After being introduced to Deck in Overwhelmed by You , book 2 in the Tear Asunder series, I was just about frothing at the mouth for his and GeorAfter being introduced to Deck in
Overwhelmed by You
, book 2 in the Tear Asunder series, I was just about frothing at the mouth for his and Georgie's story to be told. (You can read my review of
Overwhelmed by You
which includes my first impression of Deck HERE). The man just oozes sex appeal with his possessive, alpha male characteristics and strong, silent, take charge, take-no-shit attitude. Georgie, on the other hand, is his complete opposite in every way--an outgoing, outrageous flirt with a penchant for a bottle of hair dye. My curiosity was piqued-- how were these two going to work as a couple?
That being said, the best word to describe how I felt by the time I reached the last page of Perfect Chaos is...underwhelmed. It's been a couple of weeks since finishing the book and I'm still having trouble pinpointing exactly what bothered me. I was so sure this was going to be an easy slam dunk, 5 star rating kind of story. Imagine my frustration at only being able to rate it a 3.5 at best.
Here is what I did like. The first thing I noticed was the alternating perspectives between Deck and Georgie. I was so ecstatic and relieved to learn this because in Overwhelmed by You, the whole book was in Kat's perspective except for the Prologue. I thought the author was going to do the same with Perfect Chaos. Thankfully, the author must have realized the importance of giving Deck a voice. He's the type of character you definitely want to get inside his head.
I also thought the chemistry between Deck and Georgie was off the hook. The man was like a block of ice and only Georgie's fiery spirit and personality could thaw him out. I absolutely loved the way she would bait Deck by making him jealous. She would say some of the most outrageous things to get him riled up, whether it be her joking about being sexually involved with one of his men (Tyler) or pretending to be an out of control party girl heading down a bad road. She knew how to push his buttons and when she poked him too far, it was really fun (and hot) to see Deck finally claim her.
Nashoda Rose also writes in some great secondary characters which is one of the first things I admired about her Tear Asunder series. While we do get glimpses of Crisis and Kite-- two band members that still need their own books for that series, we are introduced to a new set of males, men that follow under Deck's leadership. Tyler, Vic, Kai-- Nashoda did a pretty good job giving these secondary characters just enough page time to pique your interest for future sitings as the series progresses.
While I still struggle to pinpoint some of the things that bothered me about the story, there were two problems that were quite clear. The first thing that bugged me was the lack of characterization for Deck. The author was on the right track by giving us his POV throughout the book, However, we barely scratch the service as far as getting to really know him. While we get flashbacks of Georgie, all we are told about Deck is that he had a troubled childhood. Key word TOLD. It would have been nice to be SHOWN which could have been easily done by giving us a few flashback scenes to a younger Deck. His character felt all surface, not enough depth and sadly, this was a huge turn off for me.
I was also bothered by an uncharacteristic choice the author made towards the end of the story. Deck is supposed to be the best of the best when it comes to security, safety-- especially when it has to do with Georgie. When he is out of the country on a mission, he either leaves a man behind to keep an eye on her or sets up cameras everywhere or has a tracker on her phone, etc. He's almost a bit OCD about it. Yet for some ungodly-- and uncharacteristic reason, Deck drops Georgie off at her apartment and leaves her alone. He doesn't have eyes on her or anything set up for her protection after learning that this terrifying organization known as VAULT is after her (well, not exactly after HER, but still she is in danger). Of course something bad happens because he left her which I won't get into further because of spoiler territory. My point is, this was just a very unbelievable part of the story-- as if the author couldn't come up with a better way to get Georgie alone. It just doesn't fit Deck's character at all which really bothered me.
Perfect Chaosdefinitely had its highs and lows. It started out strong with a heart wrenching opening and great alternating POV between hero and heroine. The chemistry between Deck and Georgie was HOT, the sex scenes were scorching, and the author does a good job setting us up with strong secondary characters to look forward to in future books. What seems to be lacking is a story that felt rushed and mediocre characterization and depth which makes it hard to fully relate and connect with that character. While I still plan to give this new series another shot, I find myself more looking forward to book 3 in the Tear Asunder series than I do for book 2 in this one.
Phenomenal X...where do I even start? I should start with the fact that as soon as IThis review and more can be read on my blog:The Muses Circle
Phenomenal X...where do I even start? I should start with the fact that as soon as I saw the cover, it was added to my goodreads TBR pile without even knowing what it was about. I knew I just HAD to read it. When I finally did check out the blurb, I wanted to drop everything I was doing and start it immediately. Phenomenal X by Michelle A. Valentine was surprisingly original in the sense that instead of another story about an MMA fighter, we finally have the first book (that I know of) that gives us an inside look at the world of Professional Wrestling. Being a huge wrestling fan when I was a kid, I couldn't contain my squeal at this unique spin on an otherwise overtaxed plot device. Sting, Ultimate Warrior, "Macho Man" Randy Savage-- these were the big, muscle bound, testosterone driven men I used to watch pound each other in the ring every week. Now I get to add Xavier to my list of favorite wrestlers =D.
The story definitely starts out strong. Anna, our heroine, is on a plane, leaving behind her old life in Portland to make a new one in Detroit. As she sits and frets about her angry father who definitely does not approve of her moving away, she becomes aware of a tall, broad shouldered, tattooed man moving through the plane to first class. They lock eyes and Anna knows he has "bad boy" written all over him, the kind of man mothers tell their daughters to stay away from. Startled at her own visceral reaction at the site of this stranger, she tries to focus on what awaits her in Detroit. But she can't help her curiosity when the kids in the seats in front of her start waving their hands, trying to get the man's attention, calling out, "X! X! Back here! Can we get your autograph?" Then the whole plane is abuzz, excitement in the air that "Phenomenal X" is actually on the plane. If only Anna knew who the hell this "Phenomenal X" guy actually was. In an interesting turn of events (don't want to give the whole beginning away), she suddenly finds herself sitting beside him in first class. And that's when sparks start to really fly! I really did enjoy how Anna and Xavier aka "Phenomenal X" first meet. The author did a decent job giving us a different way for the main characters to meet without dragging it out. Within two pages, I was hooked.
Anna starts off as a strong heroine, very likeable in the beginning. I can only imagine how stifling it must be to be raised by a controlling parent/parents, to have every single moment of your life micromanaged, every single dream not your own, but someone else's. That being said, sometimes change is scary, especially when you are used to having someone else make all your decisions for you, so I commend Anna for telling her father enough is enough and getting on that plane. Once she arrives in Michigan, it is almost like a culture shock for her. Between trying to fight her attraction to Xavier, keep up with her vivacious cousin Quinn, hold her own at a new job that she knows nothing about, and ignore her father's constant hounding states away, Anna has quite a lot on her plate.
Xavier definitely had that mysterious bad boy persona going on and he is 110% Alpha =D. Valentine has a gift for writing strong, sexy, dominant men with an edge. I could tell by some of the teaser quotes before reading the book that X was going to be on my list of favorite alpha male characters. He might not be at the tippy top of my list, but he at least made it. Xavier also suffers from the tortured hero syndrome that many authors use, but again, I give Valentine credit for trying to give us a different take on the wounded hero. I felt quite a few pulls on my heart strings as Xavier's painful past is slowly revealed. No child should ever have to go through what he did and understanding his past makes sense as to why he is constantly telling Anna he is no good for her. But it doesn't mean he heeds his own words. He can't stay away from her, she's like an addiction, one of the only people that isn't trying to use him because of his celebrity status. One of my favorite scenes is when Xavier stops a guy from potentially date raping Anna. Oh man, X is even more incredibly sexy when he is pissed off and all of his protective instincts are on full alert. (I included the excerpt on my blog post HERE).
Together, Xavier and Anna were a hot couple and the chemistry was scorching. There was a nice build up in sexual tension and I like how Xavier went from trying to get Anna in his bed, to him respecting her enough to want to try being friends. They come up with these ridiculous, yet cute "rules" to keep things completely platonic. This was a great way for the author to create sexual tension and give the characters time to get to know each other without them automatically jumping in bed together (or at least the illusion of time since the time frame of the story spans only a few weeks if that). Xavier does have quite a few sexy lines in the book, like here:
“I don’t typically beg, beautiful, but if begging gets me access between those creamy thighs, I will. Just give in to your desires.”
I also like Anna's spunky attitude towards Xavier when he makes her angry. He gives her permission to use his real name, Xavier, and hates it when she refers to him as "X" like everyone else does. It's her way of putting him in his place which was cute. On a more serious note, I like how she tries to be there for him during his horrible nightmares--he doesn't like her seeing him in such a vulnerable state, but she handles him with care.
The secondary characters were also a treat in this book. Once Anna lands in Detroit, she moves in with her eccentric Aunt Dee and her beautiful cousin Quinn who she views as more like a sister. Quinn helps her get a job as a waitress at the bar she works at. I really liked Quinn. Usually, authors make the naive heroine have a promiscuous, slutty sidekick which is so irritating. But Quinn is not like that. Yes, she is more outgoing and wants to help Anna loosen up and date, but she is far from a slut. I also adored Nettie and Carl, a black couple that owns a diner where Xavier frequents when he is in town. They play a very important role in X's life, especially for becoming the successful, humble man he is now. I'll leave it at that so I don't get tempted to give away any spoilers.
Valentine also switched up the use of POV in the story. It starts out with Anna's name at the top of each chapter, which prompted me to believe that the perspective was going to switch back and forth between her and Xavier. It's not until chapter 10 that we get to see things through X's eyes. I'm still unsure how I feel about that. I didn't completely hate it and it kept me on my toes because I never knew when his perspective would pop back up again. But I guess you could say that I wished to see more of the story through his POV.
There were a few things that kept Phenomenal X from getting a 5 star rating. The first thing that bothered me was when Anna loses her job at the bar. She convinces her boss to fire her instead of her cousin when Quinn is accused of stealing (I'm being vague on purpose). When Anna goes home, nothing is mentioned by Quinn about the drama at work. Wouldn't you apologize or thank the person who saved your job?
While Anna started out as a strong heroine, she began getting on my nerves towards the end of the book. I felt that she was way too pushy about X revealing his past. If someone spends their whole life never telling a soul about their past, it's going to take time for that person to open up. He kept telling her to back off, but she wouldn't listen and kept pushing. There were also a few awkward scenes in the bedroom, revolving around "protection". I don't want to spoil anything but yeah...you'll understand what I mean. Anna also becomes a little clingy and makes a few unwise decisions near the end of the story that causes a whole bunch of drama and puts X's career in jeopardy. What the hell happened to the independent girl from the beginning of the novel?
While I absolutely loved that X was a wrestler, sadly, that was the only original aspect of the book. The story felt contrived in many places and the plot was very predictable. Don't get me wrong, I am okay with authors using the same formula, but if that is the road you're going to travel, then you need to find ways to make it feel fresh. Valentine can definitely write a good story, she knows how to write a sexy as hell alpha male, but it's the plot devices that felt a bit forced or way too obvious. They should be seamlessly written in. It's almost like I could hear the author saying, "oh, I am going to throw that in there so this will happen."
Phenomenal X was a solid, addictive read, a great start in the Hard Knocks series. I might as well warn everyone that the story does end on a major cliffhanger. I have high hopes that book 2 will smooth out some of the kinks.
GIVEAWAY ALERT! Be sure to stop by my blog to enter for a chance to win book 2 in the Skin Deep series, Under My Skin AND SKIN DEEP for those who haveGIVEAWAY ALERT! Be sure to stop by my blog to enter for a chance to win book 2 in the Skin Deep series, Under My Skin AND SKIN DEEP for those who haven't had a chance to read book 1. Click HERE and scroll down to enter the worldwide giveaway. (Ends 3/2)
My Review: If you are a fan of erotic romance with a mix of hilarious laugh out loud moments, then you are in for a treat. If you've never read an erotic romance with large amounts of humor, then this is the series to start with. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Under My Skin is the 2nd book in J.M. Stone's Skin Deep series. About halfway through this book, I was fist pumping in the air. Why, you ask? Well, let me go back. Quite a few months ago, I came across Skin Deep, which was Emma and Luke's story. While I enjoyed it very much, there were some problems with the writing, such as excessive bouts of detail. I of course spoke about this in my mini-review on goodreads and soon noticed that other reviewers had complained about the same thing. So why was I fist pumping in the air halfway through Under My Skin? I guess what I was feeling was a sense of admiration. I was proud of J.M. Stone for taking some of the negative (or helpful, depending on how you look at it) criticism that she received from Skin Deep and using it to clean up the problems going into Under My Skin. Now, I don't want people thinking this changed Stone's style of writing. Thankfully she was able to keep it intact which I was praising the heavens for, because this woman creates some of the most hilarious (and hottest!) scenes I've ever read, which is saying something!
I also liked that Under My Skin picks up where Skin Deep ends. There's no monkey business, we just dive right into the story. Allie, who for the majority of Skin Deep, was dodging both Jackson and Brandon's advances, gets tricked by her best friend Emma in the beginning of Under My Skin. She finds herself alone with the two hotties, where they both finally admit how they feel about her, forcing Allie to confront her own feelings. With some persuasion, they convince her to give the unconventional relationship a shot.
Now I must say that while this book could technically be read as a stand-alone, Under My Skin would be better enjoyed if Skin Deep is read first. There is some backstory in book 1 that is quite beneficial going into book 2, such as how Brandon and Jackson start to show their interest in Allie and how she doesn't really know how to handle it. Are they just looking for a threesome, or do they want something more serious? If they do want something serious with her, what would other people think? Also, Stone truly has a gift when it comes to creating lively, memorable characters. In most sequels, you are lucky if you get a few scenes with previous characters popping in for a visit. However, in Under My Skin, almost all of the characters from book 1, especially Emma (Allie's best friend) and Luke (Brandon's brother and Jackson's best friend), make an appearance in book 2, and they all have their important roles to play, especially to keep the momentum of the humor alive. So my point is, if you haven't read Skin Deep, I'd make it a priority before delving into Under My Skin.
Speaking of humor...have I mentioned how FREAKIN' funny Under My Skin is??? Okay, you probably are all getting tired of me saying it but this truly is J.M. Stone's signature style. She has the ability to start a scene with a serious tone but then before you know it, she has created this scenario that has you laughing out loud. I think what makes it work is the majority of these humorous scenes could actually happen in real life. It made the characters feel more realistic, more human, especially Allie and Emma's best friend relationship which reminds me so much of my 18 year relationship with my best friend. I wish I could explain in detail every single hilarious moment in Under My Skin, but then that would be spoiling the story, so I will only go as far as to hint at some of my favorites: Luke and Emma's mischievous dog named Doug, Allie's cantankerous grandmother, Allie's adult sex toy party, in particular, a dildo nicknamed "Big Kirk", the cat shaving incident, and the list goes on!
Under My Skin wouldn't be considered an erotic romance novel if it didn't have some sexy time, right? Well ladies, you are all in for a treat, because not only is J.M. Stone gifted with writing humor, she can set the pages on fire with her HOT HOT HOT sex scenes! Oh, and did I forget to mention there are TWO tattooed alpha males to drool over??? I mean, just check the book cover!!! Which I love, by the way. Anyway, I digress...sometimes writing threesome love scenes can be tricky, because you want to make sure the reader doesn't get confused as to who is doing what. J.M. Stone does not have this problem at all. She was very clear in her distinction between Brandon and Jackson, which was awesome, because there is nothing more annoying then when you are getting into a really good sex scene but have to go back a page or two because you can't figure out who is who. I also like the fact that Allie gets her alone time with each guy. I think this was a brilliant idea because it's in those scenes when you get to see how different each man makes love to Allie, so that when all three come together, you get a pretty good idea who is doing what with and to her, without having to constantly say, "Brandon did this" or "Jackson did that." Stone definitely has some mad skills in that department!
So you're probably wondering why I gave Under My Skin 4 out of 5 stars after raving about it-- and make no mistake, I will always rave about it because it is really good. There is only one issue that troubled me and it's extremely hard to discuss in detail here because it would be a huge spoiler and the last thing I want to do is spoil the whole damn thing. So I will do my best to explain the issue while being vague. Kinda like a ninja! Anyway, something happens towards the end of the story that I truly didn't see coming. Apparently, I am not alone after skimming through some other reviews. I had the unique chance to vent my feelings to the author and she told me that she felt it was pretty obvious early on and that there were signs along the way. I'm glad I didn't write this review right away because it gave me some time to figure out exactly what bothered me about this surprising turn of events. This is what I came up with. Authors sometimes forget that they have a closer relationship to the characters then readers. So what may seem so apparent in their eyes may not be so easy for the reader to see. Was there 1 or 2 moments in the story that made me pause? Yes. But those particular things were so subtle and they definitely did not set me on the track the author clearly intended for me. What bothered me is not so much what happened, but how it happened. The series of events to get to that point in the story was poorly executed. Unexpected endings are cool IF the author can sell it to me, justify it. But unfortunately, the "signs" that J.M. Stone thought were so apparent in her eyes were really not so apparent, at least for me. That's why the suddenness of this particular choice near the end of the story felt so out of place. While some may feel the ending should be changed, I don't feel it needs to. Again, if that is what the author intended, then that is fine. But the transition for the reader to this big event towards the end could have been easily fixed with a few embellishments in a couple of scenes.
Under My Skin is truly a hilarious, erotic read by an extremely talented author. To see the growth in her writing between books 1 and 2 is very admirable and remarkable. J.M. Stone does this while keeping the integrity of her style, which is so important, because while you want to please your readers and grow as a writer, you don't want to lose the skills that are uniquely your own. I know I was being vague as hell towards the end of my review, but again, I didn't want to spoil anything or discourage anyone from picking up this book. Remember, if you haven't read Skin Deep (#1) yet, I highly recommend checking it out before Under My Skin. :)
I have been waiting in anticipation to read Sergei's story, not only because he has captivated my attention as a secondary character in the last severI have been waiting in anticipation to read Sergei's story, not only because he has captivated my attention as a secondary character in the last several books in this series, but also because he was falling in love with Bianca, a plus size African American woman. I had a feeling their story was going to be scorching, and the novel did not disappoint! I am so glad the author didn't rush the story or take shortcuts like she did in the novel before this one, In Kelly's Corner.
And it was so nice to see more of my favorite couple, Nikolai and Vivian. Can't wait to read more in this series. Now is the hard part. Waiting!
I give the author credit for trying to portray the biker lifestyle as realistic as possible. Very edgy story and the sexual abuse that Megan experiencI give the author credit for trying to portray the biker lifestyle as realistic as possible. Very edgy story and the sexual abuse that Megan experiences in the beginning of the novel at the hand of her step-father was very difficult to read.
While I give the author credit for trying, this doesn't mean all of it came across as realistic. Outlaw aka Christopher had the alpha male thing going on but he definitely is one of my least favorite male heroes. And Megan? I get that she is 18, but damn she was annoying.
I enjoyed Kelly's story, but I wish it had been longer. I really liked how the author set up/hinted at future couples in books to come as wel3.5 stars
I enjoyed Kelly's story, but I wish it had been longer. I really liked how the author set up/hinted at future couples in books to come as well as adding in some of our favorite past characters, like Yuri, Nikolai, Vivian, etc. I absolutely can't wait to read Sergei's story next :)
Absolutely loved it! Enjoyed it better than MINE. Being able to see things through Remy's eyes was very eye opening. I also really liked how Evans tAbsolutely loved it! Enjoyed it better than MINE. Being able to see things through Remy's eyes was very eye opening. I also really liked how Evans told his side of the story without making it sound redundant. I wasn't expecting his story to encompass both REAL and MINE and also thought it was cool that Evans gave us glimpses of what was going on in present day. So it was not only a story that came full circle, but completely satisfying from a reader's point-of-view.
This review and more, including giveaways, can be viewed on my blog:The Muses Circle
My Review:"It takes many muscles to smile, more to frown, but onThis review and more, including giveaways, can be viewed on my blog:The Muses Circle
My Review:"It takes many muscles to smile, more to frown, but only a few to pull the trigger."
If you haven't guessed already, stories about assassins or hitmen are taking the romance world by storm. The good news is, Last Hit by the dynamic collaborative team Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick is at the top of the leader board. You want sexy? Check. You want edgy? Double check. There are so many more "it" factors this story has which I will be getting to momentarily. I like to think of Last Hit as a cross between HITMAN the movie (starring the sexy-as-ever Timothy Olyphant) and Roxie Rivera's My Russian Protector series. Since I am a fan of her work, I became a little worried when I noticed many of the character names in Last Hit matched those in Rivera's My Russian Protector series, such as Nikolai, Sergei, Yury, Vasily. Thankfully, the stories are extremely different and I've read and learned enough to know that these names are quite common in the Russian/Ukrainian world.
I first want to talk about the very distinct dual perspectives and voices of Nikolai and Daisy, in particular Nick's accent. It's been a long time since I've been reminded as to why this technique works so well. I've read stories with alternating character POV that have left me confused or worst of all, having to go back a few pages to figure out who's head I'm supposed to be in (even with the help of character names at the beginning of chapters or section breaks). Last Hit does not suffer this fate. Nikolai's Ukrainian accent was AMAZING. I don't know how Frederick was able to translate his accent on paper, but I swear, I could almost hear it through the pages. I've been reading romance novels since I was 12, everything from historical to paranormal, with characters from all over the world and in different dimensions. Most authors take the easy way out when writing characters with foreign accents, often telling the reader that the character has one but doesn't go about showing it in any way (especially in the dialogue where it would be most prevalent). Showing Nikolai's accent through his narration, dialogue, and even text messages to Daisy made him feel almost 3-Dimensional.
Daisy... how can I sum up my feelings about this fascinating female heroine? Jessica Clare, who wrote Daisy's parts, also has a gift. I'm not even going to lie. I started this story with blinders on. After reading the first two chapters, I had Daisy figured out and put in a neat little box. I thought she was going to be your typical, "damsel in distress"-- weak, virginal, naïve girl that Nikolai would be rescuing at every turn, even from her own shadow. While she was a virgin and definitely a little naïve (which makes sense considering her extremely sheltered childhood due to her father's severe agoraphobia), I couldn't have been more wrong about the kind of female character she turned out to be. My level of respect and awe grew for her during the part when she is confronted/accosted by the men from Nikolai's past. Instead of Daisy panicking, screaming, or crying, a strange calm fills her. Years of her father's obsessive survival practices envelops her. While she may not be a match against these trained killers, she sure as hell doesn't make it easy for them. I didn't expect her to be so strong. I don't think she even realized it.
I also liked the ages of the characters. I know, sounds strange, but I was shocked when I read a few negative reviews complaining about Daisy and Nikolai's ages. Some felt that by keeping the characters in the 18-25 year bracket, it was an easy way for Clare and Frederick to market Last Hit as a NA romance. Hmm, not sure about that, nor do I care. However, what really bothered me were those who found Nikolai being a 24/25 year old world-renowned hitman unrealistic. They felt there was no way a person that young could have that kind of skill set. I obviously disagree. We are not talking about some random guy in his 20's taking up a gun and running around the country shooting people. Nikolai was targeted, trained, and desensitized at a very young age by the Petrovich Bratva, one of the most dangerous and powerful criminal organizations in the world. At the age of 15, he was kicked out by his mentor, Alexsandr:
"...Alexsandr dismissed me from the ranks and sent me off on my own. At fifteen, all I knew how to do was kill. And so that is what I do. I am a man who kills for money."
So let's put this into perspective. How is Nikolai and his upbringing any different from the children in Uganda that are taken from their homes by force at the tender ages of 6, 7, and 8 years old and trained with guns to be killers? Just because an idea or topic may be foreign to you doesn't mean there is no truth to it. There are so many unbelievable acts of evil and violence going on in the world that most of us are oblivious to and maybe that's the problem. Some people rather live in a bubble then admit that these kinds of things are happening everyday. I choose to live with my eyes wide open and that's how I know Nikolai being an experienced hitman at 24 is possible.
Anyway, Daisy being 21 makes sense as well. Any younger or older may not have worked in her particular circumstances. When she finally decided it was time for her to make her escape, waiting until she was 21 gave her an advantage. If her father tried to get the police involved to bring her back, he would have no leg to stand on because in the eyes of the law, she was legally an adult. If Daisy had been older, say 25-26, I don't think her story would have been as believable. At that point, what would be holding her back? Nikolai and Daisy compliment each other exceptionally. They are two young people that in many ways are outsiders, don't quite know the social norms for their age group, and have lived and survived through their own personal kind of hell but refuse to allow their pasts to define them. They truly are two halves of a whole.
Last Hit is remarkably well written and had me going through a multitude of emotions. There are parts that are funny, such as Nikolai not quite understanding American slang or figures of speech which causes him to say things awkwardly:
"'Daniel,'" I answer. "'What is happening?'"
Daniel coughs into the phone, as if he is covering a laugh. I wonder what mistake I have made.
"'It's what's happening. You're too formal."--Nikolai
Parts that are sexy:
"I'd rub my body over hers so that she smelled of me. When she walked this city, other men would stay away, recognizing she was marked as my own. Belonging to Nikolai. Maybe I would tattoo it around her neck like a collar."--Nikolai
And parts that are thought provoking, sad, and heart wrenching:
"There is something so vibrant, so aware, so alive about him that it sings to me. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Is it because my father has always been a shadow of himself and because he did his best to break me? Nick, I think, would never be broken. I like this about him."--Daisy
"This girl in Room 224 is unprotected, but she is innocent and sweet. I envy her. When she first walked into her apartment, she did not notice the cracked and peeling paint, the cheapness of the mattress on the floor...it all looked wonderful to her. I wonder what she would think of me--I am not unlike her apartment. I am cracked and peeling inside."--Nikolai
"When I killed, I targeted those who were the dregs and vermin of the world. Someday someone would take me out, and no one would mourn. But if Daisy was killed? Some light in the world would have been snuffed out. I want a piece of that light for myself, even if just for a short time. I know I do not deserve it--nor will I be able to keep it."--Nikolai
What also made this story feel fresh and gave it a sense of unpredictability was the pacing and deviation from the normal formula. Again, I thought I had everything figured out because at the 200 page mark, there were no resolutions in sight and Nikolai and Daisy hadn't done the deed yet, although there was some really hot sexy time along the way that kept my attention riveted to the screen of my kindle. The way the story was going, I was almost positive the sequel, Last Breath, was going to be a continuation of Daisy and Nick's story. Thank the gods I didn't bet any money because as that thought entered my mind, I decided to read the book blurb for Last Breath...and was shocked to learn it would be Daniel and Regan's story. That's when I started to sweat. How were Clare and Frederick going to wrap things up and add in all the hot lovin' Daisy and Nikolai deserved in 60 pages without making it feel rushed? Well, as you can see from my rating, I was not disappointed. They not only met my expectations, they surpassed them. They even earned extra brownie points for taking the time to address the issue with Daisy's father. I also wasn't quite sure how I originally felt about Nikolai's "gift" he gives to Daisy. That was probably the one and only thing I struggled with, but after he explains his reasons why and how Daisy comes to terms with this "gift", my reservations faded away. And yes, I am being vague to avoid spoilers!
There was only one minor inconsistency that I caught in the beginning of the story, but nothing that would cause me to mark my rating down. When we first meet Daisy, we learn that she only leaves the house for an hour or two a day. All windows are boarded up, so since the age of 8, she has had very little real sunlight. Daisy is described as being pale, which makes sense. But once she leaves home and Nikolai sees her, he contradicts himself twice while describing her:
"Her skin is creamy but golden as if she lives outdoors instead of within the stained brick walls of this dirty rundown apartment complex."
"Her pale skin is lovely even in this dimly lit basement."
So which is it? Is her skin pale or is it golden? Again, it's nothing major, but when I looked back at my notes to prepare for this review, I had a question mark next to these quotes.
Last Hit by Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick will forever hold a special place in my heart because quite honestly, I can't remember the last time I gave a book a perfect 5 star rating. While I was sad to see Daisy and Nikolai's story come to an end, I walked away feeling satisfied. Now I have something else to look forward to Last Breath, book 2 in the Hitman series, also written by the dynamic duo. I can't wait to read Daniel and Regan's story which sounds even more tragic and edgier than its predecessor.
My Review:Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille was a very generic read for me. It's another MMA fighter erotic contemporary romance with a twist: our hero, Torment, is not only an underground fighter, but also a billionaire!!! Oh...wait. We've read that one before. Nevermind. Anyway, it's a formula we are all familiar with: Good girl (Makayla aka Mac) meets bad boy (Torment aka Max Huntington) at Redemption, a full service gym/training center that also serves as a place to host unsanctioned underground fights. Torment, who just so happens to own the place, offers Makayla a part time position as a way to get to know her. At first she declines, but after being threatened by a collections agency over school loans, she decides the 2nd job might just be a blessing. Or is it because she can't stop thinking about the hot owner of Redemption? Add in the promiscuous best friend (Amanda) and a male character (Dr. Drake) that serves as an illusion for a love triangle when we all know he doesn't have a shot in hell of getting the girl and you have yourself another generic new adult romance. Against the Ropes also suffers from a few inconsistencies and unrealistic situations. But despite all of this, Sarah Castille was still able to create an entertaining story with a sexy alpha male, spunky heroine, and smoking hot chemistry/sex scenes.
Here is what I liked. The author was able to infuse well paced humor throughout the story. Once Makayla starts to get to know the other fighters at Redemption, they slowly form a bond. I enjoyed the camaraderie, and there were quite a few laugh out loud moments, especially when Mac gets drunk and Torment walks in on her playing strip poker with the guys. Even though I sort of had issues with her promiscuous best friend Amanda, I couldn't help but laugh when Mac and Amanda were on the phone and Amanda was relaying some of the kinky things Dr. Drake was doing in the bedroom (long story, but definitely funny).
Castille definitely knows how to write some swoon worthy chemistry and sexy time. Torment was a true alpha male. I loved all of his growly moments and I liked the fact that Makayla didn't always take his crap. She was sure to let him know when he crossed a line. From the very beginning there was a great build in sexual tension, especially the scene where Torment teaches Mac some submission holds in the ring...*fans face* Other than one very awkward sex scene (I'll be getting to that in a moment) the rest was hotter than hot. And who doesn't love an alpha that talks dirty? >=)
I also liked the serious turn the story took once Torment and Makayla's backgrounds start to unravel. Without saying too much about their troubled childhoods, they both have control issues. Because of Torment's devastating past, he fears not being able to protect the ones he loves, so he thinks controlling Mac and choosing what she can and can't do is the best way to keep her from harm. On the flip side you have Makayla who, because of the skeletons in her closet, has always dated safe, boring guys. Being attracted to and dating Torment is out of her comfort zone and his dominate, controlling behavior scares (and excites) her in and out of the bedroom. She values her independence and fears being controlled. So the author deserves some credit for giving her characters some depth, even though their troubled pasts are nothing new to the genre.
I had quite a few issues with Against the Ropes, most of which were annoying for the simple fact that the inconsistencies and unrealistic situations took away from the heart of the story. I'll start with the small problems and work my way to the bigger ones. First, the beginning started off a bit awkward. Makayla is at Redemption, working as a ticket booth person when she meets Rampage, the manager. The author gives Rampage every kind of clichéd characteristic to make the reader think he is a creepy douche bag: he smells, he's dirty, has horrible breath, missing teeth, tight clothing that stretches over a "keg sized belly"-- you get the mental picture. Although he pulls a prank on her, Makayla eventually learns to like the guy. So what's the problem? Maybe it's just me but for some reason the characteristics don't fit the person. Torment didn't strike me as the type of person that would allow someone with bad hygiene or a complete creeper to manage his "training center". Another odd thing I noticed in that beginning scene of the story is Makayla never mentions taking her shoes off, yet when she is forced to walk into the ring, she is barefoot. When did she kick off her shoes? Furthermore, why in the hell isn't she resisting? If some creepy dude came up to me and told me I was going to have to get in the ring to fight, I would be flipping out. Yes, I get this was the author's brilliant idea to get Makayla and Torment to meet face to face. But really? This is the best Castille came up with? It felt forced and unrealistic.
Another thing that didn't quite make sense is Makayla's career choice. She is a certified EMT and is bouncing back and forth on whether she wants to become a doctor. Yet she can't stand the sight of blood or violence? Okay, MAYBE violence I can believe, but she gets sick and starts to dry heave when one of the fighters describes a submission hold in detail??? VERY unrealistic.
I also had issues with the suspicious collections agency called Collections R US. Makayla had some student loans and one day out of the blue she gets a call from Sergio Martinez, a supposed collections agent. The guy harasses her, calls her from his cell phone, etc. Later in the novel another agent calls and actually physically threatens her. This was the one plot vehicle I couldn't swallow. It was not only unbelievable, but it makes Makayla--who I overall admired-- look extremely stupid. Why didn't she call the police? File a complaint? Oh, wait. That's right. It was just another way for the author to give Torment an excuse to flex his wallet and pay Mac's debt. But did she really owe that much??? Was it really a collections agency calling her or frauds trying to take advantage of her? Yeah, makes no sense.
Oh, let's not forget the awkward first sex scene. I have no problems with BDSM, or alpha males being dominate and in control. But what I couldn't quite wrap my head around is Torment creating this awesome romantic dinner at his place for Makayla...and instead of taking her upstairs afterwards, he takes her for a ride on his motorcycle, procures rope, and ties her face down on the bike. But when she expresses her discomfort and shows fear since they barely know each other, instead of untying her and apologizing for freaking her out, he disappears for several moments to "punish" her for displeasing him. WTF??? It just totally didn't work for me. If the scene maybe took place later once they knew each other a little better...needless to say, it was one of those awkward scenes that I was happy to forget about once they moved onto the next sex scene which was MUCH better.
My last major issue I had was a definite "roll your eyes" moment. Towards the climax of the story, something traumatic happens to Makayla. Torment comes to the rescue. But instead of consoling her, he drags her to a shed and tells her to take all her clothes off. He doesn't give her an explanation and when she refuses, he barks out the order again. Scared, she starts to undress and then Torment suddenly starts to take his belt off. Makayla freaks out in fear. He gets angry that she doesn't trust him. Ready for the blow-your-mind explanation for his actions? Torment wanted her to disrobe so he could see if she was injured underneath her clothes and he was taking his belt off so his buckle wouldn't hurt her...umm, REALLY??? Like Makayla or any other recently traumatized woman would draw those conclusions???
Against the Ropes was one hell of a roller coaster ride. It had its laugh out loud moments, a sexy alpha hero, likeable heroine (for the most part), and very hot sex scenes (if you can skip over the first one). Unfortunately, it's a story riddled with unrealistic scenarios the author conjured up without much thought process. Sloppy is a word that keeps popping in my mind. In a genre that is overly saturated in MMA fighter romances, authors need to be a bit more conscious of not necessarily what they are writing but how their stories are being written. It's cool to use the formula, after all, it's popular for a reason. But remember, it's not about quantity. It's about quality.
Very disappointed in Burn, the last novel in the Breathless trilogy. It felt rushed, the ending didn't quite come full circle in my opinion, and thereVery disappointed in Burn, the last novel in the Breathless trilogy. It felt rushed, the ending didn't quite come full circle in my opinion, and there were parts where POV got confusing-- one minute we are in the head of Josie, then a few sentences later the POV is through Ash without any kind of warning or usual section break that gives the reader the heads up that POV is changing. That really bothered me because Maya Banks is a seasoned author that doesn't usually suffer from issues like that. So what the hell happened? And what about Kai and Brittany?
While this trilogy is over, I do hope that Banks revisits this series, perhaps do a spinoff or some novellas since I feel that Burn didn't quite give me the closure I expected.
I'll make this short and sweet since this book was only 97 pages. Dead Sexy Dragon had a lot of potential but missed the mark because of its short lenI'll make this short and sweet since this book was only 97 pages. Dead Sexy Dragon had a lot of potential but missed the mark because of its short length. I can tell the author put some effort into creating the mythology of her dragon shifters and she clearly is a talented writer. A brotherhood of dragons with a sexy, scarred leader named Ignatius? The Knights of St. George, the sworn enemies of the dragon shifters that have spent centuries hunting down and killing them? I was loving where the story was going. But just when you start to sink into the story it's...over.
Sometimes this works for the first book in a series. Roxy Rivera's Her Russian Protector series comes to mind. The first book in her series, Ivan, was only 99 pages but every book in the series after Ivan was over 200 pages. It helped to develop her world building and gave her characters depth. So at first I thought maybe Lolita Lopez was going to do the same with her dragon series. But Red Hot Dragon, book 2 in her dragon series, is also going to be under 100 pages.
Dead Sexy Dragon is a hot, quick read. But if you are looking for depth and substance, you will be disappointed. The author really does have some great ideas and I will probably give book 2 a shot when it comes out now that I know what to expect.
My Review: I'm going to try not to let this review turn into a full blown rant, but I cThis review and more can be viewed on my blog: The Muses Circle
My Review: I'm going to try not to let this review turn into a full blown rant, but I can't promise anything. I really dislike giving a book anything lower than 3 stars because no matter how I feel, I try to always keep in the back of my mind that this story is someone's baby, something they poured time and effort into. But I am nothing if not honest, and sadly, there are so many things I found wrong with The Silver Chain by Primula Bond. Riddled with contradictions, awkward wording/scenarios, and a hero/heroine that were down right unappealing and unsympathetic, I'm still in shock that this book is being compared to the likes of Sylvia Day's sizzling Crossfire series. Yes, it does share the formula: a younger woman leaves behind a troubled past by moving to a big city to also attempt to make it on her own. Millionaire, dominant older man with a dark side meets said younger woman and wants total possession, ownership, etc. But that is where the similarities end and not all for the good.
Here is what I did like. Since so many erotic novels are following in the footsteps of series like 50 Shades of Grey and Crossfire, the actual setting of The Silver Chain was quite refreshing. The majority of the story takes place in London, England, on a completely different continent from which I am used to reading about. The author, Primula Bond, is also from the UK and it is quite noticeable in her writing which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it did come with some challenges, such as learning different words like "skint" which means not having much money. And not laughing when the author uses "knickers" instead of panties, etc.
I also liked that the book's hero, Gustav Levi, is the owner of an art gallery. Yes, he is an entrepreneur, but the main focus of the novel centers around the Levi gallery. It's a nice change from other book millionaire heroes that we know. The art aspect of the novel was just about the only thing I could truly relate to. I not only minored in Art History in college, but I also interned at an art gallery so it was nice to delve back into that world.
So here is what I had issues with, starting with our main characters. I didn't like Serena at all. I give her a lot of credit for rising above her horrific childhood, but that's about the only compliment I can give her. I thought she was immature, selfish, and a bit hypocritical. There are so many examples to prove my point, but the biggest one is how she treats Gustav when it is his turn to try to find closure from his troubled past. Once she makes the deal with Gustav, she travels back to her village to finish selling her childhood home that held so many troubled memories for her. She also spies on her ex-boyfriend, Jake, having sex with another woman and takes photos of the encounter. She even meets up with him later-- my point is, she went back to find some closure for herself. After spending some time with Gustav and learning that many of his control and trust issues stem from his horrible marriage, he asks Serena to travel with him to the estate he shared with his ex-wife, Margot, in Switzerland to find closure. He didn't have to do that. He could have left her. But he trusted her to go with him, needing her support. Serena is even told by people that are close to Gustav (Crystal and Dickson) that she is the first girl he has ever taken back there, that this was a huge deal for him, and to try to be patient. So you would think she would go with an open mind, right? Nope, instead she flips. The very first day they arrive, actually. Serena sees the chapel where Gustav and his ex-wife Margot got married and literally freaks out. Really??? Why??? She knew by going with him that she was going to be seeing things that Gustav shared with his ex-wife. So why is it such a shock when she sees the chapel they got married in??? Serena yells at him, runs away-- makes it about her instead of giving him a chance to even try to find closure.
Gustav Levi just didn't do it for me as a hero. This could partially be the way he is described which would be the author's doing. Primula Bond has a habit of describing things that are supposed to come across as sexy but just doesn't work. Here is an example: "...the subtle flex in his forearm as he twirls his swizzle up and down his fingers like a cheerleader's baton." Umm, okay? Like comparing him in any way to a cheerleader is supposed to make him more manly? If anything it is a turn off. Also, the majority of the novel Gustav either spends hooking Serena to him with the silver chain (which totally annoyed me, I'll get to that later) or disappearing without letting her know where he's gone off to. He is more controlling than he is dominant which are two completely different things. I think the thing that bothered me the most about Gustav is that he didn't show much concern for Serena when it was really needed. Prime example is when they are horseback riding. Serena falls off her horse and injures her ankle really bad. By the time he figures out what happened, instead of kneeling down beside her to check on her ankle, he just stands there! She's literally in tears and asks him to help bind her ankle or take her to a doctor. What does Gustav do? He asks her if she wants to go get some hot chocolate. Umm, WHAT??? Oh, it gets better. When Serena stupidly agrees (totally makes no sense if she is that hurt) instead of picking her up and carrying her, he just walks slowly next to her while she hobbles. WTF? Wow, what a freakin' gentleman.
My other major issue is the slew of contradictions or inconsistencies throughout the book. I'm going to try to go through a few of the ones that stood out the most. 1) Serena accidentally left her camera after her first meeting with Gustav. We listen in on the phone call when he tells her where to meet him to pick up the camera. When she arrives, Gustav says, "You told me to guard it with my life, and that's exactly what I did...I told you I had a proposition for you, so I'll get straight to the point." What??? During their phone conversation she NEVER said to guard her camera with his life NOR does he mention anything about a proposition. 2) During their first sexual encounter, he asks her, "Please would you kneel down, Serena." Her response: "Hands and knees, you say? You want me to scrub the floor now?" What??? He told her to KNEEL, not to get on her hands and knees! 3) When Gustav arrives at the opening night of Serena's gallery exhibit, his, "...black hair is slicked back like the Godfather, making him look positively sinister and intimidating." A few pages later his, "dark hair falls against his eyebrow." So WHICH IS IT? Slicked back hair or loose in his face??? 4) The next morning after her sprained ankle incident, Serena wakes up to find that she must have been undressed in the middle of the night. She fantasizing about both Gustav and Dickson (Gustav's driver). She wonders, "Did the men undress me together?...Did they grow hard looking at me, dare the other to make a macho remark about the sleep of the innocent or did they deny the bulge in their trousers?...Did they have their way, the two of them exploring me with tongues and fingers and other parts..." Several pages later, Serena is looking through Gustav's telescope and sees Dickson kissing a woman. Her response? "Eww. Think I'll leave them to it." What??? She just fantasized about Dickson taking advantage of her in her sleep yet she is disgusted by him when she sees him kiss another woman??? It just totally doesn't make sense.
My last gripe is with the silver chain. I was first okay with it. This is obviously not my first book where the male character wants to mark his woman in some way, or to wear something that shows she belongs to him. I've read previous novels where men have made women wear collars, nipple clamps, even butt plugs all day. So I figured the silver chain between Serena and Gustav would be the same thing. At first it starts in private. He makes her wear a bracelet that is nearly impossible to get off, hooks the chain to it, and holds the other end to basically control the distance between them depending on his mood. Okay, I can deal with that. What totally turned me off and made it feel somewhat unbelievable was: 1) During opening night of her exhibit in a room full of people he hooks the chain up and tugs her around! I don't give a crap that the chain was so thin that you could barely see! It just doesn't seem realistic at all. Isn't it enough that she is wearing the bracelet? Isn't that symbolic enough? 2) Serena wakes up to find Gustav gone (yeah, like I said, he disappears all the time) and when she gets up off the bed, she notices that he had attached a longer chain on her wrist. Wait, get this. The chain is not only attached to her wrist, but to the wall and is so long that she can basically walk around the majority of the house. But essentially she is bound to the house and is unable to get dressed since she is attached to the chain. WTF! That's supposed to be a turn on??? I honestly don't blame her for breaking loose!!!
The Silver Chain is the first novel in a long time that I just wanted to stop reading, but because I had an obligation to review it, I forged ahead. It had an interesting premise and hey, any erotic romance being compared to Sylvia Day's Crossfire series is definitely worth a shot. But sadly, the story was a hot mess, filled with contradictions and characters that I honestly couldn't wait to forget. Gustav can't even light a candle next to the likes of Gideon (Crossfire series), Gabe and Jace (Breathless series), or Remington (Real, Raw, & Ripped series). These men would eat Gustav up and spit him out. And while I get the symbol of the silver chain, Primula Bond went a bit overboard with it. I don't think I will be reading any more books in this series but all I can hope is that the author hires some beta readers or finds a better editor to help point out the inconsistencies before any future novels are published.
Loved it! And thankfully I wasn't one of the people that went into this novel thinking Entwined With You was the end of the series. I know quite a fewLoved it! And thankfully I wasn't one of the people that went into this novel thinking Entwined With You was the end of the series. I know quite a few people that didn't get the memo that Sylvia Day was expanding the series to 5 books instead of 3. So sadly, this book got many negative reviews within the first few days of its release since people were furious that it sort of ends suddenly. I guess if I thought it was the end of the series, I would have been disgusted as well.
Gideon and Eva's relationship is heating up-- how that is possible I don't even know since this couple scorches the pages. I'm loving the twists and turns, especially with other minor characters. I anxiously await the next in the series. My only major gripe is the fact that despite 300+ pages, only a week or 2 has passed in the actual story and I guess I am just anxious to see where things go--especially since the author has other novels she is working on and no date set in sight for book 4. Considering the fact that this series has rocketed her career even higher, I would think she would focus on seeing the crossfire series through. Then again, she is a very popular author who has many series in varies stages and is under contract, so I guess she has to do what works best for everyone, despite fans impatience.
Either way, I look forward to book 4 and just hope she can keep the momentum up rather then make it feel like she is stretching the story out to make more money. I know quite a few other series from other authors who have done this and ruined a perfectly good series by adding nothing but filler.
Absolutely by far my favorite of the series! I actually rushed through Yuri and Lena's story just so I could get to Nikolai and Vivian's. Started it lAbsolutely by far my favorite of the series! I actually rushed through Yuri and Lena's story just so I could get to Nikolai and Vivian's. Started it last night and finished it today! I'm really happy at the way Roxie Rivera told their story--Nikolai is who he is and it just wouldn't seem realistic if...well, I don't want to spoil anything. I plan to do a more thorough review of the quadrilogy at a later date. But I am thrilled to hear that some of Nikolai's men are going to have their own story as well-- Kostya, Sergei, etc.
Sadly, I am a huge pervert and wish there had been just a few more "love" scenes between Nikolai and Vivian. That is my only complaint!...more
I would be lying if I said I am a hardcore Maya Banks fan. In fact, I've probabl*NOTE* This review and more can be seen on my blog at The Muses Circle
I would be lying if I said I am a hardcore Maya Banks fan. In fact, I've probably only read a handful of her books and I know she has been around for awhile. I love erotica and have a weakness for alpha male heroes, so why I'm jumping on the Banks fan train so late in the game will always be a mystery. Maybe it's because for the longest time my favorite erotic romance author was Lora Leigh. She used to deliver the type of books that were so good that I would buy anything she released without even knowing what they were about. She used to be that good. But I'm not the only Leigh fan that has been disappointed with her writing lately and it has left a huge void to be filled.
I stumbled upon an ARC copy of RUSH and when I read the synopsis, I was a bit skeptical. Older alpha male falls for his best friend's baby sister? Sound familiar? That's because Lora Leigh is the queen of writing that very scenario over and over again. And for some reason she used to nail it every time. So I was a bit worried going into RUSH, book 1 of Maya Bank's new Breathless series. Could it be as good as Lora Leigh's signature plot device? That would be a HELL YEAH!
Okay, let's get down to it. RUSH is already being compared to the Fifty Shades of Grey series as well as Sylvia Day's Crossfire series. While I have not succumbed to the Fifty Shades of Grey mania, I am a huge fan of the Crossfire novels. I do see some similarities, but I don't want to make this review a comparison/contrast essay. I think RUSH has enough power to stand on its own. But let me clarify a few things. While the Fifty Shades of Grey and Crossfire series deal with 1 couple and their story unfolds over several novels, each book in the Breathless series will focus on 1 couple with no cliffhangers. So while I do anxiously await book 2 in the Breathless series, I am at least satisfied that Mia and Gabe's story in RUSH is complete. Because let me tell ya, I am about to blow a gasket waiting to see what happens with Eva and Gideon in the highly anticipated 3rd novel of the Crossfire series. But I digress....
Let's talk about the story and characters. We have 3 best friends, Gabe, Jace, and Ash. They are extremely rich, run a business together, and have each others backs, even when shit goes bad to worse. They all have troubled pasts which makes RUSH and the planned sequels that much more intriguing. At the heart of RUSH is Gabe and his obsession with Jace's baby sister Mia. He's kept his hands off her out of respect for his friendship with Jace, but at the ripe age of 24 and finding her unescorted at one of his Hotel grand opening events, Gabe can't fight the attraction anymore. He'll probably burn in hell for being 14 years her senior and forbidden fruit, but he sees it as a sign to set his plans in motion since she is there alone, without her protective brother Jace hovering over her. What I find so interesting about Gabe is his imperfections. Yes, he is ultra alpha, possessive yumminess. But he also has some major trust issues. Like MAJOR. Like draws up a contract and has women sign it before entering any kind of sexual relationship with them, including Jace's baby sister, Mia. Crazy, right? Wait until you see some of the things Gabe includes in said contract! So yes, there are times when Gabe rides the fine line between love and hate and I must say, it's been a long time since I've struggled with loving and hating a character, especially in romance.
There is one particular scene in RUSH that is getting a lot of heat which relates to my comment that you will love and hate Gabe at times. Without giving away too many details, there is a scene that happens in Paris that may be a bit hard to get through. Some reviewers feel that the scene was unnecessary and unforgiveable, some felt it did not add anything to the story and was kinda just thrown in there. I would have to disagree. Yes, it was a bit terrifying and I was shocked that Maya Banks had the guts to go there. But I think it did serve a purpose. Gabe has been attracted to Mia since she was a teenager but doesn't make his move until she is 24. Once they start a physical relationship, he expects to sort of get her out of his system, but instead, he feels more drawn to her, more out of control. What happens in Paris was a test. It was his way of proving to himself that what he feels for Mia is strictly physical. But obviously he is proven wrong-- it is just tragic that it had to go that far for him to realize that Mia means more to him then he expected.
Other things that I enjoyed about RUSH or that you should know...what I love about this series over Sylvia Day's Crossfire novels is the third person narration. I have always been a big fan of 3rd person narration--I like being able to get into the minds of different characters, not just one. Being in Gabe's head really helped me understand him more and forgive him easier because I was able to feel his pain, anguish, fear, and regret.
Also, I think I am finally getting used to these...abstract cover art treatments. I've always been a fan of half naked men on the front covers, ya know, something to catch your eye and set itself apart from the hundreds of other books vying for your attention in bookstores and online. I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't digging it at first; do you know how many times I passed Bared to You by Sylvia Day in the bookstore and online? I think at one point I even asked a friend what the hell those 2 things on the cover were until I finally realized after reading the book that they are cuff links! It's hard to break old habits and I still at times find myself dismissing or skipping books based on their cover art. I'm working on it since I definitely don't want to miss out on a great book because the cover wasn't appealing! If anything, I guess it forces us to really use our own imaginations.
I give RUSH 5 stars because it's been a long time since a story with this particular plot device has captivated my senses so completely. Maybe it's because I am mourning the loss of my favorite erotic romance author--yes, yes I know Lora Leigh isn't dead, I just miss the way she used to write and wonder where the fire has gone. Anyway, I give Maya Banks credit for making the story edgy, writing an alpha male character that you love to hate and hate to love, and did I forget to mention that the sex scenes are...HOT HOT HOT!!! Let me remind you again this is EROTIC literature, so...just saying, you have been warned! I anxiously await FEVER and BURN, books #2 and #3 in the Breathless series. Jace and Ash like to share women but that will be tested when Jace becomes obsessed with Bethany, a woman that ties him into knots and makes him feel things he has never felt before. It will be interesting to see how Jace and Ash's relationship changes when a woman finally becomes between them--er no pun intended!
My Review: This review is going to be a bit longer than normal because as I started rThis review and more can be viewed on my blog at The Muses Circle
My Review: This review is going to be a bit longer than normal because as I started reviewing A Perfect Storm, I noticed myself mentioning a lot about the series as a whole. If you don't know this already, A Perfect Storm is the 4th and last installment in Lori Foster's The Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor Series. And boy was it a great run while it lasted! Am I sad to see this series end? Absolutely. Do I think Lori could squeeze one more book out? Hell yes, and I will get to that later in my review. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. And it just so happens to end with Spencer and Arizona's story, which sort of begins at the end of Savor the Danger, book 3 in the series.
The way Lori Foster weaves this series together is through constant interaction between her characters. The main characters from each book make frequent appearances throughout the whole series, which leads to some intricate storytelling. So before I go on, let me set the stage. The series revolves around 3 friends, Dare, Trace, and Jackson (Spencer doesn't enter the stage until later obviously) who work as mercenaries to stop human trafficking.
Things get a little personal in When You Dare, book 1, when Dare must save Trace's sister, Alani, who has been kidnapped while on vacation. Trace's cover is blown since he is related, so Dare goes in. When he goes in for Alani, he ends up rescuing another woman that had been kidnapped too. Severely beaten, Dare can't help but admire Molly's fighting spirit and against his iron rules to not mix business with pleasure, he reluctantly agrees to help Molly track down the men who kidnapped her, not counting on falling in love along the way...
Fueled with fire after almost loosing his sister Alani to the very monsters he hunts down, Trace of Fever, book 2, focusing on Trace going undercover. Pretending to be a bodyguard for Murray Coburn, Trace knows the wealthy businessman is corrupt and intends to find proof to put him away. What he doesn't count on is Coburn's long lost daughter, Priss (short for Priscilla), waltzing in with her own agenda. With Dare and Jackson for backup, Trace has his hands full with keeping focused on the mission while trying to protect Priss from letting revenge get the best of her. He also can't seem to keep his hands off her lovely assets....
Trace doesn't seem to get a break because in Savor the Danger, book 3, instead of fighting human traffickers, he has to fight his brotherly instincts when his little sister, Alani, ends up in bed with Jackson. Jackson has been flirting with Alani for what seems like ages, but has kept somewhat of a distance out of respect for her brother, Trace. After Alani's kidnapping, the girl just doesn't seem the same, aloof and skittish. Finding any excuse possible to get her alone, he convinces her that his place needs a makeover-- and Alani is one hell of an interior decorator. But things go south when he wakes up the next morning...with a naked Alani in his bed and absolutely no memory of how it happened! He knows he has to have been drugged-- there is no way in hell he would forget a whole night of lovin' with the woman of his dreams-- but convincing Alani of this is a whole other matter. On top of that, Jackson has a few secrets of his own...such as one rainy night when he comes across men throwing a body bag into the river. Jumping in after it, he ends up saving an abused girl who is a victim of sex slavery. Jackson helps her rebuild her life by giving her an education, a new identity, and sort of adopts her as his little sister-- and that is how we come to know Arizona. We learn at the end of book 3 that there is a connection between the people that drugged Jackson and those who were responsible for Arizona's years of hell as a sex slave, and Arizona is out for revenge, to make them pay. Spencer is a bounty hunter who meets Arizona in a bar while on a hunt. He is first blinded by her beauty, but he soon realizes the little minx is a magnet for trouble. And he can't help but go with his instincts and follows her into the fire-- which is how he ends up meeting Jackson, Trace, and Dare...
This brings us to A Perfect Storm, book 4. Arizona doesn't trust any man except Jackson but with Jackson setting up house with Alani, the only person she feels she can turn to is Spencer. Yeah, she knows she can probably trust Dare and Trace, but they would only run back to Jackson, and that would just kill her plans. Besides, even if she won't admit it, there is something about Spencer that attracts her, that causes her womanly instincts to flare up, and it scares the living daylights out of her. But she knows she needs someone to partner up with her so that she can expose a smuggling ring and Spencer is the perfect man for the job. But Spencer doesn't quite play fair and before she knows it, the whole family is involved-- Dare, Trace, and her annoying adopted brother Jackson. Can they all work together to help Arizona realize her self worth and how much she means to them all, especially Spencer?
Lori Foster did a great job with the main theme that runs through this series which is human trafficking. Is it going to meet everyone's approval? Probably not since it is a sensitive topic. But I think she handled it with care and respect. Although When You Dare, book 1 is my favorite in the series, what sets A Perfect Storm apart is the realism. In her previous books in the series, we experience the fear of being kidnapped, beaten, almost being sold-- but just in the nick of time, Molly and Alani are rescued. This is a popular formula that is used in many romances. But in A Perfect Storm, Arizona's harrowing experience is the real deal. She was sold by her father at the age of 17 and experienced the many horrors of sex slavery. She was later able to escape and had to cheat, lie, steal, and learn how to use weapons in order to survive.
After all, in the real world, we don't always have white knights in shining armor to come save us. Arizona didn't have anyone in her corner for the majority of her life. Instead of staying the victim, she chose to fight, to take matters into her own hands as I mentioned above. Jackson saves her that fateful night when she is thrown into the river and like any good man, he wants to wrap her up in a security blanket and fight her battles for her. But that isn't how Arizona rolls and for her, trying to make her forget is not always the best way to conquer her fears. She reminds me so much of another amazing female survivor, Lisbeth from Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Like Lisbeth, Arizona doesn't really trust any man, can never let her guard down, and the only way to truly feel justice is to make those monsters pay personally, rather then send someone in to do it for them.
Do I like Arizona? Yes, I do. Was she a little annoying? Yes. Was it because of her age? No. I'm pointing this out because I know some people didn't like Arizona. Some people felt she was immature, tried to be too hardcore, that her cursing and her use of slang was unnecessary. Umm...did they skip the part where it's mentioned that she came from a poor area and that her daddy sold her into sex slavery? What, do you think that spending a couple years at a ritzy school that Jackson paid for is going to "tame" and turn her into a proper young lady? PUH-lease!!!! I give Lori Foster a lot of credit for breaking away from the normal romance formula. I felt that Arizona was very authentic, especially based on her experiences. Just like Lisbeth in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Arizona is a woman that is a product of her environment and those survival instincts just don't go away over night. Keeping active and involved is her way of keeping sane.
I enjoyed Spencer and appreciated the fact that it didn't take him long to realize he had to accept Arizona for who she is. Yes, he had a hell of a time fighting his alpha male tendencies, and maybe there was a time or two that he couldn't help himself. But I liked Spencer because instead of trying to change her, he worked on helping her come to terms with her power as a woman. Yes, Arizona knows that men like to look at her, but she doesn't realize how beautiful she truly is and it's not until Spencer that she is appreciated for what's in her head and her heart. He also helps her discover her own sexuality. Before she was sold into sex slavery, she was a virgin. This is a girl who only knew the brutal side of sex, the disgusting and selfish depravity of men. Spencer is the one who brings out these female urges and it scares and intrigues her at the same time.
My favorite part of the book is when Spencer takes Arizona to Dare and Molly's for a party to celebrate her birthday. I love this part because this really shows how much the whole gang loves and accepts her as part of the family. And how Dare, Trace, and Jackson trust Spencer enough to offer him a position as a mercenary for their company. This is where Lori Foster really shines as an author, at least in this series because I absolutely enjoyed every moment when the main characters from the other books got their moment to shine.
And this is a perfect segue into my only 2 issues with this book and series. One of these characters that I love is Chris, Dare's best friend (who happens to be gay) and assistant who lives in a small house a short distance away from Dare's home. Chris is a minor character that has played a pivotal part in all 4 books. He sort of serves as the comic relief is many situations, but in no way does he fit into the stereotype that most gay assistants fall into. Chris is not flamboyant, nor does he do hair or makeup, and no he doesn't have a crush on his best friend. In fact, from the very beginning I got a sense that Chris is another Alpha male that just so happens to prefer men instead of women.
While I am satisfied how things got wrapped up with Spencer and Arizona, I think there is still one more story that needs to be told. That just so happens to be about Chris. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say another gay character was introduced earlier in the series and in A Perfect Storm, when Arizona mentions this character to Chris, he gets a little prickly, like maybe there are feelings there that are yet to be explored... Why would Lori put that small detail in if she wasn't considering weaving a story for Chris?
The reason I am annoyed is not so much with the author, but with popular mainstream publishing companies and the way they treat gay characters. Or should I say, the lack of gay romances put out by big publishing companies? Yes, gay romances are becoming popular BUT they are usually put out as e-books first, more then likely labeled under "erotica", and are published by smaller, independent companies like Ellora's Cave, Dreamspinner Press, Samhain Publishing, etc. And when these books do become paperbacks, the prices range from $12.99 on up to $17.99! I just feel that popular publishing companies that focus on romance need to get with the program.
Another HUGE injustice that I know many fans are frustrated about is the gay characters Qhuinn and Blay from J.R. Ward's insanely popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Where is their book??? There is all this speculation that Ward is putting their story in an e-book. WHY??? Why don't they deserve their own book? I think it's the publishing company that is pushing Ward to do this because they are too scared to make that leap.
Wow, I totally went off on a tangent! But this is something I am extremely passionate about. Chris deserves his own happy ever after. I think Lori Foster knows it too. I just hope she can find a way to make it happen.
My only other complaint about A Perfect Storm goes back to the heart of the story, Arizona. At the end of Savor the Danger, book 3, it is revealed that Jackson has helped Arizona create a new identity to protect her from those that may still be out looking for her. Arizona is not her real name and is a part of this new identity. I totally get that. It's cool. But I figured that in this book, with the "threat" now out of the way, Arizona's real name would be revealed. You know, maybe Spencer would be curious and want to know what her birth name actually is. Umm...well, this totally doesn't happen. In fact, this is never even brought up in the whole book! Maybe I am just a stickler for detail, but this annoyed me. I'm not sure if it totally skipped Lori's attention or if she meant for it to be that way. Maybe Arizona's new identity is symbolic for a fresh start and that she had such a crappy upbringing prior to being sold by her father that she doesn't want to retain anything from her previous life, including her real name. So I tried not to let it bother me too much, but I'm a little surprised that Spencer didn't pursue that aspect of Arizona.
It has been an absolute pleasure reading Lori Foster's The Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor series. I couldn't have asked for a better set of hot, protective alpha males to warm my heart and insides for the past year (umm, yeah, let's not tell my boyfriend about that haha!). I pray to the gods that Lori changes her mind and pumps out 1 more book so that Chris gets his own story. And if it's not her but the publishing company that has the issue, I hope they get off their high horse and take a leap of faith.
I have read some of Lisa Marie Rice's erotic romances when she was writing for the e-book website Ellora's Cave. My two favorites are Midnight Man (boI have read some of Lisa Marie Rice's erotic romances when she was writing for the e-book website Ellora's Cave. My two favorites are Midnight Man (book 1) and Midnight Run (#2). I'm not even sure why I haven't stuck with her over the years but maybe that's a good thing and here is why.
I noticed some reviewers gave Into the Crossfire more like a 2 to 3 star rating, mostly because they are loyal fans of Rice and this particular book did not live up to the standards that they expected. Since I've only read 2 out of the more than dozen romances she has written, I guess you can say I'm cutting the author a little break. My major complaint, however, is exactly what some of the reviewers touched on: Lisa Marie Rice spends WAY too much time on background info in this book. I feel like I read more about the villain and his motivation for setting things in motion rather then the 2 main characters. This made the relationship feel really rushed and a bit under developed. The scenes that we all wait for, ya know, the "intimate" parts seem to only happen twice in the book-- one in the middle and one towards the end. Now, that is not always a bad thing. Some authors are AMAZING at building the sexual tension between characters and once the BIG scene happens, it's so good that you don't even notice that the book is almost at the end. THAT is a truly gifted romance author.
So why am I still giving Into the Crossfire a 4 star rating? Well, it's more like a 3.5, but since my rating system is still a bit barbaric, I figured a 4 will do. Rice did do a decent job at building the tension between her 2 leads, Sam and Nicole. When the "big moment" happens, it definitely didn't disappoint which earned her major brownie points. Did I forget to mention that Sam is an alpha? Wait, did I forget to tell everyone I LOVE alpha males in my romance novels?? Sam Reston is the epitome of hot male dominance. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that he is a former Navy SEAL, so he is used to being in charge and protecting others. Rice is good at creating alphas, so she gets some more brownie points for that.
Despite the pages of back story that I found myself skipping through, I do like the way she introduces Mike and Harry into the book, which are Sam's "adopted" brothers. They both appear to be very different characters with interesting backgrounds that will hopefully make 2 solid follow-ups to Into the Crossfire. Actually, Mike's book, called Nightfire: A Protectors Novel (Marine Force Recon) is due out February 7th. More alpha male goodness on the way, yay!
Quick Note: I just want to add that since Lisa Marie Rice has been around for awhile and some of her books were published in ebook format and later in paperback from ebook publishing sites, you may want to be careful that you aren't buying the same book. What I mean is, some of her older books are being reissued under different titles, different cover art, etc. I believe Into the Crossfire was an old story of hers that got turned into a mass market paperback. So just make sure you check out her website for a complete list of her books. When you go there, you will see that Into the Crossfire actually has a different cover art then what I have....more
Lora Leigh is and forever will be one of my favorite erotic romance authors of all time. She is one of those authors where I don't even need to know wLora Leigh is and forever will be one of my favorite erotic romance authors of all time. She is one of those authors where I don't even need to know what the book is about before I buy it and normally the stories are so hot and juicy that I can finish one of her romances in 1 or 2 sittings. That being said, Dangerous Pleasure, book 12 of the Bound Hearts series, was disappointingly bad. The book before this one, Guilty Pleasure, was also not that good which is frustrating since Leigh finally started to delve into different nationalities/cultures with her alpha heros. I love the fact that Khalid (Guilty Pleasure) and Abram (Dangerous Pleasure) are not only brothers but are originally from Saudi Arabia and are dealing with issues from their native country. Even with this nice twist in the long running series, I feel like the series has lost its steam. I have seen this happen to so many authors with series that should have ended books ago. While I love the books, it may just be time for Lora Leigh to wrap things up with the Bound Hearts series.
The good news is, I noticed that she has started a new series, the first book called Midnight Sins comes out August 2nd. Hopefully the new romance will make up for my disappointment in the last two books from her Bound Hearts collection!...more
I know I started this little miniseries backwards (started with the last book first called Ink Spots) but I wasn't that impressed with this one. It waI know I started this little miniseries backwards (started with the last book first called Ink Spots) but I wasn't that impressed with this one. It was only 30 pages which would have been okay if it had a little more substance to it. Hey, I know it is a erotic novella, I get that and I love some hot sex scenes. But I need a little more. "Ink Spots" had a little more story mixed in with the erotic scenes so I guess that is why I liked that one more-- plus, I think Jaz was just way hotter than Vinter :)
Anyway, hopefully "Carnal Ecstasy" is better than this one. ...more