Reader’s Edyn

I always felt like I could do something more than just read. Finally, I have found both a creative outlet and a chance to do something meaningful with my reading. This blog was created in appreciation of and tribute to all of the authors who have brought me joy through their books. These reviews are my way of giving back to authors and providing recognition for the hard work that each one completes every day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

ARC Review: Tempted By Her Innocent Kiss (Pregnancy & Passion, Book 3) by Maya Banks

Title: Tempted By Her Innocent Kiss
          (Pregnancy & Passion, Book 3)
Author: Maya Banks
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin (Desire)
Category: Contemporary Romance
Type: Kindle/Paperback


Book Blurb:

Devon Carter was her first; now newly wed Ashley wants their passion to last. But her dreams of true love are crushed by the discovery that their marriage is another of Daddy's business deals. Her strategy: act the part of perfect wife and make Devon love her.

But Devon misses the bubbly, no-holds-barred woman his wife used to be. Who is this Ashley with the steely demeanor of a society wife? And will he find a way to rekindle the fire in her eyes…especially now that she's pregnant?

Book Excerpt:

There came a time in a man's life when he knew he was well and truly caught. Devon Carter stared down at the brilliant diamond solitaire ring nestled in velvet and acknowledged that this was one such time. He snapped the lid closed and shoved the box into the breast pocket of his suit.
He had two choices. He could marry Ashley Copeland and fulfill his goal of merging his company with Copeland Hotels, thus creating the largest, most exclusive line of resorts in the world, or he could refuse and lose it all.

Put in that light, there wasn't much he could do except pop the question.

The doorman to his Manhattan high-rise hurried to open the door as Devon strode toward the street, where his driver waited. He took a deep breath before ducking into the car, and the driver pulled into traffic.

Tonight was the night. All of his careful wooing—the countless dinners, kisses that started brief and casual and became more breathless—was a lead-up to tonight. Tonight his seduction of Ashley Copeland would be complete, and then he'd ask her to marry him.

He shook his head as the absurdity of the situation hit him for the hundredth time. Personally he thought William Copeland was crazy for forcing his daughter down Devon's throat. He'd tried everything to sway the older man from his aim to see his daughter married off. .to Devon.

Ashley was a sweet enough girl, but Devon had no desire to marry anyone. Not yet. Maybe in five years. Then he'd select a wife, have two-point-five children and have it all.

William had other plans. From the moment Devon had approached him, William held a calculated gleam in his eye. He'd told Devon that Ashley had no head for business. She was too soft-hearted, too naive, too…everything to ever take an active role in the family business. He was convinced that any man who showed interest in her would only be seeking to ingratiate himself into the Copeland fold—and the fortune that went with her. William wanted her taken care of and for whatever reason, he thought Devon was the best choice.

And so he'd made Ashley part and parcel of the deal. The catch? Ashley wasn't to learn of it. The old man might be willing to barter his daughter, but he damn sure didn't want her to know about it. Which meant that Devon was stuck playing stupid games. He winced at the things he'd said, the patience he'd exerted in his courting of Ashley. He was a blunt, straightforward person, and this whole mess made him grit his teeth.
If she was part of the deal, he'd rather all parties know that from the outset so there would be no misunderstandings, no hurt feelings and no misconceptions.

Ashley was going to think this was a grand love match. She was a starry-eyed, soft-hearted woman who preferred to spend time with her animal rescue foundation over board meetings, charts and financials for Copeland Hotels.

If she ever found out the truth, she wasn't going to take it well. And hell, he couldn't blame her. Devon hated manipulation, and he'd be pissed if someone was doing to him what he was doing to her.

"Stupid old fool," Devon muttered.

His driver pulled up to the apartment building that was home to the entire Copeland clan. William and his wife occupied a penthouse on the top floor, but Ashley had moved to a smaller apartment on a lower floor. Various other family members, from cousins to aunts and uncles, lived in all places in between.

The Copeland family was an anomaly to Devon. He'd been on his own since he was eighteen, and the only thing he remembered of his parents was the occasional reminder not to "screw up."

All this devotion William showered on his children was alien and it made Devon uncomfortable. Especially since William seemed determined to treat Devon like a son now that he was marrying Ashley.

Devon started to get out when he saw Ashley fly through the door, a wide smile on her face, her eyes sparkling as she saw him.

What the hell?

He hurried toward her, a frown on his face. "Ashley, you should have stayed inside. I would have come for you."

In response, she laughed, the sound vibrant and fresh among the sounds of traffic. Her long blond hair hung free tonight instead of being pulled up by a clip in her usual careless manner. She reached for his hands and squeezed as she smiled up at him.

"Really, Devon, what could happen to me? Alex is right here, and he watches over me worse than my father does."

Alex, the doorman, smiled indulgently in Ashley's direction. It was a smile most people wore around her. Patient, somewhat bemused, but nearly everyone who met her was enchanted by her effervescence.

Devon sighed and pulled Ashley's hands up to his waist. "You should wait inside where it's safe and let me come in for you. Alex can't protect you. He has other duties to attend to."

Her eyes sparkled merrily, and she flung her arms around his neck, startling him with the unexpected show of affection.

"That's what you're for, silly. I can't imagine anyone ever hurting me when you're around."

Before he could respond, she fused her lips hungrily to his. For God's sake the woman had no sense of self-control. She was making a spectacle here in the doorway to her apartment building.

Still, his body reacted to the hunger in her kiss. She tasted sweet and so damn innocent. He felt like an ogre for the deception he was carrying out.

But then he remembered that Copeland Hotels would finally be his—or at least under his control. He would be a force to be reckoned with worldwide. Not bad for a man who had been told that his sole ambition should be not to "screw up."

Carefully, he pulled her away and gently offered a reprimand.

"This isn't the place, Ashley. We should be going. Carl is waiting for us."

Her lips turned down into a momentary frown before she looked beyond him to Carl, and once again she rushed forward, a bright smile on her face.

He shook his head as she greeted his chauffeur, her hands flying everywhere as she spoke in rapid tones.

Carl grinned. The man actually grinned as he handed Ashley into the car. By the time Devon made it over, Carl had already reverted back to his somber countenance.

Devon slid into the backseat with Ashley, and she immediately moved over to nestle into his side.
"Where are we eating tonight?" she asked.

"I planned something special."

As expected she all but pounced on him, her eyes shining with excitement.

"What?" she demanded. He smiled. "You'll see."

He felt more than heard her faint huff of exasperation and his smile broadened. One thing in Ashley's favor was that she was extraordinarily easy to please. He was unused to women who didn't wheedle, pout or complain when their expectations weren't met. And unfortunately, the women he usually spent time with had high expectations. Expensive expectations. Ashley seemed happy no matter what he presented her with. He had every confidence that the ring he'd chosen would meet with her approval.

She nestled closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder. Her spontaneous demonstrations of affection still unbalanced him. He wasn't used to people who were so…unreserved.

William Copeland felt that Ashley needed someone who understood and accepted her nature. Why he thought Devon fit the bill Devon would never know.

When they married, he would work on getting her to restrain some of her enthusiasm. She couldn't go through her entire life with her emotions on her sleeve. It would only get her hurt.

A few minutes later, Carl pulled up to Devon's building and got out to open the door. Devon stepped out and then extended his hand to help Ashley from the car.

Her brow was creased in a thoughtful expression as she stared up at the building.
"This is your place."

He chuckled at her statement of the obvious. "So it is. Come, our dinner awaits."

He ushered her through the open door and into a waiting elevator. It soared to the top and opened into the foyer of his apartment. To his satisfaction, everything was just as he'd arranged.

The lighting was low and romantic. Soft jazz played in the background and the table by the window overlooking the city had been set for two.

"Oh, Devon, this is perfect!"

Once again she threw herself into his arms and gave him a squeeze worthy of someone much larger than herself. It did funny things to his chest every time she hugged him.

Extricating himself from her hold, he guided her toward the table. He pulled her chair out for her and then reached for a bottle of wine to pour them both a glass.

"The food is still hot!" she exclaimed as she touched the plate in front of her. "How did you manage it?"
He chuckled. "My super powers?"

"Mmm, I like the idea of a man with super cooking powers."

"I had someone in while I was gone to collect you."

She wrinkled her nose. "You're horribly old-fashioned, Dev. There was no reason to collect me if we were spending the evening at your apartment. I could have gotten a cab or had my father's driver run me over."
He blinked in surprise. Old-fashioned? He'd been accused of a lot of things, but never of being old-fashioned. Then he scowled.

"A man should see to his woman's needs. All of them. It was my pleasure to pick you up."

Her cheeks pinkened in the candlelight, and her eyes shone like he'd just handed her the keys to a brand-new car.

"Am I?" she asked huskily.

He cocked his head to the side as he set his wineglass down. "Are you what?"

"Your woman."

Something unfurled inside him. He wouldn't have considered himself a possessive man, but now that he'd decided that she would be his wife, he discovered he felt very possessive where she was concerned.

"Yes," he said softly. "And before the night is over, you'll have no doubts that you belong to me."

A full body shiver took over...

Dialogue Highlight:

Tonight, though, Devon was celebrating his own victory of sorts. He’d cornered William before the party had begun and told him that Copeland was going to sponsor Ashley’s animal shelter.
            William had been opposed until Devon threatened to refuse to take William’s place in the company. Devon wanted full sponsorship with a yearly allowance allocated to the shelter. He was determined that Ashley wouldn’t shed another damn tear over her beloved animals.
            His father-in-law grumbled and told Devon he was a besotted fool, but he’d given in, telling Devon he’d just do as he damn well wanted when he took over anyway. Which was absolutely true, but they didn’t have that much time and he needed William’s cooperation to fund the shelter now so it wouldn’t have to close.
            Now he just needed the right opportunity to tell Ashley the good news. Tonight in bed after the party seemed perfect. Then he’d make love to her until they were both insensible.
            He was yanked from his thoughts when he saw Cam pushing his way through the crowd. He grinned when Cam got to him and he slapped his friend on the back. “Well, we did it. Everything, Copeland. The new resort. Oh, ye of little faith.”
            Cam ignored Devon’s ribbing. His expression was grim and his gaze was focused over Devon’s shoulder across the room. “What the hell have you done to her, Dev?”
            Devon reared his head back. “Excuse me?” He turned, looking for the source of Cam’s attention, but all he saw was Ashley, standing where he’d left her so she wouldn’t be swallowed up by the crowd.
            Cam shook his head then turned his gaze on Devon. “You don’t even see it, do you?”
            Devon’s eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you talking about?”
            Cam made a sound of disgust. “Look at her, Dev.”
            Again, Devon followed Cam’s gaze to Ashley. He studied her a long moment.
            “Really look at her, Dev. Take a long, hard look.”
            Devon battled a surge of irritation. He was about to tell Cam to go to hell when Ashley rubber her hand over her forehead. The gesture seemed to make abundantly clear what perhaps he’d missed before. Maybe he’d been missing for a while. Or maybe it just took Cam drawing his attention to it.
            She was pale, her face drawn. She looked tired and exceedingly fragile. She looked…different. Not at all like the vivacious, sparkling woman he’d married.
            He frowned. “he probably has a headache.”
            “You’re a dumbass,” Cam said in disgust.
            Before Devon could respond, Cam turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Devin baffled by the anger in his friend’s voice.


Tempted By Her Innocent Kiss is book 3 in the Pregnancy & Passion series by Ms. Banks. Ashley has a father who is well-to-do in the business world and consequently has a company Devon wants to get his hands on in the interest of expanding the business he and his friends have worked to build over the years. William, Ashley’s father strikes a bargain with Devon. If he wants to do business with Copeland, Devon gets Ashley with the deal. William knows his daughter’s flaws and wants to be sure she is settled down with the right kind of man who will take care of her. The only condition is that Ashley must never find out the truth – that Devon married her as part of a business deal.

Ashley is free-spirited. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and is fiercely loyal to those who she loves. She would do anything for her friends and family. Devon is somewhat annoyed, but also slightly amused by Ashley’s seemingly childish antics. She calls him out of the blue at work just to tell him she loves him. She leaves her things all over the place. She spends a lot of time at the animal shelter helping out with the abandoned animals. And she doesn’t know the meaning of “grow up” – or so Devon believes. When Ashley discovers the truth of William and Devon’s scheme on her wedding night, she is forced to grow up fast.

In an effort to save what “could be” of her marriage, Ashley makes drastic changes. She banishes all traces of her cluttered ways around the apartment, she changes the way she dressed and styles her hair, she dives head-long into domestic responsibilities like learning how to cook ~~~ and all along, she looses herself. It is almost like she dies a little inside. I probably would to knowing my husband only cared for me but didn’t love me, married me as a business arrangement with my father, and wanted me to change the very essence of who I was. But she makes an effort. The problem is that while Devon begins to miss the silly phone calls and random aspects to the sparkling personality that was once Ashley, he also does not realize that she is no longer herself. Attributing her changes to adjusting to married life, he is not overly concerned with the remarkable differences. Unfortunately for Devon, Ashley decides she has had it when she discovers she is pregnant. And Devon might be too dense to grasp the gravity of Ashley’s impact in his life; not to mention his oblivion of the depth of his feelings toward her.

I enjoyed this story. Some people might be turned off by the Pregnancy & Passion component to this series. I, however, am not one of those people. I appreciate how people oftentimes change their outlook on life what they realize an innocent life has joined the picture. I have seen it happen in real life countless times. Why wouldn’t the same be viable in romance as well? And so far in the series, the pregnancies have been minimal to the actual storyline. Yeah, sounds contradictory doesn’t it. What I mean is that while the pregnancy helps to push the main characters in the right direction, we are not bombarded with all things baby. I really think that those who shy away from this series would not be put off with the stories as they stand. The fact that happy-ever-after isn’t just *POOF* in front of us makes the journey that much sweeter – and equally painful. Not that I enjoy the pain of the main characters, but I do love to see the transitions from one mind set to another and the events that get them from point A to point B. While the story is short at less than 200 pages, both the depth of character and development of character is executed in a believable way. The story does seem to end rather abruptly and an epilogue would have been a welcomed addition. However, knowing that book 4 is on the way makes that complaint minimal at best. Bottom line, this story is a quick, enjoyable read. Those holding back simply because of the “pregnancy” aspect should put their reservations aside and give it a go. Chances are you’ll enjoy your time spent with Ms. Banks, her business tycoons, and the women who tame them.

(Digital ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley for review.)

~*~You can read my review of Enticed By His Forgotten Lover (Pregnancy & Passion, Book 1) by clicking here.

~*~Book 4 in the series, Undone By Her Tender Touch is set to release May 1, 2012.

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