08 August 2014

Hard As Mason by Cindy B. Wells

 Laura Bellamy is a rising star at her San Francisco company. She is smart, beautiful, professional, respected, and driven to succeed. Unfortunately, the greater her success grows, the more her husband’s insecurities are revealed. The couple has been married only three years since busy Laura took a chance on finding love on an internet dating website.

But once the honeymoon ended, the more she tried to make their marriage succeed, the more Greg’s true colors stained their crumbling relationship. He is jealous, paranoid, and cruel. Adding to their pressure-cooker marriage, he focuses his insecurities into pressuring his wife to start a family and give up the career that makes her happy.

Laura has worked with the same company for longer than she’s known her husband. In that time, not only has she loved her career, she’s also enjoyed her friendship with Mason Paladino: a fellow executive who is witty, sophisticated, and a bit of a goofball who sports a gorgeous swimmer’s body. For too long, the friends have suspected they share romantic chemistry, but neither will break their vows. If the right conditions present themselves, will they act on their simmering desires? Would it be wrong to deny their love? Can Laura trust her heart to show her the right path after failing miserably with her husband?

When Greg’s insecurities push him over the edge from cruel to criminal, will Laura stay, or end the toxic relationship? And if he catches her with a new man, how far will his anger drive his actions to tear them apart?

Find out what happens to Laura and Mason in book one of the Sultry Tides series.

WARNING: 18+ Only
Contains explicit language and adult sexual situations which may be considered offensive to some readers.

A new series with a somewhat promising start, this book introduces us to Laura.  She’s been married to Greg for 3 years but it seems clear to her now that the marriage was a mistake.  As time has gone one, more and more of Greg’s insecurities have been revealed, most of which revolve around Laura’s job.  And Laura loves her job.  She basically isn’t willing to give it up for a man she’s seriously starting to question if she should stay in a relationship with, let alone start a family.  Things are only further complicated by Mason, Laura’s co-worker who she has had increasing feelings for over the years.  They’re just friends, but something deeper has always lurked under the surface between them.  The question is, do they finally give into this connection or do they continue on in relationships that may not be right for either of them.
Let me just say, generally I find the plot involving two main characters who are already in relationships to be a difficult one for an author to navigate.  Rarely is it done well.  I’d say for this book, it was just alright.  I don’t have a huge objection to infidelity in the context of romantic fiction, but I feel it’s something that needs to be done well if done at all.  The problem I had with this was the speed at which it happened.  I’m not sure that a sufficient case was made for me to make the circumstances believable.  I mean, sure they have been attracted to each other for years, each with failing relationships in their lives…but something about the way it all unfolded just didn’t work for me.
What did work for me was the larger question to the story, which is how can you trust yourself to make the right choice when you’ve clearly been wrong in matters of the heart in the past?  I think that’s a valid and very realistic question, and one that I appreciated learning more about in the context of these character’s lives.
Another thing that really worked for me was the sex.  Wow…this book has a LOT of sex, and it’s sexy and sex-tastic.  I think it deserves a couple of stars just based on the sheer amount of quality of sex contained within its pages.  Epic sex!  This book is not for the faint of heart.  And let’s face it, if you’re reading my review, you aren’t faint at heart. 
Overall, I would say but for a few issues, I really enjoyed this read. I will definitely give the other books in this series a shot.  4 stars.

I found the book slower than I like in the beginning but midway through it picked up and became full of drama and suspense that captured my attention forcing me to not put the book down till I finished.  It is still sometimes hard for me to connect the first part of the story to the same characters at the end because the development of their personalities continued to evolve and grow throughout the whole book which in this case is a brilliant thing. 
Laura is a very successful business woman who has worked her way to the top with her ethics and determination.  She is married to Greg whose ambition seemed to die after their vows were taken.  Now his main goal in life is to take her out of the business suit and keep her barefoot and pregnant at home.  There is no way Laura is willing to be tied down and give up all she has worked for but even more there is no way she is having Greg’s child and be forever connected to him.  After his temper at her refusal reaches the point that the police arrive she gains the courage to tell him it is over and kick him out. 
Mason married his “high school sweetheart” and they raised twin sons.  Now that the boys have moved out and started school his wife has decided to take her art career one step farther and move to NY to gain her success.  When Mason finds out that she is doing more than creating art he divorces her and begins to rebuild his life as a single man.  He throws himself into his successful career even more and interacts with Laura at the job.
Laura and Mason have an attraction with each other early but since they are bound in marriage to other people they put the brakes on their feelings.  Once they are free to seek each other out, they begin to see happiness and they are HOT together.  We watch as they begin to build their relationships and move past the betrayals and pain of their former marriages.  This is when the drama and suspense happens.  Greg finds out about Mason and Laura and is determined to end them, no matter what he has to do. 
I will warn you that there is scenes of domestic violence and some of the scenes could be considered graphic by those who tend to stick with more fluffy romances.  I found that the author wrote about such topics with great concern and care to make it realistic yet not using unnecessary details in order to sell the book.  I feel that for the middle of the road reader you won’t have an issue with how she recreated the scenes and will appreciate the great care she obviously took to find the correct balance 
It was due to the last half of the book that I gave it a four star.  She started slow with the connection between Laura and Mason in my opinion but she picked it up and ran with it in the last two thirds of the book and I can hardly wait for the second book.  I think you will want to jump on this series, the plot alone is worth the read but the style and flow of the writing makes it a smooth and quick read.  
Cindy B. Wells considers herself to be a romantic at heart. She enjoys creating steamy stories that are intelligent, fun and sexy with strong characters and new discoveries. Oh, and food…because what goes better with romance and love than spectacular cuisine? Therefore, you can expect to find some of her favorite restaurants and particular dishes in her stories.

A San Francisco native, Cindy has been a professional writer for many years. She splits her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and the place she likes to call home: the coastal community of Carmel, California. When she’s not writing or reading, Cindy enjoys traveling, camping, sailing, painting, swimming, wine tasting, baking and, of course, spending time with her family.

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