Tara Neale

March 29, 2012

The Look of Love by Bella Andre

Filed under: book review,erotic romance,romance — Tara Neale @ 7:15 am
Tags: , ,

Title: The Look of Love (Book 1 of The Sullivan Series)

Author: Bella Andre

Source: Amazon, AllRomance

Price: Towards the upper end of my limits…but still under $5

Heat: A little naughty, but still nice

Rating: Page turner

Genre: Contemporary

I remember well the times when I could not wait to get to Wal-Mart each month for the latest Harlequin romance releases. But in this brave new world of indie publishing, I don’t even have to leave my home to get the same great love stores. The Internet and sites such as Amazon and AllRomance bring them straight into my living room…and lest I forget another advantage of e-publishing, it is environmentally friendly with no paper books to store on bookshelves.

This week we look at an author who writes in the style of Harlequin, Bella Andre. Her Sullivan series could easily be one of the top of the contemporary genre. Imagine six super-hot, stud brothers (a fireman, a baseball player, a movie star and a wealthy businessman among them) and two twin sisters? When this family begins to stumble upon love it makes for hours and hours of enjoyable reading for us all.

The Look of Love is the first in the Sullivan series and sets the tone for this amazing journey of love, laughter and a bit of trouble. Chloe Peterson is fleeing an abusive ex-husband when her car runs off the road in a rain storm in the middle of the Napa Valley. Chase Sullivan, the famous photographer, is on the way to his brother’s vineyard for a fashion shoot. When Chase rescues Chloe, the fireworks begin.

Although there are elements of a proto-typical Harlequin, Ms. Andre transforms this story into something far more modern. First of all, Chase is not a typical rescuer type; always saving damsels in distress. In fact, his reaction to Chloe is quite out of character for this rather self-absorbed guy, who has been more than happy to play the field. In fact, the story gets an early comical twist when he takes Chloe back to his brother’s for the night, only to discover his ‘hook-up’ waiting naked in bed. To make it even funnier…she propositions Chloe to join them. But that’s all the spoiler you’re getting from me on this one.

The other thing I adore about this story is Chase’s recognition of his feelings for Chloe and determination to win her over. I mean what woman could resist a hunk that pursues her with words of love while sending her to the stars in the bedroom…and some other interesting places as well (but if you want to know where you’ll have to read this one for yourself). One of my pet peeves are heroes, who spend most of the book fighting their feelings and treat the heroine awful only to miraculously change in the final chapter (we have all learned that real people don’t do that, so why do characters). So Chase’s straight forward pursuit of what he wants is refreshing and compelling.

I admit I do get a bit peeved at Chloe for resisting Chase for so long. But given what she has been through, I can see her motivation. Thankfully, she recognizes that there are good men left and accepts that she does not have to do it all alone.

In case you have not guessed, this book is not for the faint of heart. The sex while wonderfully and tastefully written plays a major part in moving this story along…and is frequent. It is anything but vanilla as well with subjects such as masturbation, exhibitionist/outdoor and even bondage are explored in a playful and touching way. So while I find this story inspirational in terms of strong characters overcoming their problems to find love in the end…it definitely does not belong in that genre.

So if you are looking for a naughty but nice book to curl up in the park with on this glorious spring weekend, I suggest you check out Bella Andre’s The Look of Love and the rest of her Sullivan series (I have just finished Book 2 From this Moment On and will be reading Book 3 Can’t Help Falling). As with all of the books you will find reviewed on my blog, this indie release is everything that a Harlequin Blaze could be…and MORE.

Next week, I step out on the wild side with my first truly erotic review, Spanked Princess: The Pianist by Savvy Author Erika Moran.


March 22, 2012

The Bride and The Brute by Laurel O’Donnell

Filed under: book review,romance — Tara Neale @ 2:08 pm
Tags: , ,

Title: The Bride and the Brute

Author: Laurel O’Donnell

Source: Amazon, AllRomance

Price: FREE Read from Amazon

Heat: Sweet and innocent until the end

Rating: Tantalizingly teasing

Genre: Historical (Medieval)

One of the best things about this brave new world of self-publishing is the number of quality FREE books available to readers. That’s how I discovered this week’s feature author. I admit it is how I find most of my favorite authors.

Back in the day, before the Internet (yes, I am THAT old), I would visit used bookstores. I would sit by the racks, if a book’s cover caught my eye I would read the blurb on the back or inside cover, then perhaps a few pages to see if it was worth the money. Sometimes I would spend hours in the store to come out with only a half a dozen or so books.

I much prefer this brave new world in which we live. Now in the privacy of my home without the need to have someone watch my young daughter, I simply log into Amazon or AllRomance. I still read the blurbs on dozens and dozens of books, but these days I tend to ignore the covers. But what gets me every time is the price. If I can pick up a book for ninety-nine cents or less, then I am likely to buy it (if the blurb is decent). My line of thought is…what the heck, it’s only ninety-nine cents and I’m supporting an indie author. But when the price is FREE, I rarely turn away…and I have gotten some really nice surprises that way.

The Bride and the Brute by Laurel O’Donnell is one of those surprises. Admittedly, I have never been into historicals that much…and sweet has not been my thing since I was a teenager. So without that magic…what the heck…I might have missed this delightful interlude of a novella and not discovered a truly noteworthy indie historical writer.

Set in Medieval England, this story is about an arranged marriage with some interesting twists. A hero haunted by his parents’ disastrous arranged marriage. Reese Harrington has sworn to never marry without true love. Jayce Cullen is the sheltered only child of a neighboring lord who is equal parts timid, innocent maiden and spirited, mouthy young woman. Mix in a dying father determined to see his only child safely wed and a meddling sister, who wants only her brother’s happiness. The result is disastrous and at times comical collision of wills.

Like I admitted neither the genre nor the heat level would place this novella at the top of my to-read list. Yet I found myself engrossed for a couple of hours (this is a short novella after all) in this intriguing story of mixed-up plans, meddling relatives and two strong people who find love and happiness despite themselves. Ms. O’Donnell’s strength lies in developing believable and engaging characters, including an array of secondary ones who help the story along and make you laugh.

One of the things I loved best was that unlike too many historical romances I have read (from top publishers) she did not bog the reader down with description. Yes, she gave enough details in terms of clothing, living arrangements and setting for you to know that you were not in Kansas, Toto. But not the long winded ones where you threw up your hands and moaned…do I really care about her dress?

The one thing I was not too hyped about was the love scenes, but as I said earlier I outgrew sweet a long time ago. This is one of the few works that I have read in a long time that used the word…manhood. It took me back to another lifetime almost to see that word.

So if you do enjoy historical romance and especially if you are into less graphic/sexual character driven romances then I think you will fall in love with Laurel O’Donnell. Even if you don’t, like me, you may find this book an enjoyable read for a light change. It is definitely worth the cost of admission…and her longer works are also reasonably priced at around two to three dollars each. Ms. O’Donnell is definitely one of the stars of this brave new world of self-publishing.

Next week I visit another unusual family Bella Andre’s The Sullivan’s, a quirky contemporary family with six HOT brothers and twin baby sisters.

March 15, 2012

Some Kind of Wonderful by Dahlia Rose

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tara Neale @ 7:30 am

Title: Some Kind of Wonderful

Author: Dahlia Rose

Source: Amazon, AllRomance

Price: $3 or so for novellas between 15K and 30K, slightly more for her full-length novels

Heat: HOT, within the confines of a committed relationship

Rating: Tear jerking, heartwarming and BREATH-TAKING

Genre: Interracial Romance

Dahlia Rose was one of my first discoveries in indie romance. Although she also writes for established print and e-publishers, her self-published line offers her variety and freedom to explore boundaries. She has become my author of choice for novellas. When I know I have just a couple of hours and do not want to get into a story that I will have to put down, she’s my girl.

As an African-American author, she writes almost exclusively in the IR (Interracial) genre. Her characters are independent and sometimes a bit quirky black women, who find happiness and amazingly HOT sex in the arms of white and Latino men. Her works realistically and empathetically explore the societal issues that face these couples…without losing the focus on what drives a romance…deep characters with amazing stories.

Some Kind of Wonderful represents Dahlia at her best. Bonnie Gabriel is a photographer/artist who is beginning her life over after a disastrous relationship that left her with a sweet something worth it all…a baby.  But trouble is brewing off the coast of her North Carolina home, in the form of a hurricane. Her best friend is worried about Bonnie and asks her Special Forces brother to drop in on her while he is on vacation. And does he…drop-in that is…literally, repelling from a helicopter. With the hurricane bearing down on them, Conrad Lewis shows the reader what a hero really is…securing Bonnie’s home, delivering her baby and making the world a better place for us all (and a hotter one too, girls). And the rest is an awesome read.

I loved this novella and choose it to highlight what I find so special about Dahlia because it breaks a proto-typical romance mold. In a typical romance, the story would go something like this…heroine has been hurt before so she refuses to give into the new feelings that building within her out of fear.  As a result, there are pages and pages of frustration (hers, his and the readers) as she fights her growing feelings for the hero. It is only when she loses him that she discovers her real feelings and miraculously they are reunited.

Not this time. This story is about two amazing people, who recognize early that something special is happening between them and have the good sense to cherish it for the special gift that it is. The hero admits his feelings and is in her bed in record time. They are married and enjoying a different kind of honeymoon by mid-point. But that does not mean that the storyline is weak or without conflict. This romance is what I have always dreamt of and complained that publishers never print…real-life romance, where the struggles are not against each other or their feelings but against outside forces that are trying to tear them apart. In this case, Bonnie must face the insecurities and uncertainties of becoming a military wife…and the fears of ‘what if’s.’ Add to that the ex, who shows up to make trouble and this couple need all the love and HOT sex they can get to overcome the things that life throw at them.

Of course nothing is ever perfect, so a couple of warnings (I will always include these for balance, folks).  One of the complaints I hear about indie publishing is the lack of adequate editing. First of all, you can find misspellings and grammatical errors in New York Times best-sellers from top publishers. Sometimes lots of them given the amount of money they spent on proof-readers, editors and re-writes. Given the limited resources of authors who self-published, I believe that a bit more leeway is in order.

Like me, Dahlia is a story-teller, first and foremost (and one of the best in my opinion). As a story-teller, our focus is upon just that…the story. This means that sometimes the number of errors that slip past spell-check and beta-readers is a bit higher than traditional publishing and its big budgets. So if your focus is on grammar and spelling more than strong, believable characters and complex, fast-paced storylines then Dahlia might not appeal to you as much as she does to me.

The other thing to remember is that these are fast-paced novellas, not full-length works. Just like a quick sandwich can sometimes fail to fill you up and leave you hungry for more, so can stories that move this quickly. But sometimes, all we have time for in our fast-paced lives is a sandwich. And these are gourmet sandwiches, folks. Full of the meat of rich, robust characters, sandwiched between storylines that are like the best home-made French rolls and with hot, spicy dressings (sex)that leaves you satisfied but hungry for more. So if you are looking for a little something to tide you over until the next meal, a story that you can finish in a single sitting or on your commute to work, then you should check out Some Kind of Wonderful and Dahlia Rose’s other works.

In this brave new world of indie publishing, there is room for so many different styles and tastes. No longer are we restricted in what we read by the big business of publishing.  Shorter works, novellas that were once not worth the publishers efforts are abounding in this medium. And genres such as IR that were once considered niche have been given new life. Those are just two of the many benefits of e-publishing. Dahlia Rose is one of a new breed of authors taking risks in this new reality. So if you are looking for a couple of hours of amazing sex, happy endings and wonderful people give this book and Dalia Rose a try this week.

Next week I step back in time to medieval England with Laurel O’Donnell’s The Bride and the Brute.

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