BLOG REVIEW: Blackout by Rosalie Stanton

Early-20s heroine was an efficient & friendly secretary
who had a secret crush on her 31yo boss, lawyer Hero, 
before she gets unexpectedly fired by the law firm. It leaves her shocked, destitute, desperate, and mad. 
Desperate and vengeful enough to agree to steal a case file of Hero's current high-profile client for $100,000.  She almost gets away from stealing it from Hero's apartment
until he catches up to her in his apartment elevator.
Then, a blackout occurs, trapping them both inside. 
Now they finally have the chance to air things out in the open...For heroine to confront Hero on why he got her fired and why he has her videotape...For Hero to confess how he anonymously received the self-pleasuring videotape she made for her ex-boyfriend.
And, instead of throwing it away or telling her about it, he watched it obsessively ever since, transforming his admiration & attraction for her into an addiction to her. Making it impossible for him to get any work done, especially when heroine was around.
...For heroine to express her betrayal by him...And for them to do something about the sexual yearning they now know is mutual.
But, as explosive as they are sexually, there's still much that's unresolved. Will heroine give Hero back his file? What will he do if she doesn't? Can she forgive him for betraying her?

Never read Stanton before but I'll be looking into more from her now. This is a novella (70+ pages) but it packs a punch. Great sexual chemistry & steamy sex scenes. Never knew you could do those things in an elevator. Good thing there were no videocams in there. Heroine's self-pleasuring tape got her in enough trouble as it is.  The steamy sex scenes highlighted both their physical attraction to each other as well as their emotional attachment. Hero and heroine only had a professional relationship before the elevator scene. But not without hugely lusting and longing for each other in secret. They're both decent people who work hard to make a life for themselves. Heroine was supporting her younger brother financially through college.  And it had been 3 weeks since she'd been jobless, since no one would hire her since she was fired by Hero's law firm. Thus, her desperation to steal the file from an odious client of Hero's for $100K.  Hero himself was only an up & coming lawyer & was not a wealthy man. He worked hard at the prestigious law firm that hired him straight out of law school. Their current dilemma with the stolen file meant a lot to both of them. It said much about their caring for each other to want to give the file to the other.  Hero ends up persuading heroine to keep it. But heroine drops it at his office the next day.
 

Hero's obsession with heroine was hot. However, his underhanded & admittedly selfish way of handling her sex tape was not.  He didn't know who left her sex-tape on his office desk but didn't talk to her about it. He kept her sex tape for himself & used it for his own pleasure. Daily. It wasn't her fault that thoughts of her kept him from work. Yet, he indirectly punished her for it by attempting to transfer her to another department at the firm. But she erroneously got fired by the firm's human resource department instead.  It bothered me that he didn't have the guts to talk to her about the sex-tape he received anonymously. Whether openly or with great discretion. I understood that he felt embarrassed by it and even for her. But it was a very private matter for her and he violated it by his keeping the tape, repeatedly watching it, and not telling her about it . His passivity made him not so alpha but I understood his fears. And he did redeem himself.

    -------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-----------

1. He sincerely apologized to heroine for his misdeeds. Finally being open & honest with her about his feelings, promising her that he would take care of the stolen file.

2. Hero quit his valuable job at the firm. He did so because:

1.) heroine's security & happiness was more important to him than his own

He didn't give the file back to his firm, telling them it was stolen from his apartment. He gave the file to his client's stepdaughter instead, the person who sent heroine to steal the file in exchange for money. He demanded that heroine get paid as initially agreed upon.

2.) he no longer wanted to compromise his morals to protect high-profile criminal clients

He took a big risk in resigning from the prestigious firm he'd been working hard for the past 6 years. Being jobless without much financial security was better than losing heroine and losing more of his integrity.

3. When heroine gave him another chance at the end, Hero accepted her reticence to commit to him permanently. Yet he let her know that he wanted her with him when he woke up in the morning, to watch movies at night together, and to spend holidays with their families. He also requested her help in the firm he's planning on starting, showing her how much he wanted her in his life forever.

I loved the epilogue, with him proposing 1-yr  later. Then, 3 years later, they celebrate their anniversary at the same apartment elevator (she was having a hard time letting go of the apartment since it's where their romance began). By this time Hero now had his own firm, with heroine assisting him when not working at her own art gallery.

     ----------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-------------------------------------


I liked that Hero did his best to fix the problems he caused heroine without expecting to get anything back. He just wanted to help her and make her life better, after he messed it up with his betrayal of her.


Liked sweet and nice heroine's sass. She had nothing to lose now that she was no longer working with him. So, she confronted him about getting her fired and finding her videotape in his apartment (i.e.,“It looks like you’ve been getting off watching me get off.”). She was on to him and she demanded honesty. I liked how she didn't cower or how she wouldn't be swayed by his charm & other tangents. It was funny how she'd box him in with her frankness, shocking him and turning him on at the same time. And prodding him to be as frank as he'd never been with her. I also liked that she didn't get taken in by his sexual prowess. It gave her power that she never had with him. Not that she was playing games. She was being genuine and she needed time to think about things.

A sweet but steamy romance. There were some scenes that didn't make sense to me though & wouldn't have been missed if never were written in. Why would heroine's ex-BF send her sex tape to her boss? Her ex had no knowledge of her crush on her boss since neither had any contact since she broke up with him for cheating. Why did her ex's apology & transformation make heroine forgive Hero & want to give him another chance? I really didn't get that. She should've kicked her cheating ex's butt instead of wanting closure with him & getting help for her confusion. Her visit to her ex seemed odd & unnecessary.  She would've gotten closure without him, given some time & introspection.

I recommend this book.

4-star 

BLOG REVIEW: For Love Alone by Lucy Gordon

23y.o English artist wakes up with no memory of who she is or her past.
 Or of the Italian man she married just the day before.
And whom she ran away from right after
The reason for doing so is only 1 of the many mysteries for her. And 34y.o. electronics manufacturer Hero won't tell her much. He wants her to remember on her own and gives her the space he thinks she needs. 
Heroine, however, doesn't want space. She wants answers now and is convinced of her love for him. 
As much as he wants to do the right thing, he soon stops resisting their powerful attraction.
It doesn't take long for the past to intrude on their marital bliss. She accidentally finds out that they knew each other 8 years ago. 
And his ex-girlfriend's unexpected appearance arouses new doubts about Hero's motives for marrying her. 
As well as her ex-fiance's accusations of Hero's role in her trauma 8 years ago.
It's Hero's continued reticence to disclose the truth, however, that seems more damning. What happens when she finally remembers everything?
 

I loved the Hero in this Gordon book. He's a strong & honorable alpha male. It's not apparent in the start of the book but it became clearer later. He did have 1 act of offense towards heroine, which was traumatic for both of them. This part became the bigger mystery towards the latter half of the book.

          -----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details------------

24yo. Hero found out that 15y.o heroine's father stole his design and was marketing it as his. Her father was about to make multi-millions out of it, without a cent or nod towards Hero. Hero confronted her father but he denied it. He could only surmise that it was heroine who gave her father access to his invention design. When he confronts her about it, she sincerely apologized for her mistake. Hero was tossing his scrap papers of his design on the floor and she picked one up to write something on the opposite side. It was this scrap paper that her father found in her room later.

Heroine was effusive and immediate in her apologies but Hero's rage would not abate. He continued to lash her with condemning and disparaging accusations until he left. She talked to her father at no avail. He whisked her off to England instead. And she never forgave him for stealing from Hero. The wealth they lived on the next 8 years was tainted in her eyes. Her father tried to make amends, including her in his business management. But she couldn't get past what he did to Hero and not having made right with him ever. Most of all, she blamed herself for wrecking Hero's life with her carelessness. She wrote him a letter of apology but never got a reply.

Hero went back to heroine's house to apologize to her. But she'd already left for England. He received her letter of apology & wrote her back several times. She never replied back to any of his letters. He'd castigated himself for how badly he treated her due to his anger & helplessness over what her father did. He knew that heroine would never dream of hurting him, least of all by stealing his design. He knew her as a kind, giving, and open person. They had spent months with each other that year, with heroine becoming an honorary member of his family because of how much time she spent with his family. As years went by, he still carried the debt of his mistreatment of heroine. 

However, when he sees her in the present time, he acts as if she owes him. It was part of his ploy to get her to be with him. Heroine didn't seem to happy to see him again and she had a fiance. So, Hero's desperation to have her meant desperate measures. Thus, his blackmailing her into marrying him.
 
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I loved how he loved her. His self-control and self-sacrifices showed his love for her. Hero wasn't a talkative man. He was closed off for the most part. He didn't want to tell heroine much of their history for fear that it might set her back even more or be viewed as his manipulations. His resistances to her seductive attempts were sexy. We knew he wanted her and they were married but he didn't want to compromise her health in any way. When he gave in, it wasn't because he was weak or weaker than her but because she made it clear that she wanted to be intimate with him, memory or not. And she loved him. He didn't let his emotions and urges overwhelm his protectiveness of her. He'd already learned that hard lesson.
 
Heroine's unrequited love for Hero was interestingly set up. When they met & spent time together at age 15, she was in love with him while his eyes was for his girlfriend. However, towards the end of that period of their lives, he seemed to become aware of her as more than a tag-along buddy. Especially when she declared her love for him and asked him to kiss her a couple times. In fact, their second kiss (the 1st kiss was her giving him a quick & reckless kiss) was reciprocal. But he stopped, embarrassed and feeling bad for taking advantage of a teenager. It was telling though, when he told her that in a different lifetime things would have been different between them. So, when they met again 8 years later, things became as they should be.
 
I highly recommend this book.  
4.5-star

BLOG REVIEW: P.S. You're Mine by Alexa Riley

It was with some hesitancy that shy homebody, 24yo plus-sized high-school teacher,
writes her 1st letter to 37yo US Marine Corp Major Hero 
as part of her students' pen pal program to soldiers on active duty. Devout military-man Hero uncharacteristically begins corresponding to her by mail,
especially heartened when she confirms that she's single as he is. There was something about heroine and her letters & packages of homemade cookies that strike him just the right way.
As the year goes by, the letters become much more personal, revealing things to each other & whetting their urge to see each other in person as soon as Hero is done with this last military tour. So, it perplexes heroine when her letters & packages are returned, without any word from him about what's going on. 
Is she destined to live life alone in her South Carolina town?
Or is he on his way to her & their new life together? 
The answer is in the SPOILERS section.

Great novella. Has the kind of tropes I LOVE: independent virgin heroine, alpha-obsessive Hero, character development, great chemistry, hot sex scenes, and guaranteed HEA. I have 2 minor niggles(As of 2/4/16, my 1st niggle has been resolved. Read below), the 2nd one is part of my Spoilers. The 1st is Hero's possible celibacy during their 1-year of correspondence. It seemed like he might be due to his loyal character but it wasn't clearly expressed in the 50-page story. Other reviewers in Goodreads seemed to think Hero was celibate though. So maybe I skipped that page? (UPDATE 2/4/16: Contacted Alexa Riley to ask if Hero was celibate since heroine's 1st letter to him & her reply was: "ABSOLUTLY! He never touched anyone after he got Katies fist letter." So, Hero WAS celibate during their 1 year correspondence due to his love for heroine. YES!!!!!!).  Anyhow, it's a wonderful love story with some hot sex scene towards the end. Riley's great with combining emotion with steamy & explicit sex scenes. I think I may be a fan.

There was a little bit of angst from heroine's POV(point of view), when her letters were returned & time went by without any contact from Hero. As hurt and confused as she was, she had changed enough from the courage & confidence she found through her 1-year correspondence to Hero to not mope around at home & be more actively involved to pursue life. Dressed to the nines & about to leave her house to go out for the night with her BFF(best friend), she got another surprise:

       -----------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to read the book's details----------

It was Hero outside her door. In the flesh. Hero wanted to surprise her & it worked. The kind of fantasy-fulfilling surprise. With him, immediately grabbing her into his arms & kissing her like no tomorrow. His hands on her butt with her plastered to him, pushing them both to the wall. <fanning self> A sexy-smexy on the wall surprise! Her BFF excused herself immediately. And Hero and heroine moved things on to the bedroom. Soon enough, heroine was a virgin no longer. I loved how demanding yet controlled and loving he was sexually with her. It matched how he was in non-sexual ways with her. This brings me to my 2nd niggle with this book. Hero's unfinished “P.S.” in all his letters to her was part of the mystery he had for her. So, this book's title TOTALLY SPOILS the whole “P.S.” mystery. Why do that?! This 50-page book could do with that kind of mystery.

The best part of the end was not just the hot sex scene & marriage proposal. There's an epilogue...20 YEAR LATER!!!! It showed both of them still hot & heavy & embarrassing their youngest twins while attending their first-born son's graduation. I absolutely loved it! I'd been complaining about the lack of long-term epilogues in romance books that showed Hero and heroine's love still going strong after many years, including post-kids. This 20-year epilogue shut me up and left me smiling.

       -------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS----------------------------------------------
 

I highly recommend this book..
4.5-star

BLOG REVIEW: Playing with Dynamite by Leanne Banks

Her 9 months of romance with late-20s Hero has been blissful.
However, having just turned 30 is making caterer heroine determined to pursue all her wishes and dreams.
Even if it means breaking things off with Hero and leaving the happiness she found in his arms forever.
She wishes for marriage and starting a family soon but Hero wants neither. Ever. And, no matter his words and promises of love to her, they don't include marriage and children.
Demolitions expert Hero doesn't want to breakup.
Yet he can't give her what she wants either. Waiting things out only gives her the time to find another man to marry & father her children.
Proposing a friends-only relationship may get him close to her.
But still not as close as he'd really like because of her resistance,
 even when things turn as intimate as they used to.
 She still won't take him back without marriage.
While he can't seem to tell her why he can't marry her.
How do they get past their impasse?
 
I'm a Banks fan but I didn't find this book as exciting as her other ones. Nothing majorly wrong. Just not as gripping and emotionally pulling as her other ones. The plot was quite predictable. Hero and heroine's romance was already quite stable. They knew their caring was mutual. Both were committed to each other but just not as much as heroine would like. Thus, the romance problem. Which the word “gamophobia” sums up:


     ------------SPOILERS: Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details-----------

After months of struggling to get heroine back, Hero finally went to a therapist for his panic attacks when marriage was brought up. He was diagnosed with “gamophobia”, which is the fear of marriage. The poor man had full on panic symptoms (i.e., profusely sweating, getting dizzy, terror feelings), when considering marriage. He loved heroine & wanted to be with her always. But he just could not think of marrying her without feeling terrified. He knew his marriage phobia had to something to do with his mother dying when he was 12 and his father becoming depressed & neglectful as a result and soon marrying a horrible woman. He just didn't know how to break his panic symptoms from flaring at the word “marriage”. Hero could also see how important it was for her to be married and have kids, with her persistence in dating until she met the right marriage candidate. So, he became desperate enough and sought professional help.

     -----------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS--------------------------------------

The whole "gamophobia" theme was unique as the main romance plot just because of how bad it was for Hero. It was so bad that he qualified for its mental diagnosis. The book centers around it and is the only thing keeping Hero and heroine from getting back together. As extreme it was as a problem for Hero though, it didn't feel that poignant or angsty for me. Maybe it's because commitment issues are common among men in real life. Or maybe it's because Hero and heroine were quite committed already that it was predictable that his gamophobia would get resolved & they get on with their HEA(happily ever after). Whatever it was this book was an average read for me. Their love and loyalty to each other was apparent. Although heroine dated many men during their break-up months, heroine's heart wasn't really in it and no sex was involved. Hero stayed loyal to and celibate for her, not interested in dating any other woman. He spent his time visiting his siblings and helping them out in various projects. When he was in town and not working, he would try to spend as much time with her as a friend, which was really him trying to dissuade her from her dates and convince her that they were meant to be together.


I admired heroine's firmness with Hero and even with her desire for him. It was a new dynamic in their relationship, since he usually sets the pace in their 9-month relationship and she was the one who usually conceded. She's basically a soft-hearted and kind person. So, being firm with somebody she loves was tough for her. But it had to be done. She valued herself—her dreams of a marriage & family—as much as she loved Hero. She knew herself enough that merely being with Hero outside the institution of marriage and without children would eventually make her unhappy. And, thus, their romance a big problem like it had become. So, she set limits and broke things off with Hero. They did kiss a few times during their break up. And even smexed once. But she was insightful in realizing that combustible sex was never going to be enough for her. She was persistent in her intent to find a compatible man to marry. It seemed desperate to me but it did show how single-minded she can become with her goals. Her firmness helped Hero reach his point of desperation and let him see what he needed to do to fix things on his end.

I moderately recommend this book.
3.5-star