E-Originals from Browning, Lin, Lucas, & Sherwood, plus an Erotic Serial from Wolff | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 14, 2014

Browning, Kelsey. Designed for Love. Carina: Harlequin. (Texas Nights, Bk. 4). Nov. 2014. 172p. ebk. ISBN 9781426898686. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Ashton Davenport has given up her inheritance and family—but not her precious pooch, Napoleon—to become a business owner of a quaint interior design firm in small-town Shelbyville, TX. When her grandmother asks Ashton to become the manager of a new community development, Ashton jumps at the chance in order to earn some much needed cash. When the general contractor drops dead—accidentally—at her feet, there’s a mad dash to find a replacement. Enter Mac McLaughlin, a man who has returned to Shelbyville to assist his mother with designing her new shop. He’s not interested in rich princess Davenport, her pitiful excuse for a dog, or her grandmother’s land—despite his physical response to Ashton. When the townspeople and outside forces begin to fight Ashton’s development plans, Mac begins to see that there are some smarts below the know-it-all façade. Smarts wrapped in a hot package may be too tempting for Mac to resist.
Verdict It was a bit difficult to get into this story from Browning (Personal Assets) because Mac is so harsh at first. But things smooth out, leading to lots of sparks and wet kisses—some even from the pooch.Christyna Hunter, Loudoun Cty. P.L., Lovettsville, VA

Lin, Jeannie. Gunpowder Alchemy. InterMix: Penguin. (Gunpowder Chronicles). Nov. 2014. 280p. ebk. ISBN 9780698135338. $4.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
gunpowderalchemy111414This highly atmospheric novel takes place in mid-19th-century China, which is under attack from the Yangguizi, who have superior steampunk-style weaponry. Eighteen-year-old Jin Soling, whose family has sunk low since her father’s indefensible execution by the Emperor eight years earlier, is barely eking out an existence. She is understandably shocked when the Prince’s men kidnap her, believing she can help them carry on her father’s scientific work and defeat the British. In their custody, she meets Chen Chang-wei, an engineer to whom she was affianced when her family was part of the ruling class. Several kidnappings later, Soling and Chang-wei have grown close. Less a romance than an adventure, Lin’s tale holds the reader’s interest with constant action and much historical detail and ambience.
Verdict In this latest from Lin (The Lotus Palace; The Jade Temptress), our protagonists are engaging, while the secondary characters, such as the crippled rebel leader Lady Su and Uncle Yang, who uses questionable methods to try to discover why opium is so addictive, are downright fascinating. Readers will enjoy getting to know the customs and concerns in Chinese cities and villages of the time while rooting for a brave heroine and hero in this highly readable and distinctive novel.—B. Allison Gray, Goleta Lib., CA

Lucas, Alanna. When We Dance. Boroughs Pub. Group. 2014. 131p. ebk. ISBN 9781941260456. $2.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
What better way to tell a lady that you love her than by ruining her wedding? This classic Regency begins as Artemisia is left at the altar by Lord Chartwick. Nigel Rochefort engineered the failed wedding because he could not bear to see Artemisia wed to another. In disgrace, Artemisia retires to her aunt’s country estate Knollwood. Then Artemisia’s sister Philippa disappears and Nigel is involved. The resulting gossip has become quite bothersome to Nigel, but he cannot keep away from Artemisia and goes to Knollwood to court her. Artemisia knows where Philippa is but is sworn to secrecy. Nigel teaches her to dance and in doing so stirs her passions. As Artemisia comes to forgive Nigel for preventing her wedding, Nigel accepts that Artemisia kept her sister’s whereabouts hidden even though he was being blamed for her disappearance and possibly her murder.
Verdict Though this novel by Lucas (Mistletoe Waltz) is constructed on a somewhat outrageous premise, the playground antics of Artemisia and Nigel build into a satisfying and highly erotic romance.—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA

Sherwood, Kate. In Too Deep. Dreamspinner. Dec. 2014. 216p. ebk. ISBN 9781632161253. $6.99; pap. ISBN 9781632161246. $14.99. LGBT ROMANCE, NEW ADULT
Cade’s life consists of his college classes, his cafeteria job to pay the bills his scholarships don’t cover, and his constant studies. In fact, he’s been nicknamed “the Monk” by other students. Aiden comes from money, has loving parents, hangs out with his frat brothers, and has developed a fixation on the sandwich guy in the cafeteria. Even though Cade turns him down several times, Aiden persists, and their attraction slowly develops into the first real relationship Cade has ever known. Unfortunately, a vacation with Aiden’s family and friends reveals a horror from Cade’s past that threatens to destroy his future.
Verdict Sherwood (Chasing the Dragon) brings together polar opposites in a sweet romance that builds the relationship before exploring the sexual component. She doesn’t shy away from making the coupling complicated, but this title neatly bridges the gap between YA and adult fiction. Recommended for libraries building new adult collections.—Melanie C. Duncan, Shurling Lib., Macon, GA

Wolff, Tracy. Play Me. 5 vols. Loveswept: Random. (Sebastian Caine). Dec. 2014. 308p. Vol. 1: Play Me Wild. ebk. ISBN 9780804177818. 99¢; Vol. 2: Play Me Hot. ebk. ISBN 9780804177825. $1.99; Vol. 3: Play Me Hard. ebk. ISBN 9780804177832. $1.99; Vol. 4: Play Me Real. ISBN 9780804177849. $1.99; Vol. 5: Play Me Right. ebk. ISBN 9780804177856. $1.99. EROTIC ROMANCE
playmewild111414Sebastian Caine left Las Vegas years ago for a life of philanthropy, and he had hoped never to return. Only when his father becomes too ill to run the family business does he come back to his former home to save the jobs of those keeping the Atlantis Casino afloat. When Aria, a cocktail waitress in the high-roller section, takes it upon herself to stand up to one of the casino’s wealthiest gamblers, Sebastian’s interest turns from professional to personal. He finds himself admiring her courage yet yearning to teach her the intricacies of control. Meanwhile, Aria wonders how long she is going to be able to keep her well-guarded secrets if she gets involved with her powerful boss.
Verdict Each book of this five-part series from Wolff (Addicted; Ruined) builds on the development of Sebastian and Aria’s relationship and ends in an irresistible cliff-hanger. While each of our tries to escape the pain and guilt of the past, readers will be compelled to follow their journey together, hoping this pair will ultimately find trust and redemption. Overall, the chemistry between Sebastian and Aria makes for a hot read, and fans of Dominant/submissive play will not be disappointed.—Vicky Coffin, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic