Lessons I’ve Learned from Writers I Love

As readers of this blog may know, I’ve given myself one year to embark on my dream of becoming a professional writer and, while I have not yet completed my own work of fiction, I have been a volunteer book reviewer for The Romance Reviews for three years. While that might not seem like the most direct path to becoming an author, I’ve gained treasured knowledge from the experience that I will carry forward in my own journey.

Growing up, I was always a fan of Historical Romance, from the quintessential Jane Austen (I fell hard for Henry Crawford) to Harlequin Historical (oh, the sexual euphemisms of 90s romance – rosebuds, anyone?).

That said, serving as a reviewer has pushed me outside my comfort zone, exposing me to genres of Romance that I had not previously read, including BDSM, Paranormal and Inspirational Romance.

Furthermore, it introduced me to writers whose work has inspired and amazed me with its clarity, sensuality and immersive landscapes. Writers whose stories and careers I have studied in the hope of someday paying forward the wisdom they have unknowingly shared with me.

I could dedicate a series of posts to the varied writers whose work I discovered while serving as a reviewer. And the lessons I’ve learned could fill a book – and, perhaps, someday, it will.

For now, however, I will focus on three, very different, Romance writers whose techniques motivate me to learn more about my craft and whose work embodies some of the best qualities of the genre.

Lauren Blakely – The first work I read by Lauren Blakely was Burn for Me in 2015 and I have consumed her books voraciously ever since.

Blakely’s novels are seldom long, but she makes excellent use of the space afforded to her through meticulous editing, punchy dialog and richly developed characters.

Whether it is Cara Bailey, a family-focused, commitment-seeking, dog walker or Julia Bell, a tough talking, bar-tending gambler, Blakely’s heroines are always compelling. Moreover, Blakely’s heroines vary widely, like her readers, bringing something unexpected to her audience with each story.

Moreover, one of my favorite romantic fiction writers, Lauren Blakely writes some of the most fiery love scenes in her genre. Sizzling, yet never gratuitous, she balances smoldering sexuality with genuine emotional connection, never forgetting that both are equally important to realizing the dreams of many modern women – and men.

For those who have not experienced Blakely’s work, I would love to share one of my favorite passages from Melt for Him, which I feel excellently illustrates her brilliant interweaving of devotion and desire.

“…she knew he’d just walked past her. He hadn’t even touched her. He hadn’t even lazily traced a finger across her back. Instead she could simply sense the shape of him; she could smell the clean, sexy scent of him; she could simply feel the way he was near her.

‘Can’t wait to see you later.’

The words were the barest of a whisper on her neck. The sent a rush of heat down through her veins, and goose bumps erupted over her skin. A proper date. Not just a stolen moment in the bar, in his house, by the river.”

If Lauren Blakely captures the steamy, complex yearnings of Contemporary Romance readers, Caroline Warfield offers a more traditional romantic landscape, presented with a lovely prose style and attention to detail that has shown me how compelling writing can touch readers, regardless of their preferred genre.

Caroline Warfield – Though Warfield’s writing style represents a dramatic departure from that of Lauren Blakely, I fell in love with her work from the moment I read Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil last year.

I knew from the first paragraph that I was experiencing something special. The writing style was thoughtful and elegant, with varied sentence structure and beautiful descriptive language. In that moment I realized just how frequently this loving craftsmanship is missing from modern writing – lost in a culture in which writers are pressured to write and publish faster than ever before.

Furthermore, in a time of instant gratification, the depth of research required to truly envelop readers in a historical context is often missing.

Historical Romance enthusiasts love the feeling of being swept away into the past, tracing their fingers over the delicate needlework of a Point de Venise collar or tasting the thin pottage of an Elizabethan peasant. These readers often know the difference between horsehair, steel hoop and nylon net crinolines and expect their authors to know these distinctions, as well.

A librarian, as well as a novelist, Warfield never disappoints her readers with inaccuracies and, in fact, educates her readers while entertaining them with rich, riveting language and lovely landscapes.

Furthermore, I have frequently been impressed by the humor Caroline Warfield introduces into her stories. While her heroines often find themselves navigating dire circumstances, such as perilous illnesses, physical violence, legal repression, Warfield introduces appropriate levity that keeps her novels from feeling excessively wrought or stuffy – as can be the case with some period novels.

One of my favorite passages of Warfield’s work is found in Dangerous Secrets, and illustrates, in my opinion, the exceptional flow and charm of her writing.

“Jamie crouched behind a fragrant verbena bush and wondered how he might avoid Mother Margarita. She continued to waylay him ever day.
Every conversation had been nothing but a series of feints and sorties designed to expose his flank.

Once when she got him to admit that he hadn’t been a model student of the classics, she said, ‘You are better educated than you would have her believe, aren’t you, Major?’

Thank God I never mentioned Cambridge or that two of my three closest friends had titles. I didn’t have to. She probably guessed.

Routed by a five foot elf in a black habit, he now resorted to cowering behind the bushes.”

It is important to note that, while I have traditionally preferred steamy romance, I found myself enjoying Warfield’s wholesome and heartwarming stories. Refreshed by her family-oriented perspective, I learned that evocative language and thoughtfully crafted writing can cross boundaries, engaging readers who are brave enough to venture into new territory.

Kimberly Dean – My first introduction to the work of Kimberly Dean was Courting Suspicion, a sexually-charged detective novel that I reviewed in 2016. Finding Dean’s writing to be sultry and full of substance from the first page, I read the entire novel in one sitting.

I have counted Dean among my favorite contemporary authors ever since.

Captivated by her excellent pacing and compelling, descriptive language, I was especially impressed to read a work of Romantic Suspense that delivered all the cat-and-mouse, sexual tension that readers crave without compromising the quality of the mystery around which the story revolves.

That said, it is Dean’s penchant for innovative storytelling from which I have learned the most.

Unlike many writers, who tend to position much their work within a niche (firefighters, werewolves, gangsters) Dean excels in her ability to engage a loyal readership while undertaking diverse subject matter.

Whether she is writing about heart-throb detectives, identical triplets, football players or computer programmers, Dean always keep her readers guessing with unexpected angles and exhilarating characters.

Dean’s inventive approach to her work is especially evident in her Dream Weaver books – a series erotic novels featuring the Oneiroi, Greek daemons of dreams. Though Dean is not first writer to base stories about erotic dreams or visitations from Incubi, the way she presents the interactions between Shea and the Somnambulist are fascinating.

I was absolutely enthralled by the way Dean depicts the Somnambulist’s control over Shea’s body while maintaining a clear sense of his agency and identity apart from those of the heroine. The passage below is an except from Dream Walker that illustrates Dean’s incredibly creative approach to this supernatural concept.

“They were so good together, a perfect match. They came together like no two ever had: she as his hostess and he as her guide. He hugged her arms around her and squeezed tight. He’d missed her so much.

Carefully, he coaxed her into a seated position. She slumped to the side, but he propped her back up by bracing her hand against the mattress. The color of her fingernails caught his attention.

‘Hmm.’ He cocked her head, intrigued. They were a pretty rose color, just a shade lighter than blood. Experimentally, he scratched them over her legs. The stinging sensation made him cry out in delight.”

As I move forward with my own dream of becoming an author, I will take the lessons I have learned from Dean’s writing to heart, the foremost of which is to always keep your reader guessing. Creating a distinct narrative voice is not at all exclusive from trying new things and seeking new angles.

In the meantime, I would strongly encourage anyone interested in writing to consider reviewing as a first step. My experience with The Romance Reviews has been fantastic, but there are many blogs that provide opportunities to review all manner of literature.

I have received no compensation for this post or for my reviews and all of the opinions shared in this post are my own. If you share these sentiments, or if you do not, I would love to connect with you.

Please comment, tweet at me or email me adelaideroseevreux@gmail.com and share your own story. We’re all in this together!

book hearts 2

 

“Working Together is Success”: Finding My First Critique Partner

I’m four days into my #200wordsaday and #100daysofwriting challenge and I’m proud to say that I have achieved (and exceeded!) my writing goal each day. That said, I know I’m starting with a modest goal and that I will have to push myself much harder to complete a serious writing project.

With a full-time job and a one-year deadline to change my life, I know that I have demanding days ahead.

However, even a few days into this undertaking I’m surprised at how much more I feel like a writer. Though 200 words isn’t much (it’s roughly a paragraph), the commitment required to prioritize writing has given me new motivation – and a uplifting sense that my goal is moving forward every day.

I have been investing my #200wordsaday into an ongoing writing project that I had previously placed on a back burner – a paranormal romance that I’m determined to finish and share, even if it’s less-than-stellar. Despite my fears, it’s more meaningful to finish the project, and put myself out there, than to deny my dream for another moment more.

Notwithstanding, I know I can’t do it alone.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading about writing, and I’ve read repeatedly about the importance of seeking feedback.

Earlier this week, I joined the Romance Writers of America as an Associate Member. This was an expensive endeavor for a nonprofit employee, but if I am going to pursue my dreams, I know that I must be bold.

The RWA offers a critique partner program and, according to the RWA directory, there are currently 36 writers in my state who are open to a critiquing partnership. With the expectation that many would not wish to work with an unpublished writer, I contacted eleven potential partners – two of whom replied to express their potential interest.

I admit that this is a scary step, since nobody wants to hear that their writing might be awful, but I am committed to learning from the wisdom of others.

fear and courage
Furthermore, since I imagine that someone who reads this blog may have considered this approach (and may be similarly afraid), I will share the feedback I receive from my partners – even if it is agonizing – to help reassure others that this doesn’t have to be intimidating. Or, at least, that it’s a fear worth facing.


If someone happens to read this, please comment, tweet at me (@TheAdelaideRose) or email me at adelaideroseevreux@gmail.com.

Feel free to share your own critique experiences or, if you might be looking for a critique partner, feel free to share that, too! We are all in this together!

Gearing Up and Doubling Down: #200wordsaday and #100daysofwriting

If you read my last post, you know that I’ve given myself a year to turn my life around.

 
Last year, I uprooted everything I knew to accept a job in which I’m foundering. Hired into a conflict-ridden organization, I’m ignored, bullied and scared to admit that I’m struggling.

 
This derailment has led me to consider what I really want – which has always been to be a writer.

 
Now I am setting out to carve a new path for myself over the course of the next twelve months and, even as I type this, I’m not sure if that dream is thrilling or preposterous.

 
I have never been published and I have no connections in the industry. Moreover, I’ve never written anything longer than a short story.

 
My plan is to challenge myself through increasingly difficult projects to build my stamina and learn as much as I can as quickly as possible.

 
The hope is that this blog will help me hold myself accountable and feel a little less alone along the way.

 
What is certain is that one year isn’t much time, so the first challenge I’ve decided to undertake is a double dose of two popular writing challenges: #200wordsaday and #100daysofwriting.

 
With this in mind, I will commit to writing no less than 200 words a day toward a piece of fiction that I will finish and share (even if it’s awful).

just keep writing
I will write these 200 words every single day for 100 consecutive days – no matter what else happens. I will not allow word counts to “roll over” and I will commit my weekends to intensive writing.

 
I will document my progress and, if I skip a day, I commit to publicly owning that in this blog and starting my 100 days all over again.

 
As formidable as this challenge feels in this moment, it isn’t enough to help me be anything more than socially-awkward non-profit manager who writes a paragraph a day, so I will increase the intensity of my efforts with each hurdle I clear.

 
I’ve let myself down before – allowing “life” to get in the way of the life I really want, but I also know that anything can happen in a year.

 
Today, I will take this step, and then another step will follow.

 
If someone happens to read this, I would love to hear any advice that has worked for you. If you aren’t a writer, I’d still love to hear from you – we’re all in this together!

Leaving The Road Most Traveled

If you’ve read my previous posts – which you haven’t, because I’ve seen my stats! – you know that I am a book reviewer for The Romance Reviews. But I’m here to try something a bit different.

Why (you might ask, if you were reading this)? Because I’m almost entirely certain that I’m having a mid-life crisis.

All my life, I wanted to be an author, writing (and hiding) volumes of short fiction and poetry and, eventually, receiving a B.A. in English Literature. But along the way, I got a little lost…or a lot afraid.
road least traveled
Whether I was scared of rejection or becoming a cat lady who couldn’t pay her rent, I ended up taking the road most traveled.

Now, I’m a nonprofit manager with an M.A. in Public Administration – a life that I’ve often enjoyed, though I always knew it was the path of least resistance.

One year ago, I was offered an opportunity to return to my hometown for a nonprofit position that sounded like a dream come true – and it’s been a nightmare ever since.

I’m terrified to look like a failure – afraid that quitting or getting fired will disappoint everyone who believed in me – and afraid to admit that this isn’t really who I am.

I’ve decided to give myself the best gift I can – a chance to feel authentic.

Like most people, I’ve made a hundred resolutions in the past to alter my path and I’ve always allowed “life to get in the way.” That was my fault and changing it is my responsibility.

I’m calling this my “Year of Living Literarily” because it reminded me of “The Year of Living Dangerously” – and because it wasn’t taken.

If, at the end of this year, I haven’t honored these commitments, I will have failed myself and, pen name or not, I will know it – and so will anyone who happens upon this blog.

With that in mind, I am going to commit myself to a series of writing challenges and document them in the hope that making a public commitment will keep me strong.

I will be posting to this blog at least weekly to discuss challenges I’ve undertaken and to document my progress.

If someone happens to read this, please comment, tweet at me or email me adelaideroseevreux@gmail.com.

I hope I can meet some other people who feel like I do – perhaps we can create a little a support group for super-secret writers and scribbling weirdos – because we are definitely not alone in this!

Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil Review

Lady Charlotte

“He pulled her into an embrace, pushing back her bonnet and laying her head against his shoulder. She let the feeling of being cherished seep deep into her bones. She slid her hands up his chest to wrap around his neck and pull him closer.”

LADY CHARLOTTE’S CHRISTMAS VIGIL is a heart-warming holiday story about the power of family, trust and true love to inspire hope in the face of uncertainty.

Lady Charlotte Tyree is a capable and intelligent woman with a strong moral character and a love of family that has led her to prioritize the care of others over her own marital prospects. Having experienced only one social season before assuming responsibility for her elderly parents at the end of their lives, Charlotte is approaching an age at which she fears her fate as a “maiden aunt” is sealed.

However, instead of dreaming of an opportunity to fulfill her potential as a wife and mother, she is dreaming of ancient history, architecture and frescoes – the majesty of the City of Rome. Driven by a reverence for the art, beauty and culture embodied in the great churches of Rome and a desire to experience nature through travel, Charlotte has taken the bold step of accompanying her brother, the Earl of Ambler, on his Grand Tour – an educational rite of passage for aristocratic young men and an opportunity to experience the cultural history of Europe.

Suggesting that her presence will encourage upright conduct in her younger brother, Charlotte begins the trip with the socially-expected presence of a female chaperone. However, when her chaperone seeks to divert Charlotte from the Tour to socialize with family connections, Charlotte makes the scandalous choice of continuing the Tour without the presence of a female companion. When her brother nearly succumbs to a contagious fever in Venice, Charlotte is left in a vulnerable position and on the edge of social ruin.

When this beautiful and headstrong British aristocrat appears in the parlor of Doctor Salvatore Caresini speaking of her brother’s sudden fever, Salvo is filled with conflicting emotions. The outspoken, unchaperoned woman carries herself with a grace and vigor that captivates his thoughts. Notwithstanding, the illness her brother may carry, Putrid Fever, is one that has taken the lives of numerous Venetians and spreads quickly through contaminated water and personal contact. It is also the illness that claimed the life of his beloved wife, leaving his three children without a mother’s love.

Upon arriving at the apartments which Lady Charlotte and her brother have rented for their stay, Salvo’s worst fears are immediately confirmed. Despite her protestations, Salvo refuses to allow Lady Charlotte to provide any further care for her brother, appointing another caregiver of his choosing, and taking the bold step of carrying her from the room.

Unwilling to consider abandoning her brother and left with no place to turn, Lady Charlotte accepts an invitation to stay with Salvo and his family. Though she does not immediately feel warmly welcomed in the doctor’s home, she soon finds herself enjoying the experience of being needed, and appreciated, for her talents. Baking Christmas cookies, educating Salvo’s sons and teaching his daughter how to style her hair, Lady Charlotte becomes known as “Lottie” to Salvo’s family. A dear and trusted companion, soon Salvo cannot imagine his home without Lottie and her vibrant presence. But then the tragic Putrid Fever finds its way into Salvo’s home and threatens the lives of his young sons…

LADY CHARLOTTE’S CHRISTMAS VIGIL is a heartwarming and well-written story that will appeal to lovers of holiday romance, historical romance, wholesome love stories and beyond. Caroline Warfield deserves significant praise for crafting a thoroughly-researched novella and her writing style is beautiful and refreshing.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there are a few small editing errors in the reviewer copy that I received. Furthermore, it is a bit humorous to note that Lady Charlotte’s “rich, dark hair” seems to become “golden” in Chapter 6 of the story. That said, the overall quality of this lovely work is such that these issues do not detract from a truly enjoyable experience and would likely be overlooked by many readers.

Based on this novella, I would recommend the writing of Caroline Warfield to aspiring authors as an example of excellent research and delightful writing style. I sincerely look forward to reading more of her work and, in over two years of reviewing Romance stories, LADY CHARLOTTE’S CHRISTMAS VIGIL is a stand-out novella.

Though LADY CHARLOTTE’S CHRISTMAS VIGIL is a bit more wholesome than most romantic stories currently on the market, I think it would be enjoyed by a very broad readership. I would classify this story as a holiday “must read” as I would encourage romance enthusiasts, even fans of contemporary, sizzling romance, to give this sweet novella a try this winter season.

This review appears on my page at The Romance Reviews:  http://www.theromancereviews.com/AdelaideRose

Lost to the Night Review

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“God had not forsaken him. God had sent this angel of light to be his salvation, to be his companion, to walk with him in the shadows.”
Emerging from the wreckage of her overturned carriage, Evelyn Bromwell flees through the forest to seek help for her beloved Aunt Beatrice, who lies dying amid the twisted debris. Confronted with a fork in the road, Evelyn feels inexplicably drawn to the dark and overgrown path – a path down which the mysterious Earl of Hale is said to reside in his mansion, Stony Cross.
Once a notorious rake, Alexander Cole, the Earl of Hale, has since withdrawn from society and is believed to have been disfigured in an unspeakable accident. The truth however, is even more tragic. The Earl has been transformed into a creature of the night in punishment for his libertine ways. Though he survives on the blood of animals and has vowed against taking human lives, he fears the hunger that burns within his soul. Condemned to a life of regret and isolation for the wantonness of his youth, Alexander Cole now hides from society to protect others from the monster he believes he has become.
When the beautiful and frightened Evelyn Bromwell forces her way into his home, desperate for his help to save her dying aunt, Alexander is overcome with emotions he thought he could no longer feel. Captivated by the headstrong woman in a way that evokes for him the Biblical Eve – a woman with both seductive and redemptive power – Alexander is compelled to come to her aid as he struggles to against the compassion and desire that are awakening in his heart.
Far from the deformed monster of local legend, Evelyn is struck by Alexander’s handsome and dignified bearing. He is, however, no gentlemen. Though he fulfills his promise to save Evelyn’s aunt, carrying her unconscious form from the wreckage of their carriage to the safety of Stony Cross, Alexander’s cold and inhospitable demeanor toward Evelyn fills her with indignation and fiery emotions. In spite of her outrage at his dismissive treatment, Evelyn is convinced that there is something dark and beautiful within the Earl – something that drives her to seek his company.
As a sleepless Evelyn gazes down into the Earl’s garden that evening she sees an emotionally distraught Alexander Cole, brought to tears by an unknown sorrow. Her desire to comfort transforms into a deeper and more primal longing as she then witnesses him slowly undress and slide into the river that borders his land, offering himself to the serene darkness around him.
Simultaneously overwhelmed by the confusion and passion that she feels for Alexander, Evelyn increasingly longs to turn her back on the life she has known and explore the earthly and spiritual longings the Earl has inspired. But, as the morning comes, Evelyn knows she must accompany her aunt on the rest of their journey to Mytton Grange to receive her marriage proposal from her suitor, Mr. Sutherby – a man she now knows she does not, and cannot, love.
Though he believes that lasting love with his beautiful and uninvited guest is impossible, Alexander can sense that Sutherby’s intentions for Evelyn are dishonest. Alexander knows that he must do everything to protect Evelyn from the evils that lie within her suitor’s heart – even if that intervention means exposing himself to the fear and rejection of the woman he desires.
Although it is part of a collection, entitled the Dark Brotherhood series, Adele Clee’s LOST TO THE NIGHT is a beautifully written, stand-alone novel and a must read for fans of vampire romance. Although the dangerous love between vampires and humans is a reoccurring theme in romantic literature, the quality of Clee’s writing infuses new life into a popular premise and her rich details and believable dialogue help to craft a story that would appeal to romance enthusiasts of nearly all backgrounds and preferred genres.
A thoroughly researched historical novel, Adele Clee immerses the reader in a vivid landscape filled with candlelit inns, unmarked carriages and the scent of rosewater on a woman’s skin. Though I am not always a fan of supernatural stories, I found that Clee’s ability to conjure vivid images in the mind of the reader greatly added the suspension of disbelief and the love story she tells would remain compelling even without supernatural elements.
Furthermore, the novel does an exceptional job of building the sexual tension between the hero and heroine and I especially appreciated Clee’s description of the radiating heat that accompanies the touch of their skin. Moreover, while the love scenes in LOST TO THE NIGHT are beautifully passionate, they are not gratuitous, and the novel repeatedly emphasizes the growing psychological connection between the lovers.
I would note that, while the hero of the novel is a vampire, LOST TO THE NIGHT contains very minimal violence and only a few chilling moments. While some enthusiasts of supernatural romance may prefer more frightening content, LOST TO THE NIGHT would be well-suited to readers who enjoy the excitement of otherworldly elements, without the graphic or disturbing content.
An exciting story about the redemptive and life-altering power of love, LOST TO THE NIGHT is a beautifully-written novel and a recommended read for anyone seeking to escape into an elegant and magical world of timeless passion.

 

Chance of a Lifetime Review

Chance of a Lifetime

“I shivered as Jenna fixed her gaze upon me. This was the first time I’d witnessed people having sex… to witness this disturbing mix of pain and raw pleasure set my heart racing with both fear and excitement.”
Dian Cinta is a beautiful and intelligent young woman, struggling to survive in an impoverished section of Jakarta, Indonesia. Dian’s father, who works on a rubber plantation, sacrificed his savings to pay for her English language education. As her mother’s eyesight fails, jeopardizing her job sewing shoes in a factory, Dian dreams of earning enough money to pay for a class in Economics to help protect her parents from destitution.
Joseph van der Waal is a man who is accustomed to having anything and anyone he desires. An international businessman who respects hard work and ambition, he is quick to recognize potential in those around him and willing to offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to those who show loyalty. Joseph is also a man with unusual sexual appetites and a lust for life that he expects his employees to share – and satisfy – without inhibition.
When a chance meeting brings Joseph and Dian together in the Jakarta airport, it’s clear that neither will ever be the same. Drawn to her innocence and her desire to help her family escape the oppressive poverty that surrounds them, Joseph sees a chance to help Dian fulfill her wildest dreams – and her wildest fantasies.
With the help of two of Joseph’s most faithful employees, Samuel and Patricia, both of whom were elevated from obscurity by his power, Dian is informed that those who agree to work for Joseph must be ready to give themselves to him and, if it pleases him, to each other, “body and soul.”
Joseph offers Dian not only a chance to take a college class, but to obtain a Master’s Degree, on the condition that she will learn to submit to his desires. Awed by his power and inspired by the hope of a new and exciting future, Dian agrees to his seductive terms and boards his private jet.
Once aboard his plane, Dian is immediately immersed in a series of eye-opening sexual experiences that simultaneously frighten and tantalize her. Though Joseph respects her initial reservations, Dian witnesses and participates in acts of public pleasure involving women and men, including Joseph taking, and disciplining, an eager flight attendant and becoming the fourth participant in an intense sexual tryst in Joseph’s onboard bedroom – with the promise of much more passion to come.
At only 34 pages, Annie Oakfield’s CHANCE OF A LIFETIME is an intensely hot tour de force that will leave most readers begging for more. Unlike many erotic short stories, which may contain 1-2 scenes of passion, Ms. Oakfield interweaves the entire second half of CHANCE OF A LIFETIME with lustful encounters.
Though the sexual content in this work is no more graphic than the acts of desire depicted in many other erotic romance stories, it is important to note that Oakfield does incorporate male-female, female-female and male-male sexual acts into her story, as well as group sexual experiences. However, the author does provide a reader advisory on the summary page for readers who are seeking a more traditional approach to erotica.
Overall, CHANCE OF A LIFETIME is well-written, thoughtfully researched and carefully edited. Furthermore, Dian’s character has a legitimately engrossing backstory and, in addition to enjoying the steamy content, the reader will likely find themselves cheering for Dian to find success.
That said, the brevity of the work does limit character development significantly. Though it is clearly part of the Jet Set Billionaires series, and the supporting characters will likely be explored in later works, CHANCE OF A LIFETIME doesn’t entirely feel like a standalone book. While the abrupt end to this work may drive interest in the second part of Dian’s story, some readers may feel a bit caught off guard by the sudden conclusion.
Notwithstanding, CHANCE OF A LIFETIME is a fun and incredibly steamy read and bodes very well for Ms. Oakfield’s other stories. I would highly recommend this sexy tale to readers looking for a pulse-pounding erotic story that contributes some creative twists to the billionaire subgenre.

Burn for Me Review

Where there’s smoke there’s fire and Lauren Blakely provides plenty of heat in her friends-turned-lovers story, “BURN FOR ME”

Welcome to Hidden Oaks, a small California town known for its Spring Festival, delectable wines and  scorching hot firemen. Hottest among them, is Smith Grayson, star of the Hidden Oaks Volunteer Firefighters Calendar, whose alluring looks and wicked talk are enough to banish the reserve of the strongest woman

Though we are given many examples of the true depth of Smith’s compassion, he has burned his way through the hearts and beds of many of the women of Twin Oaks. One exception, of course, is his long-time friend, Jamie Lansing. A smart, loyal and deeply romantic woman, Jaime is not immune to the charms of a dashing fireman. Yet, in the wake of her sister’s painful divorce from a devil-may-care charmer, Jaime has sworn off the temptation of smooth-talking men – even those with whom she feels an emotional connection – in favor of the intellectual love embodied in the sonnets she adores. But we already know, we cannot chose who we desire

After a slow dance turns into a blistering trist, Jamie is convinced that the only way to extinguish the desire ignited in her bones is to submit to her curiosity. Proposing an unconventional solution to their chemistry – one week of no-string-attached passion – Jamie hopes to let the fever run its course. However, the more she insists that she will not – cannot – fall in love with a man like Smith, the more convinced he becomes that he is the only man who can win both her body and her mind

Exceptionally well-written, Lauren Blakely infuses “BURN FOR ME” with stirring and believable emotions. From Jamie’s early self denial, to her fear of being used, to her final realization that “they” have become “we,” the reader connects emotionally with the heroine

Furthermore, while Smith’s rationale for failing to return Jamie’s first confession of love may leave the reader shaking their head in frustration, his coarse and rugged character is excellent as both a complement and foil to Jamie’s quest for ideal, romantic love

I especially enjoyed that Jamie is not treated as too old-fashioned in her desire for tender love and, while Shakespeare’s works make an appearance in the story, her surrender is no Taming of the Shrew. Nor is this a story about a woman who changes a playboy into an ideal lover for, as we are reminded, “love is not love which alters where it alteration finds.”  Instead, it is a story of a modern woman whose understandable fear of heartbreak has blinded her to the different ways that romance can appear in our lives – and who is blessed to have the best love right beside her all along

A steamy, yet sentimental, pleasure to read, I recommend this story to anyone who needs a little heat to get them through a chilly night.

At Last Review

“Slowly, his mouth moved over hers from one side to the other, and back again. He savored her, as if she was his favorite dessert, and Georgie thought her body would swoon from sheer pleasure. The tip of his tongue was and soft, as it teased her bottom lip to open. She obliged, and a whole new dance began.”
Georgianna “Georgie” Michaelson is beautiful, smart and independent. Responsible for the artistic vision of her parent’s business, Blue Grass Landscaping, the largest landscaping company in a three-county service area, Georgie has a deeply-held commitment to family and a clear picture of the man she wants in her life.
She won’t settle for anything less than a caring, faithful gentleman who has the potential to not only be a great lover, but also a great husband and father.
Georgie is not one to gamble with her heart or take risks in life or love – until she meets Lieutenant Kyle Mathews of the Shelbyville Fire Department. The mix of desire and compassion he awakens in her will forever change the way she views herself and her future.
When a vehicle containing a young woman and her baby is swallowed by a sink hole on the highway, Georgie and her brother, Samuel, are forced into action. As Samuel attempts a daring rescue, rappelling into the hole to pull the woman and child to safety, the hole begins to collapse. Before the attempted rescue becomes a tragedy, firefighters arrive on the scene and the skilled rescue team pulls the woman, her baby and Samuel to safety. These brave emergency personnel on the scene are led by a raven-haired, blue-eyed heartthrob named Kyle Mathews.
As devastatingly handsome and he is fearless, Kyle Mathews makes an immediate impression on Georgie and the attraction is mutual. However, Lieutenant Mathews leads a dangerous life and Georgie is understandably afraid to risk her heart on a man who takes chances with his life.
Not a man to be denied, Kyle is captivated by Georgie’s wit and beauty and he will not surrender their chemistry easily. Though she initially resists, Kyle pursues Georgie, slowing winning her affection with his humility, candor and love of family.
Far from the superficial womanizer she assumed him to be, Kyle Mathews is a man who had known great tragedy. Kyle chose to become a firefighter because of the death of his parents in a car accident and the impression the rescue personnel made on him as they saved his young life.
However, Georgie’s resolve is tested when Kyle undertakes a daring rescue without safety equipment at the Kentucky Derby.
When a man has a seizure on the Ferris Wheel, tipping his basket and becoming trapped between the spokes of the wheel, Kyle places his own life on the line to save the stranger, sustaining injuries in the process.
Devastated by the risk she has seen Kyle undertake and terrified that he will continue to jeopardize his physical safety and their romantic future through impulsive actions, Georgie leaves Kyle in the Emergency Room and begins to avoid him – losing herself in her work and her thoughts of what could have been.
AT LAST is a deeply romantic story, reinforced by themes of family, integrity, respect and civic duty. Thoughtfully written, Cynthia Roberts presents rich, three dimensional characters and immerses them in a lovely, vivid landscape that comes alive with her powerful use of descriptive language.
There are some minor grammatical errors present in the advanced reviewer edition of this novel, but they do not distract from the flow of the story, which is well-crafted and exciting, with a truly poignant ending.
Though AT LAST contains some steamy moments, it is more wholesome than many contemporary romance novels, focusing on the growing emotional connection between Georgie and Kyle, rather than their erotic potential. An enjoyable read, this story would be a fantastic fit for a reader who is looking for a return to a gentlemanly hero and an affirmation of the value of family, romantic devotion and public service.
This review, and others, can be found on my page at The Romance Reviews!