Favorite Quote: “Give her hell, Sam Hamilton. And try to look less serial killer and more solid citizen. Smile, why don’t you?” He forced a smile at her. Willie blinked. “Eh, maybe not.”
Sam Hamilton has been feeling about lonely since his best friend found his soulmate. When he meets Ivy Stephens, a young lady who is interested in adopting one of the strays he helps to rehome, Sam falls hard and fast. But Sam has some serious baggage in his life. Baggage that will do anything to make sure Sam’s attention stays firmly on them. As Sam and Ivy grow closer, Sam is worried Ivy may be too nice to fit into his life. But Ivy soon proves to Sam and everyone else that being nice doesn’t mean she can’t get down and dirty when she needs to.
Zero to Sixty is the third installment in Marie Harte’s sexy and humorous Body Shop Bad Boys. This series spins off her McCauley brothers series with its focus lasered on the Webster Garage and the four gorgeous, sexy, commitment-phobic mechanics who work there. There is some character/storyline crossover but it’s mild and not invasive. Each book can be read as a standalone though previous romance storylines carry over.
Harte introduces Ivy Stephens to Sam Hamilton with a bit of a meet cute. Ivy is out searching for a stray puppy (Cookie) she has been taking care of on and off. Sam is also out looking for Cookie. They run into one another and Sam agrees to keep Cookie at his home until Ivy can talk to her landlord about having a pet. Sam decides the best way to get to know this gorgeous woman better is to vet her for Cookie’s sake through a few “dates.”
“Ah, just so we’re clear, we don’t give dogs away to just anyone who wants them.”
“I mean, puppies are popular. We’d have no problem getting him a good home. A friend of mine was asking about this little guy just the other week.” She frowned. “I have a good home.”
“If you’re not busy tomorrow night, we can grab a beer or something. Talk about plans for Cookie.”
I reviewed the first two books in the series- Test Drive and Road Assistance-and thoroughly enjoyed. Harte does a wonderful job of individualizing the characters and storyline so you don’t feel as if you’re reading the same romantic set up with just different names. This installment felt softer and less conflicted than the first two. The same engaging narrative, sexually enhanced romance and endearingly characters are present but Harte chooses to leave the dramatics by the curb and gently walk this couple to their HEA.
Sam is the best friend and roommate of Foley Sangers (the hero of Road Assistance). Also a mechanic at Webster’s Garage, Sam was pretty much raised by Foley’s mom, Eleanor, his own mother an abusive addict. Single, gorgeous, and ripped, Sam is honest to a fault and a total gentleman despite what his size and mannerisms suggest. A bit of a loner, Sam’s relationships with the opposite sex consists mainly of hook ups. The most important things in Sam’s life are Foley, Foley’s mom, and his job.
Ivy is a massage therapist who stays to herself. Intelligent, good looking, and a genuinely nice person, Ivy is also a bit of a loner as her family has all but abandoned her for reasons unknown and her last serious boyfriend used her to get through school then dumped her. Ivy doesn’t carry a chip on her shoulder like Sam does. She is content with herself and her life.
Harte takes Sam and Ivy’s relationship slow, allowing them the time to get to know one another using an appealing mixture of trepidation and awkwardness. Opposite attraction romances are the best and Harte does this one with justice. Fantastic dialogue, dry humorous wit, and a layered storyline allows readers to see beneath the surface and experience first hand the emotional issues they are dealing with. Ivy has pretty much laid her demons to rest but Sam is still struggling with his childhood, his time in prison, and general feelings of unworthiness. Ivy sees Sam and accepts him as he is because she understands the root of his pain. She is someone he has unknowingly been searching for. I love the humor she uses to help defuse his guilt and shame.
“So there you have it. You’re dating an ex-con.”
“Can I ask you something personal?”
“Is it true every prisoner makes license plates? Did you wear black and white striped uniforms? Have a ball chained to your ankle? Break up rocks with an Acme pickaxe?”
“You watch way too much TV.”
The sexual role reversal in here is interesting and works with the overall tone of story. Ivy is the one who not only sets the parameters of their relationship but also initiates the initial sexual aspect. She instinctively understands that Sam has some confusion between intimacy and sex and gives him all the power as she sets out to seduce him.
“You said I can touch you, right?”
“Yeah, don’t stop. Just keep petting me, baby.” He blinked at her once, then shut his eyes and groaned. “I’m gonna sit…right…here.” He shook, then sat unmoving, breathing hard.
“God, you’re gorgeous.” She stroked him from his chest to his belly button, never having been so close to perfection before. Then, because she figured the poor man had suffered enough, and her underwear would never be salvaged if she kept stringing this out, she unsnapped his jeans.
He started, his eyes remaining closed.
“You still okay?”
He swallowed. “Yeah.”
Barely a whisper, but he’d given consent.
Of course, no Harte book would be complete without the antics of the rambunctious Webster mechanics and various other characters from this series. They all step in, unasked, to help Sam deal with these new feelings of his and to explain why Rays wasn’t the right choice for a first date. Harte introduces a few new characters whose personalities fit right in with this bunch and I hope we see more of them in the future.
Zero to Sixty is a lightweight romance contemporary brimming laughter, love, and family. Perfect escapism for the romance lover in all of us. Looking forward to book four, Collision Course, which is Lou’s story. *fist pump* Release date is 10/27/2017.
Favorite Quote: “Nothing ruins a dinner party like expertise.”
Edward (Ward) Reeve is a wealthy inventor and the illegitimate son of an Earl. He has recently gained guardianship of his two younger half siblings (Lizzie and Otis) after his mother passed away. Due to the children’s unusual upbringing, they were raised in a traveling theater troupe, Ward needs a governess immediately in order to get their education up to par and prepare them for their entrance into society.
Mrs. Eugenia Snowe is a widower who chose to open a business centering around governesses after her husband passed away. Her registry has a waiting list that spans months and her governesses are much in demand by the ton. A lady by birth and marriage, Eugenia is not nor has ever been a governess and does not care that she is looked down upon by certain members of society for her “work.” She is content in her life.
After a Snowe governess deserts her post at the Reeve household, Ward comes to the registry and mistakes Eugenia as a former governess, assuming no lady of rank would ever run a business. He sets out to seduce her into coming to work for him. He wants her for his siblings and his bed.
Eugenia agrees after some amusing sexual persuasion and a minor kidnapping and soon finds herself falling for Ward. But Ward’s own scandalous childhood has him demanding only the best for Lizzie and Otis. He will do whatever it takes to keep any more taint and scandal from darkening their lives. Even if it means giving up Eugenia.
I have long enjoyed Eloisa James’ historical romances. Her penchant for writing strong, intelligent, forward driven heroines and heroes who often buck the social norms of their time makes her stories an absolute delight to read. I also enjoy reading about the offspring of previous favorite characters all grown up and ready for a romance of their own. Fans will be pleased to see Seven Minutes in Heaven reintroduces us to Eugenia Snowe and Edward Reeves whom we met as children in the original Desperate Duchess series. As always, James’ pens a charming adventure that brings together two intelligent, spirited, and witty protagonists for a swoon-worthy romance.
Eugenia and Ward are a joy to get to know both as individuals and as a couple. Their chemistry sparks at their first meeting and only flames higher the more time they spend together. Though an unlikely match, their relationship flourishes and deepens as they become further acquainted with one another. While Eugenia’s beauty and widow status are what initially attracts Ward, it’s her charm, passion, intelligence, and genuine caring of his siblings that soon captivates him. He gradually realizes that the face she presents to society only serves to hide a complex woman. Ward is also not what Eugenia initially thought him to be. He has a strong sense of convention, conviction, and compassion behind his devil may care attitude that only strengthens her attraction as she uncovers his many facets. As she spends more time with him, she realizes that he may be exactly what she needs.
This wasn’t making love. This was making fun.
Amusing and tantalizing love scenes are used to tease the reader and show deepening affection that is slowly building between them. I do adore a couple who can have fun in and out of bed and this couple excels-the french letter scene is hilarious. They have a romantic sensual way about them that reassures the reader that they could very well have a very happy future together.
Had she just promised to be indecent with him at a later time…out of the carriage?
His wanton grin confirmed that she had.
“Just a minute,” she said hastily.
“I would wait a lifetime for you, Eugenia.”
The main plotlines are pretty low key in terms of conflict. Grief is the base on which this story is built. Everyone in here is mourning something. Though Eugenia has been widowed for seven years, she deeply loved her husband and still grieves for him. I like that James did not vilify him in order to facilitate her relationship with Ward. The children grieve the loss of their parents, acting out in unusual fashions as children often do. Ward himself not only grieves for what the children must have gone through (he knows what their mother was like) but also for his own childhood that never let him forget he was a bastard.
You’re wretched nuisances, but you’re my nuisances.
I admit a part of me was irritated at the hamfisted way the main source of conflict was handled. One conversation-one sentence-would have resolved the whole thing but James chooses to continue with the misconception and drags it out far longer than necessary.
A personable cast of secondary characters round out the story, adding depth and a sense of continuity. Lizzie and Otis are delightful and James’ does an excellent job of allowing us to see the damage done to them and Ward’s attempts to help them heal. He truly loves them and even though he makes some mistakes, everything he does is out of love. I enjoyed seeing cameos from previous characters (Mia, Villiers, India). It’s always nice to see where everyone is at in their lives after their initial stories are told.
The resolution wrenches the heart but James quickly sets our hero straight with some outside help. He does an excellent job of groveling and Eugenia stays true to herself and her heart to the very end.
Seven Minutes in Heaven is another winner from Eloisa James that gives readers a joyful and heartwarming story of love, laughter, forgiveness, and family.
Thomas’ small town contemporaries are always a welcome respite as they weave a cozy tale of love, laughter, pain, and heartbreak of small town living. Similar to her Harmony series (reviews here), each book pushes forward on the arc while, discussing one or two characters romances while dealing with a small thrilling mystery on the side. The fifth book in Jodi Thomas’s Ransom Canyon series takes readers back to the small town of Crossroads, TX with a few new romances and mysteries while updating us on some well-known residents and introducing us to a few new ones
Wild Horse Springs had all the ear markings of a typical and entertaining story but seems to lose its way quickly. Even with its normal multiple storyline threads, there is a disorganized feeling to the writing that is only matched by the rambling narrative and random head jumping. Thomas uses the same familiar formula that has worked for years, telling the story from four seemingly unrelated points of view slowly revealing the common denominator that binds them all together. But for me, in this instance, it doesn’t work. I found the main romance uninspiring and drenched in unnecessary purple prose while the second romance was far more entertaining but has less time and space in which to develop realistically. Both romances are fueled by insta-love but Thomas doesn’t give us any clues to what the appeal between any of them is beyond the fact they’re all single. The third “romance” has been dragging out since the beginning of the series and offers very little advancement. After five books in I’m still unsure if this is even a romance or just a childhood dream one of the leads refuses to let die.
Three main storylines circle around, feeding off one another as they slowly merge together though as I stated earlier, the plotlines felt underdeveloped and the narrative predictable and rambling. Even Thomas’ strong characters can’t pull this story out of the rut it’s in. The ending is a fast wrap up, leaving this reader frustrated with more questions than answers. As always, each book leaves off with the promise of more to come, giving Thomas a way to continue to build on the arc and the various relationships of the town.
I’m not sure if I will be continuing this series. While I have enjoyed my time spent in Ransom Canyon, it just isn’t holding the same sense of energy or appeal that her earlier series did. I’m also starting to see a decline in the strength of Thomas’ writing. We shall see.
Favorite Quote: “This is so good. Thanks for making me shower.”
On the heels of Higgins’ entertaining and thought-provoking If You Only Knew, Higgins revisits her sleepy little town of Cambry-on-Hudson, New York in On Second Thought. Using the dysfunctional O’Leary family and the timeless topics of love, loss, family, and second chances, Higgins builds a story on the relationship between two half sisters who, despite their murky history, find themselves growing closer as they bond over their mutual losses and unknown future.
Kate O’Leary wasn’t looking for love when she met her husband. At 39 years old, Kate played the dating game for years only to discover as she got older being single wasn’t a death sentence. She meets her husband Nathan while photographing a wedding and after a brief courtship, they marry. Four months later, Nathan dies in a tragic accident. Kate is utterly shocked by how fast she found and lost at love and now is unsure where to go from here.
Ainsley O’Leary has been with her boyfriend, Eric Fisher, for eleven years. She has loved and cared for him through the good and bad times and fully expects him to finally pop the question at a party they are throwing to celebrate his being cancer free for 18 months. After her brother in law’s accident, she is stunned when Eric uses Nathan’s death as an excuse to move on. Without her.
Lost and homeless, Ainsley moves in with Kate and attempts to help her cope with losing Nathan while trying to understand herself how the man she loved for so long could toss her away like trash. As Ainsley and Kate both stagger through the stages of grief in their own way, they learn more about themselves, each other, and the people around them.
I have been a fan of Kristan Higgins’ writing for years. Her entertainingly flawed characters, small town eccentricity, complicated romances, and underlying base of realism provides a wonderful sense of escapism for those who enjoy a hearty laugh as they watch these characters navigate the pitfalls of love as they struggle to find their footing in the world. I like this new direction that Higgins’ is taking in her writing though I can’t place it firmly in one genre or the other. Higgins’ focus on Kate and Ainsley’s life learning journey together into the next period of their lives harkens to women’s fiction while the various romances that decorate the story are a nod to the contemporary. Either way you choose to view this story, it is a must read for all fans.
Alternating the narrative between Kate and Ainsley, we flash between the past and the present, gaining insight not only into their personal lives but also the relationships they have cultivated along the way. It’s interesting to see certain scenes from both perspectives and the different ways they chose to respond. Both have adopted certain coping mechanisms as adults in response to their chaotic childhood; Kate is somewhat reserved, using her camera as a shield while Ainsley is a people person who chooses to be as indispensable as she can in order to prove her worth.
Higgins layers Kate and Ainsley’s feelings with plenty of laughter, sorrow, pain, and honesty. You can feel the range of emotions these women are experiencing and share with them every step of the way. Kate is furious at Nathan for dying so suddenly and feels guilty for that anger. She’s not only mourning the loss of his life but also the loss of her own. She gave up almost everything tangible in order to be with him and now he’s left her alone in a life she only felt a part of because of him. She struggles to stay connected with his family only to realize that grief is the only thing they have left in common.
Ainsley’s is not only mourning the loss of her lover but also her relationship with his parents. Her own mother died young and she was raised by Kate’s mom and her dad. Her father was not around much due to his job, her siblings were much older, and she always felt like a burden to her stepmother so Eric’s parents became the family she always wanted. She is angry at all the time she invested into the relationship, the things she took for granted, but mostly with Eric’s careless treatment of her. He broke it off with no warning and then blogged about it for the whole world to see. She was humiliated and hurt by his actions.
Kate and Ainsley’s journey is bolstered by a strong and vibrant cast of secondary characters contributes their own stories, adding the necessary pieces to the puzzle until the full picture evolves. We meet friends, bosses, exes, and family members in casual, seeming innocuous settings only to be shown later their impact and how much the past can affect our futures. I loved meeting the people who had a hand in creating the women Kate and Ainsley are today and I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces from If You Only Knew.
Once again Higgins’ thoroughly entertains and delights while tugging at your heartstrings as she invites readers to share in her latest release, On Second Thought.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series so I was dismayed to discover I did not like book three. ThNOTE: I don't rate DNF reviews.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series so I was dismayed to discover I did not like book three. The story starts out interesting enough with a “spanking contest” between Chino and Maddie. The attraction has always been there but Maddie has a bit of a chip on her shoulder towards Chino and apparently all it took was some kink to knock it off. From there Tan builds the romance while introducing random subplots to give the story a bit angst and controversy. Not bad but I didn’t get the same level of connection or chemistry between them that I got from other couples. What did me in was I couldn’t take the conversations between Chino and Maddie. Every time one of them opened their mouth I cringed. At times they sounded like d-listers from a porn set. Overall, this story didn’t have the easy flow and organic cohesiveness I felt the first two had....more
Favorite Quote: “Well, you know how we Americans are. Rebelling against the crown since 1776.”
Crown Prince Colin Sinclair and his royal siblings are forced to flee to to the United States after a coup in their country results in the assignation of their parents. Settling in Charlotte, NC Colin becomes the official caregiver with some help from friend. When their cover is blown and plastered all over the tabloids for the world to see, their country offers Colin a deal. Marry a princess of their choosing and the Sinclair family will be allowed to return home. But Colin is tired of being at the mercy of his country’s government. Taking matters into his own hands, he proposes marriage to the one person who has held his heart for ten years.
Della Hughes may have met the Sinclairs under less than happy circumstances but over the years she has grown to love them all, especially the oldest, Colin. Della doesn’t believe in fairy tales or happily ever afters but when she learns her prince charming is REALLY a prince, she is shocked. Willing to do anything for this family, Della agrees to a marriage of convenience but when the honeymoon goes from fake to real, Della isn’t sure she can walk away at the end, Or if she even wants too.
Royal Scandal is the first book in Marquita Valentine’s Royals in Exile series. Set in the US and the Isle of Man (a real country-part of the British Crown), the story revolves around the Sinclair family and their fight to regain their heritage. I’ve been enjoying the new trend of royals falling for commoners romances that have been trending the last few months. It is for me the ultimate modern fairytale. Lightweight and humorous, this friends to lovers romance is relatively low in angst and conflict with a surprisingly bite of heat. Valentine focuses on Colin’s and Della’s romance foremost but effortlessly blends in the history of happened to their parents and the cause while advancing each sibling’s story to prepare them for their own stories.
The story opens with Colin and his brother Theo trying to console their colicky youngest brother. Valentine gives us the bare bones of what is happening and sets the stage for the romance to come. When one of the family bodyguards informs them they have a visitor, Colin is shocked by a gorgeous and bold young woman demanding to know why her family is being evicted from their home. Colin realizes that his family’s need for privacy is forcing the caretakers out onto the streets. He let them stay and gains a friend in the process. Della Hughes. The book then jumps forward ten years in time which dismayed me a little. We are told of the depth of the friendship Della and Colin holds and everything she has done for the family but I would have enjoyed seeing some of it play out. Della essentially adopts the role of “mother” to the babies and helps Colin with the older ones during that time.
I liked Colin and Della. In fact, I liked all the siblings. Each one is individually fleshed out and Valentine makes sure we see their differences and the possible snags that may hamper their futures. Colin is the oldest and he takes his responsibility seriously. Exiled at age nineteen, he assumes the parental role over all of them (Theo- age seventeen and the twins, Charlotte and Imogen-age fourteen) though the ones that depend on him most are the two youngest Sinclairs. Aiden, age fifteen months and Pierce, age four months who are some seriously cute kids. Though fashioned somewhat as plot devices, Valentine characterizes them in a way that you instantly forgive her. Colin is seriously overwhelmed but I liked that he isn’t portrayed as a martyr. He has fallen for Della hard but doesn’t want to ruin their friendship. Especially since his future remains uncertain and he has not been completely honest with her about who he really is. Intelligent, understated, loyal, and funny with sexy dominant side that comes out later on.
“Do be a good girl and sit very still while I wash you.”
He tweaks a nipple and desire makes me whimper.
“That’s yes, your highness.”
Della is his perfect match. Also smart, sexy, loyal, and funny, she gives as good as she get and isn’t one to play games. The chemistry is sweet and steamy with some nicely done longing and sexy internal thoughts. The added bonus of their history together only adds to the overall appeal. She too fell for Colin years ago but feels he only sees her as a friend. I love the relationship she has with Colin and his family. It has a separate quality to it that didn’t seem dependant on the attraction between her and Colin.
The marriage is the pivot of the story and its pacing increases two-fold. This couple does a rapid about-face, going from platonic and willing to suffer in silence for their love to full frontal lust filled mattress dancing. While Valentine expands on the romance, she also expands on the somewhat machiavellian plot behind the family’s exile. The two storylines start out running parallel and slowly begin to intertwine. I enjoyed watching Colin and Della’s love for one another truly blossom and grow once they got out of each other’s way and the political machinations were interesting. Unfortunately, the storylines begin to compete against each other. I felt the seriousness of exile plotline cast a small shadow over the romance.
I also had an issue with Colin’s omission of some important details. Some things he remained tight-lipped about for too long while others he allowed Della to make her own assumptions about, knowing when she found out she’d be furious. And she was. I think she deserved a bit more groveling and explanation on his end though overall his reasons were understandable.
The ending gives Colin and Della the happily ever after they both deserve and a nice little epilogue to clue us into the next Sinclair sibling’s story.
Royal Scandals is altogether a royally fun and flirty romance that engages and satisfies despite the few issues I encountered. I am looking forward to the next in the series, Royal Affair, which is set to release March 7, 2017.
FBI agent Eden Collins vowed never to return home to Clear Springs, Montana. Growing up the daughter of an infamous cult leader, her childhood was not pleasant. When Eden receives an anonymous picture of a homicide victim who has tattoos similar to those of her mother’s followers, Eden knows it’s time to head home to confront her past and hopefully catch a killer.
Sheriff Zach Owens is in over his head when girls start disappearing and turning up dead in his small town. Eden Collins’ sudden arrival in town seems a little too coincidental but Zack will use whatever and whoever he can to stop the killer(s). Only, he doesn’t count on her being so attractive or him being so protective of her. Zack knows she is the only one who can access the inner sanctum of the reclusive cult but fears he may be sending her right into the killer’s arms.
The Devil’s Daughter is a deviation from Katee Robert’s usual romantically focused fare. The first book in her Hidden Sins series, this intense psychological thriller builds a layered and complicated story that takes a look into the world of cults and the powerful allure behind them. Through the eyes of a former member. The edgy atmosphere lends a hand to the overall dark and mysterious quality the story holds as Robert’s leads her readers down a rabbit hole of power, sex, mysticism, and murder. Heavily character driven the book effortlessly balances the intensity of the murder investigation with the internal struggles of the heroine, FBI agent Eden Collins, creating some interesting dynamics.
I don’t want to go back. Please don’t make me. It was the cry of a child in the dark. She’d worked very, very hard to leave that child behind, but the little-girl voice had a nasty habit of popping up at the worst times.
Robert’s has a definite gift for nail biting stories that leaves you hanging onto every little word. She pulls no punches and allows you little time to accept before tossing you next challenge. Smooth flowing with minimal fillers-this story grabs you and doesn’t let go till the end. The narrative is easy to follow, even with the occasional head jumping. A strong investigative base allows readers an inside look while steady pacing and intense suspense flies us all the way home. The romance and the conflict blend effortlessly together though the romance remains a low-key presence that doesn’t offer readers any real concrete resolutions in here.
With one girl missing, and now one dead, all eyes turn towards the local cult Elysia, and Martha Collins, its charismatic leader. Zach attempts to question Martha but is instantly stonewalled. A war veteran with some PTSD, this small town sheriff’s mama bear style protective warrior status is a direct result of his traumatic experience. Intelligent, handsome, and loyal to the core, he takes each death personally and struggles with maintaining a professional demeanor.
“Do you often collect people you considered yours?”
“Call it a habit I’ve never been able to escape.”
When Eden appears in town, Zach isn’t instantly on board with her help but soon grows to trust her as he sees her commitment towards justice-a trait she shares with him.
Eden Collins’ left home 10 years ago after a traumatic event that left her convinced death would soon follow. Completely reinventing herself, she becomes a FBI agent. A strong, intelligent, emotionally isolated heroine with a strong sense of justice and deep-seated vein of vulnerability. Calm, cool, and collected, she hides her insecurities well. It’s only when she comes home does those insecurities and fears come roaring back to the surface. Though she sees the truth behind her mother’s false prophecies and god-like stature, she is more than aware of the power her mother welds. A power that Eden struggles not to fall back under herself.
She looked like the kind of woman who’d gather lost souls to her ad hold them till they were whole again.
Which is exactly why she was so dangerous.
I enjoyed meeting Eden and Zach. Robert’s works to build on their connection, showing us a team that works well together despite their differences. The romance is slow burning though heavy with chemistry. Robert’s takes her time exploring Eden’s and Zach’s attraction, using the investigation and their individual demons as speed bumps. Eden has spent her adult life alone and on the move. Her childhood has left her unable to easily trust and her job sends her everywhere. Engaging dialog and revealing emotional scenes help to tip the scale towards love. Zach’s protective streak comes out strong concerning Eden. While he wants to protect her from harm, he doesn’t coddle her. He recognizes her strength, skills, and tenacity. Though Eden doesn’t feel she has anything to offer Zach, he refuses to give up on them.
He was like a golden god who’d wandered into this strangely domestic scene, and she didn’t know how to reconcile the two conflicting impressions.
A varied cast of secondary characters are well developed and fleshed out. They slip effortlessly in and out of the story. We see many different relationships in here that further explore the mentality behind cults and the various methods that are used to keep the followers complacent and faithful. Eden’s mother is complex character who we get to know through Eden’s eyes. I found Eden’s ability to see right through her mother’s hype interesting and wondered if it was her childhood that allowed for that or her extremely strong will.
As we get closer to solving the mystery there are some very intense reveals that left me shocked. The duplicity and deception left me reeling at the implications. The ending is an explosive finale that resolves the conflict and answers all our immediate questions but leaves enough open to lead us into book two. The Devil’s Daughter is an excellent endeavor and sure to appeal to fans of romantic suspense with a strong thriller/mystery base. I am looking forward to the next in this series; to be announced.
Riley Steele became a high-end prostitute in order to keep a roof over his siblings heads when their parents died heavily in debt. He has reacGrade: C
Riley Steele became a high-end prostitute in order to keep a roof over his siblings heads when their parents died heavily in debt. He has reached most of his monetary goals and is now looking for a way to ease himself out of the business for good when an ex-girlfriend calls him for help from an abusive boyfriend. Riley never found out why Brianna left him but he has never stopped loving her and offers her a place to stay. When trouble finds its way to Riley’s door, he will have to come clean to Brianna and risk losing her again.
The first in a romantic suspense series based on a trio of siblings, I admit I was a little startled to find the romance was far more subtle than the title implies. I expected an erotic fueled base but instead found the romance was more of an element then a central point of the story. An interesting premise starts out strong though I felt the story faltered in places, only giving us the bare bones of certain scenes. There was also some issues of contradiction-we’d be given one scenario and then it would change later on The slow burn second chance romance is used to give props to Riley’s changing dynamics and the suspense plotline. Decent main character development through the secondary characters seemed to flesh out better and I found myself more curious too see what’s in store for them. Looking forward to seeing what’s in store for Charli and Con....more
The date is 1963 and two elves compete for prestige and honor at a job fair after college graduation. Felecia Eloytrisk Cambri (Trisk) and Trenton Kalamack (Kal), have despised one another for years. An argument at the job fair ends up with both of them chastised and no longer top recruiting prospectives. Trisk is offered a job with Global Industries, a human laboratory. Her job is to monitor the lab tests the humans are running, reporting anything of interest back to the elven conclave. When a fellow human scientist, Daniel Plank, develops a biological virus to be used in war, Trisk uses her skills to tweak it so it doesn’t affect any Interlanders (supernaturals). At the same time, she herself creates a strain of almost indestructible tomatoes to try and help end hunger. When Kal is brought in by the conclave to “check” over Trisk’s work, his ego gets the best of him and we are left with a killer tomato that systemically begins to wipe out the human race.
Fans of Kim Harrison’s epic urban fantasy series The Hollows and its itchy witchy heroine, Rachel Morgan, will want to jump on Harrison’s’ newest release, The Turn. This prequel introduces the world, creating a light background bridge of information for first time readers while giving long time fans a chance to see how it all started and get some answers to lingering questions.
Fans will remember that the decline of the human population, the initial reveal of the supernatural community, and the subsequent chaos that followed for YEARS all boiled down to a virus that was blamed on tomatoes. T4-Angel tomatoes to be exact. The Turn explains the hows, the whys, and most importantly, the WHOs that set all this into motion.
Action packed with plenty of intrigue, mystery, a machiavellian like series of plot lines, and Harrison’s winning dialogue keeps pacing smooth and steady. The genre seems to split between UF and mystery/thriller with a strong dose of corporate espionage. Harrison doles out the information is a manner that instantly draws you in and holds you hostage till the end. Strong characterization and dialogue engages as Harrison builds her cast of players-using new and familiar faces. The balance between the story and the characters is well maintained-neither overpowering nor sacrificing for the other. Fans may be disappointed to see that while a romance does slowly develop, it’s awkward and added more for the convenience of the story rather than an organic pairing.
I loved getting to meet the faces behind the events that made up the basis of The Hollow series and also seeing some very familiar faces. Trisk is utterly brilliant in her makeup and showcases the strong and appealing heroines Harrison is famous for. Kal is an egotistical jerk who you will love to hate. Trisk and Kal’s relationship is very similar to that of Rachel and Kal’s son, Trent. Their antagonism is so prevalent in the story it is the fuel that powers everything. It was interesting to see that Trent got his elitist attitude honestly thought there are some things revealed that will cause some to look at the little cookie maker a little differently. Daniel was a delight and I wish we could have gotten to see what became of him. It was great to see Quen, Cormel, and others who held huge roles in Rachel Morgan’s world. Reading this story really made me miss this series.
Though tragic in ways that we know can’t be fixed, Harrison offsets the seriousness with humor, love, and shows us that in times of great need, people will rise to the occasion. She leaves us with a viable ending that leads us into world we came to love and I’m thrilled Harrison choose to revisit it one last time.
Boone Price and his brothers are or rather were roughnecks-oil drillers. When they discover oil on their property, the money flows in as fastGrade: C-
Boone Price and his brothers are or rather were roughnecks-oil drillers. When they discover oil on their property, the money flows in as fast as the oil gushes out. Now a billionaire, Boone finds he’s more than ready for the respect that should come with his new found wealth. When it doesn’t, he decides what he needs is some class in his life. Enter Ivy Smithfield. Blonde, gorgeous, and intelligent with legs that don’t stop, Boone has found his trophy wife. But Ivy has a few secrets of her own. And she is positive that Boone will drop her in a heartbeat when he finds out the woman he wants doesn’t exist.
Dirty Money is the first in a romance contemporary series that follows the four Price siblings as they look for love in all the wrong places. This spirited romance requires a definite suspension of belief and some common sense as Clare introduces a rambunctious storyline with some raunchy lovin’ and characters who go all out and then some for love. Boone and Ivy come out strong but soon dissolve into a puddle of misunderstandings and temper tantrums. Ivy’s lying drags the storyline down and I found Boone’s attitudes on money and women tacky as the story wore on. I think the series has plenty merit, I’m just not sure it’s for me.
Favorite Quote: “Whatever this is that’s unfolding between us…it isn’t casual and it isn’t temporary…at least not on my part.”
Tori despises Miles. This rich party girl been trying to clean up her act since graduating college but when a mistake from past reveals itself to the press, her parents cut her off completely, leaving her homeless and broke.
Surprisingly enough, Miles is the one there to catch her when she falls from grace and soon these frenemies go from hot and angry to hot and heavy. But Tori’s need for independence batters against Miles need to protect her. When Miles pushes Tori too far, he realizes that he will have to admit to his own flaws if he wants to keep her in his life.
I haven’t read the first three books in this contemporary romance series though it didn’t take away from my understanding of the story or the character dynamics. The story starts off on a humorous note as we watch Tori’s blind date unfold in a series of bad cliches and commentary.
“This is what I get for trying to clean up my act. I’m stuck with the nerd version of the Marquis de Sade.”
Laughter erupts as Tori is forced to sit there while her date channels his inner Christian Grey and seeks to ‘command’ her into his dungeon. Tori’s inner monologue is hilarious; broadcasting the perfect amount of horror and exasperation with his antics. Extracting herself from the painful date, Tori hightails it home to make an appearance at a friend’s engagement party then off to bed. Unfortunately, her arch nemesis, Miles Girard, is also in attendance and the sparks fly.
“Miles Girard is an asshole. A total and complete Asshole.”
The metaphorical blood flows as they par and thrust their words with the skill of fine swordsmen. As the night deepens, Tori winds up talking to an ex-lover whom she caught cheating on her. He propositions her which she shoots down quickly and firmly. The next morning brings shame, disgust, and guilt when she discovers her ex-lover did not take kindly to being turned down and humiliates her online while furthering his own career. Tori’s father furthur embarrasses her by implying she brought it on herself and kicks her out-leaving her with only what she could gather in five minutes. Tori runs to Chloe’s beach house only to discover Miles is living there indefinitely. From there the story becomes more serious and zeroes it focus onto Tori and Miles.
The pacing of the story is smooth and the writing engaging as Wolff chooses to blend the two conflicts and use Tori’s misfortune to push her and Miles together. Antagonistic romances can be fun and this couple is the definition of the term. You don’t have to read the first three to understand this couple’s history. Wolff embeds just enough of background into the storyline so that you get the gist of this couple’s animosity and the reasons behind it.
I enjoyed meeting Miles and seeing his evolution. Miles is an intelligent man with the body of a GQ model and the heart and brain of a geek. He currently works for Ethan Frost (the husband of his sister, Chloe) as a researcher. Fully vested in anything he works on, this level of commitment left him oblivious to his parent’s manipulations concerning Chloe and he carries that guilt around with him. Struggling for ways to make it up to her, when Tori arrives on his doorstep and he learns what happened, he sees the similarities between her’s and Chloe’s situations and is determined to not fail again.
“No way in hell is he getting away with this. No. Way. In. Hell. Hell, I couldn’t stop Brandon-then my parents for hurting Chloe. But this? I can definitely do something about this.”
Tori comes off harder to read. She is the stereotypical poor little rich girl-living her life off her trust fund without a care in the world while looking for the love and attention her parents never gave her. We learn of her previous wild hedonistic ways though we are informed she is trying to settle down and grow up. Having grown up with the world at her fingertips, wanting for nothing, there is a vulnerability to Tori that is revealed when her father rips it all away. She is left with nothing-no money, no home, no support. Her new found bid for independence and maturity starts with wanting to deal with her problems on her own. This creates more problems when Miles tries to step in to help without consulting her.
“This man who has no faith in the system and almost as little in me.”
Wolff does a great job of building the sexual tension to nail biting levels between this couple without pushing them prematurely into a sexual relationship. It reveals organically with Wolff peeling back their layers, letting them get to know the real person buried under their protective barriers. Unfortunately, the storyline stagnates on the conflicts and we are stuck rehashing the same issues over and over-both in deed and thought. I would have loved to have seen the humor from the beginning continue throughout. The singular focus on the couple and their journey from enemies to lovers left some important aspects unresolved.
Sexually they discover their compatibility easily enough and it is extremely hot and engulfing but the romance is harder to pin down. Their immense attraction to one another doesn’t cross over to love in a satisfactory manner for me. Core issues seem to circle around with little resolution and the short time length of the story doesn’t allow for any real moments of epithimies. Tori comes off brash at times and I found myself both sympathetic and annoyed with her-especially her habit of dishing out insults then playing the wounded party when those insults are tossed back at her.
Of course, on the flip side, she has been blindsided pretty hard and her emotions are all over the place. Perhaps if I had read the first three, I would have gotten a better feel for her. As it was, Tori’s claims of wanting to stand on her own two feet doesn’t bear much fruit as she spends more time moping and raging at Miles rather than taking any steps to actually fix the problem at hand.
The ending is ambiguous as Tori runs and Miles chases, realizing he must let Tori sink or swim on her own terms regardless of his need to play the white knight and save the day. I’m not sure if Tori learned anything beyond that Miles isn’t the complete jerk she has always pegged him to be. A small epilogue gives our couple their HEA but leaves too many unanswered questions and we just have to take the author’s words for it that everything is resolved.
Fans of the series are sure to enjoy this latest installment though I found myself not as enamored as I had hoped to be.
Shari Slade’s fourth and final installment takes us back into the Devil’s Host MC. Noah enforcer for the MC and Star, a waitress with a debt over her head, are waiting to see if the MC will help rescue Noah’s sister from a rival MC. Noah needs Star more than ever now-she is the only one who knows the other MC and who’s behind the kidnapping. These edgy, suspenseful, erotic little niblets are an action-packed surprise that gives readers a decadent taste of the dark side of Motorcycle Clubs and the bikers who give their undying loyalty to this brotherhood. Emotionally stronger this round, Noah and Star have both grown considerably. The intense sexual chemistry blends well with the connection this couple has forged. Noah’s influence on Star has peeled away the fear and shame and a warrior is born. Slade wraps up the conflict and settles the romance perfectly though she leaves enough open to allow her to revisit this serial if she so chooses....more
Favorite Quote: “Magnificent. Irritating and utterly disrespectful. Totally off limits. The enemy.”
Nico Toscani is the Las Vegas crime boss and the bastard son of the former Don. When his father was brutally murdered, the family voted his uncle in as the new Don instead of him. Nico watched his father being gun down in cold blood by the Cardano family and has carefully planned his revenge for years. But all his plans come to a screeching halt when Mia Cardona walks in his office.
Mia Cardano is a mafia princess unlike anyone has ever seen before. An eclectic mixture of punk rock and geek, Mia disavowed her heritage in order to escape her destiny and struck out on her own as a security system hacker. Hired to break into and analyse Nico’s casino for security flaws, a handsy security guard and her retaliatory reaction gets her caught. Taken to meet Nico, Mia is both attracted and repulsed by everything Nico stands for. She has worked to long and too hard to cut her ties with the mafia. Mia leaves with the battle lines drawn and knows despite their attraction, nothing can come of it if they want to survive.
Nico is the first in Sarah Castille’s dark and steamy mafia romance series. Set against the glittering backdrop of Sin City, a couple from rival crime families unwillingly fall for one another and now have to find away to survive the backlash that is coming. Sexy, smart, gritty, and surprising humorous, Castille walks us into the inner sanctum of the Costa Nostra and lays bare the politics and seedy dealings of this complicated world that relies on bloodlines, honor, and antiquated ideals to excuse its horrific crimes.
Heavily character driven, there are three points of view used to tell the story and Castille takes her time to identify all the players involved and their connections to one another. She effortlessly slips in key background information that allows readers to understand instantly the reasons behind the character’s actions without feeling as if we are being crushed by massive amounts of unnecessary information.
Nico and Mia are two of a kind, both having suffered at the hands of their families. Nico was raised to run the Toscani empire but being born on the wrong side of the sheets places him in a precarious position. Forced to kowtow to his uncle and cousin, he has to play nice knowing that at any moment, they could legitimately take him out and the family wouldn’t bat an eye. He has quietly built his own empire, waiting for the day he can take over the family and exact his revenge for his father’s death. Gorgeous, deadly, and seemingly heartless, Nico is everything that the mafia embodies but there is a small part of him that just wants to be free of his responsibilities and ties.
Mia, like Nico, is a product of her environment. Groomed to be a quiet and biddable mafia wife, Mia broke away from the life when her father had her boyfriend murdered right in front of her. Starting her own company has given her the independence she craves though she stays close to her family in order to protect her younger sister, Kat. Mia is such an appealing combination of strength and vulnerability. Strong, loyal, intelligent, and a fighter…Mia stands toe to toe with everyone, demanding equality. Carrying some serious baggage, she isn’t weighed down not discouraged by it. She is a force of to be reckoned with.
The romance, though slow to develop, is fueled by combustible chemistry and intense sexual tension. Unwanted attraction is the best of tropes. Steamy scenes and titillating dialogue with a distant lack of over the top dramatics and episodes gives credence to their feelings. They try to stay out of each other’s path but like magnets, they are constantly drawn back into each other’s orbit. Nico is torn by his attraction to Mia. To fall for her means a possible war and to give up his plans for revenge while Mia has always been firm that she will never allow herself to be drawn back into this world willingly.
“Are you afraid you might fall for me?”
“I’m afraid you won’t let me go.”
She was right to be afraid.
Nico is perfect in his dominance because it is tempered by genuine concern and affection. He wants Mia and her safety and happiness is what drives him. Mia also isn’t one to play games. She is comfortable with her sexuality with no hang ups or distractions to keep her from falling for Nico. Castille catalogs the changes this couple goes through as the succumb deeper to their desires. Nico begins to lose some of his old-fashioned views concerning women and Mia realizes not all men are like her father.
“Mia, tesoro…non era mia intenzione ferirti…I never wanted to hurt you.”
Steady pacing and a multi-level storyline keeps the story moving at a swift pace and the action at a premium. Castille has an appealing voice that hooks you right into the story. The romance and conflict move in tandem, playing off one another seamlessly. Energetic narrative keeps readers firmly engaged as Castille moves her players around like a champion chess player. Betrayal and revenge are the foundations on which this story is built and everyone has an agenda. Violent undertones only serve to further legitimize the subject matter while interjections of humor help to soften the blows coming.
“Oh. My. God. I can’t believe you did that. Prostitution is illegal in Nevada unless you’re a licensed brothel.”
“Hacking into your husband’s phone to find out his location is also illegal, but I didn’t see you batting an eye about doing that… How’s that black hat feeling today?”
“It wasn’t really a black hat hack. I was doing it for a good reason, so I’d say it was more gray.”
“It’s illegal. Therefore, it’s black. Your Mafioso husband has turned you towards the dark side.”
Dynamic and engaging characters round out the story, adding authenticity to the danger that lurks in the background. Both Mia and Nico’s families are stereotypical wiseguys but they both have a strong network of friends and protectors who watch out for them. Nico’s bodyguards are surprising softhearted for capos while Mia’s bestie-Jules-has no problems donning a black hat when it comes to helping Mia. I do hope Castille chooses to revisit a certain undercover cop whose loyalties are tested.
Nico is a roller coaster ride of action packed drama, intrigue, betrayal, and deception that leaves the reader on the edge as Castille unfolds the arc and drops clues to what the future may hold. Though we end on a positive note for our hero and heroine, the story itself is far from over. The next book is Nico’s capa-Luca- and his fall from grace. It’s set to release May 2017. Though this is my first time reading Castille, it definitely won’t be my last. Fans of enemies to lovers will definitely enjoy Sarah Castille’s newest series-Ruin & Revenge.
LAPD consultant Sophia Ross is handed the opportunity of a lifetime when she comes to the UK to fulfill the terms of a will. Upon arriving, Sophia realizes that there is more at stake than a little breaking and entering. Sophia has landed right in the middle of an ongoing war between the Light and Dark Courts.
Nikolas Sevigny, a Daoine Sidhe knight of the Dark Court, has been in exile for centuries along with his fellow knights. Unable to return home to Lyonesse, he has been searching for a way to reunite his people in order to stop Isabeau, Queen of the Light Court, from destroying them all. He will use anyone and anything to win this war. Even at the expense of his own happiness.
Nikolas sees a way to get what he wants through Sophia though she refuses to be anyone’s pawn. As their animosity rises, so does their attraction to one another. When Isabeau unleashes her fiercest fighters to stop Nikolas and Sophia, they will have to set aside their differences and band together if they want to survive what is coming.
Moonshadow is the first in a new trilogy that spins off of Harrison’s best-selling Elder Races. Set in the UK, Harrison expands on the ongoing dark Fae demesnes storyline that has weaved itself in and out of the main series. Easily read as a standalone, new and long time fans will able to sink right into this new world and character influx with nary a bump.
I’ve been a huge fan of Harrison’s since she released Dragon Bound and introduced us to the Elder Races. This explosive series gave PNR a much needed shot in the arm with its fantastic world building, dynamic characterization, and an arc brimming with suspense, intrigue, humor, and plenty of sexy romance that has kept me enthralled ever since. I was pleased to see Harrison diving into the Fae demesnes and their long standing war. The clues and engaging bits of information she has dropped throughout the series hinted at an epic storyline well worth the wait. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that impressed with this first installment.
The story opens with Sophia in America. She is doing a reading and in a vision, she finds herself face to face with an unknown, gorgeous man. She disrupts the vision and wonders how and why this man was able to see her and if this is an omen about her future.
Sophia Ross worked with the LAPD as a witch consultant until she was shot multiple times while on assignment. On an indefinite leave of absence and unsure what to do with her life, she meets with Dr. Kathryn Shaw and learns that she has been named in Dr. Shaw’s late father’s will. If she can gain entrance to the Shaw family mansion in the UK within in 90 days, she will own it, all of its possessions, and the land free and clear. Built as a monument of victory on a broken crossover passageway (a gateway between Earth and the other worlds) the family abandoned the home when ‘it’ stopped letting people enter. Sophia jumps at the chance to learn more about her origins and leaves immediately for the UK. Her arrival drops her into the middle of a war when she rescues an abused dog and meets Nikolas Sevigny.
Nikolas Sevigny is the leader of the Daoine Sidhe Knights of the Dark Court. Considered abominations because of their multiple bloodlines, the Queen of the Light Court has made it her mission to destroy them all. Trapped on Earth centuries ago when Queen Isabeau’s Captain of the Hounds, Morgan le Fae, destroyed their only way of getting home, Nikolas and his remaining knights have searched tirelessly to find a way home while avoiding death. When he scents a familiar fae he’s been looking for, the trail leads him to Sophia.
Tempers flare….wills clash…and a destiny awakens…
Moonshadow takes place in a relatively short span of time. It was hard to narrow down an exact time frame because of the time shifts between Earth and the other worlds. I estimate everything occurred in a two week span-give or take a few days. I found this short time frame didn’t allow for the storyline nor the romance to evolve as naturally as I expected. It was very rushed and forced in some places. The development occurs on a singular level, not allowing for any real depth or exploration. We are given the bare bones of the conflict at hand and the characters involved. This book essentially sets up the world and conflict, staying in the present and leaving me feeling there was so much missing. The flow was off , the pace uneven, and the narrative choppy.
The romance also wasn’t a sell for me. I adore the trope of antagonistic attraction, something Harrison excels at, but this is one time I felt it didn’t work. Sophia is very independent and self-sufficient. Nikolas’s autocratic behavior rubs her the wrong way and she reacts in a sarcastic and at times a juvenile manner. The brief background we learn about her does explain the basis of her nature but she goes overboard and by the end, I was exhausted by her.
I couldn’t see why this couple fell in love. From their first meeting to their final declaration of love, I felt they were more infatuated with one another than anything else due to being forced into a volatile situation and having to depend on one another. While I could understand the attraction; both are intelligent, loyal, hard working, and extremely self-sacrificing, there wasn’t enough time for them to get to know one another much less fall head over heels. Sophia repeatedly refers to Nikolas as an arsehole and snarks at him when she feels he is ordering her around. She claims to dislike him and initiates sex with no strings, then gets angry when he agrees and distances himself. Her insults are framed as foreplay.
Nikolas is not much though I understood his reasoning better. He is much older than Sophia and has been fighting one war or another for most of his life. He knows the dangers around them and while he tends to react with anger over Sophia’s actions, it’s out of concern for her well-being.
As always, Harrison writes some steamy, chemistry boosted, love scenes and while I enjoy them greatly, I will admit I am prejudiced against the word spurt. It’s a whimsical word that works well (in my opinion) in erotic and or comedic romances but felt very out of place in the seriousness of the storyline and characters.
A cast of interesting secondary characters are brought in to round out the story and I’m looking forward to seeing each shine in their predestined roles. Many new faces and some old ones make an appearance. We meet the other knights and the Puck (Robin) holds a strong place in the story. The most intriguing character to me was Morgan la Fae. Harrison hints a few times that there is more to him than what meets the eye and I’m interested in seeing how and even if she redeems him.
All in all Moonshadow was a disappointment when compared to the jewels I have read from Harrison. I’m hoping this is just an anomaly and the second book in this trilogy takes us back to her normally exceptional works.
Beyond Surrender is the ninth and last installment in Kit Rocha’s Beyond series. Nessa, O’Kane princess and ruler of the distillery, finds her sanity and strength tested when she falls for the one man whose only goal is to see Eden fall. The sectors are going to war and nothing will ever be the same again.
This post apocalyptic series has been a favorite of Smexy Books since its first installment, Beyond Shame, was released in 2012. This dark post apocalyptic world revolves around a walled utopian city-Eden-where the rich and elite live and the outcasts who live outside the walls who have divided the city into gang controlled sections. Heavily character drive, the arc focuses mainly on Sector Four-the O’Kanes. As the series has expanded, we meet the other sectors, their rulers, and the war that is brewing between Eden and the sectors. It’s all rather bittersweet to see the series coming to an end though Rocha has confirmed that their spin-off, Gideon’s Riders, will release its first installment March 2017.
Beyond Surrender is Neesa and Ryder’s story. Nessa, the genus behind the O’Kane Distillery, has been with Dallas since the very beginning. Her family worked for his on his family’s farm in TX. Dallas left the farm to seek his own way and when things got rough on the farm, Nessa and her grandfather followed. All grown up now, Nessa is considered the princess of the O’Kane family and protected like one.
Ryder has been preparing for war for a long time. When his mentor, Jim, was killed, Ryder took Jim’s diary that is a goldmine of information, and became the new leader of Sector Five. Ryder turns up in Sector Four though, to be an ally for Dallas and his leadership. Dallas and company have been preparing for war for a long time and they are ready to proceed. It’s here that Ryder meets Nessa, and there is a definite chemistry between them.
Tori, let’s first talk about Ryder and Nessa’s relationship. I felt it was more quiet than the romances in other books. They had eyes only for each other – and while it was still intense, it was less chaotic. I liked that – since their world was erupting around them.
Tori: I agree. The romance is softer, more intimate, and though it definitely doesn’t hold the erotic edge that we have seen with previous couples, it still maintains a strong hold on the story. Their contrasts-Nessa’s impulsiveness and Ryder’s calm, steady nature-play off one another perfectly. Nessa shows Ryder how to dream beyond his mission while Ryder gives Nessa the dominance and security she craves. Nessa has spent her life unsure if men want her for her or for her connections to Dallas. Ryder doesn’t need anything from her. Not her skills or not her connections. This exhilarates and scares Nessa.
“She’d always wondered what made women bolt like terrified pray in the face of that look. If a hot guy knew what he was doing with his dick wanted to get busy, why wouldn’t you jump on and ride?
Now she got it. Arousal might have made her wet enough to squirm, but the flutter in her chest was closer to panic then excitement.
Oh yeah. She got it now, why women ran. She also knew that running got you chased.”
Their interactions are infrequent, making the time they do have together more intense as they take advantage. Ryder and Nessa both have their respective roles to play with Ryder on the front lines and Nessa staying behind to man the home fires so to speak. I loved the sense of danger that surrounds them-the possibility of death and the reactions of the O’Kane men who see Nessa as their baby sister.
“As soon as Ace and Jas and Dallas find out, they’re going to make it weird. They always make it weird.”
The romance blends well with the conflict. Rocha jumps right into the fray with no lead up, putting us right up against the wall with our favorite characters. We’ve been waiting for this since book one and I felt Rocha delivers as intended. Allies and enemies alike have played a long game and the time has come to pay the piper. Rocha doesn’t hold back and keep readers in their safe places. War is hell and this writing duo unapologetically shows us the hell the sectors go through to win back their lives and freedom. What did you think Mandi? Were you happy with the way the conflict played out?
Mandi: There was a lot of pressure on this book to deliver a solid HEA for our main couple, but to also deliver on the build up of this war, and to check in on everyone that we have met through the series. It was a lot, but the authors made it all flow so smoothly. One criticism I’ve had with this series is that we don’t always see the violent acts committed outside of Sector Four, and to understand the danger and be immersed in this world, I think experiencing the horrible acts is important for the reader. Not that I enjoy war, but in this book the authors do present it to us and it was a nice payoff. Although I almost had a heart attack when a certain sexy man went down. Good thing when Rocha gives us a HEA, it STAYS a HEA. I did think the first half was a little slow, but maybe that was because I was anticipating the end.
Another thing I enjoyed, not only in this book but the series in general, is Dallas’s rise to power and how others perceived his power. He doesn’t ooze finesse, quite the opposite actually, but he knows how to earn respect. Ryder had been groomed to be the leader of the sectors, and instead of working against Dallas or holding a grudge, he contributes to the war efforts without causing a headache for Sector Four. Dallas is also my absolute favorite character in this series (well – Dallas and Lex) so everyone better bow down! *wink*
Tori: This for me was one of the best scenes. We have watched Dallas and Lex grow within their positions and in here they actually give voice to the changes they’ve made as leaders, O’Kanes, and lovers. I have always found it fascinating that Lex and Dallas are always Declan and Alexa to one another-as if they need that separation between them and the sector.
“I love you, Alexa,” he murmured against her lips. “So let’s settle down and rule our den of sin.”
“For life, Declan.”
Mandi: Up next is a spin-off series, titled Gideon Riders (you spend a little time with them in this book) and they will take us to Sector One. The first book will be Ashwin and Kora and wow did they have some intense scenes in this book.
Even watching for it, Cruz didn’t see the explosion coming.
One second, they were on opposite sides of the alley. The next, Ashwin was slamming Cruz into the brick wall hard enough to know the wind out of him. Ashwin’s hand closed around his throat, pushing him up onto his toes, and his rational mask shattered. “Where is she?”
Oh boy. Their story is going to be HOT.
Are you excited, Tori?
Tori: Excited may not quite be the word for what I’m feeling. I’ve been completely obsessed with Ashwin since first meeting him. A genetically altered soldier who’s become so obsessed with a woman to the point where he needs to hide her from HIM? WHAAA???
They were both what their creators had intended. Perfectly formed tools meant for a single purpose. Trying to change that was a futile act that led to malfunction. He was proof of that.
He’d forget how to feel again. And she’d be safer without him.
I want to know the whys, wheres, whens, hows. *grabby hands* Also very interested in seeing who is the heroine for Gideon and how she’ll help him to accept his destiny.
Beyond Surrender is the perfect ending for this portion of the arc. A soft romance combined with an intense conflict closed some doors but left others open to ensure we are well prepared for the next adventure to come.
Favorite Quote: “Tell me what you need.” “An orgasm would be nice.”
The 12th installment in Jaci Burton’s best selling Play By Play series gives readers a sexy, sweet, and humorous romance between two people whose trust has been broken by those they cared about. More laid back than previous books in terms of conflict; food and family are the main ingredients that are used to create this spicy/sweet romance.
Our protagonists, Flynn and Amelia, are extremely similar in their character makeup. Both are intelligent, loyal, and witty with a lack of the usual deep seated emotional baggage that often sparks tension and misunderstandings in these romances. Hard working and well liked, their personalities and humor mesh well together throughout the story, helping to push their blooming romance along at a smooth and steady pace. Flynn appreciates that Amelia seems to enjoy his company for him-not what his career can bring her. Amelia likes that Flynn respects her, trusts her, and doesn’t feel she needs changing.
Dual points of view allow us insight into their thoughts and emotions concerning the developing romance. We learn more about Amelia’s divorce and how it affected her views on relationships. Burton doesn’t make it easy for Flynn to convince Amelia to trust him, which pushes him to bring in his secret weapon-his family.
The storyline is relatively straightforward and predictable. Burton’s smooth writing and engaging helps to balance the daily ins and outs of the restaurant and the football team with Flynn’s low-key courtship of Amelia. I never felt as if the story was being rushed or crammed with information. He wants Amelia to give them a chance and he spends his time teasing, cajoling, and subtly pushing his way into Amelia’s life and bed. Amelia isn’t sure she can trust him. Fear for her job and her heart if things go bad keeps her walls up. She slowly begins to open up to him; first in bed then in her heart.
The love scenes were more playful and less scripted in this installment, though I’m still seeing a continuation of repetitive phrases during sex. Amelia’s dirty mouth was a pleasant shock as it strikes a nice contrast against her polite and reserved outer persona.
“You’re very beautiful, Amelia.”
“Thank you. Now fuck me.”
Burton uses the family fueled atmosphere of the Sabers and the Cassidy’s to draw Amelia out and help Flynn press his suit. We get to spend time with previous couples along with Flynn’s siblings, significant others, and parents. They are a warm engaging group who embrace Amelia whole heartedly, giving her the sense of family and stability she’s been yearning for. The sibling’s bickering offers readers some amusement as does Amelia’s relationship with her bff-Laura.
A misunderstanding towards the end pushes Flynn finally face his own issues but it was very melodramatic and seemed to come out of nowhere. The grovel is well done but again, the whole scene felt tossed in at the last moment and didn’t seem to mesh with what we had seen of Flynn or the story’s overall tone.
Burton’s Play by Play series continues to offer amicable, low key escapism with sexy sports heroes and the woman who steal their hearts.
Heidi Cullinan revisits Logan, MN and a favorite couple when a newcomer to town and finds an invitation to more than just the holiday festivities. The last installment in Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas series gives readers the gift of erotic delights when a committed couple decides to add a third to their relationship. What first starts out as a physical connection that allows for some hot and heavy playtime soon turns emotional when love enters the equation. Cullinan addresses the various issues surrounding polyamory relationships in a frank and respectful manner though she didn’t completely sell me on the legitimacy of this relationship. The relationship centered on Gabriel being the common denominator. I never felt the connection between Arthur and Dale went any further than mutual affection. A faint suspense subplot adds tension to the story and helps to cement Dale’s place in Logan. Regardless of my issue, I felt Cullinan did an excellent job with the romance and showing that love is what we need it to be. I enjoyed my visit back to Logan and look forward to visiting again soon....more
You always know you’re going to get a dark, gritty, sexy, angry and complicated romance when you pick up a M. O’Keefe book. Damaged men and women who carry more baggage than Samsonite reluctantly find one another and embark on a journey towards their redemption…if they’re brave enough to accept it. She doesn’t always offer her readers a HEA, but she does offer enough hope to assure readers the couples involved have a very good chance at making it. O’Keefe’s newest venture-Bad Neighbor- embraces all that and more when an angry illegal back room fighter falls for a shy illustrator whose life has taken a turn towards the unknown.
Charlotte, a professional illustrator, is forced to downsize tremendously when her twin sister, Amber, gets into some trouble and goes on the lam. After selling her condo and giving most of the money to her sister, Charlotte moves into a run down apartment complex in a seedy part of town and attempts to reestablish her life as best she can. Shy and introverted, Charlotte is shocked when she meets her neighbor-the rude, grumpy, and utterly gorgeous Jesse.
Jesse, a backroom fighter, also lives at the apartment complex. His first meeting of Charlotte tells him three things. She’s beautiful, she’s hiding something, and she’s not for him. He’s also hiding a few secrets of his own. Secrets that could hurt them both if discovered. Jesse pushes and pulls at Charlotte, blowing hot and cold with each new encounter. So Mandi, what did you think of the initial setup?
Mandi: OMG this set-up is my candy. Innocent heroine in hiding. Intimidating, grumpy – wait – asshole hero next door who just happens to be an illegal fighter. He is described as “thick” with sweaty abs.
*peeks out window and looks at elderly do-gooder neighbor* Damn it! I don’t have a “bad neighbor.”
I feel like O’Keefe not only sets-up a bad boy hero, but she goes there with him. He has depravities. He is not nice. He can be a SUPER jerk. But at least he admits it:
This was sex, Sex the way it was in movies. And books.
I felt primal all of a sudden, and I realized that I was kissing the way he was kissing me. My hands were fisted in his shirt. I sucked on his tongue. Bit his lip. I ate him like he was an avocado and I was starving.
My back hit the fridge because he’d pushed me there. His hand cupped my chin, lifting my head as he backed an inch away from my mouth.
“I’m sorry I’m a dick,” he whispered, his breath washing my lips, my face.
Apology accepted, Jesse!
And on the other side, Charlotte, although in hiding and a little scared, is so cute. When she sees Jesse, she is a little fearful by how masculine and raw he is – but her fantasies start coming to life in her head. Leading a safe, romantic life, Charlotte is not used to being near and attracted to such an intense person. Her safe little fantasy about the fruit stand boy down the street gets thrown out the window.
“Bedroom?” he asked, jerking his thumb toward the shadowed doorway beside my kitchen.
I opened my mouth to say what but nothing came out.
Was this the fruit stand fantasy coming true? Was this…possible? He said bedroom and I just led him in there and we went at it? Was that how these things worked?
(He just wanted to fix her doorknob – like her actual, metal doorknob!)
Tori, did you like the chemistry between Jesse and Charlotte and how their romance plays out?
Tori: I love the sexual tension that O’Keefe begins building from the first time Jesse pushes Charlotte’s futon threw her apartment door. It’s a hot, pulsing, earthy entity that screams (or maybe that was me) DO ME!! DO ME NOW!! Jesse pushes Charlotte’s boundaries; locking onto the sexuality she keeps buried and gives her an outlet in which to embrace and express herself with no shame.
“I was right, he whispered. You’re so fucking soft.
It’s …they’re…” I made some gurgling sounds of despair and tilted my face away.
“Fucking perfect,” he said.
The romance itself blossoms almost under the radar; completely unconventional but no less uninspiring. Seeing Charlotte and Jesse slowly open up to one another is both sweet and sad; neither thinking they have anything to really offer one anyone. It’s here where the similarities between them shine the brightest. Both of them have spent their lives being dragged into their siblings messes; caring for them instead of themselves. Though Charlotte is more forthright in her attempts to care for Jesse (OMG-the curtains-I DIED), he does things that alert us to the fact that Charlotte isn’t just a novel new flavor for him.
“I want to see you again, and you’re hungry, So, I can feed you.”
Even though the story has a darker tone overall, with all the secrets and the slow reveal in just how intertwined Charlotte and Jesse’s lives are, I love the bits of humor and spontaneity that interject themselves in an organic manner. Charlotte is such a shy, introverted woman yet they have the such dynamic chemistry, the dialogue just flows right along. When she boldly makes sexual demands of Jesse, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the vision in my head. It was akin to seeing a cute blond-haired cherub suddenly start cursing like a sailor in the middle of church.
What did you think, Mandi? Did you appreciate the humor and spontaneity that was added? Did it feel natural to you, too?
Mandi: Yes! For what I would categorize as a “dark erotic” there are a good number of scenes that made me smile and chuckle. I thought O’Keefe did a nice job with the illegal fighting atmosphere and although the suspense may not have been my favorite part, it was light and didn’t overshadow the story. I am excited for the next book which will feature Jesse’s brother. Oh, do I have questions!!
Before I go, I have to mention the orgy! Well – what I call an orgy. Jesse says there must be five people for it to be an orgy and there were only four – two and two participating. But damn it – it was a fun scene. You’ll have to read it to enjoy it – but I will leave you with a naughty quote (put under spoilers because naughty)
There is a HEA although it’s kind of abrupt and I maybe not the most solid of HEAs. But I definitely recommend this one.
Tori: I agree, Mandi. I think O’Keefe did an excellent job of blending Jesse’s fighting and the reasons for it with the suspense plot line though I felt it was a little weak. The romance is definitely the main focus of the storyline and I loved that we had plenty of scenes to laugh at while watching this couple find their place together in the world. Staying in the present keeps the story moving at a solid pace but I felt we lost something by not really getting to know the other two players in this story whose actions put Charlotte and Jesse in the place we met them. I too felt the ending was rushed I personally felt Charlotte forgave Jesse to easily for what he did but she does make her point in cheer worthy manner so all is well. While we aren’t given a solid HEA or even HFN, I am looking forward to book two and hope we see more of Charlotte and Jesse.
Favorite Quote: “Six months is nothing when considering the potential of forever without you”
Soccer goalie Rachel Jameson is in her last year at Glendale College. After surviving an abusive home life, Rachel has her sights set on graduating and moving forward with her life.
Until she meets Mack.
With his gorgeous looks and flirty smile, he pushes his way past her boundaries and into her life with a speed that surprises them both. Rachel finds herself falling in love for the first time in her life.
Until she discovers exactly who he is.
Forced to abandon their romance before it really starts, Rachel’s carefully structured life begin to spiral out of control as she struggles to repair her broken heart. When it looks like she may lose Mack for good, Rachel has to decide whose future means more. Hers or theirs.
Jillian Liota’s debut book, The Keeper, is a contemporary romance with a faint NA feel that flirts with a taboo romance and other serious subject matters. Fans of Zapata’s Kulti will enjoy as it has a similar premise. Told in the first person narrative, Liota builds a humorous, engaging, and bittersweet story that focuses on a college student whose carefully scripted life is blown to pieces when she unknowingly falls for an unsuitable man. While I’m not fond of 1st person narrative, Liota does an excellent job of not only characterizing Rachel but also the supporting characters. Solid writing, a strong cast, and addictive dialogue keeps you engaged as you watch this young woman’s life fall apart in a way that forces her to finally deal with issues she buried long ago.
Rachel Jameson is a college goalie whose older brother plays professional soccer. A born athlete, she grew up playing male dominated sports which only served to fuel the abuse her father heaped on her. Finally out from under his thumb, thanks to an athletic and academic scholarship, Rachel keeps her head down and focuses on her goals.
At a party her brother throws, she meets a mysterious man who pretends she is his girlfriend to help guard him against an overzealous party goer. They strike up a conversation, the witty banter between them and they end up on a balcony screaming to the stars. This meet cute sets the stage that begins to bring Rachel out of her shell and show us the real Rachel.
Mack is everything Rachel likes in a person and that scares her to death. Their chemistry is soft but potent, illuminating that instant zing some couples get at first meeting. Only one date and Rachel is hooked until she discovers he’s been hired as one of the team’s new soccer coaches. Liota handles this reveal well. She expertly voices all that Rachel is feeling.The hurt, pain, sorrow, anger, confusion, and sense of betrayal all flows true. We feel it right along with Rachel.
“I know that it’s way to fast, way to soon to let my heart get this emotionally involved. I don’t let my heart get involved. I’m not this person. We went on one date. We kissed one time. But God, there was something special there. Something really special.”
I will admit I was a little skeptical that Rachel didn’t recognize this man when they first met. He was a former soccer star who not only played on the same team as her brother but is good friends with her brother.
Rachel was very easy to relate to. A bit of a nerd; her intelligence, common sense, and dry snark shines through in all her actions and dialogue. Though introverted, she doesn’t roll over for anyone. She speaks her mind quite often. She’s a fighter-a bet a quiet one. Her strength is phenomenal but it’s the flashes of vulnerabilities she reluctantly shows that grab hold of the reader. Liota captures the essence of a 22/23 year old perfectly.
“Jeremy thinks you can go pro.” “Jeremy also thinks the Black Eyed Peas are the Beatles of our generation. He’s been known to think stupid things.”
Mack is the perfect guy. As we see everything through Rachel’s eyes, her views of him are flavored by prejudice. He comes off gorgeous, kind, funny, and seemingly very into Rachel. I liked how she was with him. More open and self-confident. He makes her feel safe and wanted, something she didn’t even realize she wanted or needed. Liota doesn’t give their romance an instant fix nor fuel it with heavy bouts of angst and over the top dramatics. Rachel and Mack both have issues that need addressing and some tough decisions to make. Especially Rachel. But they communicate this to one another with all misconceptions clearing up in a reasonable amount of time. Rachel finally opens up completely about the abuse and her resulting behavior. I liked that Liota not only brings in a therapist but we get to see some of their sessions. Often the subject is broached but it fades to black and suddenly the person in question is fixed.
A strong and dynamic cast of friends and family are all on board as they offer advice, laughter, a shoulder to cry on, and some needed kicks in the butt. Rachel’s bff Charlie is a vivacious addition who always has Rachel’s back along with Rachel’s fellow team mates.
“You have to get it out of your head your worthless, RJ. You’re anything but, and it sounds like this guy knows it.”
Her brother Jeremy is a good guy and your heartbreaks a little when he realizes just what Rachel went through when he left home. Apparently, there is a little something-something between Charlie and Jeremy and their story will be told in Keep Away.
Liota’s debut The Keeper is definitely a “keeper.” Some mild grammar issues aside, I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.
The first in Bowen’s and Kennedy’s WAGs series spins off their popular Him series. Him introduced us to Wes and Jamie and Us gave us their epGrade: B+
The first in Bowen’s and Kennedy’s WAGs series spins off their popular Him series. Him introduced us to Wes and Jamie and Us gave us their epic love story. Now the time has come for Wes and Jamie’s wedding and who better to pull it off then Jamie’s sister, Jessica? But Jessica has some problems. She is suffering from a career ennui and a certain obnoxious, happy go lucky hockey player has decided they are perfect for one another. What’s a girl to do when the good boy she wants ends up being the bad boy she needs?
Good Boy is a hilarious, sexy, and all around fun opposites attract that reunites us with Blake and Jessica. Witty banter and laugh out loud scenes will keep you in stitches as we watch Blake attempt to woo Jessica the best way he knows how-with bawdy come ons and lots of inappropriate touching. Personable characterization and a well developed storyline keeps the reader heavily engaged. Two subplots help us to see a more serious side to Blake and Jessica and goes deep behind the various speed bumps we see impeding their relationship. Fans will adore spending more time with Wes, Jamie, the family, and the entire hockey team as we watch Jessica and Blake score the biggest goal of their lives-true love....more
Favorite Quote: “He’s an asshole, but he’s my asshole.”
Quarterback JR “Ace” Anderson has made a successful transfer to Southern U to quarterback for the Renegades after the showdown between him and his old coach at Western State. With his reputation preceding him, he has a long road ahead of him in trying to gain the trust of his new teammates. The only person who seems to believe in him is the one person who he needs to stay away from-his coach’s daughter.
Bryant Johnson, a student at Southern U, has one goal in her life-to make people happy. Using her southern charms and proper upbringing, Bryant has spent her last 3 years of school taking rough young men and molding them into the perfect boyfriend. Ace promises to be her greatest project to date though she wasn’t expecting his resistance or her attraction to him.
When the gal everyone loves falls for the guy everyone hates, the biggest battle of the year will be off the field.
Downed is the 3rd installment in Jen Frederick’s highly popular Gridiron series; a sports romance contemporary that follows a champion college football team as they navigate the stress of school, sports, and women. Though part of the series, it can easily be read as a standalone. Humor and mild growing pains create the perfect canvas on which to capture the growth and redemption of a man who must come to terms with his past and learn how to be the leader he’s destined to be.
Fans will remember Ace from the previous books. A two-time championship winning quarterback with a disreputable reputation, he hit the skids in book two-Jockblocked–when some of his antics come back to haunt him. He made some bad choices that led to his having to transfer to another school and the loss of his best friend. Rude, obnoxious, loud, and toting around a huge chip on his shoulder, this self-proclaimed arrogant jerk has been given a second chance but is unsure how to move forward.
“No girls, head down, trying to fit in with my new team as best as possible. It’s not working.”
Redemption stories can be a fun ride if the author not only shows readers that the object of redemption is worthy but makes the journey a believable experience. Frederick’s achieves this by slowly drawing out our hero’s demons and allowing us to see the real reasons behind some of his behavior. She doesn’t attempt to manipulate readers by creating a storyline that magically uses Ace’s past to excuse all of his bad behavior but rather uses some outside influences to show him that he has the ability to achieve all his goals if he just learns to trust himself and his team.
Enter Bryant Johnson.
Bryant is the poster girl for the proper southern belle. Blonde, beautiful, and bubbly, she looks like a pampered princess but marches through the world like a 5 star general. To her there are no problems that can’t be solved…you just have to find a way around it. The daughter of the Renegade’s coach, her time is split between her family, her sorority, and her projects. One of those projects is based on a tragedy from her past. She has spent years using every trick in her impressive arsenal to redeem bad boys into perfect boyfriends. And she has decided Ace will be her last and possibly greatest makeover ever.
“Each encounter with Ace drives home the universe’s message that I need to save him from himself…”
Ace and Bryant’s romance starts out incredibly odd and funny. Bryant essentially insinuates herself in his life, declaring he is her boyfriend, and he’s at loss on how it all happened. Of course, the team is all for it as Bryant is beloved by all and she is the goddess of baked goods. Yes, the team is all for pushing Ace into a relationship he doesn’t want for unlimited access to yummy baked treats.
“Don’t fuck this up for us,” a stern voice tells me. The warning comes from the left tackle, the guy who guards my blind side.
“Yeah,” Carter agrees, frowning deeply at me. “I’ll lay you the fuck down if you screw this up for the team.”
I admit I wasn’t completely on board with Bryant and her manipulations. There is a self-righteous smugness to her in the beginning that was off-putting. She essentially goes out with men who are jerks in order to make them better people. An admirable goal, however, she isn’t honest about her intentions. These men think they are dating her because she is interested in them-not because she wants to make them over then release them back into the wild.
“My program is a catch and release one, not catch and keep.”
Frederick’s keeps the storyline relatively lightweight as she works her magic around Ace and Bryant. Strong chemistry, witty banter, and a playful attitude in and out of the bedroom entertains readers as Ace keeps Bryant on her toes and refuses to be just another project to her.
“If I date you,” I mutter, breaking our mouths apart, “I have a rule, too.” “What is it,” she asks breathlessly. “You don’t hold back on me,” I say roughly. “You don’t lie there with your eyes closed while I fuck you like you’re doing me a favor by letting me drill your pussy.” I grasp her chin, tipping her head so she’s forced to look at me. “I either turn you on or I don’t. And if it’s the latter, then I’m not wasting my time here, Bryant.”
As we watch this couple date not date, both mature along with the relationship. Frederick doesn’t attempt to change either of them at their core but rather helps them smooth out some rough spots. Bryant grew on me somewhat and you see her heart is in the right place. She eventually learns that she can’t hold herself responsible for other people’s actions and how perfection won’t stop the bad things in life from happening. Ace matures in both thought and deed; learning how to be a functional part of a team and a relationship. Both of them become each other’s biggest cheerleaders which is something they need. Some bridges are repaired and some are crossed with no looking back. Though there are some minor external conflicts, they’re low key and easily resolved.
A charismatic and rambunctious cast of secondary characters helps to keep the story from becoming too internalized with their unsolicited advice, observations and attempts to help. The team’s rally moment where they finally accept Ace as one of their own was ridiculously funny while Bryan’s sisters killed me with their outrageous neediness. The Renegade’s coach (Bryant’s dad) is a pivotal character who provides Ace with the support he doesn’t get from his own parents. A variety of new faces are introduced while some old friends drop by for a visit to help expand the world while solidifying the bridge between the two settings.
“We’re gonna win back your girl, right?” “Yup.” “Count me in, but only if there are ninja stars and zip lining involved.”
Downed is a fun sexy romance that will delight romance readers who enjoy watching the redemption of a seemingly unrepentant hero.
**spoiler alert** I picked up this book for review because I do enjoy the redemption of a grumpy hero. I didn't even get 16% in before I realized the**spoiler alert** I picked up this book for review because I do enjoy the redemption of a grumpy hero. I didn't even get 16% in before I realized the hero was beyond grumpy-he was an arse. There is also a rape scene that is presented more as dubious consent though I didn't see any consent. All I saw was resignation. The hero verbally expresses he doesn't want what is happening and the other man continues to engage in sexual congress with him. The hero ends up just letting the other man get him off and nothing is said. When someone says get off me, leave me alone and you don't stop what you're doing-it's rape. ...more
Favorite Quote: “Once she looked out at the world and never seen any darkness. She’d trusted blindly, dumbly. Not anymore.”
Bailey Jones is the only known survivor of a serial killer known as the Angel of Death. Except Bailey saw another woman there. One who Bailey helped to escape and then she just disappeared. From the deputy who rescued her to the shirk she’s been seeing, no one believes her. But Bailey knows the woman was there and has come to LOST for help in locating her. She never expected to be attracted to the agent assigned to her.
LOST agent Asher Young knows all about the fear, pain, horror, and guilt that Bailey carries around inside her. His own experiences have left a darkness in him that he fears may strike out at Bailey should he give in to the burning attraction that is slowly consuming him.
As more bodies turn up, all marked with the same tattoo that the Angel of Death used on his victims, Asher fears that whoever is playing games with them will not stop until they claim their final victim-Bailey.
Taken is the fifth installment in Eden’s dark romance suspense thriller series-LOST. Based on the LOST agency (Last Option Search Team) that uses their considerable skills to help law enforcement find people, each story revolves around a couple who helps one another to keep from tumbling into the abyss. Though each book is loosely based on the agency and the arc bleeds over a little, each one can be comfortably read as a standalone.
Dark, gritty, and intense, Eden gives life to our worst fears as she slowly builds a harrowing tale of intrigue, suspense, deception, and horror that all revolves around one person-Bailey Jones-and a memory that no one is sure is even real. The heavy atmosphere pulls us into the story instantly as Eden jettisons the reader in the past and we experience Bailey’s kidnapping through her eyes as it happens. The fear, pain, confusion, and horror all blend together as she tries to understand what is happening. When Bailey is able to escape her bonds and surprise the killer with another woman. The woman escapes, leaving Bailey with the killer, and Bailey finds herself once again at death’s door. When she is saved by the police and assured her tormenter is dead, we skip forward to the present and her hiring of LOST.
Taken is easy to follow romance wise; Eden uses dual narrative and internal memory flashes of the protagonists’ pasts in order to flesh them out and help build on the chemistry that ignites upon their first meeting. The mystery itself is a little more complicated. Though somewhat formulaic overall; two damaged people, a vicious series of crimes, a race against time; the always smooth presentation and intriguing clues dropped gives rise to intense emotions as the plot picks up speed, leaving the reader tense with anticipation till the very last page. Eden methodically maps out Bailey and Asher’s investigation and the police interactions, creating a solid base on which to build this decidedly convoluted mystery.
Bailey and Asher are an interesting mixture of contrasts and similarities, adding depth and background to the main storyline. The romance holds an integral place in the story and Eden uses the investigation to help draw out their developing emotions for one another. Strong sexual tension only adds to this couple’s appeal.
Bailey has lost so much since her kidnapping and torture. Her whole life has been turned upside down and she is merely a shell of who she used to be. She fears everything and is constantly harassed by the media. Her reaching out to LOST is two-fold. She wants to find the other survivor and take her life back. Asher Young is an ex-navy seal who joined LOST after he was discharged; much to the relief of his friend and the owner, Gage. He and his twin sister were also the victims of a kidnapping as teenagers…only their story ended a little differently with Asher killing the kidnappers. Asher is a natural born protector. The kidnapping affected him deeply and he has spent his life in dangerous situations to make sure no one suffers like he and his sister did ever again. Both he and Bailey are scared that their pasts now define them but together they learn differently.
A diverse cast of secondary characters keeps the suspense and mystery flowing smoothly. Each person adds personality, drama, and insight into the story. Through them we finally get the full truth behind what exactly happened to Bailey and why. The events leading up to the reveal is quite a twisted journey. At times I did feel that the story dragged in the areas. There was a lot going on and it seemed to stumble over itself as Eden began to untangle all the threads and lead us towards the end.
Eden wraps up everything nice and neat in a climactic finale that answers our questions and wraps up all the loose ends. Bailey and Asher are left in a good place and Eden gives us a preview of the next story, Wrecked, and heroine, Asher’s twin sister, Ana.
Adriana Locke tells a compelling story about a couple whose marriage falls to the wayside when an accident at the local mine sets a series ofGrade: C+
Adriana Locke tells a compelling story about a couple whose marriage falls to the wayside when an accident at the local mine sets a series of actions in play that leaves them unable to cope. Locke gives us an intimate view of a small town struggling to stay afloat and the effects it has on this married couple. Locke lets us see when it all began to go wrong, the consequences, and finally the steps they take to try to repair it. I was a little dismayed to find that the bulk of the issues were laid at the husband’s feet. While I can see his need to be the man of the house and his actions he takes when he thinks he’s a burden were wrong, I did feel the wife got off a little too easy as Locke paints her firmly in the victim corner. Regardless, engaging dialogue and an inclusion of well-meaning friends help to make their journey a little easier. I will admit I was surprised by the dichotomy of the faint inspiration tone and the explicit dirty talk and sexual scenes. Warning: keep your tissues handy....more
Favorite Quote: “Hope you brought your A-game, Whitney.”
10 years ago, the love of Saylor Rodgers’s life left without so much as a goodbye. A year ago she broke her engagement because once again she wasn’t what someone wanted. Now she sits staring at an invitation to her ex fiance’s wedding. In her curiosity, she RSVPs. Now she is stuck attending a wedding she doesn’t want to attend and no one to attend it with. That is until her first love sweeps through the door of her bakery.
Hayes Whitley, mega movie star and heart-throb to millions, knew he broke Saylor’s heart when he left town after graduation to pursue his dreams. When her brother emails him, reminding him of a debt he owns, Hayes drops everything to come home to help Saylor. But Saylor isn’t the starry-eyed girl he left behind. Saylor doesn’t want his help. In fact, she doesn’t want him at all.
Saylor agrees to let Hayes escort her to the wedding and spend the week with him; taking a much-needed break from her business. But what starts out as a friend helping a friend turns into more as old feelings resurface and this couple has to decide if they can build on what they started so long ago…or finally let each other go.
Sweet Cheeks by K. Bromberg is a stand-alone second chance romance that delights the reader with it’s cheeky humorous narrative, engaging protagonists, and simmering sexual tension. I’m a huge fan of second chance romances that start out on an antagonistic base. There is something infinitely appealing watching a couple revisit the history of their failed relationship and discover what went wrong as their emotional tinted glasses fall to the wayside. The well plotted storyline flows at a steady pace; interjecting humor and bittersweet moments as two high school sweethearts are reluctantly reunited after ten years.
Our story opens with Saylor Rodgers who owns a cupcake bakery called Sweet Cheeks. She is struggling due to the bad press her business has received after she broke off her engagement with the town’s most eligible and influential bachelor. When she receives an invitation to her ex fiance’s wedding, she’s shocked and yes, hurt, that everything from the paper the invitation is printed on to the wedding destination is exactly what she had planned. In a moment of anger, she RSVP’s and plus ones and places it aside, never thinking her assistant would actually mail it.
“It’s one thing to envision Mitch panicking. It’s another to find out the RSVP was actually mailed.”
When her ex-boyfriend, Hollywood hottie Hayes Whitley walks into her bakery, Saylor is an epic mess of emotions. She correctly guesses her brother contacted Hayes to ask him to help her out of this mess and she lets loose ten years of anger, pain, and sorrow. Hayes thinks fast on his feet, claiming ignorance of her predicament while struggling to accept that he may not be able to charm his way back into her life.
I loved Hayes and Saylor. Their romance was sweet, snarky, sexy, and heartbreaking. Strong chemistry and steamy panty dropping passion saturated the story, assuring readers that no matter what happened in the past, this couple aren’t over one another.
“My pace, Saylor. Not yours. I’m in control now. You may own pieces of me you never even knew, but right now, I’m going to own you. Every single part of you.”
The slow journey towards discovery, forgiveness, and ultimately love controls a large portion of the storyline. Bromberg builds the story, effectively commuting to readers how these two have suffered. Saylor was grievously hurt by Hayes walking away and completely cutting off all contact though she didn’t let it overtake her life. She moved on, building a life and business for herself.
“Hayes Whitney was a part of my past. Is part of my past. […] Haynes Whitney became so much more than my big brother’s best friend. He became my first crush. Then later my first love. And later my first heartbreak.”
Hayes expects the same girl he left behind and is surprised and turned on by the strong, sarcastic, independent woman she has become. Though he comes off as the villain, in the beginning, our opinions change as Hayes slowly opens up to Saylor and explains the reasons behind for why he left the way he did. He’s not proud of how he handled it and doesn’t ask forgiveness but at the time it was the only way he could do.
“I knew we were young. Knew I did the right thing in chasing my dream since she was only seventeen and I was nineteen. But how selfish was I to leave without an explanation or a goodbye? Ass. Hole. And for that I deserved her understandable caution, every bit of her wrath, and every ounce of her hatred.”
Saylor has secretly been following Hayes’ life through the tabloids and has issues reconciling her best friend and the rumors she’s heard. She silently sits, waiting for him to cut and run again. There is no instant forgiveness on Saylors part. Even after his confession, Saylor has her doubts.
A strong main conflict and various subplots intertwine with the romance. This couple has to reacquaint themselves with the people they have grown into. It doesn’t help that Saylor and Hayes have external factors attempting to hinder their reconciliation. Saylor deals with hers at the wedding but Hayes’ issues are a little more difficult to settle. While I did feel Hayes situation was a bit melodramatic, Bromberg creates an effective back story to help ease its way into the storyline and maintain an air of realism.
The HEA is predictable though the journey itself is hilarious and fun to follow along with. Saylor learns how to ask for help and turns a negative situation into a fruitful opportunity. Hayes finally takes control of his life and paves the way for his and Saylor’s future.
Favorite Quote: “She wasn’t going to be that girl in the movies that changed the playboy into a monogamous, perfect husband. She was just Rebecca Washington, straight-A student, and prude extraordinaire.”
Rebecca Washington is your average college student; a little overly concerned with her grades (okay A LOT concerned), socially awkward, OCD, resistant to change, and prone to embarrassing rants of rambling when nervous. All of this becomes painfully obvious when her boyfriend of six months breaks up with her in public for being boring. She’s then hit on by the popular Derek Byrnes only to discover it was all a bet after she dumps her entire life story on him. To add insult to injury, Rebecca learns that Derek is now her partner for an Eng Lit project that will require her to do the worst possible thing in the world-speak in public.
Rebecca’s need to maintain absolute control over her GPA has her reluctantly spending more time with Derek to ensure their project is perfect. Each encounter causes Rebecca loosen up and let go of some of her need for control as her initial assessment of Derek being a carefree jerk slowly changes. Forced to acknowledge her growing feelings for Derek, Rebecca wonders if this is the real thing or is she setting herself up for another humiliation.
Jordan Gray’s debut Prude is a fun, sexy, emotional coming of age new adult that uses a unique approach to define the romance in this ambiguous NA setting. Crisp writing, indulgent humor, and an easy flowing storyline makes it incredibly easy to become fully invested in this book. Heavily character driven, Gray uses the narrative to drive this opposite attraction romance with a heavy inclusion of antagonism, miscommunication, and sexual tension to draw out the protagonists and maneuver them in the right direction.
“I hate you so much,” Rebecca moaned, noticing his obnoxiously cheerful expression.
“This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship, Rebecca.”
She stared at the ceiling. “It’s a partnership.”
“Is it? Already?” Derek wiggled his eyebrows.
Readers will find Rebecca reluctantly charming in her eccentric-ness and shyness. Her internal monologues and off the cuff information dumps leave you laughing as she dissects everything from her encounters with other people to the contents of her lunch. She’s a planner and a perfectionist which leads to some interesting situations as she learns that while she can plan her life down to second, she can’t plan everyone else’s.
“So you came here to check up on me? Thanks for the vote of faith, Prude.”
“Original nickname,” Rebecca said.
“If the shoe fits…”
Derek is the complete opposite of Rebecca. Living in a fraternity, he is outgoing, popular, good looking, and seemingly nonchalant about school and life in general. He’s one of those men who you think has the world in the palm of their hand; everything seems to come easy to him. His carefree attitude and incessant teasing of Rebecca comes off mocking at first, until you begin to see Rebecca slowly gaining her self-esteem and confidence with each new encounter. As this is told from Rebecca’s point of view, everything we see and feel is 100% prejudiced by her. I personally would have enjoyed getting a dual narrative to better characterize Derek. It’s not until the end do we get to meet the real Derek that’s been hiding beneath his carefree persona.
“I…” He shook his head. “I was a fucking asshole. I know it doesn’t make things better, but if I could go back and … if I could do it over, I wouldn’t have…” He seemed at a loss for words.
I enjoyed the brief foray back into college and seeing all the nuances of this awkward time where you hover between childhood and adulthood. So many changes and challenges are tossed at you and the coping mechanisms range from drinking and partying to hiding out in the library and wondering if you can just live there all four years. Gray touches on everything just enough to tease your memories out without forcing you to relive every single moment.
As Rebecca struggles to figure out her relationship with Derek and in retrospect, herself, an engaging cast of secondary characters chime in, adding plenty of laughter and energy with their offers of advice, shoulders to cry on, and promises of smackdowns. Shayler and Ansley are Rebecca’s best friends and have her back no matter what. I loved the dynamics of their relationship and unconditional love. Damian, the president of Derek’s fraternity, offers some insight into Derek and helps to show Rebecca that everyone has a story to tell. You just have to look for it.
The ending comes at you fast and seemed to wrap up everything a little too neatly though watching Rebecca grow to not only accept herself as she is but also gain her independence and voice made this story worth any issues I had.
Prude is a light-hearted new adult romance that addresses some weighty subjects without dragging the book down into an emotional quagmire. Gray definitely has a pleasant voice that speaks for the shy nerd in all of us and I am looking forward to seeing what she has instore for us in book two.