Tickle Me by Monica Bouvier

ImageTickle Me by Monica Bouvier is billed as a romance novel, but the reader may find it to be more of a coming-of-age tale than anything else. The focus of the story is Alice and her transformation from an insecure, gawky loner to a confident, engaged woman. The catalysis behind this transformation is an online affair, but Alice ultimately decides to change her own attitude.

Ever since her childhood, Alice felt ugly and unimportant. Coming from a dysfunctional family, she spent her time buried in tomes of Greek Mythology rather than dating or making friends. As a young adult, she had to care for her ailing parents, taking a job she did not want. At work, she seems to be the brunt of the joke, never getting credit for anything. She has a single friend in Patty, who is an outgoing, party animal.

Then Alice meets Erik through an online dating site and goes through a slow transformation. She starts being noticed at work for her efforts and begins making more friends and feeling more self-assured. The remainder of the novel follows Alice and Erik’s courtship and eventual meeting, as well as Patty’s reaction to the whole thing.

Tickle Me has a fantastic concept; the reader will enjoy watching Alice change and grow. It has the feel-good quality of shy girl meets attractive guy, who whisks her off her feet and they live happily ever after. However, some readers may find the book to be redundant in places, as emails between Alice and Erick fill up pages upon pages, most saying the same thing over and over. In order to get the meat of the story, the reader may find herself skipping Erik’s “stories” all together.

Length and redundancy aside, the reader will be surprised with the outcome of the novel. Bouvier writes an in-depth character study of individuals as well as relationships. She asks questions about love, reality, and self-image. The reader will find an interesting story, meant to explore life, with an unexpected ending and some twists and turns along the way.

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Protect and Serve by Robin Leigh Miller

protectandserveProtect and Serve by Robin Leigh Miller is a steamy romance novel and a nail-biting mystery all at the same time. The story begins when Lieutenant Kevin Smith is called to a domestic violence dispute. When he arrives on scene, a man—who is later identified as Briggs—is beating and kicking his wife. Just as Kevin is exiting his cruiser, a woman comes out and hits Briggs with a cast-iron pan, knocking him unconscious. Kevin recognizes the woman as Tami, the waitress he’s been eyeing up at the local diner.

In the aftermath of the assault, the reader learns that Tami is a take-charge, cocky, vivacious woman who keeps polite, kind Kevin on his toes and off-balance. Their flirty, sexual banter during his attempt to get her statement is soon interrupted by a chirp from Tami’s cell phone. He is surprised when she reacts in fear.

When the next chapter turns to Tami’s point of view, the reader learns that Tami has downloaded an app on her phone that is supposed to tell her when she is going to die. At first, it was meant to be a joke, but after the texts started coming several times a week, fear sets it. The app is just the beginning of the creepy things that happen to Tami. After work the next day, she comes home to a trashed house—broken dishes, spilled food—but when she searches for signs of a break-in, all the doors and windows are locked. Then, to make matters worse, she goes for a twenty-minute walk, and when she returns, everything is back to normal. Over the next few days, she hears inexplicable noises and experiences more weird events. Finally, she decides she has a ghost living with her and realizes she must find a way to get rid of it.

Interspersed between spine-tingling episodes are steamy, vividly detailed sex scenes between Kevin and Tami as they discover their mutual desire and respect for each other. Tami is wild and uninhibited; she knows what she likes and wants, and she goes for it. Kevin has always been reserved, brought up to treat women with a certain amount of decorum. The more time they spend together, Tami shows Kevin that it’s okay to have a wild side…and his wide side sure is something!

If the promise of erotic, intimate love scenes isn’t enough, Miller also writes an intriguing and puzzling mystery. Tami is so sure that she is living with a ghost, but what do the death app and the ghost have to do with one another? Are they related or are they two separate events? When people around Tami start to die, the question of who is haunting her becomes even more important. Can it really be a ghost causing all this mischief or is there someone out there gunning for Tami? Maybe it’s both. Until the very last chapter, the reader will be questioning every piece of evidence and every detail, much like Kevin and his fellow officers.

Robin Leigh Miller does a fantastic job of blending love, lust, terror, and mystery in Protect and Serve. It is a romance novel with a little something for everyone. For the reader who enjoys romance and intimate scenes, the wait is a short one. For the reader who enjoys puzzles that are hard to solve with unexpected outcomes, the pleasure lasts until the very last page.

Protect and Serve

Robin Leigh Miller

Ellora’s Cave

Copyright 2012