I was provided with an advance reader copy by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions expressed in this review are mine alone. I received no financial incentives to review this book.
Series: Secret Confessions
Published by Escape Publishing on January 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, Rural Romance
Welcome to the heart—and heat—of Australia…
They say that no one has secrets in a small town—these women prove them wrong.
Eight brand-new stories from some of Australia's hottest writers in Australia's hottest genre. From the bar stools of the local pub to the wide open plains of the biggest stations in the world, these tales travel the dusty roads to the heart of Australia and the women who understand how to work hard—and play even harder.
In the latest in the wildly successful Secret Confessions series from Escape Publishing, the women of Down & Dusty invite you into their lives—and their bedrooms.
I love a good anthology. I freaking love Escape Publishing’s anthologies. From the fantastically filthy housewives, to raunchy rock stars, they sure know how to put a hot collection of stories together.
Thanks to the magic of NetGalley, I had the chance to wind my way through the latest collection of Secret Confessions, Down and Dusty. As I said in a tweet while I was reading it, Escape has brought forward the awesome once again. Eight fantastic authors have come together to tell the tales of the women of Milpinyani Springs and the secrets they keep.
The stories in the Secret Confessions: Down and Dusty anthology could easily be read as stand-alone. I read them in the order below, because all eight titles were in the same ebook that NetGalley sent me.
The titles in the Secret Confessions: Down and Dusty are:
A little word of warning: if you are a little squicked-out by scenes of a sexy nature, this series may just not be the one for you. There are some – well, many – very hot sexytimes in these stories, so if you do read them (as you should), you may just need to have a fan close by to cool yourself down…..and very possibly, some ice for your knickers!
Now for the short and sweet of it – my thoughts on the Secret Confessions: Down and Dusty:
Casey – Rachael Johns
Casey Cooper left her husband and the small town of Milpinyani Springs in her dust a year ago, vowing never to return. But a favour to a friend finds her back in town—and back in her husband’s garage, where he offers her a proposition too sexy to refuse. A naked Joel has always been the one thing Casey can’t resist—but can her heart handle the heat?
On the surface, these two are like petrol and a box of matches – stable separately, but explosive together. Casey sees that this wasn’t working for her and she left. But when she returns to town to help Lucky and serve Joel with divorce papers, things don’t quite work out the way Casey expects. Casey has tried to move on, but she still feels that indefinable pull to her childhood sweetheart.
Their time apart has led to each growing and changing. However, even though these two have been so frantic and explosive in the past, I love that what brought them together hasn’t changed. Boy, they are so goddamn hot together! The sexytimes are a bit spicier than what we usually see from Rachael Johns, but they totally work!
I love a good second-chance romance, and this was most certainly a good one!
Lucky – Cate Ellink
As the single female owner of Milpinyani Spring’s only pub, Lucky has learned that her behaviour has to be above reproach. She works hard at home, and when she needs to play hard, she does so—far away from the prying eyes of her neighbours and friends. So when the hot new cop swaggers up to bar, she knows the rules: look, don’t touch. But Dare doesn’t know how to play her game, and he’s about to show her that the only rules that count are the ones that you break.
I loved that both Lucky and Dare are strong and neither requires saving by the other. Lucky has that slightly tough exterior, but I loved that she wasn’t all hard edges and sandpaper. The chemistry between her and Dare was totally hot, and even though it is a rather quick read, the development of their attraction was paced perfectly.
Cate Ellink sure does write the excellent sexytimes, and the moment Lucky and Dare stop butting heads is most certainly one of those.
Kelly – Fiona Lowe
Kelly Wilkins’ marriage has always been a team effort, but lately, under the daily grind of work, kids, and an unrelenting drought, she feels like her team has dwindled to one. The lack of rain in Milpinyani Springs isn’t the only dry spell affecting her and, despite her best efforts, her once attentive husband hasn’t touched her in weeks. With the threat of a long, dry summer stretching out in front of them, can Kelly and Grant rediscover their spark, or will their relationship be another casualty of the drought?
Kids, work, life in general – things have certainly gotten in the way of Kelly and Grant keeping the flame lit in their marriage. I really felt their frustration, and believed it.
All that tension has to release somehow, and it most certainly does…in a very sexy way. Fiona builds the connection and sexual tension between Kelly and Grant perfectly, and I loved that by re-igniting the fire, it allowed them to rediscover what it was that made them good together in the first place.
PS There is a small human in this story named Ruby. I adored her, because she reminded me of my own TO (also named Ruby) – Fiona, mine totally has a degree in drama like this one.
Brooke – Eden Summers
Brooke’s brothers practically define over-protective, and while Brooke appreciates their concern, their efforts have left her climbing the walls in sexual frustration. But no man in town is willing to risk their ire, and all Brooke wants is one guy who thinks she is worth the effort. One guy who will stand up for himself—and for her—against her overbearing, old-fashioned family, and whisk her away to sexual and emotional fulfilment. The only issue is that the one guy who looks like he might is the one guy who broke her heart—the one guy that she can’t risk falling for again.
I have a total soft spot for first love getting a second chance, so I loved reading this. The connection between Brooke and Heath was forged in secret all those years ago, and the moment you see them reunite, you just know that it has only grown stronger.
Eden Summers crafts some very hot scenes, and the reunion of Brooke and Heath may just set your knickers on fire.
PS I don’t have brothers, so I haven’t had the whole overprotective thing in my life. However, I can totally understand how it could be frustrating. Brooke was far more patient than I could have been 🙂
Clarissa – Mel Teshco
Clarissa may have been daydreaming about her head stockman, Brandon, every day and night of the long, hot drought, but Brandon has never been anything more than friendly and professional, and Clarissa has long accepted that life will never imitate fantasy. Until Brandon recommends an old friend—a renowned bull-rider and stockman—for a job, and suddenly Clarissa finds herself in the middle of a competition between two of the hottest men that she’s ever seen. But Clarissa doesn’t fancy herself a prize—and with two cowboys willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy, she might just decide that the winner takes all.
Quite often when there are more than the standard pair involved in the sexytimes, it is too often obvious who will end up with who in the end. Not with Clarissa!! And to that, I say THANK YOU, Mel Teshco!
Clarissa has been through a fair bit, and you could easily forgive her for shrinking away in the corner as a result. I like that she didn’t, though! The two men in the story, Brandon and Adam, aren’t just there for decoration either – they are pretty well-fleshed out characters, much like Clarissa. I love that the growing tension and attraction swirling around them isn’t just seen from one person’s perspective.
Totally spicy, incredibly sexy and perfectly unexpected.
Skye – Rhyll Biest
After five years in the city earning her veterinary degree, Skye Malone is happy to be heading back to Milpinyani Springs, and her best friend Bret. Sure, her crush on him is still at epic proportions, but she managed to ignore it this long, and a good friend is a valuable commodity in a small community like theirs. But Bret spent the last five years growing up, and suddenly Skye’s girlhood infatuation evolves into something much stronger and much more dangerous—an adult woman’s desire.
Friends to lovers, when done well, is totally my book crack of choice! Rhyll has totally nailed it with this one. Skye and Bret’s friendship is totally believable, and watching them both realise that “Hey, you want in my pants, too?” was awesome.
Rhyll has totally nailed it with this one. Skye and Bret’s friendship is totally believable, and watching them both realise that “Hey, you want in my pants, too?” was awesome.
As with any Biest offering, ice in the undies is a definite must. These two are not ones to hold back once they discover their feelings are reciprocated. While spicy, this story has such a fantastic humour about it as well.
Maree – Elizabeth Dunk
Maree Haraldson has done all the right things as Milpinyani Springs’ only teacher—she’s good at her job, the children and parents have accepted her, she’s even become a local at Lucky’s pub. Now it’s time for Maree to do something right for herself, and that means finally seducing the school groundsman Brad Williams into her bed. Maree has always been a woman who goes after what she wants, but a small community means there’s no place to hide if Brad turns her down, and Maree has been out of the seduction game for a long time. Her small schoolroom is safe and comfortable, but life isn’t meant to be lived on the sidelines. With the rodeo in town, Maree is ready to step up, take her risks, and throw her hat into the ring of love.
All hail the lady who knows who she wants! Maree may be of a certain age, but she certainly hasn’t put herself on the shelf to gather dust. I love that she is willing to put herself out there, and I love that she goes after who she wants rather than who she thinks will take her.
Yay for Brad for recognizing how hot she is, and not focusing on her age! Steaminess ensues, and I loved how their connection grows and becomes more than just temporary gratification.
Frankie – Jackie Ashenden
Frankie has lost a lot to her stepbrother, Mac: her father’s affection, the family cattle station, her teenage daydreams. But Mac has never shown any interest in taking what Frankie wants to give: her heart, her soul, and her body. So Frankie has no choice. She can’t continue to live with Mac, loving him as she does, knowing he doesn’t want her in return. She has finally saved enough money to buy Mac out of the station and out of her life for good. But Mac has an offer of his own: one night together, and he’ll walk away. One night for full ownership of the cattle station. For Frankie, it’s an offer too tantalising to resist, an offer too dangerous to consider— an offer she can’t refuse.
Jackie may be from across the ditch, but she totally nails this Outback romance.
Frankie has a lot of resentment towards Mac for having what she wants, but it pales in comparison to how much she wants him…in her life, in her bed.
It is pretty clear to see that one night, as Mac proposes, is never going to be sufficient to cool the fire that burns between these two. Even though they were briefly connected by their parents’ marriage, I liked that their chemistry never felt skeevy. It felt natural, real and, boy, it was freaking hot!
Wrapping it up…
In every series, there are going to be stories that you connect with, or enjoy more than others. That was the case for me with the Down and Dusty anthology, however there was not a story in this bunch that I didn’t love. I can only hope that Escape continues to bring together authors as they are, to keep creating these fantastic series.