Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Can Do Just Fine Without a Man! Can't I? "Bunny and the Beast" by Heather Rainer

Hard-working, strong, and sassy, Bunny Carrigan desires a simple life, far away from the complications of the big city, posh houses, and materialism. She makes her own rules and has no time for pushy men in fancy suits or playing games.

Joseph Hazelle enjoys taking control and has very set ideas about what the ideal submissive looks and acts like. In fact, his ideas are so set they might as well be concrete. Vibrant and full of life, Bunny challenges Joseph’s preconceived notions and she’s determined that if she submits at all, it’s going to be on her own terms.

Accustomed to being the instructor, Joseph discovers that Bunny has claimed his lonely heart and has a thing or two to teach him. All he has to do is educate her about his world and convince her that she does indeed “do” submission. What could go wrong?

Those of us who have read and re-read the Divine Creek novels are always delighted when a new book comes along.  Where Ms Rainier comes up with these fun characters is locked in the depth of her imagination.  They come alive on these pages and for those of us who feel like we know this community backward and forward, meeting new folks or exploring characters who have already shown up previously makes reading these books a very satisfying experience.  

I have found that all Ms Rainier's books are really focused on needs and issues these characters manifest, most if not all are those we all experience or find living in those we love or in friends and co-workers.  Yes, this is erotic romance and that's just what it is.  Yet there are some very real human bits and pieces that I think most readers recognize in these characters.  It is one of the main reasons we who love this series keep coming back for more.  No matter if the context is one in which a reader has never indulged, the issues of living and loving are common to all of us.  

For the hero, Joseph Hazelle, life has become predictable and he has become set in a lifestyle that seems to be just as he has ordered it.  While he comes and goes as any ordinary man does, he lives in a bubble of his own making and it takes the antics and unpredictable manners of a young woman who is anything but staid, submissive, or whose days are ordinary.  Bunny Carrigan has not had it easy and she has learned to meet life head-on. It's almost as if she head-butts her way through her days, very sensitive to anything or anyone who seems to put her down or make her feel less about herself or what she does.  The last thing she can even imagine is turning her life and her future over to someone who thinks he knows better than she does.  And even though the glow of aliveness surrounds her and draws Joseph like a moth to a flame, she wants nothing to do with any way of living that she believes will take away her self-determination or her right to order her own life.

What doesn't show up right at first is that underneath the external realities of their lives, both these people are desperately lonely, so very weary of being disconnected and of not really being valued for who they are at their core.  Both have spent so much time working to manage their lives, they have not left time for the nurture of their inner selves.  Joseph is amazed that he comes alive when Bunny is around, even though she really rubs him raw at times.  Bunny, on the other hand, has never had anyone upon whom she could lean, who could help her carry the burdens of a difficult life, who truly cares enough to put her first simply because she is a beautiful and sensual woman and not because of what she can do for him.  Joseph's dominant ways go over like a cement canary at first, but as he learns to look deeper into her life and into his own heart, he finds ways of slowly drawing her into a new relationship.

This book has just a bit different flavor than many of the books in this series.  I'm not really sure what it is but it just feels that way to me.  Yet it still bears the unmistakable marks of Ms Rainier's quest for exposing the humanity in her characters and for connecting her readers to the action in her stories.  Whether it is in Joseph's BDSM world or in Bunny's world of rush, rush, rush from dawn to dusk, we all recognize the need to be truly be important to someone who will esteem us and partner with us in this task known as living.  I think this is at the core of this story.  I read this book through twice because I was fascinated with how different these two were from not only many of the characters in Divine, but how they seemed so very unlikely as lovers.  Yet what brought them together was that recognition that the other brought alive a need that they had either chosen to ignore or which had lain dormant for far too long.

As always, this novel is beautifully written and flows seamlessly from scene to scene.   It is the kind of romance that drew me in because I was fascinated to watch these two people somehow connect when I couldn't imagine that they ever would manage it.  It is the kind of story that will pique one's interest and hold it for the duration.  Ms Rainier has a winner here and I hope that you all will avail yourself of this terrific book.

And while you're at it, check out The Book Binge for more really great reviews.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Growing Up The Hard Way: "The Liberty Series" by Leigh James

My name is Liberty and I'm a good girl. I come from nothing. I have no one but myself. Sometimes I do things I don't want to -- I do them because I have to. Stripping. That's my life in Vegas. And my boss keeps pressuring me to do more than just take my clothes off... 
Then John Carter Quinn crashes into my life. He's an older, gorgeous billionaire in a thousand dollar suit. He keeps coming to see me, night after night. I'm not sure what he wants -- but one night at my club he takes down a bad guy, and I find out what type of business he's actually in. Hint: he doesn't sit at a desk, he employs a bunch of ex-military operatives, and it's lethal to be on his bad side. 
Like me, John has his share of secrets. Dark secrets, dark pain. One of his secrets involves my past. These secrets will bring us together... and then tear us apart. 

This series was released earlier this year but I know that I had read portions of it previously.  However, this is the first time I had put the entire story together in its proper context and everything made much more sense than had been the case in the past.  Some of the reviews of this series have not always been glowing, but I have to say that looking at it from the point of view that Liberty just needed to "grow up" and slot in all the experiences she was having into her maturing process made the book better for me.  

I guess having grown daughters and granddaughters, watching them struggle and learn and grow, all helped me appreciate that Liberty had to experience some of the highs and lows in her life in order to move beyond her evident naivete and her fear of life.  Being shackled to a junkie mother didn't help, and then having the responsibility of caring for a woman who really chose drugs over both her daughters made her close in on herself.  Add in a potentially abusive drug dealer who really cared for nothing and no one except himself and you have a young woman who doesn't trust her own judgment and yet must make some life decisions that may or may not be wise.  

This author has put together a cast of characters that all hold their own even though Liberty and John take center stage.  John's early life experiences have formed him into a hard man who finds his only joy in "taking out the bad guys" that fall through the law enforcement cracks.  John's dad is a caring and understanding man who still grieves the loss of John's mother but who wisely allows John to pursue his chosen life path.  Yet their is deep sadness and regret that colors all of John's experiences and even though his new relationship with Liberty had brought a sense of contentment and "coming home" into his life, he still is broken by loss and grief.  Putting these two broken people together into a relationship that seems lopsided is something that this author pulled off well.  The story moves along, albeit it does stumble from time to time, and I got just a little weary of the fight scenes, but that may say more about me than about the story itself.  Even so, the thrust of the story never seemed to waver, IMHO.  I think all of it was intended to bring the reader into Liberty's experience more deeply.  And I think the author succeeded in that goal.

All in all, this is a good series of stories, taking Liberty from the stage of a seedy stripper club, to the jungles of So. America, to the terror of a Mexican drug cartel, and into the politics of a highly dysfunctional family unit she had not idea of which she was a part.  No wonder she was overwhelmed.  Yet in the end, I think she put the puzzle pieces of herself together, saw more clearly who she was capable of being, and finding a path toward greater contentment than ever she hoped to find.  The books are well written and I think the editing was good, surely a good thing for those of us who read so many badly edited books.  Don't be put off by the ups and downs in this woman's life.  It's part of the growing and maturation process.  She makes some foolish choices and she and those she loves pay dearly.  But she learns and her life experience expands.  A really good read when all is said and done.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Check out The Book Binge for some really good reviews on the latest books.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Screwing Up The Best Laid Plans: Riding Dirty by Jill Sorenson

Psychologist Mia Richards wants revenge. Her new client, tattooed Cole "Shank" Shepherd, provides the perfect means. She just has to manipulate the felon-turned-informant into eliminating her husband's killers—members of Cole's rival motorcycle club. The first step, seducing Cole, is simple. As for walking away before she falls hard—it's already too late…

Dirty Eleven practically raised Cole, and he plans to double-cross the cops rather than sell them out. But smart, sexy Mia is an irresistible distraction. While she's evaluating his mind, all he can think about is her body… until he discovers her true intentions. Walking a fine line between desire and betrayal, they'll have to outrun her past, his enemies and the law for a love that's dangerously real.

Motorcycle club fiction is all the rage now, and I, for one, and delighted that is so.  I guess it is sort of walking on the wild side for those of us who are way past getting involved in that sort of lifestyle, yet the human interaction of those who live on the outer edges of society still manage to fascinate.  This is a new book which I received from Netgalley and which is being currently released.  There is a sequel which is called Shooting Dirty and which, in my opinion, is every bit as good and deserves to be read as well.

It has been said that . . . "revenge is a dish best served cold." Mia is anything BUT cold . . . she is burning up with the need to find justice for herself and her deceased husband.   Yet for this intrepid woman whose life has been upended by the murder of her husband, revenge has sustained her and kept her focused in the years since the home invasion that resulted in the death of her husband and her near-rape at the hands of members of an outlaw motorcycle club.  The hero in this story is just about as anti-social as they come, a young man whose life really never had a chance and whose spirit has been crushed by the abuse of family and the disregard of a society who sees him as a throw away person.  Yet the attraction between these two has a curious effect which spins this tale in directions neither the reader or the characters could have anticipated.  It is a complicated story, filled with characters who aren't your desirable good neighbor kinds of people.  Yet the loyalty that many have for one another goes far beyond that which many of us experience among people who think themselves of a far better class.  

The Dirty Eleven MC is a curious collection of social misfits and is a club that is happy to live on the edge most of the time.  But their secrets are in danger of causing the ties that bind them together to unwind, and the pressures exerted by a rival gang, one which may have been involved in the murder of Mia's husband, are another important factor in the unlikely coupling between "Shank" and Mia.  If a reader likes complicated stories, if one is not offended by the anti-social attitudes and actions that characterize these people and their lifestyle, than this will be a very enjoyable read.  Ms Sorenson is an author who has paid her dues, so to speak, and who has proven to vast numbers of readers that she can put a vibrant and imaginative story together and make it work.  I was delighted to find this novel and highly recommend it as one that will definitely hold your interest.  I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

Be sure to check out The Book Binge for more fine reviews of the latest romance fiction.