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: “If I could take away that pain for you, I would.”
Chelsea Dwyer has always been attracted to Aidan Devereaux but circumstances kept her firmly in the friend zone. When he suffers a tragedy, Chelsea is the one who provides him with a shoulder to cry on, an ear to rail at, and a body to take comfort from. As their relationship grows, so does Chelsea’s feelings for Aidan, but is he ready to try to start living again? Or will he let his grief and anger chase away his only hope at happiness.
Cherish Her is the third installment in Stacey Lynn’s compelling and hope filled Fireside series. Though part of a series, each story revolves around one couple and their journey through pain and loss towards love, hope, and forgiveness. This particular installment is an emotional roller coaster as Lynn addresses some difficult subject matters that will pinch your heart and flood your eyes you watch this couple struggle to understand and deal through some dark times. Though this is a romance, the main conflict is a heavy topic that blankets the storyline. Lynn focuses a large amount of energy on identifying the issues at hand and helping this couple move past the tragedies in their lives and finding the will to not only move on but move forward.
The story opens on a tragedy and brings our protagonists together during the worst possible circumstances. Lynn grabs you by the heart and doesn’t let go as she opens the floodgates and drenches us in all the emotions of the people involved. Lynn does an excellent job of bringing out and legitimizing the grief, anger, horror, guilt, pain, and hatred that these characters experience. No one is immune from the tidal wave that engulfs them.
Readers have watched Chelsea and Aidan dance around one another since the beginning; their circle of friends overlapping but each keeping their distance. Having met two years ago at a school function, the attraction was instant but the timing wasn’t quite right as a turbulent divorce all but shattered Chelsea’s self-confidence and all Aidan’s energy and time was focused on raising his son, Derrick. Fast forward to the present and Chelsea finds herself a horrified witness to a tragedy and seems to be the only one Alex allows to intrude upon his grief. This creates a bond of sorts that undergoes various definitions as Chelsea tries to understand exactly what her role in his life is now. This becomes extremely hard for her as Alex’s grief and anger causes him to take for granted what she’s offering while he offers nothing in return.
Chelsea is heroine we can all relate to. She comes off shy, sweet, and somewhat fragile though we soon learn that her compassionate nature and innate need to comfort isn’t a sign of weakness. She is a pillar of steel and has no issues speaking her mind or demanding respect. She is very firm in her value as a woman and a human being. Having been cheated on and divorced by a man who decided her infertility issues and their marriage weren’t worth the trouble, Chelsea slowly and painfully rebuilt her life and self-esteem, accepting that children may never be in her future. She vowed to never let anyone make her feel that inferior ever again.
Aidan. Poor poor Aidan. He experiences something that every parent fears and my heart broke for him. A strong, stoic, quiet man, his need to be in control stems from having a child at a young age and raising him single-handedly when the boy’s mother disappeared, unable to handle the responsibility. Now that something has happened that he couldn’t control, he struggles to find his footing in a sea of grief and anger. He clings to Chelsea, using her as his life preserver, unable to fathom surviving without her yet also feels unable to give her what she needs, wants…and deserves.
This couple’s story is more than a romance, it is the story of two damaged people who come together at the worst possible time only to emerge triumphant through the pain. The slow building romance takes on new meanings as it both helps and hinders Chelsea and Aidan in their struggle to find their way. Both are forced to look deep inside themselves and decide what is the best path to take towards healing; even if it means walking away from each other. At times I did feel that Chelsea’s attraction to Aidan and desire to be more than just a friend interfered and caused her to be a bit less sensitive to the situation.
Spoiler »The man is grieving the loss of his child and Chelsea acted put out at times that he wasn’t acting like a man in love. Luckily, she has some good friends who point out that it’s not all about her.
The descriptive narrative and emotional dialogue help to bring this story into clear focus, allowing readers to intimately share in the journey from beginning to end. A personable, well-defined cast of secondary characters introduces us to some new friends and brings back some old ones for us to spend time with. Their concern and unwavering support is a bright beacon of hope even as they are powerless to nothing more than watch someone they love self destruct. One character in particular plays a strong role as his own guilt and pain helps to bring Aidan from the edge of the abyss as he finds his own salvation in helping to save another child’s life.
Cherish Her is an emotional story of love, loss, and acceptance that will leave you laughing, crying, and hugging your loved ones. Keep your tissues handy.
Empire is Sergio's well-deserved and earned HEA. Fans of this series will want to read Elude first to understand the dynamics of Empire. HeartwrenchinEmpire is Sergio's well-deserved and earned HEA. Fans of this series will want to read Elude first to understand the dynamics of Empire. Heartwrenching but filled with humor and hope, Empire gives a man hardened by grief a second chance a love as his deceased wife attempts to right some wrongs from the grave. ...more
This seems to be my week for reading dark mindf*ck books. I just finished Debra Anastasia's The Revenger and then dove into this one. This isn't a nicThis seems to be my week for reading dark mindf*ck books. I just finished Debra Anastasia's The Revenger and then dove into this one. This isn't a nice book. Not at all. A broken woman, villainous hero, and a plan that was years in the making comes to a head when one man's need for revenge creates the instrument of his own demise. Warning: There is some sensitive subject matter alluded to in here. Torture, child abuse, sexual abuse, and violence. ...more
Favorite Quote: “I fear no fate for you are my fate…”
Caleb Martin and Isabelle (Iz) Sawyer are finally in a good place together. Iz has gotten her father into rehab for his drinking, is back in college taking the art classes she wants, and has found love with Caleb. Caleb is gaining status in the club and is ready to take the next step with Iz. When an unexpected event occurs, this couple takes it in stride, secure in their love for one another.
But life has a way of getting in the way when you least expect it. Choices are made that lead to some serious and heartbreaking consequences. When two people hit rock bottom, the only thing left to do is to claw their way back into the light and find their way home.
Carry You Home is the conclusion to Carry Your Heart. Second chance romances are my kryptonite. There is something very addictive in seeing a romance gone wrong and the efforts the couple will put into making it right again. Especially if the author keeps the plot realistic, allowing us to not only follow along but actually relate to the couple and the sheer amount of work relationships take. What I truly enjoyed was the lack of formula in this sequel. This is an emotional journey fueled by choices and charged with love, loss, regret, guilt, and forgiveness. Well written with a smooth storyline, intriguing conflicts,and multi layered characters; Ryan forces our couple to take leaps of faith as they look deep inside themselves for the answers to their questions.
Picking up right where book one left off, Caleb and Isabelle have truly committed to one another. When Iz discovers she’s pregnant, her emotions are all over the place. She has just gotten to the point where her art is being noticed and she experiences what all soon to be parents wonder- how much of her life will change and how much will she have to give up for her expanding family. She is also having to deal with Caleb making decisions for the both of them without consulting her. Isabelle is independent by nature and she is beginning to feel as if her choices are being taken from her.
Caleb adores Iz but you can see he still has abandonment issues and this shows in his thoughts and actions. He’s a provider and a protector. Her pregnancy is a God send for him because in his mind, it further strengthens the ties that already bind them together and assures him to some extent that she can never leave him.
Told in alternating POVs, we are able to see their thoughts as their worlds begin to shatter. Ryan deepens the characterizations of Caleb and Iz; showing them as individuals; and allowing us to see the fear that traps them and the risks they are each willing to take to be free. A pattern begins to form, cluing the reader into the underlying issues that were swept aside and are now demanding to be heard.
This is not your typical MC romance story. Thought the MC features a larger more action packed role in this sequel, it is still one of many elements that has chipped away at this relationship. The strong emotional base leaves the reader with a heavy heart as we watch our couple try to understand what went wrong in order to move forward. Especially Caleb. He learns a very hard lesson in here as he begins to see the long term damage his actions have caused. While we could say his poor choices were the beginning of the end, he cannot be blamed for it all. The event that was the catalyst was merely one of many in their path towards destruction.
I really enjoyed how Ryan doesn’t give them an easy fix to their relationship. The characters have to work hard to repair the damage they each played a part in creating. It’s a time of self awareness and reflection. You can feel the anger, resentment, confusion, and hurt rolling off of them but they both realize that until they are happy with themselves, they’ll never be happy together. The emotional and mental baggage that each carry is finally out in the open and the author allows that to happen in a realistic manner. It’s painful as you watch these two struggle to find their way back to themselves and each other.
All in all, I enjoyed this contemporary romance saga. It is an easy read that manages to capture the bittersweet pinch of love and loss without indulging in ridiculous melodrama or over saturated purple prose. I did feel at times the dual narrative slowed down the story. Being privy to every thought and action is nice but very time-consuming. I also found one particular scene between Caleb and the MC a little unbelievable.
Regardless, Carry You Home maintained it’s feel good theme, even with the emotional theme, as you watch this couple overcome adversity and learn that sometimes you have to lose everything in order to appreciate what you had.
As always, Vale produces an action packed, funny as hell, smoking hot, romance with strong heroines, alpha heroes, an eccentric secondary cast, and aAs always, Vale produces an action packed, funny as hell, smoking hot, romance with strong heroines, alpha heroes, an eccentric secondary cast, and a suspenseful conflict. Review to come. ...more
Shadow’s End is the ninth book in Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series. Harrison turns her sights two strong long standing series characters-Graydon and Beluviel. Graydon is first sentinel to Dragos, King of the Wyrs. Beluviel is the consort to the High Lord Elven. Fans first saw a hint that there was something between them Lord’s Fall. But it’s not until now that Harrison reveals the true nature of their relationship. The first half of the the book is set in the past, showing us how and when Graydon and Beluviel fell in love. We learn what leads to their eventual separation. The book then picks up in the present, some 200 years later, and the story moves forward from there as they find a way, with the help from friends and allies, to put down a very dangerous enemy who everyone has a score to settle with.
Star crossed lovers is a favorite trope of mine and one I find we don’t see to much of anymore. Oh, there are plenty of romances where lovers are separated due to misunderstandings or interfering family but this couple is actually forced to make a life and death deal that they will never succumb to the passion between them ever again in order to save someone very important to Beluviel-her stepson. A deal that also ensures their everlasting silence. When Beluviel’s husband dies, leaving Ferion as the new High Lord in charge, Beluviel and Graydon know the time has come to break the bonds of their silence and find a way to free Ferion and themselves.
I have enjoyed Thea Harrison’s series, The Elder Races, since book one. Her smooth flowing storylines and intriguing characters continue to evolve and expand, offering more entertainment with each new installment. Heavily character driven, this book wraps up some ongoing storylines that has flowed under the arc with small updates in various novels and novellas since Oracle’s Moon. The focus stays firmly on the protagonists with little world building or arc advancement though there is a shock or two that will spoil so first time readers may not want to start here.
Graydon has always been one of my favorite character in this series. Loyal, intelligent, compassionate, and self-sacrificing, he was the first to welcome Pia to the fold and try to soften her transition. Not the most handsome or charismatic of the gryphon wyr sentinels, he does possess the biggest heart. When he decides to help Beluviel, he puts his whole soul into it and discovers a love he never thought possible. Though they only had one night together, the bond formed was powerful enough to last centuries.
Beluviel didn’t really develop as much as I had hoped though we do see a much softer side to her. Most of our interactions with her have been because of Pia and often in some kind of antagonistic role. In here, we hear from her directly about her life as the consort, the slow disintegration of her marriage, and the overwhelming love she has for her stepson. We are shown the reasons behind her agreement of the edict placed on her by Malphas. She not only accepted losing Graydon but chose to stay close to Ferion to ensure Malphas doesn’t use the Elven for nefarious purposes.
For me the conflict was the most interesting and impacting aspect of the book. Plenty of action and suspense comes into play and I liked seeing all the many story threads and familiar faces come together in a rather epic conclusion. The romance unfortunately didn’t hold equal weight for me. I liked it overall but I wasn’t blown away by it. I think if I had been able to see more of their of anguish and pain at their separation in other books leading up to this, I would have appreciated more what they went through. It all happens so fast, we don’t get to feel the full brunt of it. I also didn’t quite get the same level of intensity from Beluviel as I did Graydon in reference to their feelings for one another. As it was, it struck me all as rather sad.
Harrison signs off with some cheers and tears, leaving us more than ready for Liam’s novella and book ten. While this wasn’t my favorite of the series, it is definitely worth reading if you are a dedicated fan.
Favorite Quote: She doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for stupidity and well, I’m an infantryman. I’ve got a lot of stupidity I’m still working out of my system.
First Sergeant Gale Sorren lost more than he gained when he joined the military. His wife divorced him and left, taking his daughter with her. But after fifteen years, he has a chance to make things right when he is finally stationed close to his family. Now all he he needs to figure out is how to be the man he should have been from the beginning.
Melanie Sorren never stopped loving or caring for her ex husband but she couldn’t handle being essentially a single parent. She divorces him after one too many deploys and tries to put her life back together. When Gale appears back in her life and informs her he’s stationed near by, she is shocked and dismayed to find their chemistry is still as potent as ever.
Can Mel forgive Gale for breaking her heart so many times? And more importantly…can Gale forgive himself?
Jessica Scott has an astute and empathic voice for military life and the romantic problems that can accompany it. As a career officer married to a career NCO, I can imagine that she has not only seen it all but possibly lived some of it. My first husband was in the military and I can honestly say, being a military wife is not easy. The military is often an unwanted bed partner whose needs and desires will override your own. Add in kids and years of separation, and the stress and pressure can become unbearable. It takes a lot for a person to accept someone who comes with a million plus at their back and a commitment to duty that will take them from you at the blink of an eye.
Homefront is an emotionally bittersweet second chance love story that focuses on such a relationship. Well written with a flowing steady pace and well developed characters. Scott addresses the pain of war and not only the casualties wounded in service but also those who remain at home. Heavily character driven, Scott chooses to focus more on the couple and their issues in here then her usual MOD of balancing complicated romance with a strong defining conflict.
Gale and Melanie (Mel) married young when Mel became pregnant. If that wasn’t hard enough, Gale had already enlisted into the Army when they found out. He had to go and Mel knew that thought she felt abandoned all the same. Jamie, Mel and Gale’s daughter, was a fretful baby and miserable toddler. Mel’s anger over having to deal with Jamie’s needs by herself caused her to become bitter towards Gale and she gave up on him and the marriage after a few years; serving him with divorce papers and moving back home with her parents.
Your heart will hurt for this couple as you get an intimate look at their marriage and the emotional state they were in then and now. The love they have for one another is still a potent blend but time and bad decisions on both their parts has made the gulf between them seem uncrossable. Gale readily admits he wasn’t a good husband or father. Over a decade of his life has been spent skyping with his daughter and seeing her on the rare occasions he was stateside. Not a derelict dad but more that the career he chose left him with little in the way of choices when it came to his personal life. And he accepts the blame for that.
“He’d given the Army everything he’d had. And he could never get that back. The war, work, all of it was a convenient excuse for being a shitty father and a terrible ex husband.”
Mel never wanted to leave Gale but she was young and just couldn’t deal with it all alone anymore. Too many tears and broken promises left her with little choice. After the divorce, she valiantly accepts it’s just her and Jamie with Gale popping in when he can. Though he offers financial support, he is unable to offer the physical and emotional support she and Jamie need from him. When he shows up out of the blue, offering to Shock, anger, and more distressing…longing and attraction.
“She needed a few minutes to put everything back in the box marked “Gale” and did her best to ignore. Because she’d damned if she was going to cry over this man one more time.”
A slow and sensual romance builds; a tentative dance between two people who are still suffering from the guilt, sorrow, resentment, and anger over their shared past. The attraction is strong but the trust is at a bare minimum. Gale goes above and beyond to show Mel that he truly means to take an active part in his family’s life. His daughter is suffering from some serious issues and Gale sees that Mel needs him more than ever to be a hands on father and take some of the responsibility off her shoulders. Erotically charged love scenes add a punch to the storyline; showing readers that this was one area that never needed fixing for them.
“I think I want to skip dinner.”
“I think I want you for dinner.”
A pair of subplots intertwine, introducing some low-key conflict to the story and a way for Gale to finally exercise the demons that have been haunting him for years. Old friends make multiple appearances, giving us hints to how their lives are doing since reading their story. We also meet some new ones and gain hints to future stories. If I any qualms, I would have liked to go more in-depth on Jamie’s issues and hear her reasons behind her actions. Scott does a wonderful job of bringing Jamie to life with realistic behavior and dialogue for a teenager.
Homefront gives readers the perfect blend of romance and emotional entanglements as Scott once again divulges into the real time problems facing the military and their families. I look forward to reading the next in the series, After The War, which releases May 5, 2015 from Forever.
The Slayer slays the heart in Moon’s 2nd book of her Untamed Hearts series. Love, hate, family, betrayal, hope, and redemption all blend together to bThe Slayer slays the heart in Moon’s 2nd book of her Untamed Hearts series. Love, hate, family, betrayal, hope, and redemption all blend together to build a lush and heart wrenching love story between a former gang banger, Chuto, and a preacher’s daughter, Aliane. If this sounds trite, it’s anything but. The brilliance lies in the characters who live in this story. Life is never easy and sometimes the hardest blows come from those you love the most and nothing even begins to prepare you for the blows this couple has to take for their love and happiness. Dark and forbidding at times, Moon doesn’t try to explain away the criminal element that permeates Chu’s life in order to give him a happy ending. Rather, she uses it as a learning guide, giving us the readers a chance to see the real man behind the deeds. Using the past and the present, Moon slowly shows us Chu’s life from the beginning and the friendship that has built between him and Aliane over the years. We learn the reasons why Chu has tried to stay away from her and the lengths Aliane will go to be with him. Fan will adore the heavy interaction with our favorite Italian boys-Novo and Tino; along with inclusions of past couples. Moon rips out out your heart and soul with The Slayer but in an exceptional fashion, she hands it back to you stronger than ever....more
I can't even review this one because it will make me cry again. All I can say is you will need Kleenex while reading and possibly a Valium and vodka cI can't even review this one because it will make me cry again. All I can say is you will need Kleenex while reading and possibly a Valium and vodka cocktail when you're done. ...more
Favorite Quote: This is your life. This is your destiny. You must wrap you your feelings and fears and tuck them away in a box.
Night’s End is the last book in Yasmine Galenorn’s wonderfully dark and decadent urban fantasy series-The Indigo Court. *SOB* Fans of the series have watched in awe as Galenorn twists and manipulates supernatural legend and lore into a well crafted story of love, loss, betrayal, redemption, and destiny. Heavily character driven, strong and dynamic characterization have uplifted this series from a run of the mill urban fantasy into something unique and wonderfully entertaining. Smooth writing combined with dark world building immediately engrossed me into the storyline and the characters that inhabit it. The world that Galenorn originally introduced to us has evolved in leaps and bounds; extraordinary in it’s simplistic yet complex layout.
Night’s End picks up where Night Seeker leaves off. Cicely and Rhiannon each wear the crown to their respective kingdoms-Rhiannon holds the reign of Summer while Cicely holds firm to Winter. Myst has recovered from her last defeat and is rising swifty, destroying everyone and everything in her path. Queen Cicely and her allies know that this is their last chance to destroy the Indigo Court and it’s Vampiric Queen for good.
As the Queen of Snow and Ice, Cicely has grown remarkably in the series. A child forced to survive on the streets, caring for her drug addicted mother has become a woman more than worthy to wear the crown. Galenorn has chronicled Cicely’s journey in a remarkable manner, allowing her to make mistakes and and gain knowledge (sometimes at a harsh price) on the path to her destiny. I adored Ciecly. She is the perfect balance of strength, intelligence, and wit with a strong vein of vulnerability within her. She is trying so hard to be the strength her court needs and demands while controlling her own fears. Her tightly wound control is almost broken in here when Ciecly gets her first test as monarch when a traitor is discovered in their mists and Cicely must make some harsh decisions in uncovering them. Decisions involving her friends that shows Cicely how much her life and the choices she makes are no longer her own.
The romance, while always a low key but important aspect of the storyline, unravels itself out with her marriage to Grieve. I loved the reincarnation storyline used to explain their unbreakable bonds. Grieve is perfect for Cicely. His quiet strength, inherent goodness, and warrior status makes for a wonderful grounding agent against Cicely’s more interchangeable nature. Cicely needs someone as strong as she is to stand beside her but also someone who loves her all her sides.
“You’re my shooting star…my my dark queen in the middle of the night sky.”
Lannan Altos, Regent of the Crimson Court, has also played an important part in Cicely’s life and in here we understand exactly how and why. Though their relationship has been a long road filled with pain and humiliation, there is an aspect of his personality that allows Cicely to show her darker nature without any recriminations. Lannon understands her need for pain as it mirrors his need to inflict it. Lannon has also been experiencing some growing pains of his own that in sense, mirroring the changes Cicely is experiencing.
“Lannan fed the darker side of me, the side I didn’t want Grieve to go near. If Grieve stepped into those shadows, then my rock would vanish and I would be fully swallowed up by the abyss.”
The secondary characters are dynamic building blocks in this unfolding saga as each one has had a secret destiny waiting to be revealed, adding suspense and tension to the story. An engaging plot line and multiple sub plots feed upon one another as each revelation brings us closer to the end. Galenorn digs deeper beneath the surface, answering questions from the beginning and placing Ciecly exactly where she needs to be, despite her doubts.
Night’s End and the series as a wholeis a captivating urban fantasy that will appeal to both readers who love a strong female protagonist, non stop action, tense plotlines, and a bittersweet romance that leaves you astounded with each delicious installment. An altogether satisfying read that reaffirms Galenorn is a multi-talented author. Though sad this series had to end, I am left secure in the knowledge that there will be more fantastic adventures from Galenorn to come.
Favorite Quote: “When I’m with you it’s like I’m the person I’m supposed to be and I want that.”
With a young son in tow, Wyatt (Ty) Svenson has stopped running and decided to settle in the small town of Bishop, Arkansa. Fixing motorcycles in his garage helps to keep his hands busy and his mind off the multitude of problems that plague him. When his attractive neighbor comes over to complain about the noise, Ty sees a cold woman who thinks he’s beneath her and welcomes the anger she inspires in him.
Shelby Monroe, the local art teacher, has her life sectioned into boxes that she keeps sealed shut. Trying to deal with her mother’s Alzheimers, an abusive childhood, and a recent meltdown on TV, Shelby is barely hanging on by her fingertips. Heavily attracted to Ty’s bad boy image, her life is just not conducive to any relationships but that doesn’t stop her from wanting just a few carefree nights in Ty’s bed.
Ty isn’t looking for a casual relationship. He doesn’t want to be her dirty little secret. He wants it all with Shelby but first he’ll need to convince her that he and love are worth the risk.
This is my first time reading Molly O’Keefe. While I did not read the first two in this series, this book can be read as a standalone with no issues concerning past characters or storylines.
By the title and cover, I expected a fun and naughty romance contemporary. This story was so much more than that. Dark, edgy, and emotionally turbulent, Between The Sheets is a jewel hidden underneath a false facade. A modern day romance that speaks of second chances, love, heartbreak, redemption, and hope. It portrays three battered souls who must decide if the love they so desperately want is worth the pain that will come from reaching for it.
Heavily character driven, O’Keefe writes a bittersweet love story that doesn’t offer false platitudes towards a happily ever after. Her protagonists have deep issues that affect their lives and the lives of those around them. There is no instant fix or cure. We are assured almost from the beginning that this relationship, should it be successful, will always be a work in progress.
Well written with an emotionally deep and convoluted storyline, it gives an indepth examination of abuse, family, and the multitude pain that comes from both; the situations surrounding Ty and Shelby will bruise your heart. Shelby was raised by an abusive overly religious father. She choose to bury her emotions in order to save her sanity and comes off rather brittle, cold, and self serving at times. Her powerful voice resonates throughout the book, giving us her reasons for the way she is without manipulation. The shield she uses to protect herself is not attractive though as her backstory is revealed, you can easily empathize for why she is the way she is. She was taught to be self contained and it was a painful lesson she learned very well. Dealing with a parent who has Alzheimers only adds to Shelby’s already over flowing plate.
In the heavy dark silence he left behind, she stacked and put away those small desires to be someone else, to want more than she had, and she got back to the business of being Shelby Monroe, Art Teacher. It was enough. And if sometimes she wanted to scream, or cry, or find some stranger to prove to her that she wasn’t totally dead inside or invisible to the world, it was an urge she could easily overcome.
She had overcome worse.
Ty was easier to connect with than Shelby. Her knife sharp edges keeps everyone-readers included-at a safe distance. Ty is a good man whose carefree lifestyle is brought to a halt when a young boy appears out of nowhere, claiming to be his son. Ty learns an on and off again relationship produced a child he was never told about. The mother has been sentenced to prison for a multitude of crimes and leaves Ty struggling to get to know his son. Ty knows it’s time to settle and be the responsible parent his son obviously needs so he picks Bishop and hopes this town can help he and his son heal the breach that exists between them.
“I love you." … Did you hear me? Ty wanted to ask, feeling like somehow saying those words had cleared out part of him. Created a hole that needed if not filling, then at least acknowledgment. But he knew Casey had heard him.
Ty isn’t perfect. He had made mistakes that continue to haunt him to this day but he tries hard to be the best he can with what he has to work with. Ty’s ability to love without constraint is a gift that continuously gives through the story. Ty’s son, Casey, is a sweet mixed up boy whose whole life has been a series of disappointments. A neglectful abusive mother and an absent father has left him emotionally disconnected and in need of therapy. He just wants to be loved and does some questionable things to try and get that love.
At times I felt there was no way Ty and Shelby could make this work. Honestly, by the end of the book I still wasn’t completely convinced but I had hope for them. Ty falls hard for Shelby and steadily chips away at her shell but her emotional distance is hard to deal with. Plus, Ty is fragile in his new status of parenthood. Shelby shuts herself down to those who want to help but she is so gentle and giving with Casey and her kids and you are able to see the remarkable person buried beneath the guilt and shame she wears like a shroud. Oddly enough the deep and sensual intimacy found in here is a result of everything but the physical sex. Not to say the physical scenes aren’t a mixture of dark, hot, erotically stimulating needs and wants. Ty has a bit of a dominant side and Shelby likes having her rigid control ripped away from her in sexual situations.
“He wanted to believe no one had ever had her like this. Ever. Because he’d never been had like this. Ever. All the way. And it wasn’t just sex, it was everything. Every single fucking thing about her.”
O’Keefe takes great pains to show that sometimes the best way, the only way, to show someone you truly care is just by being there whether the other person acknowledges it or not.
The ending was a bit melodramatic in it’s attempt to force a decision in the relationship. It resolves itself on a dime and left me feeling that it was all too easily obtained for such a tremulous journey. Regardless of my issues, Between the Sheets was a pleasant surprise in its content and storyline and I look forward to reading more from Molly O’Keefe.
Fans of Rachel Gibson are sure to enjoy Sharla Lovelace’s newest release-Don’t Let Go. An appealing mixture of humor and heartbreak, Ms. Lovelace writes a poignant contemporary of lost love and second chances playing out under the eyes of a small southern town. A classic trope of young love that was brought under by the manipulations of family. Unplanned pregnancy, misunderstandings, lies, and smoldering chemistry will leave you smiling and sniffling as you watch two former lovers try to find away to forgive each other and themselves for decisions made in the past. Engaging dialogue keeps the story flowing along at a steady pace. Multiple plot lines keep you entertained; intertwining together to offer up a well earned conclusion as lessons are learned and forgiveness is given.
Heavily character driven, the entire story revolves around Jules Doucette. At seventeen she was in love with her best friend and got pregnant. Her parents hammered at her day and night to give up the child and Jules eventually gives in. Once the baby is born, Jules has a change of heart but as her and her boyfriend, Noah, are under age, the deed is done and the baby was given up for adoption. When Noah abruptly leaves, feeling betrayed by Jule’s decision, we learn this essentially breaks her. Jules ends up living her entire life by her mother’s rules and buries all her pain. When Noah returns home, twenty six years later, with his pregnant fiancee in tow, cracks begin to form in Jules. All her pain, sorrow, and anger comes rushing to the surface, especially when new information comes to light and Jules realizes just how much her parent’s controlling ways cost her.
I was instantly drawn to the fact this particular trope involved two older than average protagonists. Both are in their 40s. The emotional dialogue speaks to their age and it adds an attractive cadence to the story. Though touted as a romance, there is much more involved than simply rediscovering a lost love. It’s a journey of self discovery and revelations as Jules learns to forgive herself for the difficult choices she made when younger. Emotionally structured with a strong vein of realism and dry humor, it’s easy to submerge yourself into Jules story and feel for everything she had to deal with back then and now. Her parents not only took away her choice, they took away her life and replaced it with one of their making. When Noah appears back in town, Jules is at a loss. Her walls start crumbling and no amount of shoring will bring them back to their previous strength. She never thought to see him again and while her heart sings with joy, she can’t help but remember how he left…and why.
Fabulous character development reveals Jules slowly, presenting the reader with the version she shows the world, only to peel back her layers until the real Jules emerges. Emotionally walled off, she allows everyone around her to only see so much. Jules is a solid presence the resonates throughout the book. Her backstory is heart wrenching though not manipulative. I liked that Lovelace doesn’t make Jules larger than life or the perfect heroine. She’s made mistakes and paid a heavy price for them but she doesn’t allow herself to stay mired in the past.
Ms. Lovelace doesn’t give us an easy fix to Jules and Noah’s relationship. The characters have to work hard to repair the damage to their lives and hearts. You can feel the anger, resentment, confusion, and hurt rolling off both of them. Ms. Lovelace addresses what happened in their past though she does so in a way that moves them forward. It’s painful as you watch these two struggle to cope with being in each others space again; especially when certain events come to light. I appreciated also that Noah’s fiancee isn’t made into a villain in order to push Noah and Jules back together.
Well developed quirky secondary characters round out the storyline, verifying past events and helping to bring our protagonists into the present. I loved meeting everyone who all had a hand in helping to shape the woman Jules is now.
The main conflict resolves in a predictable fashion as Noah and Jules learn to deal with what happened so long ago and are able to work beyond it. Various smaller storylines also wrap up, giving Jules the closure she needed. My only complaint would be not seeing any scenes from Noah’s point of view. I felt like that cheated me out of really getting to know him as well as I did Jules.
Don’t Let Go is a deceptively complex contemporary that addresses life, love, loss and the power of forgiveness. While this was my first time reading Ms. Lovelace, it won’t be my last. This appears to be the first in a series centering around the town. I look forward to reading the next book, Stay With Me, which is set to release summer 2014.
Starting from Scratch broke my heart then rebuilt it. An emotionally heartwrenching tale of love, loss, guilt, and second chances. A well written andStarting from Scratch broke my heart then rebuilt it. An emotionally heartwrenching tale of love, loss, guilt, and second chances. A well written and unique romance about a couple whose life is turned upside down when an army ranger is wounded develops RA, a form of selective amnesia. He remembers everyone...but his wife. Gail does a fabulous job of addressing amnesia, the good and the bad concerning military marriages, and the sheer level of commitment that's required to maintain one.
I look forward to reading more from this author. ...more
On Midnight Wings by Adrian Phoenix The Maker’s Songseries has always been a sword through the heart series for me to read. A dark noir urban fantasy;On Midnight Wings by Adrian Phoenix The Maker’s Song series has always been a sword through the heart series for me to read. A dark noir urban fantasy; this series both excites me and infuriates me. It’s rather like an intense soap opera, giving us hints towards the overall conclusion all the while leading us down a twisted path of deceit, betrayal, and deception. We are constantly embroiled in the past, present, and future throughout this series; never sure where we are going to end up. That is part of the charm yet also frustrating to a certain extent. Ms. Phoenix does not offer false platitudes nor does she toss in random plot elements to allow us a breather while she prepares for next assault upon our sense.
This series grabbed me from the first moment I met Dante Bastipe and his FBI agent, Heather Wallace. A romance filled with tragedy is born that opens a path to a destiny that could destroy the world. Poor Dante and Heather have been through some of the most dramatic emotionally heartbreaking scenes I have ever encountered in a fictional relationship. Frankly, it never ends for them. Book four, Etched In Bone, left me in a predicament. I’m at the point where I need some happiness or assurances of happiness for my couple because the books are depressing me.
On Midnight Wings picks up exactly where Etched In Bone ends. Heather and Dante were kidnapped and separated. Heather is taken to a mental institution to be “reprogrammed” and Dante wakes in a secret laboratory. His programming as a child by the Shadow Branch is beginning to falter, causing even more fractures in his psyche. A psyche that was only contained by his proximity to his anchor and lover, Heather. With her gone, Dante’s spiral into madness accelerates, further pushed by the torture and horrendous experiments being done on him. The past and present collide in Dante’s mind, leaving Dante in the midst of a continuously cycling psychotic breakdown the majority of the book.
Heather fares little better. Her father, tricked by the FBI, finds Heather and helps her escape though she turns the tables on him. Danger dogs her every step as she uses her bond to Dante to slowly make her way to him. As Heather fights her way to Dante and Dante fights the demons in his mind, Lucian and the rest of Dante’s crew search for them both as they fight their own battles against the ever increasing list of those who seek Dante for their own means.
This book frustrated me. One one hand, I love being back in this dark and sensual world that Phoenix has built. I adore the convoluted characters and the multi layered storylines. This series keeps you guessing as it repeatedly rips your heart out. My frustration comes from the fact that On Midnight Wings offers nothing new in way of advancement in the arc nor the romance. It feels like we are playing catch up; especially after the less than revealing previous installment. Plenty of gripping scenes and engaging dialogue from everyone involved and yet nothing is accomplished till the last few pages. The interaction between key characters is almost null. Add in the fact it took almost two years for this installment to release, I expected more.
I miss seeing Heather and Dante together. Their relationship and romance has become the cornerstone of the series and we have been long denied seeing them together without an ax over their heads. I enjoy anticipation and angst as much as the next reader but this continuous testing and emotional torment of our protagonists is beginning to wear thin. Watching Dante’s descent into madness is interesting, but nothing new. Watching Heather fight her way to Dante’s side is also interesting, but nothing new. It’s a regurgitating plot device that is seen repeatedly throughout this series. I honestly felt some of the constant stream of explanations could have been cut and Dante and Heather’s separation could have been chronicled into a few chapters; allowing them to come together early on and the story to advance.
I did enjoy the various scenes where we are given insight into certain long term characters’ agendas. Almost everyone you have ever met in this series makes an appearance in here, each one fighting their way towards Dante for reasons all their own. While I will continue reading this series as I have a heavy investment in the outcome, the dark overtones were extremely prevalent in here and unfortunately it lacked the intense action and subtle humor that normally helps to balance that darkness.
Favorite Quote: “What? You think only guys can say that word? Cock?.”
Mac Draper, one of the Crystal Lake Bad Boys, has come a long way from his dark abusive past. A wealthy New York architect, he has almost shed the last of of his childhood ties to a town and family that let him down. When he comes home to visit his best friends who have decided to make Crystal Lake their permanent homes, he is shocked to find his hot steamy one night stand from New Years is not only there but plans on staying indefinitely. Mac decides to stay a little longer; hoping to slack his hunger for Lily enough to leave the town and her with no regrets.
Lily St. Clare fell in love with Crystal lake when she visited before to help her friend, Jake Edwards, deal with the death of his brother and the attraction he felt for his brother’s widow. When life gets to be too much for her, she retreats back to Crystal Lake, looking for the peace and tranquility that always seems to evade her. Seeing Mac shocks and excites her. Their one night together gave her a glimpse at true happiness but she knows that Mac’s emotional scars run deep as deep as her own.
When the sexual tension between them gets to be too much, they both agree to indulge themselves in a no strings affair for the small time Mac will be in town. When their feelings for one another threaten to take over and circumstances demand some tough decisions…Lily fears she has fallen for a man who can’t and won’t return her feelings.
The Day He Kissed Her is the third book in Juliana Stone’s emotionally heartfelt Bad Boys of Crystal Lakes series. Built around four best friends, each book addresses the emotional issues that push their way to the forefront when one in their group dies. An emotional love story about two severely damaged people who meet and discover the missing pieces to their soul. A visually impacting romance that focuses heavily on the protagonists and their journey towards love, forgiveness, and redemption. Heart wrenching emotional dialogue and lush sensual scenes paint a vivid picture that stays with you long after the end.
This story deals with some heavy subject matter. Mac’s childhood was filled with emotional, mental, and physical pain from an abusive father. It was not pretty and it’s made even uglier when he comes home to Crystal Lake and begins to see the patterns repeating themselves. Mac’s childhood shaped the emotionally battered and stymied man we see before us. Fearing that his father’s demons will eventually show up in him, he refuses to allow anyone, besides his two best friends, beyond the wall he has built around himself.
Lily St. Claire has too suffered abuse by her neglectful family. Like Mac, Lily carries heavy childhood baggage that has shaped her into a cool unemotional woman. She refuses to allow anyone to hurt her again which only serves to shore up her already almost unbreakable reserve. Neither Mac nor Lily seem to have the necessary means to form strong emotional ties with other people yet from the first moment they met, their souls call to one another. Though the push and pull of their relationship is abrasive and somewhat cruel in it’s evolution, the incredible physical scenes give readers hope that they may be able to let down their guards and allow each other into their hearts.
“Boston,” he said, his voice low and intimate. “I wanted to talk because we weren’t finished.” He let that settle. “We were far from finished.”
Multiple sub plots bring depth and a sense of continuation to the story. This is as far from a simple romance as you can get. We met Mac’s family and learn of the cycle of abuse and how it often repeats itself. Mac’s anger and pain is a physical force that permeates the story. He tries so hard to bury everything while struggling to understand what is happening with various family members and his relationship with Lily. He doesn’t want to feel. And when those emotions are dragged out of him, he reacts as a wounded animal might-striking out at those trying to help him.
The chemistry between them sparks hot and bright from the first moment they meet and only continues to flame brighter and brighter as their no strings affair deepens into something far more poignant and dangerous. Though not an erotic romance, Stone writes some incredibly sensual love scenes that she uses to explore our hero and heroine’s physical and emotional hearts. We are able to see past their public facades and into their very souls.
Watching Mac fight his attraction for Lilly is heartbreaking, especially when you realize the reasons he is doing it. He truly feels deep inside that he isn’t any good for her. His past has left him cold and unable to completely trust anyone and he honestly believes he carries a taint that he cannot bear to see touch Lilly. Fear soon overrides his common sense and we watch as our couple begins to disintegrate as Mac is unable to stop the loathing that resides within him. It is at this point that we see the steel that exists in Lilly.
She thought of the ugliness and pain, and she knew in that moment that Mackenzie Draper was never going to change. Not for himself. Not for her.
As per most romances, Mac and Lilly have to run a pretty rough gauntlet in order to overcome the emotional obstacles that block their path to their happily ever after.
Jake Edwards, one of the three original bad boys of Crystal Lake, has come home to face his past. After witnessing his twin brother’s death in Afghanistan, Jake finds himself sinking into a dark pit of despair. He thought his brothers death was the worst thing he could ever endure. Until he realized he was falling in love with his brother’s widow, Raine.
Raine Delgotto Edwards has always been a part of the Edwards family and Jake’s life. Growing up with Jesse and Jake, it was no surprise to anyone when she and Jesse married. After Jesse’s death, Raine has been living in limbo, unable to move forward. She can’t eat or sleep; floundering helplessly against the depression that encases her. She lost more than her husband that terrible day, she also lost Jake, and that just about killed her.
Now Jake is back in town to fulfill the promise he made his twin. To take care of Raine. But Raine doesn’t need Jake to take come back because of a promise…she needs him to come back because she loves him. Raine hopes she and Jake can finally face their demons together and go forward with their lives before the darkness consumes them both for good.
First off, The Christmas He Loved Her is NOT a normal holly jolly Christmas story. The second book in Stone’s Bad Boys of Crystal Lake trilogy, this is a somber tale of grief and despair. A melodramatic offering that addresses the tragic consequences of war and death on the families left behind. There is so much pain in here it was very hard to read and assimilate. Angst and bittersweet sorrow intertwine as we slip effortlessly back into the lives of these residents and the stories they have to tell us. Multiple storylines running abound, all intertwining and conversing on the main attraction, Jake Edwards and Raine Delgotto Edwards.
This was a hard for me to read and review. On one hand, the poise and emotion conviction Ms. Stone puts into the story and her characters is exceptional. Ms. Stone leaves nothing to chance and your heart bleeds for everyone who loved Jesse Edwards. His parents. His wife. His brother. All of them are suffering from his death and trying to cope in their own ways. Jake drinks and suffers not only from PTSD but also survivors guilt. He and his brother were together when the tragedy occurred and Jake could not save him. Add in his attraction to his sister in law and you have a Shakespearean drama in the making. Raine, Jesse’s widow, suffers from deep depression and guilt over her feelings for Jake. Jesse’s parents live with losing a son and being unable to help their surviving son. The emotions and actions presented are real and honest in light of what they are all facing.
On the other hand, this book opened some old wounds for me that were hard for to deal with. I felt the emotions and actions were an overly dramatic outpouring of pain with no real solutions offered. Quite a few tropes were used that overwhelmed this reader. We are continuously faced with Jake running away from his feelings and Raine struggling to hold it all in and present a happy face to the town and her family. Why none of them were in counseling I don’t know. Raine and Jakes journey is hard won but I couldn’t help but feel like everyone was stuck in this endless cycle of guilt and despair and suddenly they weren’t. I’m not sure exactly what the catalyst was.
We see old friends and meet a new one who I am sure is the heroine of book three. We get a small glimpse into what Cain and Maggie have been up to, along with the third bad boy in the group-Mac Draper. I missed the humor and spontaneity that was present in book one. This one has very few moments of levity. The action is low key; this book is more emotional based and centers almost completely on our protagonists.
The ending leaves us with more questions then answers. Though we are led to believe Raine and Jake are well on their way towards a bright future together, I’m unsure of the realities of that unless they both seek the counseling as I mentioned earlier. I would have also liked more memory scenes about Jesse from both Jake and Raine. I found it odd that neither of them spoke or thought about him in happier times.. Also, Raine and her mother’s conflict seemed to flare then die with no resolution. I hope this and more will be addressed more in book three.
Though I didn’t enjoy this as much as book one, it’s a story that will appeal to many readers. I was pleased with the pains Ms. Stone took to stay on the path she set up and didn’t feel the need to use cheap plot devices to push the story into an unbelievable happily ever after. I am looking forward to Mac’s story as I think he deserves a HEA more than anyone in Crystal Lake combined. Book three, The Day He Kissed Her, will release April 1, 2014.
Hydraulic Level Five by Sarah Latchaw was brought to my attention by Jane from Dear Author. She tweeted about it and in reading her light review on Goodreads, I was intrigued by the premise. I have always enjoyed second chance love stories. There is something addicting in seeing a love affair gone wrong and the efforts the couple will put into making it right again. Lately, those tropes have been mired in over blown dramatics and angst with dollops of miscommunication and the required villous figure who helps in facilitating our couples relationship demise. The mapping out of the story is easy to follow and you know exactly how it will end. just not the specifics of the journey.
What I truly enjoyed about this story is the lack of formula. As I started reading I became fully invested in Samuel and Kaye’s story. It is an emotional, honest journey of love, loss, regret, guilt, and forgiveness. Well written with a smooth storyline, well plotted conflicts, and an underlying message of forgiveness that forces our couple to look deep inside themselves for the answers to their questions. Strong realistic characters will sweep you up and break your heart as you follow this tremulous love story.
Aspen Kaye Trilby has loved Samuel Cabral forever. When they divorced, she began to reinvent herself in order to overcome the feelings of inadequacy he left her with. An adrenaline junkie with a successful PR business, she is comfortable with her life but unable to move forward. Samuel left her with too many questions and no answers.
Samuel is a best selling author who seems content with his choices. When he left Kaye, he never looked back and that hurt Kaye tremendously. He rejected not only her love, but their friendship. With a successful career and beautiful new girlfriend by his side, Sam looks like he has moved on with his life. But appearances can be deceiving and Sam’s demons are a constant battle he faces everyday.
When Sam comes home for his sister’s wedding, Kaye is determined to get the answers she has waited seven long years for. But can Kaye get past the hurt and pain to dig deep for the answers she wants? Or will history repeat itself and leave Kaye once again alone and in the dark?
Told primarily in Kaye’s voice with interjections by Samuel through passages in a book he’s writing, we get an emotional look at their life in both the present and the past. How they met, as they fell in love, and when it began to all fall apart. We learn more about Kaye and Samuel as individuals. A pattern begins to form that clues the reader into the underlying issues that were swept aside and the secrets that affected their lives and ultimately their marriage.
This is not a typical romance story. This story dissects the lives of two people and looks deep into their souls. A strong emotional base leaves the reader with a bittersweet feeling as we watch our protagonists try to overcome past behavior in order to move forward. There is no real villain in here. No one person can be blamed. One event was the catalyst yet their path was almost predetermined. Humor and tears follow Sam and Kaye through their journey of self discovery and healing. Their issues are real and not plot elements tossed in to make a more dynamic story.
I really enjoyed how Ms. Latchaw doesn’t give an easy fix to their relationship. The characters have to work hard to repair the damage they each played a part in creating. You can feel the anger, resentment, confusion, and hurt rolling off of them. The emotional baggage that Kaye and Sam each carry needs to be addressed and the author allows that to happen in a realistic manner. It’s painful as you watch these two struggle to repair their friendship and find a way to forgive each other and themselves.
Fabulous secondary characters add to the emotional catharsis with their own recollections, stories, and advice. Samuel and Kaye’s families are close and when the marriage went south, more than just Sam and Kaye’s hearts were broken. I liked that both families tried to provide what emotional support they could to the couple but also did what they felt was best when the situations arose. They didn’t always make the best decisions but they did the best they could at the time. And isn’t that what life is all about? Doing the best we can and hoping that it is good enough to survive the outcome?
The ending is satisfying in that our couple comes to terms with the past and look towards the future. We aren’t given a concrete happily ever after however we are left with a good feeling towards the couple and their relationship. Ms. Latchaw does attach a brief excerpt of the sequel, entitled Skygods. Release date unknown.
Favorite Quote: “I was always coming back to you. It just took me awhile to get here.“
Army Captain Trent Davila thought he had it all. A beautiful wife, two wonderful children, and a fulfilling career in the military. When he is wounded in combat and almost dies, Trent finds pieces of himself missing. Unable to explain the dark thoughts and the emptiness he feels, he pushes away his wife and family, volunteering to deploy over and over again. It’s during his last deployment that Trent receives divorce papers and learns that his wife has had enough. Now facing a court martial for dereliction of duty, Trent has come home to try and repair the damage to his career and his family.
Laura Davila loves her husband and for the most part has been the perfect military wife, keeping the home fires burning while her husband left her to fight the good fight. But after his near fatality and finding out he volunteered repeatedly to leave her and kids, she can no longer live with the loneliness and heartache. She files for divorce, hoping that she can get on with her life without her other half. When she learns of the court martial, she agrees to portray the loving wife one last time to help Trent but only if he signs the papers and lets her go.
As Trent and Laura spend time together, Laura realizes that her love for Trent never died but she needs more than declarations. Trent will have to prove to her that she and their kids come first this time, or he will lose them for good.
I have waited a long time for Trent and Laura’s story. Throughout the series, Ms. Scott has given us clues hinting at the forces behind this couples downfall. Emotional and heartbreaking, we, like Laura, have been wondering what has caused Trent to shut his family out time and time again. Back To You finally gives us the whole story and what a story it is. We were all able to see that Trent was hiding something but the sheer magnitude of the secrets is overwhelming. Suffering from PTSD and survivors guilt, Trent is functioning on nothing more than a whisper and a prayer. Between Trent and Laura’s POVs, we learn exactly what both are feeling, how they came to this point, and the lengths they are willing to go through to try and repair their marriage.
A better man would walk away. Would release her from the purgatory of their sham of a marriage. But Trent wasn’t a better man.
Scott slowly and expertly reveals and dissects the deep pain Trent has been carrying for years; brought to a head by his near death experience. He is lost. Normality no longer has any meaning for him. All the death he has seen has led him to question his service to the military; especially when he learns of the reasons behind his court martial. Scott’s military experience shows in how she chooses to address Trent’s problems. On the whole, the public cheers the commitment these courageous men and women give to their country but forget that for them, coming home isn’t always a happy situation. They don’t automatically forget the horror they have seen once they set foot on home soil and I think sometimes that is what we expect of them. To basically “shake it off” and continue on with their lives. Scott shows us through Trent this isn’t always realistically possible.
“…Life back in the rear was too complicated, too loud, too chaotic. War was simpler.”
Laura is realistically portrayed as the grieving wife. She grieves the loss of the man she married and of her marriage. Her pain transcends the pages and I like that her feelings aren’t pushed aside or made to seem less important than Trent’s. We are intimately acquainted with what the spouses of deployed military members deal with daily. They take care of everything. The home, the kids, the repairs, the bills, ect…It’s tiring, time consuming, and at times thankless. Her reasons for divorce are valid and Scott gives them the necessary respect they deserve.
“I’m so tired of crying over you”
Passion and pain war together and make for a volatile mix. You never doubt Trent and Laura’s love for one another and their physical attraction is at a prime but I was still unsure if they could overcome this massive hurdle. Some beautiful and heartfelt love scenes add to the longing you feel as you watch these two broken people try to repair the damage done. *sniff*
“The fear came out of nowhere, stealing up from a dark place in his soul, raw and primal, ripping through him like a beast. Promising the loss of the thing he loved more than anything else in the world.”
The main conflict blends well with the second chance romance. Issues that were glossed over in previous books are addressed in full and resolve in an acceptable fashion. Friends of Trent and Laura make multiple appearances and help to facilitate the story lines, offering advice and laughter. I enjoyed seeing Shane & Jen, along with Nicole and Carponti. Their lives are going ahead and we see positive things for their futures.
Scott pours her heart into Back To You and it shows in every word we read. Trent and Laura’s story is at times hard to read but the journey is well worth the heartache. I look forward to reading All For You which releases February 4, 2014 from Forever.
The Redemption of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen (The Coincidence #2) New Adult Released: July 30, 2013 Hachette
Reviewed by Tori and Mandi
Mandi: Recently, after seeing much squeeing and hype on Twitter over The Coincidence of Kayden & Callie, I read it (it’s $1.99 on kindle if you want to try it) and I really enjoyed it. It’s a very angsty New Adult story about two people who meet and fall in love, but it is far from simple. They both have SO much pain in their lives, it is very hard for them to trust and let themselves fall in love. We are not going to rehash book one in this review, although I do strongly encourage you to read it before reading book two. (spoilers for book one below)
The Redemption of Callie & Kayden picks up right where book one left off. Kayden has been stabbed by his abusive father, beaten up Callie’s rapist and his secret of cutting himself is now out in the open. The beginning of this book deals with the ramifications of all of this. Kayden is so overwhelmed, he pushes Callie away. Tori – What was your reaction to the beginning of this book? Does Kayden have the world’s shittiest parents ever??
Tori: At the end of book one, I sat in stunned silence, unable to fully comprehend what just happened. My imagination went insane, thinking of possible outcomes but even I couldn’t imagine the beginning of Redemption. The pain Kayden and Callie both carry within them reaches out and literally chokes the breathe out of you. These poor kids. What a burden to carry. How do you survive feeling there is no hope? No escape? And Kayden’s parents are the absolute worse. O.M.G. While I completely and utterly hate his father…it’s his mother that fills me with disgust. I wanted to reach in the book and punch her in the throat. How do you allow that to happen to your children? I’m getting angry all over again. One area that confused me was the town. Kayden had been to so many doctors and hospitals, someone should have picked up on the abuse. Did that surprise you, Mandi?
Mandi: It did. I can understand Callie being able to keep her secret internalized (the rape and the vomiting) but Kayden – damn. The extent he had to go to, to keep his cutting hidden is really shocking. It must happen in real life, but yes – it surprised me. I liked in this one how Callie and Kayden found strength in one another to first of all – share all of their absolute truths. And secondly, want to become stronger people, individually and together. They were there for each other, but also were both mature enough to know that just the two of them alone were not enough to fully recover from their trauma . Which brings me to two wonderful supporting characters. Seth and Luke. I adore Seth – sometimes I feel like he gets the shaft as he is constantly dealing with Callie’s issues. But Luke. OH LUKE. There is one scene in this book that takes place in Luke’s house that gave me the shivers. And not the good kind. I’m very creeped out and dying for his book (which is out next). Does Luke intrigue you as much as me?
Tori: YES! Luke is an anomaly. Sorensen has given us just enough on Luke to let us know he plays a far larger role than any of us ever assumed. I am on pins and needles waiting to read his story. You and I have already discussed some of the issues surrounding him that we need answers on NOW. His mom, for instance. *shudder* Seth is a delight and I love his unconditional love regarding Callie. I also enjoyed his humor. His dry wit adds a bit of levity to another truly depressing state of being. Jackson also surprised me. I’m glad he finally stepped up to the plate and became the brother he should have been the whole time.
Since first reading Sorenson, I am in awe of her voice. She has a gift for bypassing the normal external high school issues and divulging deep into the emotional issues and problems that are often hidden because of shame or fear. I like that she doesn’t take an easy path with her characters. There are no easy answers or pat solutions. They have a hard journey to travel in order to find their way back to the light. Though it starts out slow and I was dismayed by some of Callie and Kayden’s actions, I could understand them. Sorensen MADE me understand them. You can’t easily break free of your prison when you’re jailer stands over you everyday. Sorensen does an amazing job of addressing the fear and shame that accompanies such abuse. The fact that either of them is even able to connect emotionally with another human being is amazing in itself. I will admit I was a little shocked by the amount of sex scenes in here. While I could understand their need to connect on that level…I did feel that sometimes it overwhelmed the story. What did you think of them, Mandi? Too many or just right?
Mandi: By the end my eyes were glazing over the sex scenes. At first I found it a nice payoff for all the angst we were put through, but by the end – yeah, it was a little too much. We get it. They are in LOVE. And they are horny. LOL.
The end was not as much as a cliffhanger as book one. There is resolution between Callie and Kayden, although they still have many issues to work on and a long way to heal. The ending is more of a cliffhanger of sorts for Luke. We get a big shocker at the end regarding him. *HOLD ME TORI*
Overall, this book is angsty, cracky goodness. There is a lot of angst, but I liked it. I really think this author knows how to write hurt and broken people, and I’m happy to say she knows how to show their healing too. They are far from perfect. Overall, what are your thoughts?
Tori: I got you, Mandi. *pets softly* I did like we aren’t left with such a heart stopping cliffhanger like in book one. Kayden and Callie end on a high note with plenty of hope towards their future. I think Luke’s story promises to fill in some blanks that are sprinkled throughout the last two books. I REALLY hope the town’s reaction to all the events revealed is noted in book three. There are some adults who, in my opinion, need to take responsibility for failing these kids.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. Sorensen isn’t afraid of the dark or addressing uncomfortable issues concerning young adults. I am happy that she offers us hope and healing, but at a realistic rate. Frankly, I think Sorensen is a premier voice in YA and fans of YA should be rushing to read her books.
Tori’s Favorite Quote: “I’m afraid of what I’m forcing to stay locked away inside my heart will break free and I’ll have to deal with it.”
Favorite Quote: “One heartbeat past forever, that’s how long I’ll love you.”
Welcome back. Once again Ms. Thomas takes us back into Harmony, TX and submerges us in the lives and loves of this fictional town. In Can’t Stop Believing, we see the true meaning of forgiveness, second chances, and love.
Cord McDowell lost six years of his life when he went to prison at age eighteen for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, ten years later, he’s being asked to give up his freedom again. His last name for a piece of prime land.
Nevada Britain, Harmony’s premier wild child, needs Cord McDowell to marry her and offers up a 300 acres of land to sweeten the deal. She refuses to explain all the reasons why she needs him but Cord knows he’s getting the better end of the deal. He only has one condition. She has to sleep next to him every night while they are married.
As Cord and Nevada settle into their lives and pseudo marriage, Cord soon learns that Nevada’s reasons for wanting to marry him involve more than just saving her ranch. Someone wants Nevada to suffer for her choices in life. And if it takes her death to make her pay…so be it.
Ronnie never forgot Marty or the gifts he gave her, even after he disappeared from her life two years ago. When a mysterious man shows up and offers her a chance to see Marty again, Ronnie begins the adventure of a lifetime. One that proves how wondrous and heartbreaking true love can be.
Jodi Thomas’s Harmony series remains one of my favorite romantic contemporary series to date. I adore the continuously evolving small town atmosphere and the eclectic characters who live there. Brimming with gossip, news of family, and well wishes; you find yourself waiting with anticipation for the next batch to arrive. A smoothly written romantic contemporary that goes beneath the facade of a small town and examines and reveals the love, laughter, pain, and heartbreak that resides within.
Mystery, suspense, and surprises build a solid storyline in this installment, creating an intriguing read that fills you with strong emotions as you watch those you have come to love fight through the pitfalls of life. Two main storylines build slowly and allow the players involved to deal with and heal past issues that have frozen them in a certain point of life. Ms. Thomas continues to create multi dimensional characters, expanding and evolving their lives and the world they live in. Not one of them is perfect though each one is a vibrant personality that takes command and dominates the scenes they are in. Ms. Thomas has such a wonderful gift for creating memorable and witty characters. She writes with such intimacy that we are instantly drawn back into their lives as if we never left. These are folks you can find anywhere. They are your friends and loved ones. I like we aren’t promised a happily ever after. The story always leaves off with the promise of more to come and that works because no one’s journey is ever truly over.
Strongly character driven; it’s the steady and humorous dialogue keeps you entertained and laughing throughout the book. We see old and new faces; each one an important part of the storyline. Martha Q is back and noisy as ever as her bed and breakfast is soon overrun with sleuthing widows, a vegetarian slob, and a mysterious man who peaks more than Martha’s curiosity. Beau’s found himself some “trouble” but as we soon learn, he may have bitten off more than he can chew. Tyler and Kate have some fabulous news to share as bits and pieces of all the town residents make their way into the story, which rounds it out beautifully and left me satisfied though sad as one storyline concludes in a rather shocking way.
This series continues to delight me and I recommend it to everyone who wants a small town contemporary series with realistic characters, charming romances, strong friendships, and interesting lives that will have you waiting anxiously each new visit. Even though this could be read as a stand alone, I recommend reading the first in the series, Welcome To Harmony. This is a continuation and is written as such.
Broken Blade picks up after the heart shattering emotionally destroying book two-Night Blade. Hey, I’m just being honest here. Night Blade KILLED ME.Broken Blade picks up after the heart shattering emotionally destroying book two-Night Blade. Hey, I’m just being honest here. Night Blade KILLED ME. It destroyed me. It made me email Daniels and ask, ”What the hell is WRONG with you???” But, I should have more faith in one of my favorite authors because Broken Blade not only brings it all to the table, it leaps over it performing intricate gymnastics and ends with an Olympic worthy ten landing.
There are mild spoilers from Night Blade in here so read at your own risk. You’ve been warned. No whining once you're finished.
Kit Colbana was broken mentally, physically, and emotionally by the end of Night Blade. Broken Blade is her journey to pick up the pieces and live again. She has lost an important piece of herself, a piece that in her mind defines her. We see a different Kit in here then the previous two books. She is scared. So, so scared. The fear is a physical entity that slams into you over and over. Daniels does a fabulous job of bringing all the emotions Kit is feeling to life. Your heart once again aches for this woman whose life has been nothing more than a continuous cycle of pain and heartbreak. Especially when the one person she lefts down all her guards for and allows into her heart walked away, leaving her bereft and emotionally crushed.
As the story unfolds, Daniel’s blends the storylines perfectly. We watch as Kit heals at her own rate, using some unconventional means to try and win back herself while taking a case to retrieve a magical relic. I enjoyed the mixture of mythology Daniel’s uses to build main conflict and expand the world; opening the way to new storylines and adventures. Lots of action and suspense lead the way with sly humor punctuating the storyline, helping to break the serious emotional onslaught.
The romance in here is delicate. It’s fragile; held together by frayed hope and once abandoned dreams and remains so as these two damaged individuals struggle to overcome years of conditioning and their lack of trust. Though you won’t get much physical contact and if you read Night Blade, you’d know why. *side eye* But the emotional connection is there and continues to slowly strengthen as they both try to come to terms with their feelings and what has happened. Damon takes some major steps to make up for what he did and I like that Kit allows it.
We see all our favorite characters from previous installments. Doyle is rapidly becoming one of my favorites, especially with his actions in Night Blade. We learn some very interesting news regarding him and I am eager to see where Daniel’s takes him.
Damon. Damon, Damon, Damon. I loved him, hated him, and am now on the fence with him right now. He screwed up and he needs to prove to me that he is now on board and better understands the gift that he so carelessly handled. The witches continue to have Kit’s back and seriously, this woman needs all the help she can get.
The ending comes at you hard and fast, taking your breathe as you watch Kit dig deep through her fear and apathy, learning that she is not as broken as she thinks and that the strength and talent she possesses has always been inside her.
I recommend this series to everyone who enjoys a darker Urban Fantasy that reviles in deception, betrayal, and hope. A word of advice though-if you have not read the first 2 of this series, then you will not understand this last one. This is a convoluted series that builds upon itself with each new book. The arc is long reaching and not self explanatory. Characters evolve and bleed over into to each story with no pause in between.
A beautiful contemporary love story that spans the lifetime of a woman, her rockstar husband, and their best friend. Love, laughter, anger, grief, andA beautiful contemporary love story that spans the lifetime of a woman, her rockstar husband, and their best friend. Love, laughter, anger, grief, and second chances. A wide range of emotions will assault you as you follow their lives and love from start to finish. ...more
Favorite Quote: “He was everything I didn’t think I could have and somehow, he’d become everything I needed. There was a part of me that knew I would never recover if this fell apart, but what I felt now was worth it.”
Alexandra (Alex) Riley is a young college student whose entire life has been planned out by her rigid socially conscience parents. From her pre med major to what she eats….even who she dates, Alex is nothing more than a doll that her parents manipulate for their own selfish wants and needs. When Alex makes a conscientious choice to go against her parents wishes and take an art course, she sets her life on a course of self discovery that leads her to Dean Wright.
Dean Wright is the complete opposite of Alex and someone her parents would never let her befriend, much less date. After spending most of his life caring for his alcoholic mother and drug using brother, Dean finally decided it was time for him to live his own life and enrolls in college to pursue his dream of art. When he lays eyes on Alex, his world explodes as he finds what he has been looking for all along.
Explosive chemistry surrounds Dean and Alex as they throw caution to the wind and succomb to a relationship that seems destined to fail.
Plastic Hearts is the debut new adult romance by Lisa De Jong. An emotionally heart wrenching coming of age story that addresses the unrealistic expectations that parents can place on a child and the courage it takes to turn your back on the familiar in order to live for yourself. Heavily character driven, De Jong has a wonderful voice that translates well to paper. She makes it extremely easy to submerge ourselves into Alex and Dean’s lives, letting us experience for ourselves all their emotions that present on the turbulent journey they have embarked on. The storyline, though predominantly focused on the romance, intertwines effortlessly with the sub plots and in a subtle way showcases the pivotal moments in Dean and Alex’s lives.
The romance itself builds slowly. Alex originally saw Dean as an “experience.” Nothing permanent was suppose to happen between them. It was to be her only taste of the forbidden before committing fully to what her parents commanded of her. Yet, fate never does what you expect of it. From extreme lust to sweet love, our couple struggles to build a solid foundation in which to build their lives together upon. They get to know one another through small gaps in their emotional barricades.
“We can’t be friends, I meant that,” he stepped closer to me, never breaking eye contact. “I want you to be my girl,” he whispered.
Between Dean and Alex, I liked Dean the most. Though he is initially portrayed as the ultimate “player” bad boy, he isn’t button holed into the stereotypical role of the heartbreaker. He has a sweet compelling honesty that belays your first impressions of him. Though arrogant and self assured, we do see moments of vulnerability that appeal to the protectiveness in us all. I found it intriguing that it’s actually Alex, the innocent “good girl” whose decisions cause the most conflict and problems in their relationship.
“Sometimes things don’t work out the way we want them to. Life was full of truths that don’t play out in romance novels. Sometimes we don’t get our happily ever after.”
Alex is a smart, intelligent young woman who unfortunately has years of conditioning to overcome. Part of you wants to shelter her from the problem you know is coming while the other half of you wants to shake her and tell her to stop being such a quintessential doormat. Though I found myself angry at some of the decisions she made, especially those that hurt Dean, I couldn’t fault her for making them. Her parents, two truly nasty people, had such a strong hold over her life, she really couldn’t have done things much differently. De Jong doesn’t make it easy for Alex. Sometimes you have to lose it all in order to see what a gift you had. And Alex learns that lesson all too well. Luckily for Alex and Dean though, they have some wonderful friends who are there for them no matter what they decide. This is especially good for Alex as she has been judged and found lacking throughout her entire life by her parents.
Though Dean and Alex’s journey is rough and filled with the pain filled type of angst only found in youthful imaginations where everything is a drama, both Alex and Dean grow beyond their respective restraints and become individuals who are able to live their lives as they choose. We aren’t gifted with a HEA but De Jong takes mercy on us and leaves Dean and Alex in a good place where there is hope for their relationship.
“I learned something today. Redemption isn’t something that comes fast and easy. You have to put all your effort and heart into it to make it work. It can’t be forced or bought; it simply had to be earned. It requires honesty, commitment and trust. Dane and I have some things to work on, but as long as there is effort, there is hope.”
I look forward to book two, Glass Hearts, which is set to release in June 2013.