Friday, July 14, 2017

Blog Tour: Excerpt and Review for "Wicked Grind" by J. Kenner


Sometimes it feels so damn good to be bad

Photographer Wyatt Royce’s career is on the verge of exploding. All he needs is one perfect model to be the centerpiece of his sexy, controversial show. Find her, and Wyatt is sure to have a winner.

Then Kelsey Draper walks in. Stunning. Vibrant. And far too fragile for a project like this. Wyatt should know—after all, he remembers only too well why their relationship ended all those years ago.

Determined to break free from her good girl persona, Kelsey wants spice. Adventure. And she’s certain that Wyatt is just the man to help.

But when Wyatt agrees to give her the job only if he has complete control—on camera and in his bed—Kelsey can’t help but wonder if she’s in too deep. Because how can a good girl like her ever be enough for a man like Wyatt?

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She was driving him crazy.
The way she held his eyes while she moved, so bold and flirtatious, as if she was just daring him to pull her into his arms and kiss her senseless.
Daring him? No, strike that. She wasn’t just daring him, she was throwing down a goddamned gauntlet. But was she challenging him to claim her? Or was she goading him that he couldn’t have her?
Damned if he knew. Right then, Wyatt was certain of only one thing—his body was tight, his cock was hard, and he wanted to be somewhere other than here. Someplace without other people.
Someplace with a bed.
It was the dancing that did it. Because Kelsey Draper and her dancing had always been his downfall. After all, that was what had started everything all those years ago. He’d seen her dancing to a bouncy pop song, her interpretation elevating the music and lyrics. He’d seen passion and precision, sensuality and seduction. She’d enchanted him. Cast a spell over him.
He’d seen the magic in her, so much larger than the quiet, subdued girl he’d met before. The Kelsey he’d watched dancing had surprised him. She was vibrant. Alive. Unexpected.
He’d fallen hard, and then she’d broken his heart.
He wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
He might want her—hell, he <em>did</em> want her. For his bed. For his show.
But he damn sure wasn’t going to trust her. He’d already learned that lesson, and he really didn’t need a refresher course.
As he watched, she dropped to the floor, then used one hand to rip open her shirt before letting it fall down her arms. She writhed on stage, her seductive movements making him ache inside, all the more when he imagined taking it further. Her wrists bound not with a tattered blouse, but with silk ropes. And not just her wrists, but her legs as well. Red ropes, the only color in an otherwise black and white image. Her body twisting, and the audience unsure if she was fighting the bonds or reveling in her own rising passion.
She was exactly what he needed for the show. The complete package. Hell, he’d known that from the moment she’d walked into his studio.
So why was he hesitating?
Because he wanted her?
Or was it because he wanted to punish her?
Or maybe it was even more insidious than that. Maybe it came down to how much was riding on this show. It was his shot, after all. The apex of all his work and sacrifice. The chance to escape from under the black cloud his father had left hanging over him.
The chance to prove himself to his family.
To live up to the goddamn Segel name.
But that would only happen if the show was a success.
So maybe that was why he was hesitating. Because the moment he committed was the moment the truth crept toward him on little cat paws, and it would either curl up and purr, or rip his heart out.
On stage, Kelsey rose, then did some sort of pirouette, twirling as she pulled off one of those transparent, colored scarves that served as a barely-there skirt. Wyatt imagined his hands on her waist, the brush of her skin against his palms as she spun. He could imagine her heat. The way she shivered under his touch.
So help him, he wanted that. Wanted to hear her sighs. Those little moans he remembered.
Another scarf went flying, and he straightened so that he was no longer leaning against the pillar. Instead, he shifted his weight from foot to foot as he tried to tamp down the rising lust. The violent need. To not only have her, but to have her in his show.
He wanted her, yes. But she was an indulgence he couldn’t justify. An indulgence and a risk, because he knew damn well that she’d run if things got too intense.
And damn but his show was intense. That was the point, after all.
He couldn’t take a chance on her, no matter how much he might want to. Couldn’t even bring her in only long enough to test her out. Not on such a tight schedule. Not when there was no way to ensure that she wouldn’t bolt.
Kelsey was a risk he simply couldn’t take. He had to get it right. There was too much at stake for him to be wrong about her.
The final scarf fluttered to the ground, and Wyatt’s pulse pounded in his throat as he moved closer, his mouth going dry as she reached for her bra, pulled it over her head, then tossed it aside.
The music faded out, and the dim, colored stage lights made the flesh-colored G-string blend into her pale skin, enhancing the illusion that she now stood before the entire room not just topless, but one hundred percent, birthday-suit naked.
She took a bow as the lights came up, and the men in the audience actually stood to applaud her. She’d blown away the competition, and even though Wyatt wanted to rush the stage and wrap his jacket around her, he couldn’t deny the swell of pride he felt for her victory.

J.Kenner (aka Julie Kenner) is the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal and #1 International bestselling author of over seventy novels, novellas and short stories in a variety of genres. Though known primarily for her award-winning and international bestselling erotic romances (including the Stark and Most Wanted series) that have reached as high as #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, JK has been writing full time for over a decade in a variety of genres including paranormal and contemporary romance, “chicklit” suspense, urban fantasy, and paranormal mommy lit. JK has been praised by Publishers Weekly as an author with a “flair for dialogue and eccentric characterizations” and by RT Bookclub for having “cornered the market on sinfully attractive, dominant antiheroes and the women who swoon for them.” A five time finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award, JK took home the first RITA trophy awarded in the category of erotic romance in 2014 for her novel, Claim Me (book 2 of her Stark Trilogy). Her Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series (as Julie Kenner) is currently in development with AwesomenessTV/Awestruck. Her books have sold over three million copies and are published in over twenty languages. In her previous career as an attorney, JK worked as a clerk on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced primarily civil, entertainment and First Amendment litigation in Los Angeles and Irvine, California, as well as in Austin, Texas. She currently lives in Central Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and two rather spastic cats. 

Thank you to the publisher and author for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

I really enjoyed my time with this book! I've only read one other title by J. Kenner, but her writing is such that I can see myself going back and reading some of her other books in the future.

What's to love? Quite a few things, actually. I liked the second chance trope here - it worked really well for the most part. By going back and forth between the present and the past, I was able to see the deep connection between Wyatt and Kelsey, evident from their very first meeting. I was also quite involved in finding out why two such kindred spirits were separated in the first place - the pages seemed to rush by as I devoured this book, trying to solve the mystery, and while I had my suspicions, things actually went down a little bit differently than I first imagined!

The characters themselves were quite unique, and their personalities pulled me further into their story. Wyatt, while not exactly my type, was charismatic and artistic in an interesting way. I liked how he wanted to build his own success without resting on the laurels of his famous family, and while some of his actions made me cringe, they always made sense in the context of his character.  

Likewise, Kelsey also intrigued me. I loved how passionate she was about her dancing, but I could also understand the conflicts she was facing in her life. The guilt she felt, too, was not completely unfounded. I think in her shoes, I would be feeling the same way she did, and that just made her all the more relatable to me.  

I need to take a moment here to just say that occasionally, a side character comes along in a book that I feel particularly partial to, and I find myself wanting to beg the author to please, pretty please, write that character's story!!!  In "Wicked Grind", that character was Kelsey's brother, Griffin. He stole my heart more than any other character in this book, and I would like to declare right this minute that I would be the first in line to buy his book if ever J. Kenner decided to write it!

Okay, enough of a digression there, back to the book review at hand. Of course, hardly any book is without its faults, and "Wicked Grind" is no exception, although my complaints are fairly minor. First off is perhaps due to my own expectations: I thought this book would be more erotic, to be honest. It really wasn't all that steamy! A good chunk of the book takes place in the past, when Wyatt and Kelsey were teenagers, and while I appreciated the buildup of the relationship, I definitely wasn't getting all hot and bothered. With the present timeline, again there was that buildup of tension, but things didn't really get going until about 60%.  For a book of this genre, the slow burn was a bit too slow for my liking.

A couple of other niggling details:
  • The title - what does "Wicked Grind" even mean? It's not that I dislike the title, exactly, it's just that there was absolutely no connection to the story that I could see.

  • The cover - I like the colour scheme and the fonts that were used, but not a fan of the lipstick, sorry. 

Overall, I liked this book and would probably be tempted to pick up others in the series, especially if one of them featured Griffin!

My rating: 3.5 stars

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