E-Originals from Bray-Weber, Bright, Cole & Co., Denker, & Leonard | Xpress Reviews

Week ending July 11, 2014

Bray-Weber, Jennifer. Mutiny of the Heart. Carina: Harlequin. (Romancing the Pirate, Bk. 3). 2014. 216p. ebk. ISBN 9781426898525. $3.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
This suspenseful romance brings us to Caribbean waters full of pirates, battles, and lusty encounters. Where other novels would have a helpless woman aboard ship as a passenger, the twist here is that the very capable captain of the Rissa is a very capable female who is having a sexual relationship with a crew member. Joelle is the strong-willed heroine who has earned herself honors among the privateers owing to her skill and charm, but she has one mission in life: to find the answers hidden in the map her father left behind. The waters get muddy when she hires a handsome map reader to help her, and wild abandon threatens to take over…mutiny style. While the love triangle is the major thrust (oh, yeah), a mysterious and intriguing subplot speeds us along as the characters are likable and well defined.
Verdict Erotically told but not quite over the top, this third novel in the series (after A Kiss in the Wind and The Siren’s Song) offers themes of independence, willpower, and the choice of love over pride. Where some readers may blush at the detailed sexual encounters, those scenes fit together with the skilled writing to form the perfect beach read.—Marie Burton, Rockwall, TX

Bright, Amylynn. Cooking Up Love. Carina: Harlequin. 2014. 174p. ebk. ISBN 9781426898440. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Who ever heard of a food critic who can’t cook? Holly Darcy, who writes as “The Covert Connoisseur” for a popular newspaper column, is hoping to remedy her lack of food prep chops by taking a cooking course at the local junior college. Her teacher, Mark Bennett, is much more delectable than anything Holly could ever hope to whip up in the kitchen, so she is pleased when after a short flirtation he eventually asks her out. Mark, a former chef, is fine with teaching but refuses to be pushed, especially by his family, into cooking again professionally, since he believes a scathing review from a food critic led to the downfall of his restaurant. Mark falls for Holly’s curves, fashion sense, and bad cuisine, and their chemistry sizzles both in and out of the bedroom. But things hit the fan when Mark tries to get too close, and Holly’s little secret about her profession, coupled with her family history, might burn up this romance before it can make it to the final course.
Verdict After Bright’s several Regencies (e.g., The Duke of Morewether’s Secret), her first contemporary serves up flirtation, friction, and food neatly packaged in a plausible and entertaining romance. Readers will also enjoy the nod to Pride and Prejudice in the naming of the characters.—Kara Kohn, Plainfield P.L, IL

starred review starCole, Alyssa & others. For Love & Liberty: Untold Love Stories of the American Revolution. Seditious Sisters. 2014. 263p. ebk. ISBN 9781941885000. $2.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE/LGBT
forloveandliberty071114In Cole’s “Be Not Afraid,” former slaves Kate and Elijah meet while supporting opposing armies. Though they struggle with their feelings for each other, they must also decide which side will treat them as people after the last shots are fired. “Sweet Surrender,” by Lena Hart, follows Siara, a young healer of the Onyota’aka (one of the tribes in the Iroquois League), as she falls for James, a wounded British soldier she nurses back to health. Kate McMurray’s “Rebels at Heart” depicts the struggle to keep up appearances between society fop Charles and his valet—by day only—former slave Isaac. Finally, “Home,” by Stacey Agdern, tells the sweet romance of Abigail and Jacob, members of the Sephardic Jewish community in New York.
Verdict Four great stories with different perspectives on the people who lived during the revolution. It’s a perfect choice for those looking for shorter reads or to make romance collections more inclusive.—Emily Thompson, SUNY Oswego

Denker, Jayne. Picture This. eKensington. (Marsden Novel, Bk. 2). Jul. 2014. 363p. ebk. ISBN 9781601832870. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Niall Crenshaw, a B movie actor who is described as catnip to his female fans, finds himself in the small Catskills village of Marsden, NY, to host a local singing competition. Marsden is also the home of thirtysomething Celia Marshall, whom he met at a New York City photo shoot. Celia is in town to convince Holly, her elderly yet spunky grandmother, to move into a senior living facility. Since Niall is in the process of breaking up with his contracted girlfriend and former costar, the paparazzi are hot on his trail to see who he is dating now. Niall’s situation brings the big-city atmosphere to the gossipy small town and adds to the complications.
Verdict This cozy romance from Denker (By Design; Down on Love; Unscripted) realistically captures small-town life. However, readers may not be convinced that Niall’s admitted lack of stardom merits all that the paparazzi bring to Marsden. Grandma and the other characters shine.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

starred review starLeonard, Tina. Last of the Red Hot Cowboys. Loveswept: Random. (Hell’s Outlaws, Bk. 1). 2014. 260p. ebk. ISBN 9780345549303. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Mayor Judy Jasper has a plan to rile up the testosterone-filled town of Hell, TX. Her all-female team of bull fighters, Hell Belles, is likely to put the small town on the map and give the local men something to think about. Her biggest obstacle is ex-SEAL Trace Carter, part owner of Hell’s Outlaws Training Center. Sure, the center is the best in town to train bull fighters, just not female bull fighters, according to Trace, even if one of the Belles is damn sexy and as stubborn as he is. Ava Buchanan left her large family behind to gain independence and follow her dream. She’s not about to let Trace or even the town’s rival training center deter her. The former soldier and the determined bullfighter-in-training clash more times than dueling desert snakes until the animosity turns to passion. But Trace can’t give Ava what she deserves. If he did, it would break the heart he didn’t know he had.
Verdict This first installment in Leonard’s (Sweet Callahan Homecoming) new series is perfect for readers who enjoy heroes and heroines who clash upon first meeting and several times thereafter. The backstories of the town’s inhabitants and the potential romances are also fun to get to know. Awesome summer reading!—Christyna Hunter, Loudoun Cty. P.L., Lovettsville, VA