In the last few months, I’ve read several scintillating scorchers mostly while relaxing by cooling bodies of water. By a pool in Charlotte, on a beach in Hilton Head, and by a lake at the base of Pike’s Peak in Colorado. Everyone loves a juicy novel, one you can sink into while you lay out in the sun, enjoying a moment of unadulterated escapism. While I traveled, I raced through several books this summer, loving the stories and the characters, and enjoying a few delicious cocktails while wrapping myself in words.
For the summer, I have a few choices that are worthy of being called a hot cocktail read— books that you can enjoy while sipping your summer drinks while you lap up every ounce of sunshine you can before the weather starts to cool. Of course, you can enjoy them year round, as they are just as fun to read as you sit by the shore and even better when you can cuddle with your honey in front of a fire.
Set in Baltimore at the Hard Ink Tattoo shop, the series focuses on a group of unjustly disgraced Special Forces hotties, and each novel follows one member of the group and his quest for justice and love. The books follow a familiar plot line: inherently good bad boy meets a sweet and sexy damsel in distress, and he must use his special skills to help solve her problem and save the day. While the storylines are not unfamiliar, the characters are still quite likable and genuine. The novels keep you interested by turning up the level of danger and heightening the excitement. I loved the sensuality of the couples, and the sexy moments coupled with cool action and suspense. These are books you can’t put down once you start.
Hard as It Gets is the first novel, which sets up the main storyline that continues throughout the series. Hard Ink Tattoo is owned by brothers Jeremy and Nick Rixey. Both are talented artists, but Nick was once a Special Forces hero whose team was kicked out of the Army after being betrayed by their commander. Becca Merritt comes to Hard Ink to ask him to help find her missing brother. The only negative Becca has going for her is that she is the daughter of the commander that betrayed Nick and his team while they fought in Afghanistan. While falling in love with Becca, Nick convinces his team to join him at Hard Ink, where they set up a base of operations, and make amends with each other. Becca also seems to have some of the keys that will help the team regain their honor and clear their names.
Hard as You Can is the second novel in the series, this one about Nick’s teammate Shane McCallan, who while helping Nick find Becca’s brother, meets Crystal Dean at a local strip club. Their story is linked to the overall plot line, as Crystal works for the underworld boss who was working with Commander Merritt, and helped to cause the team’s betrayal and disgrace. The love story between Shane and Crystal is a little darker, and a bit more far fetched than Nick and Becca’s, but it was a fun read and long on hot action.
For contemporary romance novels, this series is one of my favorite summer picks. The next installment is the novella Hard to Hold On To set for release August 8th, featuring Nick and Shane’s fellow team member, Edward “Easy” Cantrell, who falls for Crystal’s sister, Jenna Dean. The next full length novel is Hard to Come By set for release in November. This one features team member Derek DiMarzio who falls for Emilie Garza, the sister of a man who helped Merritt betray their team.
This series was more along the lines of the typical romance novel, yet set in medieval times. All three books are linked by the female characters, and all three females must tame headstrong knights in shining armor. Pun intended.
Forever His: A Time-Travel Romance is the first novel, and it is a mix of contemporary romance and historical fiction. Celine finds herself pulled back in time while visiting her family estate in France, only to find herself in bed with Sir Gaston de Varennes who thinks she is the ward of the man set to destroy him.
The second novel is His Forbidden Touch with Princess Ciara who falls in love with her travel escort, Royce Saint-Michel. Royce, who was once Gaston’s Captain of the Guard, is tasked to deliver an untouched Ciara to her royal wedding. Ciara, who is marrying to save her people and her kingdom, can’t help but fall in love with Royce, who was once her brother’s best friend and her father’s best knight.
His Captive Bride is the third novel of the series, and this one has Gaston and Celine’s widowed sister-in-law, Lady Avril de Varennes, captured as a bride for immortal Viking, Hauk Valbrand.
While all three were definitely well-written, and fun escapism, my favorite is His Forbidden Touch because I liked Ciara and Royce, and the way they fell in love was the most realistic of the three couples. The other two were still great, and you do not have to read them in order to understand the plot lines or characters. If you like historical fiction and steamy romance, these are perfect to add to your Kindle wish list.
These novels are not really “hot” but they are good cocktail reads, as they are engaging and fun, and definite romances. I am so in love with (Not Stephanie) Meyer’s sci-fi reboots of classic fairytales. Cinder is the first novel in the series— a revamped version of “Cinderella,” with Scarlet and Cress to follow. There are also three short stories attached to the series: Glitches, which is a prequel to Cinder, The Queen’s Army, a prequel to Scarlet, and The Little Android, which is a retooling of “The Little Mermaid.”
Cinder is a cyborg mechanic who has to fix androids and comp screens in order to support her harpy step-mother and her step-sisters. Cinder lives in New Beijing, 126 years after WWIV, under the rule of Emperor Rikan. The Emperor’s son, Prince Kai, has an annual ball held in his honor so that he can find a wife. Amid a terrible plague that threatens Earth, and faced with invasion from the despicable Lunars, Cinder has more than enough trouble on her hands. I loved Cinder, who is portrayed as strong, talented, and smart, and along with her very mysterious past, makes for an excellent protagonist.
Scarlet continues Cinder’s story, another version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” with Scarlet searching for her missing Grandmother and being helped by rogue street fighter Wolf. Scarlet and Wolf join Cinder and Captain Thorn in order to save Earth from the vicious Lunar Queen Levana.
Cress, is an update on “Rapunzel.” Crescent Moon is an expert hacker who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood. She joins Cinder and Scarlet to help save the world from war with the Lunars and stopping Levana from marrying Emperor Kai.
A fourth novel, The Fairest, is set to launch in January, 2015. I dare you to start reading the free short stories on Marissa Meyer’s website and not become hooked. These novels are billed as “Young Adult” but I thought they read just as well as any novel I’ve read this summer. They are clever and fun, adventurous and full of romance. If you don’t want to think of them as YA books, pour yourself a cocktail and tell yourself you’re reading a Sci-Fi romance. It will still work.