Category Archives: Penguin Group

Review: My Heartache Cowboy by Z.A. Maxfield

heartacheTitle: My Heartache Cowboy by Z.A. Maxfield
The Cowboys Book Two
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, M/M, Romance, Ménage, M/M/M
Length: 294 pdf pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Can love conquer all?

Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie Molina go way back at the J-Bar ranch. They’ve worked together, bunked together, camped out, and drank together. So how has Jimmy failed to notice that Eddie is gay? Eddie has not failed to notice that his friend has a serious drinking problem, and he’s determined to help Jimmy kick the booze cold turkey.

Taking him up to a snowbound cabin to detox, Eddie is confronted with Jimmy’s fierce denial. But the pains of withdrawal are nothing for Jimmy compared with the heartache of denying his true feelings and his deep longing…for the one man who cares for him more than anyone else on earth.

The Review:

The second installment in Z.A. Maxfield’s The Cowboys series, My Heartache Cowboy is full of strong emotions that don’t just tug on the heartstrings. Nope, it’s a full-fledged yank that pulls the reader headlong into the story from the very first word. This deeply moving novel pretty much breaks your heart as Eddie Molina tries to help his longtime Jimmy Rafferty overcome his addiction to alcohol.

Jimmy and Eddie have been best friends and working partners for nearly 15 years. They have shared a lot of life’s ups and downs, but after Malloy and Crispin (from My Cowboy Heart) unexpectedly find love, they discover how little they know about one another. Eddie finally admits that he is gay and well, Jimmy, about the only thing that becomes obvious is he has a serious drinking problem. Facing an uncertain future, Eddie and Malloy know that it is time to take drastic steps to help Jimmy but Jimmy is in deep denial and he fights Eddie every step of the way. When Eddie finally admits Jimmy needs more help than he can provide, he turns to his close friend and sometime lover Don. Jimmy’s jealousy of Don quickly turns to desire and soon the three men are indulging in a very hot threesome while Don guides Jimmy through the intricacies of Alcoholics Anonymous. When Jimmy and Eddie return to the J-Bar, their newfound bond will be tested as Jimmy tries to maintain his sobriety and they try to figure out what is next for their fragile new relationship.

Jimmy and Eddie both personify the “strong, silent type”, but Jimmy is definitely the less open of the two. Since My Heartache Cowboy is written in first person from his perspective, readers experience firsthand Jimmy’s inability to express his fears, needs and desires. What he thinks and what he says are often two different things and while his inner monologue is humorous, it is also heartbreaking. Jimmy’s childhood was extremely dysfunctional and he is still dealing with guilt from long ago events. He stubbornly maintains he is not an alcoholic, but he wants to make Eddie happy, so he does work diligently at staying sober but doubts and uncertainty still plague Jimmy once they return to the J-Bar.

Eddie is rock solid, patient and steady as a rock during Jimmy’s recovery. He talks freely about his past with Don but once the three of them become involved, he is a little more reticent with Jimmy. This awkwardness becomes more apparent with their return to the ranch and their relationship is soon on shaky ground. Despite his openness about his past, Eddie still harbors a few secrets that will play a crucial role in the future of their relationship.

Eddie and Don are close friends and occasional lovers and their open affection for another catches Jimmy by surprise. Eddie, Don and Jimmy are soon burning up the sheets with some very sexy threesomes and while Jimmy and Don grow closer, an emotional distance begins to grow between Eddie and Jimmy. Their return to the J-Bar adds to Jimmy’s confusion when his and Eddie’s relationship reverts back to friendship.

My Heartache Cowboy is a poignant and emotional romance that will make you laugh and cry as Eddie and Jimmy finally recognize the truth about themselves and their relationship. It is a journey of self-discovery and recovery for Jimmy as he faces the demons of his past. It is an absolutely breathtaking story of love that Z.A. Maxfield’s fans are going to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, InterMix, M/M, M/M/M, My Heartache Cowboy, Penguin Group, Rated A, Review, Romance, The Cowboys, ZA Maxfield

Review: Twisted by Laura K. Curtis

Title: Twisted by Laura K. Curtis
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Length: 309 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Lucy Sadler Caldwell is a successful true-crime writer. But the one story she’s never been able to come to terms with is the murder of her own mother–until now. She’s returned to Dobbs Hollow, Texas, the hometown she fled seventeen years ago, to finally expose the real killer.

After a bullet took out his knee in Houston, Detective Ethan Donovan found himself without a lot of options, which is how he ended up as Chief of Police in Dobbs Hollow. Lucy sure isn’t asking for his help–she’s not big on trust–but he can’t help feeling a strong desire to come to her aid.

And though Lucy is armed to the teeth, she will need all the help she can get. When she starts digging into the past, she unearths a psychotic killer who will stop at nothing to silence her forever…

The Review:

Twisted by Laura K. Curtis is a suspense-laden mystery that is full of unexpected twists and turns. This impossible to put down novel is full of unforgettable characters but it is the unfolding investigation that fully grabbed my attention and kept me guessing the killer’s identity right up until the story’s dramatic conclusion.

Lucy Saddler Caldwell is a successful true crime author whose next project is her mother’s unsolved murder. Her return to Dobbs Hollow stirs up a lot of unpleasant memories, both for herself and the town, and Lucy encounters plenty of hostility from the townspeople as she researches her mother’s life and tragic death. Lucy is pleasantly surprised by Police Chief Ethan Donovan’s cooperation and his willingness to provide her free access to her mother’s case files. When a woman resembling Lucy is viciously murdered, Ethan’s ensuing investigation reveals a series of unsolved rapes and unexplained disappearances of women in the neighboring vicinity. Unable to easily discern the connection between the old and new cases, Ethan and Lucy are in a race against time to unmask the deranged killer before he strikes again.

Lucy and Ethan are both carrying plenty of unresolved baggage and carefully hidden secrets from their respective pasts. Lucy’s secrets stem from her dysfunctional and unhappy childhood in Dobbs Hollow while Ethan’s have their roots in his previous career in the Houston police department. While the secrets themselves are not too terribly horrible, it is the emotion attached to those memories that make Lucy and Ethan reluctant to reveal them. While Ethan’s revelation explains how he ended up as police chief in Dobbs Hollow, Lucy’s plays a crucial role in the overall storyline.

The relationship between Lucy and Ethan is non-adversarial right from the very beginning. Lucy is not very trusting of Ethan but he soon proves to her that he really is on her side. There is a definite chemistry between them but their budding romance never overpowers the mystery aspect of the plot. I enjoyed watching Lucy let down her defenses and although they were slow to confide in each other, it never adversely affected their relationship. When it comes to the investigation, Lucy and Ethan are true partners, and they never intentionally withhold information from one another.

Seventeen years ago, the investigation into Lucy’s mother’s death was superficial and quickly abandoned. With little to go on, Lucy begins digging into her mother’s past and comes up with very surprising information that gives her a more positive viewpoint of her rather notorious mother. I liked that Lucy was able to gain a better perspective of her childhood and that the good memories finally begin to outweigh the bad ones.

The chilling behavior of two of the characters is revealed very early in the novel, but how their actions fit into the overall story is unclear. Equally perplexing are the seemingly unrelated crimes that Ethan’s research uncovers. The suspect list is a mile long and there are plenty of red herrings that throw the reader off track time and again.

Twisted is a riveting mystery that kept me up long past my bedtime because I just HAD to know who killed Lucy’s mom. I just HAD to know who was behind the horrible crimes that Ethan uncovered. Darn you, Laura K. Curtis, for the sleepless night but THANK YOU for a fantastic story!

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Filed under Contemporary, InterMix, Laura Curtis, Mystery, Penguin Group, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Twisted

Review: Unbound by Cara McKenna

Title: Unbound by Cara McKenna
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Kink, Romance
Length: 298 pdf pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


An all-new novel from the author of After Hours.

She set out to find herself, and discovered the darker side of desire.

Merry’s lost a lot recently—first her mother, then close to a hundred pounds. Feeling adrift, she strikes out in search of perspective. A three-week hike through the Scottish Highlands was supposed to challenge her new body and refocus her priorities, but when disaster strikes, she’s forced to seek refuge in the remote home of a brooding, handsome stranger…

Rob exiled himself to the Highlands years ago, desperate to escape his own self-destruction. Haunted by regrets, he avoids human contact at all costs…but when Merry turns up injured, he can’t very well run her off. And as he nurses her back to health, Rob can’t resist his guest’s sweet demeanor—or her flirtatious advances. The igniting passion between them rouses a secret appetite Rob has long struggled to keep hidden. But Merry craves nothing more than to help Rob surrender to his desires, and the journey draws the lovers into an entirely different kind of wilderness.

The Review:

Unbound by Cara McKenna is a highly erotic journey of self-acceptance, redemption and love.

Neither Merry nor Rob are comfortable with who they are. Both continue to define themselves by their respective pasts and the people they used to be. Merry still sees herself as the overweight person she has always been. While she is happy with most of the physical changes from her weight loss, she still struggles with her self-image. The negative reactions of some of her friends lead her to a better understanding of herself and the realization that she has been settling for less than deserves in both her personal and professional lives.

At first glance, Rob appears to be the more together of the two. But as the story progresses, it soon becomes clear he is emotionally crippled by his troubled past. Filled with loathing and shame by his self-destructive past and what he considers deviant sexual desires, Rob is virtually a recluse who rarely leaves his cottage. His retreat has allowed him to stop his downward spiral, but he has not dealt with the underlying causes of his issues.

Rob is at first closed off and standoffish, but Merry slowly draws him out of his shell. Merry is attracted to Rob, and despite his mixed signals, she realizes the attraction is mutual. It does not take long for her to discover she will have to take charge of their sexual relationship. Merry assumes the dominant role in the bedroom and when she uncovers the kink that Rob is desperately hiding? She is not only accepting of it, but she relishes helping him act out his darkest fantasies. Their resulting sex scenes are intense, deliciously kinky and scorching hot.

Rob and Merry are brutally honest with themselves and their assessments of their pasts are sometimes harsh and unflattering. They both own their pasts and never try to push the blame for their actions off on other people. Rob is unable to forgive himself for his past and he is tortured by the damage he inflicted on the people he loves. He does not give up his secrets easily or freely but once he reveals what he considers to be his deepest and most shameful secret, Rob is finally able to take steps to truly heal.

Unbound is a complex, gritty and emotional read. Rob and Merry are flawed and a little bit broken but they are beautifully redeemed by the novel’s end. Cara McKenna deftly balances heartbreak with hope and the end result is a delightfully non-traditional romance that is incredibly moving and not easily forgotten.


Filed under Cara McKenna, Contemporary, Erotic, InterMix, Kink, Penguin Group, Rated A, Review, Romance, Unbound

Review: Louder Than Love by Jessica Topper

Title: Louder Than Love by Jessica Topper
Love & Steel Series Book One
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 349 pdf pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In this powerful debut novel, a young librarian grieves the loss of her husband…and discovers a love that defies classification.

It’s been over three years since a train accident made a widow of Katrina Lewis, sending her and her young daughter Abbey back to the suburban town of her youth…the only place that still makes sense. Lauder Lake is the perfect place to hide and heal.

Recluse rocker Adrian “Digger” Graves survived the implosion of his music career, but his muse has long lain dormant. Until Kat hires him to play at her library—not on the basis of his hard rock credentials but rather, because of the obscure kids’ TV jingle he wrote years ago. In a case of mistaken identity, Adrian stumbles into the lives of Kat and her comically lovable daughter.

The Review:

Jessica Topper’s debut novel, Louder Than Love is an emotional and powerful story of healing. It is also a beautiful romance between two wounded individuals who unexpectedly find love. But before they can reach their happily ever after, Katina “Kat” Lewis and Adrian “Digger” Graves must move on from their heartbreaking pasts.

Needing a musician for a children’s show she is heading up at the library, Kat Lewis tracks down the singer who sings the opening song for her four year old daughter Abbey’s favorite show. When Adrian shows up for the performance, Kat has no idea who the tattooed artist is but she does know that he is a little older and a whole lot sexier than she anticipated. An instant and mutual attraction between them leads to an unexpected romance but will the ghosts of their pasts stand in the way of their future?

Three years after her husband Pete’s tragic death, Kat is still grieving his loss. She is not only mourning Pete’s death, she is also mourning the loss of their dreams for themselves and Abbey. A bittersweet portrait of their marriage is revealed through flashbacks and Kat’s memories of the love they shared are positively heartrending. She is surrounded by a group of loving and supportive friends and Kat has created an insulated, safe world for herself and Abbey. While she is quick to explore her attraction to the mischievous and fun loving musician, Kat finds it nearly impossible to open up about her past.

What’s not to love about Adrian? He is charming, sexy and soo wonderful with Abbey that he pretty much steals your heart right from the start. Of course, he has many hidden depths to explore and once his rock star past is revealed, Adrian is pretty open and honest with Kat. He does not make excuses or sugarcoat his excesses and mistakes. Adrian owns his past and he takes responsibility for his missteps, failures and shortcomings. Kat’s inability to confide in him leaves Adrian unsure and vulnerable and it is no surprise when he jumps to a conclusion that derails their relationship.

And speaking of their relationship, wow, it is incredibly sweet, sensual and romantic. The chemistry between them is scorching hot and their lovemaking is full of strong emotion right from their very first encounter. The intimacy they share is so intense that there is an almost voyeuristic feel to their love scenes. Their conversations are so personal it feels like eavesdropping when they finally reveal their deepest, darkest secrets.

Jessica Topper has an uncanny ability to draw the reader into the story so that they experience firsthand the agony and the ecstasy of the characters. The hustle and bustle of New York springs vividly to life whereas the serenity of Kat’s hometown Lauder Lake is calming and quite soothing. The end result is an emotional investment in the final outcome of this enthralling story.

Louder Than Love is an amazing journey that is full of raw emotion, deep sorrow and incredible joy. I found impossible it to put down and I hated that it had to end. A truly incredible novel that I highly recommend.


Filed under Contemporary, InterMix, Jessica Topper, Louder Than Love, Love & Steel Series, Penguin Group, Rated A, Review, Romance

Review: My Cowboy Heart by Z.A. Maxfield

Title: My Cowboy Heart by Z.A. Maxfield
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, M/M, Romance
Length: 266 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


J-Bar ranch foreman Malloy pretty much keeps to himself—slinking around the edges of everybody else like an old coyote, doing his job and staying private. That is until Crispin Carrasco shows up.

Lean, muscular, and with a motor mouth that won’t quit, Crispin sparks something in Malloy—something the foreman didn’t know was there. But how does a lone coyote approach the warmth of a fire? And more important, what would happen if that fire burned?

The Review:

Z.A. Maxfield’s My Cowboy Heart is a delightfully engaging love story between two unlikely men.

Complete opposites and coming from two very different backgrounds, Malloy and Crispin Carrasco are two cowboys who are surprised by the attraction between them. Malloy has always dated women so he is completely surprised by his reaction to out and proud Crispin. He is drawn to Crispin right from their first meeting and they quickly form an easy friendship. But a very unexpected kiss between them some raises disquieting questions for Malloy about his sexuality and their relationship takes a very unexpected turn.

Malloy is the quintessential strong, silent type. He cares deeply about Eddie and Jim, the other two full time ranch hands and he is devoted to his foster family but he finds it difficult to express his emotions. Instead, Malloy demonstrates his love through his actions and he takes his responsibilities as ranch foreman very seriously.

Crispin is the anti-thesis to Malloy. He is self-confident with an out-going personality. Crispin is comfortable in his skin and his sexuality. But his sweet exterior hides a backbone of steel and he stands up for himself when he needs to. And as we soon discover, Crispin carries wounds from his past that are not quite as healed as he thought.

The romance between Crispin and Malloy is sweet, sexy and angst free. The chemistry between them is palpable and there is plenty of sexual tension as Crispin and Malloy explore their burgeoning relationship. They also share a deeply emotional connection that only grows stronger when their future is threatened by a heartbreaking chain of events.

Crispin’s arrival shakes up the status quo, not just for Malloy, but for Eddie and Jim as well. Both men are hiding secrets of their own and Malloy is stunned to discover how little he knows about the ranch hands. An unexpected tragedy makes it clear that it is time to tackle an escalating problem head on and this story arc will be further explored in My Heartache Cowboy which is due to be released in January 2014.

My Cowboy Heart by Z.A. Maxfield is a beautiful romance and moving story of self discovery as Malloy unexpectedly finds love with Crispin Carrasco. It is also a heartwarming novel about family and friendship. A warm and emotional read that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.


Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, InterMix, M/M, My Cowboy Heart, Penguin Group, Rated B+, Romance

Review: Reflected in You by Syliva Day

Title: Reflected in You by Sylvia Day
Crossfire Book Two
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Imprint: Berkley Trade
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, Romance
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B

Review Copy Obtained from Publisher Through Edelweiss


Gideon Cross. As beautiful and flawless on the outside as he was damaged and tormented on the inside. He was a bright, scorching flame that singed me with the darkest of pleasures. I couldn’t stay away. I didn’t want to. He was my addiction… my every desire… mine.

My past was as violent as his, and I was just as broken. We’d never work. It was too hard, too painful… except when it was perfect. Those moments when the driving hunger and desperate love were the most exquisite insanity. We were bound by our need. And our passion would take us beyond our limits to the sweetest, sharpest edge of obsession…

The Review:

Reflected in You, the second book in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series starring Eva Tramell and Gideon Cross opens right where Bared to You leaves off. Eva and Gideon are still the same two emotional messes who confuse love with obsession and use sex to avoid working out their problems. But, thankfully, the more I read, I finally began to see some positive changes in Eva’s behavior that left me hopeful that their relationship could be salvaged from the codependent disaster that began in book one.

Both Eva and Gideon are still dealing with their individual insecurities and self-esteem issues. Do either of them need to be in a relationship? No way and especially not with each other. But their explosive passion and need for one another are too powerful to ignore and they heedlessly push on despite their numerous problems.

Eva and Gideon’s relationship is an unhealthy combination of jealousy, anger, control and obsession. There are serious trust issues on both sides. Gideon’s need to know Eva’s every move continues and it is still eerily stalkerish. The jealousy they both experience is compounded by a severe lack of communication. The head games continue on both sides and the angst reaches an all time high.

Sex between Eva and Gideon is still intense and incredibly hot. But Eva and Gideon are equally guilty of using sex to evade probing questions. They also use sex as a weapon and a punishment and as a means to get their own way.

In Reflected in You, we finally see more of the self-assured and self-aware Eva that we were originally introduced to in Bared to You. She recognizes their relationship is unhealthy and she finally begins to stand up to Gideon’s unreasonable demands. She still gives in way more than she should, but at least she acknowledges that Gideon’s behavior is NOT normal or healthy. Eva is no longer content with the bits and pieces that Gideon is willing to share and she finally becomes more insistent that he reveal his secrets to her. And when he won’t? Eva gets up the nerve to take back the control she so willingly relinquished and finds her self-respect.

Gideon continues to frustrate me on so many levels. He is convinced he has all the answers and compromise is not part of his vocabulary. Gideon confuses protection with control and it is just creepy how he continues to keep such close tabs on Eva. So much of his and Eva’s anguish could be avoided if he would just TALK to her. Unfortunately, Gideon is a bit slow on this point, and it takes him FOREVER to finally spill his secrets.

Overall, I liked Reflected in You a whole lot more than I did Bared to You. I am still not sold on the idea that either Eva and Gideon are truly in love and I also have my doubts they are ready for a relationship. But I am happy that they are finally making some kind of progress. Their journey is an exhausting rollercoaster ride that is full of extreme highs and lows and I am hopeful they are working their way to finding some middle ground. Maybe once they achieve that, they really will find the love they are so desperately seeking.

Read my reviews of the other novels in the Crossfire series HERE.


Filed under Berkely Trade, Contemporary, Crossfire Series, Erotic, Penguin Group, Rated B, Reflected in You, Review, Romance