CC’s Review ~ An Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur

Title: An Exaltation of Larks
Author: Suanne Laqueur
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Fiction
POV: Third Person
Rating: 4.5 Stars!

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Alejandro Penda was thrust into the instability and violence of a military coup in his native country of Chile when he was only 11 years old. After being separated from his family, Alejandro arrived in New York to live with his uncle until he was accepted into the Lark family. Growing up as a Lark, Alejandro, now called Alex, formed friendships with his foster siblings and experienced all the firsts a teen male should. Growing the closest to Valerie Lark, she became Alex’s rock but as they went their separate ways during college, they remained emotionally connected. Even with the Larks as his anchor, Alex still felt lonely and incomplete until he met a person that was the final piece of his puzzle.

“We’re so alike. It’s no wonder.”
“No wonder what?”
“That we kept finding each other. I’m having a hard time thinking it was coincidence. Cachai?”


Valerie Lark has always been free spirited and when Alex entered her life, she knew a dynamic had shifted in her life. A costume designer by career, Val isn’t afraid to take risks and experience all that she can. But in all her dreams, she never imagined how paths could intersect in such unexpected ways.

“Am I yours? He whispered. Mine. Mine and only mine. Only you for me, Alejandro.”


As a teen, Javier Di Soto was aware of the financial struggles his Dominican family endured but love seemed to dominate until all that was left was contempt and hatred. At 17, Javi was on his own and survived the best he could until one night he meets a woman that alters his course. Always having the passion and creativity to write stories, Javi’s life began to offer more experiences and fuel for his own voice. Even though writing was an outlet for his feelings of abandonment, Javi rejected love as a way to protect himself but he still craved companionship, especially after observing an unknown man who seemed to simultaneously calm and ignite him.

“From day one, before even knowing the guy’s name, the smile nudged Jav in the ribs. Hey, it said, I got a story for you.


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The lives of Alex and Javier share commonalities and it’s those elements that percolate under the surface as they are reunited many years later in the hometown of the Larks. With Alex and Valerie each having a separate past friendship with Javi, they quickly fall into a safe friendship that feels natural to all. As time passes, life events continue to occur, but as they do Alex and Javi’s friendship grows into a more complicated dynamic due to Alex being happily married and Jav not having acknowledged his most buried desire. With the sexual tension off the scales, there is also a loving side of fraternalism that deepens and keeps these two characters as close as possible.

“Aware of how tenuous life can be. How too many things go unsaid or undone. How we wait too long and miss the chance.”


What transpires in this book is a story that spans over thirty years and how these characters’ paths intersect bringing love, passion, friendship, duty but also secrets, loss and emotional turmoil. The coincidences that occur feel weighty and not contrived. Additionally, the theme of moving forward and not wasting a second chance despite holding the emotional baggage is prevalent. Reading how Alex and Javier come full circle with acknowledging their vulnerabilities was a strong point.

While this story is rich in secondary characters that certainly enhance the plot development and main character dimension, Javier was simply a standout for me. Of course, I sympathized with Alex’s plight, but with Jav, his isolation – by fate and then choice caged his weakness that was just begging to be released. And when he broke free, it was magical.

This is the first book I’ve read by Suanne Laqueur and I enjoyed her realistic narrative and skillful style along with the ability to focus on emotional impact without the inserting unnecessary drama. Told in third person, the dialogue flows and getting into the minds of these characters is easy to do. For me, the first and fourth parts were the strongest and most intense. Ultimately, the theme is thought provoking and offers a beautifully and respectfully written story.

I recommend this book to those who wish to delve into the intricacies of real life and understand how we can rise above tragedies.

Venery series:
An Exaltation of Larks (Venery, #1) by Suanne Laqueur A Charm of Finches (Venery, #2) by Suanne Laqueur

 

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CC’s Review ~ Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher

 

Title: Mud Vein
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Dark Romance/Psychological Thriller
POV: First Person
Rating: 5 Stars!

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Senna Richards is an accomplished but reclusive author who doesn’t like entanglements or the niceties of small talk. After effectively disconnecting with practically the world, her life changes one day when she wakes up in an isolated cabin. Put to the test, Senna is surrounded by clues that serve a purpose, but the most important puzzle remains to be solved.

“I will not be a victim. Not again.”


As part of Senna’s repentance, she discovers she isn’t alone in her seclusion. Trying to understand why Isaac Asterholder, a friend, is also a captive isn’t clear at first, but as Senna soon realizes, he is there for a significant reason. Over time, what ensues is the process of shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger and negotiation. As each day passes, the foreboding of this situation intensifies to the basest need of survival but also into Senna’s deep emotional introspection.

“I’m crying, but I don’t feel anything,” I assure him. He pulls his lips into a tight line and nods. “Yes, I know. That’s what hurts me the most.”


The dynamic between Senna and Isaac is an interesting one, as they share a meaningful past but their bond is much more complicated than what appears on the surface. Knowing their history and how they relate adds to the intricacy of their pairing in this psychological scenario. With each page, the tension mounts and Senna starts to connect the clues left by their captor. While some knowledge provides solace, the more Senna discovers, it takes her down a path that she must accept as her fate.

“It’s a painful thing to look inside yourself and see the whys and the hows of your clockwork. You are a lot uglier than you think, plenty more selfish than you are ever likely to admit.”


In starting Mud Vein, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I am happy to say that it exceeded my expectations. Senna is a memorable character for her complexity, stubbornness and determination. There were times when I completely understood Senna’s perspective and other times where I tried to will her to act differently, but all the while remaining invested and empathetic to her plight. With Isaac, he added incredible dimension to plot with his own demons and refusal to turn away from Senna’s darkness which led to her ultimate revelation.

Told in first person, the plot moves at a steady pace relative to the characters’ situation making the captive element feel claustrophobic at times but also accelerated based on the highs and lows. Additionally, the emotional impact of this story is weighty. Ultimately, Tarryn Fisher successfully crafts a dark psychological story that is compelling and engrossing.

Mud Vein would appeal to those who can delve into a difficult experience to see the beauty in pain and understand the significance of unconventional connections. I highly recommend!

*Thanks to Twinsie Hawkey for being my surrogate (F)BR!!*

 

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CC’s Review ~ Play Thing (Volume Three) by Jason Luke and Jade West

Title: Play Thing (Volume Three)
Author: Jason Luke and Jade West
Genre: Dark Erotica/BDSM
POV: First Person – Dual
Rating: 4 Stars for final volume and entire series

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Volume three opens in with an uninterrupted timeline with Robert continuing to train Amy as the perfect submissive for her new buyer and to get her away from his sadistic father and brother. The goal is to make Amy so pliable that becoming a submissive is like second nature. However, with Robert acting as her Master, Amy comes to a realization that’s been evading her for years. What ensues between Robert and Amy is intense, emotionally and physically, causing them to feel more than they ever planned.

 

“You need to understand the difference between willing submission and mindless surrender.”


As time is running out and with Robert knowing how his vile family operates, he tries to up the ante before it’s too late. But when Amy must face her fears, she acts the only way she knows how and she proves that she is not broken. It’s at that time when Robert and Amy must decide where they proceed.

 

“It’s about your approach to the situation, your mindset. It’s all you have control over. You need to be able to use it.”


In this final episode, it all comes together with Amy learning about her desires and about her needs. Robert is a character that’s easy to like with his unbreakable resolve and patience. The conflict between Robert, his father and Alistair is deviously intriguing as each have their own strong personalities and depraved ways.

Overall, I would have liked for this series to be published in one longer book to maintain the plot and character momentum. Having said that, I enjoyed the dark erotic journey and the collaborative writing of Jason Luke and Jade West.

This series would appeal to those looking for some kinkery and the psychological elements of being a captive submissive.

Episodes:
Plaything Volume 1 (Plaything, #1) by Jason Luke Plaything Volume 2 (Plaything, #2) by Jason Luke Plaything Volume Three by Jason Luke
(Love the continuity of the book covers.)

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CC’s ARC Review ~ Ripple Effect (Episode 4) by Keri Lake

Title: Ripple Effect (Episode Four)
Author: Keri Lake
Genre: Dark Erotic Romance/Suspense
POV: First Person – Dual
Rating: 4.5 Stars

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In this final episode of Ripple Effect, all the plot elements intensify as they intersect and come to a finale. As revelations surface, Rip and Dylan are emotionally and physically tested. Acting on instinct, Dylan is forced to confront her past in the only way she is able. But Rip’s with expertise, it’s guaranteed to bring a bloodbath.

 

“You touched what’s mine, and you don’t fucking touch what belongs to another man. Particularly one in league with the devil, asshole.”


Knowing what is on the line and fully trusting what they have in each other, Rip and Dylan make the most of their time together. As it’s been prevalent throughout the series, the sexual compatibility between these characters is off the charts and Rip continues to hit all the right spots.

 

“He’s hit the jackpot somewhere inside of me, and I fall forward, catching myself on the bed. His big hands grip tight to my ass while his dick hammers into me, the tension in my belly tightening into a ball of excitement ready to detonate.”


Preparing for what is to come, Rip is willing to make sacrifices to protect those closest to him. With such serious consequences on the line, Dylan knows what Rip is willing to do but she doesn’t want him to act alone and she knows it’s time to claim what’s due. However, those with the most secrets are aligned with powerful forces and they are also committed to defending their own interests.

 

“Sometimes our weaknesses are what make us stronger than we realize.”


To say this series was action packed would be an understatement. The narrative is edgy but also grounded. Told in dual POV, the levity of the character’s lives and how they find strength in each other offers dimension to their paths. Additionally, the plot twists enhance the ongoing story line and provide for a strong finish.

Overall, Keri Lake delivers an energetic and captivating story with intensity, realism, trust and sacrifice. I highly recommend Ripple Effect!

Ripple Effect series (must be read in order)
Ripple Effect Episode 1 (Ripple Effect, #1) by Keri Lake Ripple Effect Episode 2 (Ripple Effect, #2) by Keri Lake Ripple Effect Episode 3 (Ripple Effect, #3) by Keri Lake Ripple Effect Episode 4 (Ripple Effect, #4) by Keri Lake

 

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CC’s Review ~ The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

Title: The Night Mark
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Genre: Romance/Historical Romance
POV: Third Person
Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Faye Barlow is woman who experienced a tragedy four years earlier. Since then, she hasn’t been able to recover until she finally decides to move forward no matter the consequences. With a fortuitous job offer, Faye travels to South Carolina to restore her passion for photography and to find herself again. Having always been told that she lives in the past, Faye didn’t expect time to actually beckon her.

 

“Legend is, if a girl swims naked in those waters, she’ll find her true love right after.”


Carrick Morgan, a naval officer by training, is a quiet, self-sufficient and honest man who is the lighthouse keeper on an isolated island in the 1920s. After one woman enters his life, he’s sure of his affection and will protect her with all he knows. According to local legend, she was unexpectedly torn from Carrick’s life, but what transpires changes the course of fate.

 

“You’re a lady in my eyes. But I suppose you can be the lady of the lighthouse.”


After becoming enraptured with an abandoned lighthouse, one night Faye decides to visit the deserted island and tour the lighthouse on her own. As she walks onto the decrepit pier, she sees a mysterious recurring symbol that distracts her from the waves trying to ensnare her into the sea. From that point, Faye awakens in the arms of the man she’s always loved and her new life begins.

 

“You saved me, didn’t you?” “Saved you? Nah. I saw you fall off the dock and pulled you out of the water. That’s all.” “That’s kind of the definition of saving someone.”


As Faye realizes all isn’t what it seems, she acclimates to her new surroundings knowing that she really doesn’t have the incentive to leave. With her arrival, Carrick’s life alters due to time snapping back just enough for a redo; however, it feels so natural to Carrick as he sees the woman who is supposed to be with him. For Faye, putting together the pieces keeps her intrigued and also bound to Carrick in such delicious ways.

 

“She needed it from him, and he gave it to her so hard he grunted with every thrust as she groaned with every withdrawal. It was hot in the room, and the sweat and her wetness sealed them together. Her hips pulsed against his. She couldn’t get enough of him, no matter how hard he took her.”


Faced with reality of her travel, Faye remembers the future and must decide where she wants to remain. Being true to Carrick is imperative, as he must know that the heart, mind and body of the woman he originally knew is completely Faye. Both must make a choice but one holds the key to change it all.

 

“You see, a light’s night mark is its heartbeat. You know a man by his heart. You know a lighthouse by its beacon.”


For me, Carrick was a standout character, as he is honorable and straight shooter. The romantic element encircling Carrick was interesting on many levels and I was interested to see how Faye processed all her feelings toward Carrick in order to only see him. With Faye, she definitely had some struggles, but traveling to a different time seemed to offer her the peace she desperately needed. It wasn’t just about abandoning her world but she embraced what she always valued and seized the second chance.

There is no doubt that Tiffany Reisz is an incredible storyteller and she effortlessly manages to convey the heart of her characters as she offers poignant moments of pause and introspection. In addition to Carrick, Faye and significant secondary characters, the history and symbolism of the lighthouse enhances the nostalgia and romanticism of the era.

The Night Mark offers a story about a second chance at love and also at living life to the fullest. While the romance and time travel aspects are slightly unconventional, the message is still clear. This book would appeal to those who wish to get swept away by fate.

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CC’s Review ~ Feyness by E.S. Carter

 

Title: Feyness
Author: E.S. Carter
Genre: Dark Romance
POV: First Person
Rating: 4 ★★★★

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Faye Craven was raised in an environment where depravity lurked at every corner. With her father, Alec Craven, being the ruler of the Red Order, Faye learned at a young age what her role would be within the society. Knowing Faye’s future, her mother tried to save her but instead Faye was left with a different kind of gift.

“I see you. I see your sins. I see the very fabric of your soul.”


Cole Hunter has risen in the bloody ranks of the Red Order to being Alec Craven’s right hand man. Fueled by his own motivations of revenge, Cole’s goal is a simple one yet complicated to execute and he will use all his connections to succeed. However, there is one contingency he didn’t count on having in his corner.

“Her eyes are fixed on mine, and the feeling is unsettling; it’s as if she’s not just looking at me, she’s looking inside of me. Does she see the beast beneath the pretty veneer?”


As the inevitable day comes, Faye is slated to become Cole’s bride. With all her training and manipulation, she is ready to protect herself. Quickly, she learns more about her new husband and his ambitions, but for Cole, trusting a Craven can be deadly.

“I’m not a hearts and flowers man. If I ever offer her a heart, it will be warm and still beating after carving it …”


With swift action, the percolating plot starts to boil with Cole and Faye acting as a unit despite some resistance from Cole’s brothers, Luke and Grim. If their plan fails, it would mean their own demise. Each step counts and no one will be spared from their treasonous alliances. As Cole’s focus and vengeance is honed to predatory perfection, Faye also finds her inner strength and begins to trust what she’s always known.

“It’s not weak to admit your want, Faye. Strength comes from being honest with yourself about your needs.”


Fighting together and learning more about Alec Craven, helps to forge the feelings Cole has been resisting with Faye. Even though Faye recognizes Cole’s blackness, she is also able to make the distinction between evil and emptiness. It’s when Faye begins to see more than she ever has that seals her connection to Cole.

“Even though you fight it, I can smell that you want me, Faye. It pours from your skin and drives me fucking crazy.”


Cole is a dominant character with his broody ways but he also wants to feel emotions he buried long ago. For Faye, hiding her feelings was always her way to survive. With these two broken characters unified in similar tragedies, they come together to prove they can be more than just whirls of black and grey.

In this book, the action is non-stop and the underlying plot of revenge kept me interested. As for Faye’s innate ability, I was very intrigued by her gift and the meaning of what she could see. With Luke and Grim, they certainly added to the plot and I’m looking forward to reading more about how their stories continue.

For those who seek a story about damaged characters, revenge, action and avarice, I recommend Feyness.

Red Order series:
Feyness (Red Order, #1) by E.S. Carter Parasight (Red Order, #2) by E.S. Carter

 

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CC’s Review ~ Surrender by Kitty Thomas

Title: Surrender
Author: Kitty Thomas
Genre: Dark Erotic Romance/BDSM
POV: Third Person
Rating: 3 ★★★

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Julie was raised in a sheltered household where her sole dream was to have a white picket fence, a provider husband and 2.5 kids. But with the reality, Julie wasn’t able to make her own choices, so she fled her family and found a bartending job in an edgy part of town. Upon meeting a regular customer, Julie wants him to ask her out but appearances aren’t always what they seem to be.

“But the back of him was nothing compared to the front of him and those startling green eyes that seemed as though they could read all your secrets.”


Gabe Griffin is a sexy and predatory man who’s been watching Julie for many months but knowing his tastes are nowhere close to vanilla, he’s been hesitant to enter her life. Despite trying to protect her innocence, Gabe needs to know more about Julie’s submissive side and just how kinky she is willing to be.

“He could have talked to her, eased the tension, but he liked her tension. If this was the most of that delicious energy he could get from her, he’d take it where and how he could get it.”


As Gabe confirms his instincts with Julie, they part and during this time, Julie’s life irrevocably changes. By chance, Julie and Gabe reunite and this transaction pushes Julie to see the other sides of kink, submission and surrender. Gabe is determined to make Julie his slave yet she fights him until she realizes what is really at stake.

“But what I really want is someone who will call me ‘master.’ And I want that someone to be you.”


While I liked the idea of these characters and the plot, it felt like much was undeveloped. With the theme and Gabe’s methods, there was a good opportunity to delve into Julie’s psyche as she began to process all her emotions based on her recent experience and how she transitioned to her final choice. While there were a couple of significant moments between Gabe and Julie, I just wanted more of everything.

In seeing this book is part three of a series, and even though the author noted how it was meant to be read as a standalone, I wonder if there was a previous build-up leading to more dimension and background of Gabe’s character since he seems to have been part of this world for some time. The secondary characters did add to the atmosphere and served to humanize both Gabe and Julie. One character in particular, is intriguingly psychotic and should get his own dark and depraved book. *Update – that character already has his own book – the second in the series.

This book would appeal to those who wish to test the shallow waters of kink.

Standalones within the same world:
Guilty Pleasures by Kitty Thomas Broken Dolls by Kitty Thomas Surrender by Kitty Thomas

 

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