Hard Rhythm by Cecilia Tan

5 warm-up-the-covers stars!

From the first time I saw this books’ cover, I couldn’t wait to read it. I confess, I may have been a pest about getting my hands on an ARC of this one. But guess what? It was worth it!

For starters, not only is Chino every bit as hot in the book as he appears to be on the cover, he’s also a genuinely likeable guy. He’s got his issues, for sure, but compared to Mal (for example) he appears to actually have it together pretty well. Maddie, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess. She’s just not ready – she thinks – for a relationship. Chino is exactly what she needs; he melts her hard shell and helps her get past her head and in touch with her heart.

There’s a great scene (not that kind of scene!) where they are pretending to shop for real estate together as a married couple:

The final house was another split-level, built into the hill. The top floor had a patio, most of the bedrooms were on the middle floors, and the garage sat at the bottom.
As we entered the foyer we ran into the real estate agent, another woman, this one middle-aged. Her suit was dove gray, her scarf a riot of pinks and yellows like an Easter basket. “Welcome,” she said, and held out her hand to shake ours. “Mr. and Mrs.…?”
“Jones,” Chino said with a broad smile before leading me away to explore the property.
One of the bedrooms was built into the hill and only had one tiny window. As we took a turn through the room I said, “Here’s where we’d build the private dungeon, don’t you think, Mr. Jones?”
He slid up behind me, his hands fitting around my hips. “Would we? What would we furnish it with?”
“With all this wall space you could have a St. Andrew’s Cross over there, hang all the floggers and whips here, a sling there—”
“A sling?”
“Definitely,” I said with a knowing nod.
He slid his hand up my body until two fingers were holding my chin. “I like your…taste in interior decoration,” he said as he turned my head to the side. His grip tightened suddenly and I realized he had my other arm by the wrist, effectively trapping me in his embrace while he took lush liberties with his tongue in my mouth. He tasted dark and sweet and fresh all at once, and as I sucked in a breath I could feel how tightly he held me, the heat of his skin soaking through his shirt and warming my back. I could imagine us in the room outfitted as a dungeon, getting ready to play in it for the first time, and all the unfulfilled desire from last night flooded me once again.
We separated quickly when the realtor brought another couple into the room. I was flushed, my breath heaving, my lips tingling, but the realtor just smiled and the male half of the couple gave Chino a wink.
“Picking out drapes is my kink,” Chino said to the guy, as he slipped his sunglasses on.

Oh. My. God.  If you, like me, adore cocky heroes with soft centers, then Chino’s the one for you. And as always, Cecilia Tan handles the sizzling hot sex scenes with an expert touch, keeping the action going while still addressing the realities that take place alongside intimacy, particularly kinky intimacy.

Some of the other things I adored about this book:

  • There wasn’t a lot of angst between the main characters – they got their own relationship figured out pretty well by, oh, midway through
    • The level of caring and communication between them was great!
  • There was a lot of external plot dealing with issues that are super-relevant right now (crooked politicians, scheming media, domestic abuse)
  • All the characters have true friendships with each other and have each others’ backs
  • Great portrayal of Los Angeles – my turf (kind of)!

Go read it. You won’t regret it! Especially recommended for snowy evenings.

Wildfire by Anne Stuart

4 crazysauce stars.

I had previously read several of Anne Stuart’s historicals, but never any of her contemporaries. So I was excited to give this one a whirl, even if I was breaking my own rules by starting in the middle of a series.
This book was terrific! It was filled with just the right amount of not-quite-believeable crazysauce, including a megalomaniac super-evil villain, an island lair, and a heroine in a really sticky situation. I won’t spoil it, but it’s pretty unbelievable in spots – and yet it totally works!
I tore through it and promptly went on an all-Anne-Stuart reading binge, reading the rest of the Fire series and then all of the Ice series. My wallet is angry but my brain is so, so happy.

**Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review.**

Hold Me by Courtney Milan

5 unapologetic stars.

Look, let’s just get it out of the way: if you didn’t like Hold Me, we probably can’t be friends. That’s how much I liked this book. It gave me all the feels in all the right ways and places. Why, you ask?

OH my gosh, this book. I love this so much. I don’t even know where to start.

Jay: I adore his arrogant, idiotic character – I know a lot of people who are too smart for their skin and he fits right in. He can’t get out of his own way half the time and he knows it, and his character arc in this story is gorgeous.

Maria: Despite appearing on the surface to have more baggage, I think she actually does less growing in this story; she’s done a lot of it already off-screen. She is unapologetically girly AND smart, and I adore her strong sense of self.

The story: I think it’s about forgiving yourself, forgiving others, and remembering to look beyond your assumptions. Whatever the case, it rang so very true for me – I loved this book more than almost anything I read in 2016 and it’s possibly even my second-favorite of Courtney Milan’s delightful work (Unraveled will always be #1).

I’m eagerly anticipating more books in the Cyclone series (yes, even books with Adam F***ing Reynolds). Where’s my time machine?


Wild Licks by Cecilia Tan

Wild Licks on GoodReads
In brief:
Holy hotness! Cecilia Tan has done it again with Wild Licks. The second installment in the series featured Mal – the brooding guitarist who absolutely had to be inspired just a teeny bit by Ian Astbury of the Cult (all that long hair!!). I’m a hopeless sucker for a brooding alpha hero in any genre, but when you dress them up in all black, my inner Goth girl starts jumping for joy.

Mal is one messed-up dude. He’s unapologetic about his kink but uses it like a shield. Beyond that, he can’t get out of his own way most of the time, and his friends/bandmates spend a lot of time and energy managing his precarious moods and temper.
Enter Gwen, who he becomes almost instantly obsessed with… and then spends the entire book trying to convince himself he should (and can) walk away from. The book is exceptional in its exploration of their troubled relationship, and also a great romp anytime the scene shifted to Hollywood glamour.

Despite its reliance on adults who can’t use their words (so frustrating!!), this book hit all the right notes for me. It was (as mentioned) incredibly hot at moments – and wide-ranging, much more than just tie-me-up-tie-me-down BDSM – but also tender, and in particular I enjoyed the portrayals of the relationships between the secondary characters. And even though Mal was such a dick through 96% of the book, I was still cheering for him and Gwen to get their HEA.

The only thing I really wished for more of was to see more music stuff – I mean, it’s about a rock band/rock musicians, and as a reader of Tan’s Daron’s Guitar Chronicles I know she can write musical details with the best of them. I always love to see the inner workings/inner details of a character’s life.

Now I’m eagerly awaiting Book 3. Can’t wait to see what Cecilia Tan comes up with next!

P.S. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m super grateful because it meant I got my greedy little hands on this hot delicious story early!

Taking the Lead by Cecilia Tan

5 stars for consensual kinky funtimes!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Ricki was a smart young woman who sometimes couldn’t get out of her own way (gee, I don’t know *anyone* like that) and Axel was completely sweet in his infatuation with Ricki – no alpha-hole to be found here, thank goodness.

I also loved that there were lots of well-developed secondary relationships happening, rather than the primary romance developing in a vacuum or spotlight.
The Hollywood setting was fun – who doesn’t love a little celebrity fantasy? – and the sex was sizzling.

I’m happy to know there are more books in this series coming – I look forward to reading more about the characters and their world!

– disclosure – I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.