Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Turn Up the Heat by Serena Bell Blog Tour

For readers of Jill Shalvis and Susan Mallery, Serena Bell teases all five senses in this poignant, tantalizing novel of fantasies long hidden . . . and finally indulged.

Aspiring chef Lily McKee noticed Kincaid Graves the first time he walked into the dingy diner where she waits tables. With his ice-blue eyes and primal tattoos, his presence puts Lily on edge—and reminds her of all the unfulfilled longings she isn’t pursuing while she’s stuck in this dead-end job. Without a doubt, the man is dangerous to her long-term plans of leaving town and hiring on at a real kitchen—and yet, she hungers for him, if even for just a taste.

Kincaid didn’t come back to his coastal Oregon hometown looking for a good time or a good meal. The ex-con has a score to settle, old wrongs to set right. But Lily, equal parts innocence and insight, brings out an impulsive side of him he thought he’d left behind in the past. And it only takes one intense moment of weakness between them to make him consider the possibility of an entirely new future—and the promise of passion beyond either of their wildest dreams.

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Book 1
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In prison, you perfected the art of watching without seeming to watch. You learned to keep an eye on everyone and everything, to monitor subtle shifts, the changes in weather that warned of coming disaster.

You didn’t lose that habit overnight. Kincaid Graves could sit in his booth in the diner, read his book, and see and hear everything. He knew where she was, every second. He’d watched when the burly Greek had invited her to cook, seen the way she danced behind the counter, graceful and efficient. He’d monitored the movements of the other cook, too, so he knew the guy had been in her space, had messed with her grill.

He’d watched her scrape the grill and start over, and he’d watched her wield a hot spatula against her oppressor the next time he’d messed with her. She’d eked a smile out of the guy, even—the guy knew toughness when he saw it. She might not be from around here—something Midwestern in her accent said she wasn’t—but she had good pioneer spirit. Build, burn it down, rebuild.

She was beautiful, this close. Huge green eyes, arched eyebrows, pixie face, pointed chin, wide, full mouth. Those eyes. Hadn’t he read that people were programmed to go nuts for big eyes, something to do with the urge to care for young, vulnerable creatures?

This was all apart from how bad he wanted her. She was tall and slim, with small, high breasts and a tiny waist, and he wanted to pick her up and wedge her against the wood paneling and surge into her under that absurd little skirt.

He couldn’t trust those impulses. He’d been the better part of a decade without sex with anything other than his fist. He was hyperaware of all the waitresses, dressed to bring in tips in short skirts and booty shorts and teeny-tiny tops. His cock was decidedly unpicky these days, willing to get hammer hard for any halfway appealing visual.

Her eyes were another thing entirely. Always moving, taking everything in. Sad all the time, sadder still after she’d been booted out of the kitchen. He’d wanted to shake the asshole owner, to make him see: She’s the only one around here who knows what she’s doing. Listen to her!

Those eyes took people’s measure, were thoughtful without being calculating. She spent time at each table, never seemed rushed, talked earnestly with customers, advising them. Getting to know them.

Those eyes, when they looked at him, held something speculative, something greedy. His cock hardened. Ever-hopeful idiot.

“I’m Lily,” she said.

He already knew that. The waitresses here didn’t wear name tags, but he’d heard her say it to other customers. Still, it was different, hearing her say it to him. Introducing yourself, that was the beginning of something. A friendship, a relationship.

He didn’t need or want either of those things. For one thing, he had a job to do, a mission. He was going to find a way to get his grandmother’s money back and make sure it went to the kids she’d loved so much. For now, that was where all his energy needed to go. And besides, even if there might at some point in his life—if he could remake it—be room for a woman, it wouldn’t be a woman like Lily. It would be someone less refined, angrier, more worldly, someone who had already set aside bright, innocent dreams. The other waitresses were closer to it. A single mom with a deadbeat ex-husband—Grant had told him—who’d done time for cooking meth. Another, thirty-something, chronically single, her age showing in every line of her face and in her dead eyes. It would be harder to scare away a woman like that. To disappoint her.

This woman, this Lily, did not seem like the sort who would be able to assimilate Kincaid’s life story. In a rage, I held a knife, a knife I’d used to chop onions since I was eight years old, to a man’s throat, and I told him if he hurt my grandmother again, I’d kill him. I cut him. Not deep enough to kill. But deep enough.

“I’ll take the check,” he said, instead of answering her implicit question. “Get out of your way.”

Even though he wanted to stay. Because it was a place to be, because there were people here and that felt like company, even if he didn’t interact with them. Because he was used to constant clamor, to being surrounded by human life and foible, and if he went home now it would be another night in that small, dark, lonely cabin. His P.O.—parole officer—had strongly advised him against spending time in bars (“Shit happens in bars”), which left him only a few options for hangouts. This was his favorite.

“You want to stay? Sit and read?”

It was as if she’d read his mind, and the way those green eyes bored into him, maybe she had.

“He’ll be pissed at you.” He gestured with his head at the tubby Greek owner.

“He’s already pissed at me.” She smiled and shrugged.

Brave girl. “You’ll lose tips.”

“I’ll live.”

They both knew he’d tip her well. He’d gone out of his way to tip all the waitresses here generously, in hopes of a favor like this one coming his way. The chance to sit a little longer where the noise in his head wasn’t louder than the noise outside.

“But you do have to tell me your name.”

She’d noticed his evasion, then. “Kincaid Graves.”

“Kincaid,” she repeated. “Nice to meet you, Kincaid.”

“Nice to meet you, Lily,” he said.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is the story of Lily and Kincaid. Kincaid is a regular at the diner Lily is waitress at. They are desperately attracted to each other and a hot back alley encounter proves they have great chemistry. The problem is neither of them wants a relationship. Lily is trying to focus on saving money to move back to Chicago to get her dream job as a chef while Kincaid, a parolee, is trying to stay out of trouble and find his grandmother's lost will.

I particularly liked the parts of the story told from Kincaid's point of view. The kinds of things he has to consider about his life and activities as a parolee were interesting and his predicament in life really pulled on my heart strings.

There is a good amount of heat and emotion in Turn Up the Heat, but this story also has a backbone a calmness and strength that pulled me in and kept me reading. A very good read.

This is the second book this month I’ve added to my review schedule at the last minute because of the excerpts I read while preparing the blog post. Fortunately I had a little play in my schedule, but even if I hadn’t Turn Up the Heat would have been well worth getting behind for. The series title is very appropriate for the book as it is a second chance romance like none I’ve ever read before. Yes, Kincaid’s status as a parolee is not new to the second chance genre nor was Lily’s return home from the big bad city after being wronged by a man. And while I absolutely loved how Ms. Bell made each of those situations unique for her characters, what was new for me was the underlying reason that drove Lily’s sexual second chance and I found the way the author dealt with it perfect for these two characters.

Ms. Bell does an amazing job of setting up the story within the first two chapters – with the first being used to introduce the reader to Lily and provide enough info that I felt as though I had become friends with her and was privy to her secrets, hopes, and dreams…and her attraction for Kincaid. In the second chapter we learn about Kincaid – where he’s from, what he’s done, and the plans he has…and what he sees as his ill-advised attraction to Lily. By chapter three I was completely invested in both of the main characters and because it was apparent that the two had been denying their mutual attraction for a while, the sexual encounter that occurs is not only expected but hot as heck. It gets even hotter when Kincaid realizes that the sweet and innocent looking object of his affection has a kink that aligns perfectly with his – Lily not only likes it rough and dirty, she harbors what I can only describe as rape fantasies. This is not to be confused with dubious consent because Lily fully consents, nor is it simply an issue of being restrained during sex either. Rather Lily responds to Kincaid’s ability to hold her down, to be unrelenting and not give in to her struggles, and to “take” what he needs from her without holding back, without checking his impulses and strength, yet doing it all with the ability to safeword out should either of them need it. While Lily is hoping for a repeat, Kincaid doesn’t want to risk his newfound freedom and avoids Lily until he no longer can and both agree to keep it strictly sexual as neither is “relationship material.” The sex is hot and the lines begin to blur as they spend more and more time together until Lily reveals her secrets to Kincaid but he does not with Lily none the wiser. All is well until Lily learns Kincaid’s secret and the sense of betrayal makes what she endured in Chicago pale in comparison as they both see the door slammed on their happy ending.

Although this is not the first book I have read in which the lead female character has rape fantasies, it is the first one that wasn’t a BDSM-themed book. I liked how the author used the book to show that just because a woman might have such fantasies doesn’t mean she wants to live a BDSM lifestyle. Yet the same rules apply in the relationship she develops with Kincaid – trust is paramount and when that trust is broken, the relationship is over. I found the way their relationship progressed to be realistic as they both held back in the beginning and opened up gradually over the course of the book. It was easy to understand why Kincaid kept his secret and while I completely understood Lily’s reaction, it didn’t make my heart hurt any less for Kincaid. While there are some darker undertones to the book due to Lily’s rape fantasies, Turn Up the Heat is ultimately a second chance romance and I absolutely loved the resolution Ms. Bell provided for Lily and Kincaid. This is the first book in the Second Chances series and I’m looking forward to book two already.

This is a very hot and steamy read, with some fabulous kink – but it is also a lot more than that. The way that the desires and demands were written made everything both real, but also intensely erotic.

Lily and Kincaid are so well drawn that I would recognise them in the street, and so appealing that I would want to spend the evening with them. In short order, Ms. Bell paints their lives and wishes so clearly that it is impossible not to get totally invested. I had a few heart in the mouth moments ... but it was well worth the journey.

USA Today bestselling author Serena Bell writes stories about how sex messes with your head, why smart people sometimes do stupid things, and how love can make it all better. She wrote her first steamy romance before she was old enough to understand what all the words meant and has been perfecting the art of hiding pages and screens from curious eyes ever since—a skill that’s particularly useful now that she’s the mother of two school-aged children.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Turn Up the Heat (Second Chances #1) by Serena Bell to read and review for this tour.


  1. Thank you so much for reviewing and hosting Turn Up the Heat!

  2. Thank you so much for hosting TURN UP THE HEAT


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