to justice. I won't tell you who it was because there's a good bit of the novel devoted to this mini-mystery. Also, towards the end, there was a law enforcement operation that Tucker and Annie participated in and I had to read it over a couple of times before I could understand what was going on. But that certainly could just be my own fault, since I just wanted to be finished with the book.

Overall, No One Needs to Know isn't a bad book. But I didn't love it. I would probably recommend this to someone new to reading contemporary romances. Or possibly to someone who likes the western style contemporary romances. I don't think that you need to run right out and grab this one but it wouldn't be a bad one to add to your collection eventually.

Crash Landing (Harlequin Blaze) - Lori Wilde

Reviewed for Sara at www.HarlequinJunkie.com! :)

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

It's been quite a while since I've read a book that I just didn't like. Unfortunately, I found one more. But just because I didn't like doesn't mean that you won't. So with that in mind, let's check out Crash Landing by Lori Wilde.

The first character we meet is Sophia. I tried really hard to like her, I did. In theory, she sounds like my kind of heroine. She's a pilot and owns her own business. She flies tourists on and off the island where she lives since it's only accessible by small bush planes. She loves flying and she truly appreciates that she gets to do what she loves for a living. She also seems to be a genuinely happy person and enjoys living on the island where she grew up and enjoys having family around. What's not to like? But she also seemed really shallow, too. Like, she saw this hot guy on a balcony and she gets up out of the hammock she was laying in and seductively stretched and tossed her hair around and I just thought it was a little over the top. It made her seem...kind of bitchy and full of herself. But that was just the very beginning...

The hot guy on the balcony happened to be Gibb Martin, a billionaire venture capitalist type. He's come to the island because he's been the victim of corporate espionage with people stealing his ideas and getting them to market before he can. But here, on the island, no one can get near without it being noticed. Everything changes, though, when Gibb gets a phone call informing him that his best friend intends to marry someone that he's only known for about a month. Gibb wants to save his friend from a mistake so he tasks Sophia with flying him to Miami. I liked Gibb. He's worked like a dog to make his money and to get where he is. Even though he's already done so much, he's STILL working hard. Also, he clearly loves his friends and is willing to do some crazy stuff to try and protect them. Having said that, I don't know that we get a really clear picture of exactly who Gibb is before he and Sophia get together.

Gibb and Sophia are hot together but would you expect anything less? But I never found myself rooting for them to get together. When Sophia finds out what Gibb's super secret project is, she throws a fit because it could potentially put her out of business... years down the line. And then when Gibb tries to make her feel better by giving her some possible solutions if she did lose too much business, she throws another fit saying that he's trying to throw money at a problem like always. Like always? Because she's known him so long?? It just solidified my opinion that Sophia was shallow. Nevermind the fact that Gibb's plan will be a benefit to the environment and a benefit for the island in general (by boosting tourism, the island's main source of income). No, all that matters is how it affects Sophia personally. Sure, she sees that her initial reaction was not a good one and she tries to see the benefits but for me, it was too late. Then it got weird for me when Sophia sees Gibb pleasuring himself in a waterfall and she starts pleasuring herself too. Huh? Maybe it would have been hot if I had liked these two characters more, but I didn't particularly like them so it just seemed a little ridiculous. I mean, hey, who am I to tell someone to NOT touch their own naughty bits?! But that scene was just too much.

I hate to give ANY book a low rating because all of this is so subjective. Just because I don't like it... what the heck do I know?? Most days, I'm happy if I have matching socks on, ya know what I mean? If I love a book, I'll scream it from a mountaintop and I'll bug your ass until you try it. But if I don't love a book, I like to quietly just return it to the library or delete it off my Kindle. Unfortunately, I think Sara would have my head if I wasn't honest so here I am, telling you about a not-so-hot book. But I think that all of the Harlequin Junkie readers know how to take a negative review so I try to give you a little bit of what the book is about and tell you the things I didn't like and you can take it from there. I, for one, did not like this book and would not recommend it but don't just take my word for it. Feel free to read it and tell me what you DID like about it!! :)

Twice Tempted - Jeaniene Frost

800 stars!!!!  LOVED THIS EFFING BOOK!!

Extreme Love - Abby Niles


This book was good enough to have me give it 5 stars. But I had some MAJOR issues with one of the characters and some of the activity at the end of the book. But I'd rather start with what I liked about the book...

I loved the hero, Dante "Inferno" Jones. I mean, who wouldn't though? He's a champion MMA fighter and he happens to be a really great guy. Of course, he's built like a brick shit house which is pretty hot all on its own. Now, I don't watch MMA. I don't even watch boxing. I don't love watching grown men beat the shit out of each other, its just not my thing. So I'm not so in love with what he does for a living but if it gives him a body like THAT, I may have to change my thinking on the sport! LOL! 

Before I talk more about Dante, I need to start with Caitlyn, our heroine. Overall, I loved Caitlyn. She's worked her ass off (literally) to lose 80 pounds. And she struggles everyday with body issues, image issues and with dealing with assumptions of strangers all around her. It sounded to me like Caitlyn might have still been a teensy bit overweight but if she was, it wasn't by much. I'm not sure because I couldn't tell if it was Caitlyn's own insecurity and body issues that made her think she still had weight to lose or if she really did. But 80 pounds? Holy crap! What an achievement! But Caitlyn still sees those 80 pounds on her frame. She still wears big clothes and she still hates going out. Somehow, her best friend convinces her to go to this MMA fight and to the after-party after the fight. At the after party is where Caitlyn finally meets Dante. It was so great because it was one of those first meetings where sparks almost literally fly. I LOVED IT! But Caitlyn's insecurity rears its ugly head and she can't believe that this gorgeous, amazingly built man could have any kind of interest in her. And wow, do I get that. As an overweight woman who has lost a good bit of weight, I also can't believe when someone compliments me. And if I'm hit on by a man, I always think disgustedly that he must be kidding or some kind of "chubby chaser" (god I hate that term). So truly, I get her reaction. Its the sum of all these parts that made me love Caitlyn.

But what I had a problem with is how loooooong she still didn't believe Dante. I mean, this guy is pulling out all the stops and takes every opportunity to SHOW her, not tell her, how much he values her and how beautiful he thinks she is. And still she can't believe it. I would have been ok if she maybe started to believe him around 75% of the way through the book, but no. It's almost like she's not growing, you know? And Caitlyn's obsession with how violent MMA is. I mean, that's her major issue with dating Dante - knowing that he's an MMA fighter and not liking the violence that accompanies that. I don't love MMA but to have that be a reason to NOT date a guy who is obviously enamored with me is just silly. Her issue with MMA was just way overstated. 


Then, towards the end, one of Dante's rivals sort of kind of kidnaps Caitlyn for a little while. But there is no "sort of kind of" with kidnapping. If you grab a woman off the street and toss her in the back of you vehicle, even if that vehicle is a limo, its STILL kidnapping!! Then, they hold her in this posh mansion for a while. I'm pretty sure that is called False Imprisonment or something, right?? And that's all fine and dandy but NO ONE gets in trouble for it! Are you telling me that Caitlyn never called the cops??!? How STUPID!!!!!


Overall, I would recommend this book. A sexy, hot, badass, sweet guy for a hero and a perfectly flawed heroine make for some great reading! There is no one that I would NOT recommend this to but I would especially recommend this to anyone on a weight loss journey. This will provide you with a bit more motivation because, hey, this could happen to you too!!! :D

No Turning Back - HelenKay Dimon

Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Can I make a little confession here? When I first started reading this book, I didn't really like it. It wasn't bad or anything but it was just... kind of... meh. I'm REALLY glad that I stayed with it and kept reading. This one took me on a roller coaster ride and for once, I didn't want the ride to end!

Leah Baron is the Town Manager of Sweetwater, Oregon and she's pretty great. She's not had an easy life. When she was a kid, her mom ran off with the man who swindled the entire town and Leah's father has made it his mission to make that man pay. That man is Charlie Hanover but he's now dead and Leah hopes that the rage that her father has held on to for so many decades will start to fade. Leah has no such luck though because Charlie's sons have come back to town to deal with what's left of Charlie's estate: Shadow Hill, a rundown property and house that used to belong to Leah's father. I mean, can you already see how juicy this is going to be?? Unfortunately, I did NOT see the potential right off the bat. What I did see and what made me keep reading was what a great heroine Leah was. Her dad has pretty much raised her on a steady diet of hate and an inhuman desire for revenge, retribution, restitution, whatever they can get their hands on. But Leah is still a pretty modern girl so she sees that all that rage and hate isn't good for anyone. Sure, Charlie was a terrible man and he ruined a lot of lives but there is a simple and practical solution to this. Leah's going to offer the Hanover boys a reasonable amount of money for the rundown estate, the boys will take it and leave and everyone will be happy! That's another great thing about Leah: she's so practical and logical! And it's a good plan... why would they turn it down?

Well, Leah hasn't met Declan Hanover yet, otherwise she'd know why they would turn it down! Declan doesn't like being told what to do. And after years of being told to Get Bent (probably some more colorful phrases were used) because of Charlie's schemes, he does what he likes. But Declan has a temper and before he went into the military, that temper would get him in a lot of trouble. The military taught him how to reign in that temper and also taught him all about discipline. All of that discipline goes right out the window when he meets Leah though. He thinks that Leah is bold and gutsy and he admires that in her. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he finds her insanely attractive! LOL! I think that when reading this book, you can see a not-so-obvious similarity between Leah and Declan. Just as Leah was raised by a man who was hurt and angry, Declan has had a lot of hurt and angry people come into his life. See, the people of Sweetwater, Oregon are not the only ones that Charlie Hanover scammed out of their hard earned money. And Charlie's victims have sought Declan out to give him a piece of their mind. So Declan has seen just as much rage and hate and anger as Leah has. Anyways, I totally loved Declan. He's sort of a reformed Bad Boy but he's not really a Bad Boy and he's not quite reformed either!

Together, Leah and Declan are awesome! The best thing about them is that they're hilarious! Declan knows how to get under Leah's skin and you can imagine this mischievous little twinkle in his eye whenever he's goading her about whether or not their business dinner is just a business dinner or a real live date. Of course, Leah could NEVER date a Hanover... right? Well, certainly not without her dad blowing a gasket! That's actually my only complaint about this book. I wish that Leah had stood up to her dad, like in a big way. But she lets him say some nasty, nasty things to her and she just walks away. Sure, he's just really pissed and is overreacting but I wish there were some consequences to the crap he pulls with her. He's truly a bully and he doesn't think for one second that he may have made a mistake by practically drowning Leah in hate for her whole life. BUT, this is only book 1 of a series that I would guess will last at least 3 books. So maybe her dad WILL get his comeuppance in future books? 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There is NOT a lot of Sexy Time but the sexual tension between Leah and Declan is pretty great (I can't believe I'm saying that). Be aware that there's a teeny bit of a cliffhanger at the end of the book. Book 2 isn't scheduled to come out until this summer so keep that in mind (there's a little preview of Book 2 at the end of Book 1 and it looks really cute and funny!). I loved all the characters, even when I hated them (Leah's dad)! The side characters are fully fleshed out but I think that might be because some of them will be featured in future books (fingers crossed for Leah's BFF Mallory and Declan's older brother Callen to become a couple)! 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind a little less Sexy Time, a little more intrigue and lots of laughs!