Title: An Exaltation of Larks
Author: Suanne Laqueur
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Fiction
POV: Third Person
Rating: 4.5 Stars!
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.”
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.
Title: Mud Vein
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Dark Romance/Psychological Thriller
POV: First Person
Rating: 5 Stars!
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!!*
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
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.
Title: Ripple Effect (Episode Four)
Author: Keri Lake
Genre: Dark Erotic Romance/Suspense
POV: First Person – Dual
Rating: 4.5 Stars
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!
Title: The Night Mark
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Genre: Romance/Historical Romance
POV: Third Person
Rating: 4.5 Stars
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.
Author: E.S. Carter
Genre: Dark Romance
POV: First Person
Rating: 4 ★★★★
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.
Author: Kitty Thomas
Genre: Dark Erotic Romance/BDSM
POV: Third Person
Rating: 3 ★★★
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.
In Part Three, the final conclusion comes to a twisty crescendo of lies, greed and corrupted love as it’s time for Aimee Olsen to decide whether she is going to be a giver or a taker. While it may seem obvious which of the two Danny Montclair may be, sometimes distinctions can be deceiving.
“It’s love that brings us together, but with that same love, we can also fall down, we can destroy one another.”
As the plot delves further into the past lives of Aimee and Danny, more truths surface but knowing these facts it doesn’t necessarily offer any solace but rather serves to explain motivations; however, devious they may be. With Aimee’s decision, she knows the consequences are grave and far-reaching, but the small town girl from Sulphur, Oklahoma is ready to stand on her own. With plot pivots and twists, the reveal of certain facts, change the dynamic of the relationships Aimee experiences over time.
“There are countless choices in life. Make the ones that give you the power and it will transform your life.”
In this final book, I enjoyed all the conflicting feelings the authors made me feel with these characters. While I wanted to root for one, sometimes it felt like choosing a side wasn’t an option. The similarities between the meager upbringings shared by Aimee and Danny fueled their drive and unified these two in a deep way for me. But drawing a distinction between Aimee and Danny isn’t an easy task, as their destructive qualities began to take hold.
“See, humble beginnings should never be underestimated. They put the bite in our step and the steel in our backbone.”
The core of the story is that Aimee and Danny choose their destiny and when delving into certain enterprises, they must then be prepared for the consequences. Danny’s possessiveness over Aimee doesn’t waver and perhaps she has met her match in Danny. I liked the tenacity of both these characters and I cherished their dark sides. As for the secondary characters, all had a place in the story that effectively propelled the plot.
Overall, this series takes the reader on a journey that will yield a range of emotions, as each character has traits that evoke empathy, anger, respect, love, desire and satisfaction. The intrigue and steady pace kept my interest and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. And I really loved the ending. I highly recommend!
Title: Killing the Sun (Part Three)
Author: K. Larsen & Mara White
Genre: Dark Romance/Suspense
POV: Dual first person
In part two, the timeline continues without interruption, as Aimee believes it’s time to make a clean break from Danny. Leaving Manhattan temporarily offers her the space she needs but she doesn’t expect to be reunited with Leif, the golden god. As they spend time together, it reinforces Aimee’s feelings about how she deserves to be treated and she begins to want what she has always wanted, that is, until reality rears its ugly head yet again.
“In a burst of evil irony the sun breaks through the clouds the moment he says it. It lights up this beautiful man and his perfect backdrop, the sprawling ocean behind him. He is luminous, shining, and now tortured because of what I’ve done.”
With the non-linear timeline, Aimee’s past with Danny is ever present and it serves to show the contrast between lust, love, pain and pleasure. Their past offers some seriously panty-melting scenes with Danny pushing Aimee’s boundaries without hampering any of her desires or his fantasies.
“The idea of having another man take me seemed terrifyingly gratifying. The idea of having Danny watch it happen, almost sacrilegious. But it turned me on. It really fucking turned me on.”
As this story progresses and with the dual POV, the character development for Aimee and Danny deepens showing softer sides to both characters but also underscoring the significant differences between what they want from each other and life in general. While it becomes obvious as to what Aimee’s choice should be, it still isn’t an easy one for her knowing she views herself. With Danny, he seems to be the biggest contradiction because there are times when he appears to be human but his priorities are in direct conflict with Aimee’s hopes.
“Danger finds plenty of room to hide in vagueness, while certainty thrives in description. If you can see it clearly, you can make them see it too.”
While the tension of the unknown was steadily mounting, when the boom was dropped, the plot irrevocably shifted. Though it seems that Danny has deep affection for Aimee in his own twisted way, she needs to find the strength to stand on her own, but the question of whether she is stronger than Danny remains to be seen.
In this episode, I enjoyed all the conflicting feelings the authors made me feel with these characters. It is so apparent Aimee and Danny share an undeniable sexual chemistry but at what point will Aimee finally act for her best interest. I am immediately starting the final book in this series and forward to reading how it all ends!
This book would appeal to those who understand unconventional relationships and how love and insecurity can easily blur the lines of right and wrong.
Title: Killing the Sun (Part Two)
Author: K. Larsen & Mara White
Genre: Dark Romance/Suspense
POV: Dual first person
Aimee Olsen is a small town girl raised by an impoverished family. Learning to live simply was their only option, especially after a certain event changes how her family is perceived in their community. In hopes of starting a new life, Aimee sets out for New York City where she meets a man that offers a sense of security. While Aimee isn’t materialistic, he introduces her to new experiences and she feels fortunate for finding such a nurturing boyfriend.
“You are so vulnerable, and I feel like it’s up to me to toughen you up.”
Daniel “Danny” Montclair (a.k.a. Danilo Bartolini) grew up in Brooklyn and was raised by strict Sicilian immigrants. Rebelling against the normalcy and mundane life of his family, Danny was enamored with the wise guys of the neighborhood. Fast forward, Danny runs an empire but when he sees a girl that exudes innocence and sunshine, he knows he must make her his.
“Some things you can just buy, other things you have to earn.”
For six years, Aimee and Danny have been together but Aimee is no longer happy knowing her place in the relationship. After only having Danny to rely upon for so long, she questions their future and tries to move forward on her own; however, Danny’s influence is far reaching.
“There isn’t much purity in this world, so when you find some, you’ve got to hang onto it like a life preserver in treacherous water.”
In this first episode, the foundation is set for each character and the plot is driven by their circumstances and by their individual choices. Aimee is a good-natured character who likes to see the positive in people despite being treated poorly by her peers. At times she can be naïve, but her decisions show how life just isn’t black and white. With Danny, he is a domineering man with conflicting priorities, especially toward Aimee, as he knows what right decision is but chooses the opposite. While their relationship is loving at times with combustible sex, it is also getting toxic.
“He pounds me until my flesh screams, until my back threatens to snap from the pressure and impact. With one hand coming over my hip he uses all of his fingers to rub flat against my clit until I explode into orgasm and growl out his name. I want to hit him. I want to spit in his face. He grabs my hair and yanks my head back.”
Told in dual POV and with a non-linear timeline, the varying perspectives and shifts allow the reader to understand the motivations of the characters that parallel their past and present. The pace is steady and the tone is tense at times since the path Aimee and Danny will take is unknown. At this point, I’m not sure what to expect from either character but understand the choices they’ve made.
Mara White is a new author to me but having previously read K. Larsen, I am familiar with the eerily quiet lull she can create before twists and reveals. Moving forward to book two in this series, I look forward to reading how these characters either progress or digress.
This book would appeal to those who appreciate that life’s choices aren’t always obvious and that good people make bad decisions.
Title: Killing the Sun (Part One)
Author: K. Larsen & Mara White
Genre: Dark Romance
POV: Dual first person
Author: Jaimie Roberts
Genre: Dark Erotica/Romance
POV: First Person
Author: Karina Halle
Title: Dirty Souls (Sins Duet, #2)
Genre: Romance Suspense
Type: Multiple POV
Conrad “Con” Mercer is a hitman living a solitary life. Despite accepting his choices, Con doesn’t find much solace amidst the violence until he sees woman that quiets his mind. As he watches her from a distance, she grounds him and gives him a few moments of respite. She is his glimmer of hope and light until his world shatters such purity.
“Tell me your darkest sin, and maybe I’ll tell you one of my hundreds”
Charlie is the proprietor of a local flower shop and mainly keeps to herself for her own reasons. However, when she begins to sense she’s being watched from afar, rather being scared, she feels safe despite not knowing the man cloaked behind the car’s tinted windows. But for Charlie, experiences occur in her life for a reason and this unknown man is about to unleash a chain of events.
“Staying closed off was the only way I knew to survive. When I’d made the mistake of letting someone in, I’d paid dearly for it.”
Conrad knows having a weakness in his line of business can be disastrous because of predatory practices by his colleagues. Unknowingly bringing danger to Charlie’s doorstep, Con has no choice but to protect what he feels is his no matter the consequence. During their time together, Charlie is hesitant to trust Conrad but with limited options, she begins to realize there’s more to him than just a Kevlar protected shell of a man.
“He brought his palm to my cheek. I flinched, but he only used the pad of his thumb to wipe my tear away. “I won’t hurt you. You’re safer with me than anywhere else.”
As truths are revealed, Conrad discovers that Charlie isn’t a shrinking violet and her resilience offers an equalizing balance to their relationship. For the first time, Con begins to be hopeful for a future rather than just being resigned until his number is called. Working together, Charlie and Con try to outrun the bounty on their heads until the only option available becomes glaringly apparent.
“I made all the wrong decisions long before I found my thorny rose, and I deserved death more than most.”
With the tension of fighting a mob boss and his minions, there isn’t much time for Charlie and Conrad to rest, but the intensity of their situation stimulates the awareness of their feelings toward each other. Knowing they must live in the moment, the sexual tension they feel is palpable and when they surrender, it’s combustible.
“Say my name when you come.” I dove back down and fastened my lips around her clit, licking it with the broad side of my tongue until she froze and fractured into a million pieces.”
From the first page, the pace is swift offering vivid play-by-action leading to some serious page turning moments. As for the characters, Conrad’s bad ass persona is sexy and very alpha but knowing there is a softer side to him, adds to his appeal. With Charlie, on the surface she seems like a softie but being able to hold her own really strengthens her character. Additionally, with both willing to sacrifice for each other, shows just how self-less they can be. In addition, Conrad’s friend, Nate, is a worthy character and deserves a mention. His humor and easy going ways made him a standout and really balanced Conrad’s intensity.
As I’ve said before, Celia Aaron is a natural born story-teller gifted with the ability to stylistically craft the written word. Each time I read one of her books, I’m amazed at her range, creativity and skill. In Dark Protector, Ms. Aaron invents a world where two characters would unlikely merge but then shows how everyone deserves a second or even third chance. For those looking for a suspenseful romance, I highly recommend Dark Protector.
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*
*This was a (F)BR with Twinsie Hawkey and Lonestar Liz!
Title: Dark Protector
Author: Celia Aaron
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 27, 2017
With an uninterrupted timeline, Throne of Truth begins with Elle’s discovery of Penn’s lies and the tension of her newly precarious situation. Applying the tenacity she employs in the board room, Elle realizes she must fight for justice and to use her resources to aid such a cause despite the implications to her family or the business.
“I’d wanted him from the first moment I met him. I wanted him now I knew the truth.”
As his nightmare comes true, Penn’s resolve is tested. As he trusts those who have proven their worth, Penn slowly begins to withdraw to a place where he can survive on a basic level. In trying to spare Elle, Penn’s selfless quality shines abundantly. Adding to Penn’s dimension, the harshness of his past is revealed and these scenes offer a stark contrast to the illuminating and precious moments he shared with Elle years ago.
“But if you are asking who I am? How can I tell you? How can I make you see what you don’t want to see?”
With certain truths exposed, there is a deep understanding by Elle of Penn’s former lifestyle and how it influenced his choices thereafter. Even with the union of Elle and Pen, the tension remains high due to the miscarriage of justice. But, this time Elle chooses to make the right decisions and matures into her own by acting the way she should have years ago.
“No more secrets. No more lies. You fuck me knowing entirely what you’re getting into.”
I enjoyed Penn and empathized with how deeply he felt his emotions, whether it was love, anger, betrayal or respect. Additionally, I liked the dynamic of his friendship with Larry and the noble reasons for raising Stewie. As for Elle, she remained a weak element for me for not trusting her instincts sooner. Granted she is young, but I was hoping for more of a change for Belle Elle’s CEO. Ultimately, she took the right path and became her own person.
In this duet series, Pepper Winters takes two characters from different worlds and experiences and shows the commonality they share, as they are desperately willing to fight for each other. There were moments where Penn’s intensity for Elle was palpable, as I loved the letters written by Penn to Elle and the element of intimacy and adoration that was evident. Though the tone was meant to feel reflective throughout out the book, the pacing felt slow and a bit superfluous at times. Overall, this is a story of sacrifice, love and redemption.
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*
*This was an ARC (F)BR with the Shhluts!!
ARC/CC’s Review ~ Ripple Effect (Episode 2) by Keri Lake
Fueled by her circumstances and knowing it’s a risky move, Dylan’s desperation takes her right into the epicenter of Rip’s web. Upon being caught, Rip gives her a choice to which she begrudgingly accepts. Battling her own demons, Dylan resigns herself to the next two months under Rip’s rules, otherwise suffer the consequences.
“Your sweet innocence is like a drug. One I want to abuse until there’s nothing left but the painful withdrawals and a craving to fuck you again.”
While Ripley isn’t the type to invite guests into his home or life, Dylan intrigues him on a few levels and he wants some answers from her. In addition, Rip wants her to satisfy his certain sexual needs. Knowing she is attracted to what he offers, Rip doesn’t waste time or make excuses for what he wants which leads to some electrifyingly hot moments. Ooh la la!
“What I can’t get anywhere is a feisty little shit like you who gets my blood hot.” He pushes a strand of hair behind my ear. “I want you to feel everything I do to you.”
In this episode the pace continues to be steady with suspenseful and sexually charged elements but there’s also introspection into the past for Rip and Dylan. Getting Rip’s perspective as to how he views his past and future is enlightening into his character. Plus, with Dylan more is revealed about her childhood underscoring her need to detach.
“Fear is good, though. It’s fear that gives you the courage to survive.”
For me, this series is addictive with multilayered tension, gripping dialogue and two flawed characters trying to survive in their own way. The writing is edgy, persuasive and I cannot wait to read more of this series!! I highly recommend Ripple Effect!!
*An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*
Maggie Crow was raised by her stern father and two older brothers in an isolated small town. Knowing from a young age that her childhood was abnormal, she obeyed and learned to lie in order to protect her family despite the horrors that surrounded her. At 18 years of age, she is about to learn what her father has planned but fate is about to deal her a different hand.
“When all you have is the worst of the lot, the worst becomes your normal because it’s all you’ve ever known.”
Elliot McLoughlin married his childhood sweetheart and started a family at a young age; however, tragedy struck which led Elliot down a dark path where he couldn’t recover from the loss. Fourteen years later, Elliot’s heart is still full of vengeance and he’s determined to find who is responsible for his pain. With a plan, he’s ready to act despite the possibility of collateral damage.
“Put in the simplest terms, I was damaged. I was broken. I had nothing left to lose, which made me the most dangerous type of man.”
As Elliot begins to execute his plan, he befriends Maggie and their union leads to complications, passion and further deception. Not revealing his suspicions or motivations, Maggie’s naivety adds to Elliot’s dilemma but he isn’t willing to modify his end game. While Maggie is trying to hide her own secrets, she can’t help to feel safe with Elliot.
“I liked to think I’d given her three things her family never could: I’d given her freedom. I’d given her choice. And I’d given her hope.”
With more at stake, truths surface one by one and Elliot and Maggie are tested in different ways. Seeing Maggie struggle with her loyalties and the knowledge she resisted for so long is compelling and leads to a range of emotions. For Elliot, his grief is monumental and as he gets closer to those responsible, the level of risk is ever increasing as his will is put to the test.
“If ever two souls had been fused together through violence, despair and pain, it was Elliot and I.”
From the beginning, the tensions are high due to the heinous acts committed and the desperation felt for Elliot’s vengeance. Adding to the conflict are the emotions that build between Elliot and Maggie. While their relationship is unconventional in one aspect, it also makes sense as these two lost souls find strength in each other thereby creating an intense journey.
For me, it felt natural to empathize with the depth of Elliot’s pain and the lengths he would take to find peace. It was also interesting to read how far Elliot was willing to go – emotionally and physically – to achieve his end goal. In contrast, it was harder to understand Maggie’s decisions but her vulnerabilities and inner strength ultimately led her to the right place.
In Four Crows, Lily White successfully creates a narrative steeped in tension, evil, fear, loss and redemption. Expect to feel angry, sad, helpless, empowered and hopeful. I recommend to those who enjoy their books with a dose of darkness about the human condition!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
*This was a (F)BR with Twinsie Hawkey and Loyda!!*
ARC/CC’s Review ~ Black Hearts by Karina Halle
Violet McQueen is a photography student who always felt like all wasn’t what it seemed within her family. Having been labeled as a sensitive person, it was easy to feel self-conscience and she learned to distrust her instincts. It isn’t until she meets a mysterious man when all she’s been wondering about comes into question.
“Your not just rebellious, you’re part of the rebellion.”
Vicente Bernal is the second in command in his father’s drug cartel. Determined to get his answers to the questions he seeks, Vicente heads to California in hopes of digging up a hidden past. With his own motivations, Vicente’s plan is straightforward until unforeseen circumstances begin modify his timeline and his target.
“But I’m sure you of all people would know that sometimes you can connect with someone in ways you didn’t think you could. Or should.”
When Vicente and Violet meet, it isn’t a coincidence because in their world, coincidences do not exist. However, despite their “chance” encounter, the pull between them is palpable and Vicente is prepared to use it to his advantage. But what he doesn’t expect is Violet’s honesty and willingness to share her vulnerability, as that can cause dire consequences in Vicente’s world.
“You need to be in the moment, with me. That’s all there needs to be. The world won’t disappear the moment you stop holding on to it.”
As they continue to get closer, Vicente’s sexual intensity and appearance of safety serves to offer an escape from Violet’s mind-spinning thoughts. While Violet isn’t inexperienced, Vicente introduces her to a new world where she enjoys being in the moment of pleasure mixed with some pain which leads to some hot scenes.
“I gulp for air and dig my heels into him, holding on tight as he slowly pushes deeper and deeper inside. My hands grab the back of his neck, feeing the strength in his straining muscles.”
Told in multiple POVs, the plot unfolds in a steady pace allowing the characters to build dimensionality. While Vicente is influenced by his upbringing, he is still very much his own individual character and is driven to prove such is the case. With Violet, she is also a product of her parents, but Violet sets herself apart in asserting her strength and also embracing her weaknesses. Adding to their experiences are the secrets that have been kept hidden over the years, but there those who wish to expose all for their own gain.
With the timeline occurring twenty years after the Sins & Needles and Dirty Angels series ends, the integration of well-known characters with the new generation feels seamless. Though it isn’t necessary to read Sins & Needles or Dirty Angels before reading Black Hearts, those schooled in the history of the McQueens and the Bernals will probably have a richer experience. For me, being reacquainted with my king, Javier Bernal, is pure bliss and I’m very pleased as to how he relates to the storyline. As always, Karina Halle stays true to her characters and her ability to engage her readers at multiple levels prevails in her newest release.
Black Hearts is a story about how lies and deceit can protect and harm those you love. I highly recommend!!
From a young age, Rip learned how to survive and hone his predatory skills making him a sought after mercenary. Following his own set of rules and living a solitary life, Rip surprises himself after meeting a certain girl caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“Every decision you make affects every moment that follows…”
Dylan Westrick is just a few weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday, counting the days before she can leave her abusive and low-life foster parents in the dust. However, the odds change and Dylan must deal with her new circumstance. Faced with a limited amount of options, she finds herself stuck in an inescapable situation.
“The game changed. The fairy tale morphed into ugly and terrifying, yet all of my senses are out of whack.”
Told in dual POV, a dark tone is set with a swift pace and vivid storytelling that lured me in from the beginning. From what is revealed in this episode, Rip and Dylan have interesting stories to tell and how their paths cross is quite intriguing. Sharing an inexplicable mutual attraction, Rip and Dylan are entangled in a web that is about to cause a ripple effect.
I am definitely hooked on this series and cannot wait to read what happens next! I highly recommend!
Note: Ripple Effect Series will contain 5 episodes in total.
About Keri Lake:
Author of dark, edgy paranormal romance & urban fantasy~Vengeance dealer-Demon wrangler~Creator of badass, whip-wielding females-Sucker for brooding alphas.
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
*This was a (F)BR with Twinsie Hawkey, Loyda and Liz!
Thanos Agapiou is the first sired vampire of the Ancient, Eton. During their centuries together, they’ve shared a tumultuous relationship fueled by a dark side. While they have been a source of salvation for each other at times, Eton is no longer able to pierce Thanos’ reclusive shield. During this torment, the beast within Eton lurks and the one person who could keep this demon at bay is no longer willing to give himself.
“You will be mine to protect and mine to fight beside. We will carry each other when one’s burden is too heavy. And if your blood is ever spilled, I will be the one to avenge it.”
Despite how much Eton and Thanos struggle, there are larger forces at play manipulating the game. As the ongoing plot of curses and fate continues, the Greek gods Apollo, Artemis and Hades have summoned a trio of humans to bring forth their wishes of exterminating the entire vampire species. Until now, the third human’s purpose was unknown but as he is recognized to be Paris Antoniou, the key to it all rests with his connection to Thanos and Eton.
“Everything is changing. We are changing, and I wonder how that can possibly end with any of us remaining the same.”
With Eton’s demon on the loose, the remaining Ancients, Vasilios and Diomêdês, and their first sired progeny, Alasdair and Isadora, try to save Eton and Thanos while also trying to determine how they can protect themselves against the will of the gods. The chosen humans, Leonidas, Elias and Paris, all play a pivotal role as to how the story unfolds and they all question whether their fate has been foretold.
“Don’t you see? You are our destruction – but for me, you will be my salvation.”
In this book, I was hoping to read much more about the trials and tribulations of Thanos, Eton and Paris, as these three have a powerful dark side that could have been explored with a deeper intensity. Perhaps, that was a purposeful choice by the author given certain elements, but it still would have elevated the character development of Thanos and Paris equal to their counterparts. Having really enjoyed the entire series, the ending felt rushed given the sacrifice and complexity of events but maybe the reader is meant to feel the shift as suddenly as the characters.
From the beginning, the pace is swift with a well-choreographed cast of characters that offer layers of dimension to a unique and intelligent story combining the paranormal and Greek mythology. Ultimately, the Masters Among Monsters series delivers a compelling tale about compassion, sacrifice and salvation and delves into the age-old question of whether fate can be altered. I recommend to those who wish to escape into a world where anything can happen.
Masters Among Masters series:
Marcella “Chella” Walcott is a gallery manager searching to fulfill her darkest and most suppressed fantasy. Believing she’s found a way to make it happen, she’s thrust into a dynamic that has many rules but the temptation is just too much to resist despite her own trepidations.
“We’re all dirty here. Be dirty with us, Chella…”
In addition to Chella, there are three other deviant players in this game of lust: Smith Baldwin the eccentric philanthropist, Elias “Bric” Bricman the logical dominant and Quin Foster the warm and fuzzy marketing executive. These men have been friends for some time and share a common bond in their need for certain sexual activities. Each has his own role to play so there can be more than one winner.
“It’s carnal, and sensual, and erotic… That’s all it is. A small trip into the dark.”
As Chella agrees to be a player, the rules are slowly revealed and she realizes just how complicated it might be. Taking turns with Smith, Quin and Bric, she learns more about each of them and their own sexual proclivities. While feeling like she is a part of them, the attraction builds as it is leading to the big moment where they all come together as a whole.
“Then let’s do it,” I say, kissing her softly again. “Put them both in your mouth, Chella. Suck them. At the same time.”
What ensues between these four daring people is alluring, sexy and mysterious. However, there are questions that remain concerning the one person who brought these four characters together. As the foursome dynamic starts to shift, it becomes clear one of these dashing men have true feelings for Chella. While he lives by his own rules, he learns that some rules are meant to be broken. But it takes more than one person to break free in order to fully move forward.
“If you want to go dark, then don’t take a light, right?”
As soon as I started reading Taking Turns, I remembered how easily she weaves a web where anything can happen at any moment! At times, it felt like the story was emitting synapses filled with electricity and other times, I was anxiously waiting for that pulsing connection. The premise is certainly intriguing and the alternating perspectives between these four characters created a voice for each one, but I was hoping to get a little more about these mysterious men. As the plot pivots in a certain direction, I was interested to see how it would translate outside of the quartet. With the ending, the plot is fairly resolved (not leaving a huge cliffy) but more answers are to be revealed in the second book in this series.
Overall, I enjoyed the lusty moments and the originality of this story. For those interested in taking a dip into the kinky pool, I recommend Taking Turns.
4 Action Packed Stars!!
Milly Evans is a dedicated assistant to Geoffrey Sparrow, owner of Sparrow Towers. After eight years with Sparrow, and feeling like it is her family, she feels like her own secrets can be locked away for good. However, after she witnesses her boss’ murder, Milly’s world is turned upside down and she is forced to confront her past in order to get answer in the present.
“It’s time for the truth, Rik Bane.”
Rik Bane is the silent partner of Warne Industries and one of the new owners of Sparrow Towers. During the transition, Rik is aloof but he is also aware of various dynamics and dangers that have forced his hand. As he takes the lead, he is fully aware of Milly’s expected reaction to meeting him but it doesn’t prevent what’s already been set in motion.
“I searched the fucking earth for you. You were my best friend, and you just upped and fucking left.”
As Milly’s new life is shattered, she must embrace her new knowledge and work with Rik to protect herself and those she still trusts. While Rik is under the impression he is fully in the know, he learns that he’s met his match professionally and romantically.
“Come for me babe. I want to see how fucking stunning you look when you come for me. You have no idea how many times I’ve pictured you coming for me, and on me.”
What ensues in Bane is action packed with a multi-layered plot involving greed and an underground spy network. At first, I thought this story was going to take a different direction but when it turned into a web of deceit and avarice, my interest intensified.
Milly is a character that battled nature versus nurture and I liked how the two sides were at war from within. Learning how to merge these opposites was intriguing to read and I admired her tenacity to protect those she loved. With Rik, I liked him immediately and understood how deep the connection ran between him and Milly. Of course, Rik had that sexy and effortless swagger that makes women swoon but there is more to him that just being a hot piece.
D.H. Sidebottom shows her range of writing in Bane, as it isn’t dark erotica but covers dark elements of the human psyche. The plot is loaded with twists and turns that kept me intrigued and in a constant search for all the answers. I also appreciated the funny moments between the main characters. Adding to Milly and Rik were a secondary cast of characters that enriched the plot and supported the complex story line. Though, there are still some parts that I wanted to be resolved, the narrative was entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
For those seeking a book with suspense, action and a second chance at romance, I highly recommend!
*An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review.
*This was a (F)BR with Twinsie Hawkey and Loyda!
Noelle “Elle” Charleston is an heiress trained from a young age to take over her family’s business. Always the good girl and only knowing work for during her entire teen years, Elle decides to venture off for one night on her nineteenth birthday, but her life changes when she has a traumatic experience.
“I’m someone you can be free with.”
Penn Everett is a mysterious figure that appears in Elle’s life at a time when she wants to feel like a woman and less like a CEO. Exuding confidence, dominance and sex appeal, he effortlessly asserts himself in a way that is hard to ignore.
“You’ve been mine since the moment we met, and you’ll stay mine until I let you go.”
As Penn invites Elle to play a game, she is eager to surrender her body to him and Penn is more than capable of offering all she can imagine. The sexual tension between them is combustible and Elle willingly pushes Penn in an effort to be on the receiving end of his domination. What ensues are sizzling hot encounters between Penn and Elle!
“His hand cupped my cheek, holding me tight. “I’ll strip you, taste you, devour you. I’ll eat, lick, and bite you. And only once you’re begging will I fuck you.”
As Penn and Elle continue their dance, Penn isn’t sure how much he wishes to share with Elle. Trying to find the perfect moment is a challenge but the path they are taking is going to lead to many answers.
“Careful what you wish for, Elle. Sometimes, secrets make things better not worse.”
With the circumstances that affect Elle’s life, she is an interesting character – intelligent, business savvy yet she is also naïve and craves the connection that she’s been looking for over the years. Penn delivers in such a way that his secrets and known actions add to his allure and all his interactions with Elle are intense.
In Crown of Lies, the tone is mysterious with dark undertones. From the first page, the pace is swift and the plot is suspenseful with twists and turns that kept me enthralled. Of course, in true Pepper Winters fashion, the narrative is captivating the words effortless flow off the page. For those seeking a story with heat, allure and mystery, I highly recommend this book!!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
*This was a (F)BR with the Shhluts!
Andi Harper is a gentle-hearted woman caught in an abusive relationship. Fearing for her life, she takes a giant step forward to leave that environment. While on the run, she meets someone who shows kindness but Andi needs honesty in order to find her own truth.
“Though scared of her own shadow, she took each breath with purpose because she knew she might be robbed of her next one.”
Clay is a man on the run from his past. While trying to hide the best he can, he tries to find ways he can reveal the truth and regain his old life. Feeling like his fate is sealed, he is thrust into a situation where he can protect someone else and still feel like he has something to give.
“Now, as I sit here, about to morph into someone new, my biggest fear is letting her down.”
The circumstance that brings Andi and Clay together is unexpected but they find a commonality in their bond. Learning how to trust each other, they are able to gain new strength and hope. For Andi, she is trying to recover from physical and emotional pain and live with her constant fear but finding solace in Clay keeps her grounded. Despite Andi experiencing such abuse, she is still able to trust Clay and their mutual respect for each other leads deep attraction and sexual tension.
“I want to taste her wetness on my tongue, to feel it on my lips, to have it soak in my fucking beard.”
From the first page, the tension is high knowing what Andi and Clay are running from. Reading how Andi was treated stirred deep emotions and it made her healing so much more admirable. Knowing how she is willing to fight for herself and for Clay proved how forgiving and kind Andi’s character could be. The ever-looming doom Clay must face is omnipresent but when he given the choice to protect a loved one, he knows what his decision must be.
“Life doesn’t have to take one direct path toward happiness.”
Told in dual POV, the character dimensionality is clear and the paths they take feel natural and not rushed. In this collaboration between Marni Mann and Gia Riley, the narrative is seamless and the strength of each author is evident. The burdens these characters experience are heavy but they are balanced and ultimately yield to honesty, strength and love.
For those looking for a story full of action, emotion, friendship and love, I highly recommend Drowning!
Rodel “Ro” Emerson is a teacher in England. While she is content with her life, she’s always lived vicariously through her uninhibited and spontaneous sister. However, when Ro receives news of her sister’s death in Tanzania, she is confronted with regret and grief. Off to put her sister to rest, Ro journeys to Africa in hopes of finding solace but finds much more than she had ever imagined.
“The most profound, most memorable moments of life are the ones that make you feel. And that’s what I’ve been missing. The feeling of being alive.”
Jack Warden is a coffee farmer and divorced father in Tanzania. Being a strong man comes easy to Jack until his daughter is tragically killed. Grieving as he only knows how, Jack is tortured by his loss and wants to preserve every memory and moment he shared with his little girl. It isn’t until a woman asking for help arrives at his ranch and turns his world upside down.
“Trust me. Some things are better left in the dark, where they belong.”
Sharing the commonality of their loss, Jack and Rodel unite for a cause hoping they can make a small difference. During this time, they realize how honest they are with each other by not trying to hide behind the mask of grief. As friendship buds, Jack and Ro are aware of their attraction and it is palpable beyond belief! To say Jack is a hunk is putting it mildly! When they succumb to their desires, it is hot, romantic and perfect!!
“Last chance, sweetness. I’ve never wanted anyone the way I want you. So if you’re having second thoughts, now’s the time, because in a little while I’m going to take you, gently at first, and then to all kinds of dark, delicious places.”
Caught in their own adventure, Jack and Rodel face danger at every turn. Knowing what is at stake, they selflessly put the needs of others ahead of their own. For Jack, his actions provide the second chance he so desperately seeks, and for Rodel, she learns just how resilient and adaptable she can be when facing adversity. Ultimately, their choices lead them to a place where sacrifice is no longer a question.
“In a thousand lives, I would die a thousand deaths to save her.”
From the beginning, you could feel the grief these characters shared yet hope, strength and love filled all the cracks and made their foundations even stronger. The entrenched cultural themes underscored the contrasts and similarities between communities and countries yet these elements added to the significance of the journey. Furthermore, with such a richly crafted plot, the secondary characters add value and dimensionality to Jack and Rodel. Goma is a stand out for her sage observations and resolve, while Bahati adds comic relief and his own battle for acceptance.
Mists of the Serengeti is an incredible story of endearing characters with a compelling plot and impeccable story-telling. With every element coming together like a perfectly conducted symphony, Leylah Attar pens a beautiful love story about healing and courage. I highly recommend this book!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
*This was a (F)BR with the Shhluts!
At 23 years old, Liam Fox-Williams is going through the motions but his heart and passion remain unfulfilled. While in art school, Liam fell in love with his slightly older teacher, but circumstances prevented them from being together. Never knowing the real answer for his rejection, Liam remains solemn until he returns home to England and has a chance encounter with the one that got away.
“Sometimes it’s not the people who change, it’s that their mask has fallen off.”
Cari Pritchard is an art school teacher with many responsibilities. Never having regrets about what she shared with Liam, she has her reasons for not burdening him with the obligations of her life. However, now that years have passed, it’s time for Cari to be truthful about her feelings and past decision.
“My life wasn’t my own. It wasn’t fair to make him take on my burdens.”
With resolve, Liam pursues Cari and the answers to questions he’s rehearsed in his mind for too many years. Not prepared for the actual truth, Liam is relieved and fortified when Cari shares her true feelings and the reasons behind her actions. As such, it becomes abundantly clear that Liam and Cari are still very much in love with each other. What ensues is a sweet story with Liam showing how much of a tender and big heart he has to share.
“You are my suit of love, I’m a better man when I’m with you.”
In Three, the romance and connection is strengthened by two people who come to understand the complexities of raising a child with autism. While this disorder is still not completely understood and is subjective to each individual, the plot brings awareness to this condition. Additionally, the the challenges and rewards Liam and Cari experience enrich their character dimension and the story progression.
Told in dual POV, we experience the vulnerabilities and strengths of Liam and Cari. I admired Cari’s tenacity to assume sole responsibility but once she realized someone else can be just as committed and loving, the partnership that develops is touching. With Liam, he proves to have a heart of gold. The overall tone of this second chance at romance story is sweet, loving and without any angst. This is the first book I’ve read by E.S. Carter and look forward to reading more of her work.
Kate Martin is hired as the Creative Director to save Marks Lingerie. Having such an opportunity is dream come true for Kate, but working directly under her new sexy boss may be more of a distraction that she could have imagined.
“According to industry rumors, he’s never been married, fucks like an animal, and has a mouth like my shower massager.”
Trey Marks is a playboy with a sinful smirk and gorgeous bod who believes monogamy is not for him but saving his company becomes priority one. Working with Kate becomes a constant test of restraint for Trey, as his company has a strict non-fraternization policy.
“In five minutes, I could make her mine. In ten minutes, she’d be calling me her god.”
As time passes, it becomes clear that Trey and Kate work well together but their attraction is more than just professional colleagues. While Trey is quite open and flirtatious with Kate, she tries to maintain a certain decorum in the office and to keep her lustful feelings for him at bay but she can’t help but to compare all men to him.
“It’s strange, seeing him in this role, seeing the tenderness come through all of the layers of playboy. How he sweeps a loose tendril of her hair and tucks it into her braid.”
While Trey and Kate have many lust worthy moments, the chase is a long one yielding to obstacles along the way. When Trey finally reveals his hand, there’s no turning back for them yet Kate’s reaction isn’t exactly the one he had hoped. After realizing their mistakes and missed opportunities, Trey and Kate are more willing to embrace what they’ve known all along.
“Are you sure you want that? For me to well and truly fuck you?”
I admired Kate’s work ethic and Trey’s professional drive. Though, I still wanted Kate and Trey to take more tangible steps toward a romantic connection sooner. At times, the story felt choppy due to the passages of time and chapters that felt a bit too cursory; however, the overall tone was flirty, romantic with some moments of angst. My favorite moments were the comparisons between lingerie and life.
Love in Lingerie is about two people trying to succeed in love and life.
*This was a (F)BR with the Shhluts!
Katie Smith was raised by her single mother in a loving and nurturing environment. Never feeling like she was lacking in love or material goods, Katie learned to work hard for her successes despite being rejected by her father. But when she is presented with a financial problem, Katie is determined to save a place important to her heart and dreams.
“Now I want to live for me.”
Carl Brooks and Rick Warner are in a relationship but are two opposites; the former being exacting and the latter being easy-going. Though content in their lives, they are seeking a third person to complete their trio. After meeting Katie on sugardaddies.com, it’s time to see if Katie is all they dreamed she would be.
“And now that we’re all here, in the same room, is it still your fantasy? How about it, Katie, do we measure up to your fantasy?”
As Katie makes a commitment to Carl and Rick, it’s a means to an ends – extra money to secure her goal, but she is also honest about fulfilling her own sexual fantasies. From the start, Katie feels a connection with both men even if she’s a bit intimidated by Carl and his dominating presence. As they ease her into this relationship of double pleasure, it is nothing less than panty melting hot. While Carl and Rick are always ready to
push stretch the limits, Katie isn’t a shrinking violet and is ready to receive everything they offer.
“…I want to be full of you, both of you … I want to be dripping… I want to be all filled up.”
In addition to many hot times, the plot is balanced and also concentrates on the complexities of Katie’s relationship with her father and finding her own way. Reading how Carl becomes an integral element in this transition, also adds depth to Carl’s past and relates to his own needs for a future with Katie and Carl. Coming full circle, Katie persevered and gained so much more than she expected.
“You have nobody doubting you, nobody trying to knock you down, or see you fail. The only person you have to prove anything to is you…”
Told in dual POV, it was insightful to understand the perspectives of Katie and Carl – the two more complex characters; however, Rick’s role in this book is equally vital to the progression of this threesome and his lovable ways warmed the pages. While there is no doubt that Jade is the Mistress of Kink, she also crafts multi-dimensional characters with compelling plotlines. For me, I always know I can immerse myself into her book and feel like I’ve known her characters all along. With narratives and dialogue that flows, it’s easy to relate to the range of emotions these characters feel. Oh, and I loved how the Carl and Rick were with Samson.
Sugar Daddies offers some smoking hot scenes but also renders a tender story about overcoming hurdles in order to become a stronger and better person. I highly recommend!
Laine Seaborne is an eighteen year old who always worked hard for the little she had in her life. While out celebrating her birthday, Laine is put in a precarious situation where she must fend again for herself until a stranger decides to intervene.
“How could I ever be scared of a man who saved me?”
Nick Lynch is a successful accountant comfortable with his brand of kink. Having given up on love some years ago, he’s chosen to maintain a private life but still needs to indulge his deviant side. When he meets a young blonde in trouble, he realizes this may be the opportunity he’s been waiting for.
“You’re such a good girl, Laine,” he tells me, and my heart lifts for him. “I’m going to take care of you. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
Although they are from different worlds, Nick and Laine seem to ease into a quick friendship and forge a unique bond. Being a man of means, Nick is able to easily offer comfort, safety and necessities to Laine but it doesn’t undermine the kindness of his gestures or the deep pleasure he feels from taking care of her. For the first time, Laine feels secure, loved and also desired in a way she could never have imagined.
“I think you’re a dirty little girl.” I smile a dirty smile, and I can’t control the beast. I can’t fight the dark urges that want to consume her, soil her, corrupt her, break her and make her mine.”
“Call me Daddy,” I growl. “You can call me Daddy.”
While Laine was quite innocent sexually, she eagerly took to Nick’s Daddy kink and craved it as much as he did. Learning to be Daddy’s girl was very hot with Nick showing his mastery and Laine trying to please in every way.
“You have the prettiest little pussy, Laine. Daddy wants to see you all full up with his cum.”
This was my first foray in reading daddy kink and I knew Jade West would be the perfect author to pop my cherry! Her character portrayals felt grounded and dimensional and I liked how Nick gave Laine the space to mature into the woman she wanted to be. Getting to know Nick up close and personal was so hot and I was glad to see he was able to break his shell. Recognizing his own issues, Nick and Laine found a true balance between their love and didn’t compromise their sexual preferences either.
Call Me Daddy offers dirty, kinky fun but also offers a story about acceptance. For those curious about Daddy kink, I highly recommend Call Me Daddy!
Soul Avenged (Sons of Wrath #1) ~ by Keri Lake
Ayden is an Alexi super soldier created to fight the Lycan race of wolves. Though fully human at one time, she no longer has any memories of her previous life. Upon hunting Lycans with the Alexi since her transition, Ayden rebelled against the General and is seeking her own vengeance against those who took her human life. Seeking the help of the Wrath demons, Ayden is on the verge of uncovering what’s been hidden for so long but when Ayden comes into contact with a Halfling, she begins to question everything.
“You know, as humans, we’re allowed to feel. It’s what separates us from inanimate objects. It’s okay if the memories made you … feel something again.”
Kane Walker is a director at a Children’s Cancer Institute. Upon leaving work one evening, he is attacked and bitten by a Lycan (wolf) but instead of taking him as their own, Kane is left in his Halfling state and found by Ayden. While Ayden typically wouldn’t have any trouble killing a Lycan in cold blood, a transference of memories occurs between Kane and Ayden causing immediate shock. Needing to discover how and what it all means, Ayden takes Kane hostage in an effort to get more information before Kane becomes a full-fledged Lycan but Kane also learns more than he expected.
“Finally, a woman who seized his attention, set his body aflame, and made him want to piece her puzzling complexities together—the same one who’d be severing his head. What a cruel paradox.”
During Kane’s transformation period, Ayden openly shows her disdain for Kane’s new Lycan identity and declares she will be the one to extinguish his life upon his full transformation. However, Kane isn’t a man driven by greed or immorality and his easy and lovable personality starts to wear on Ayden, as she didn’t expect him to accept his demise with such honor and selflessness. As they forge a friendship and more, Ayden’s memories become clearer and her vulnerability is tested yet Kane remains a constant strength by encouraging her to accept the truth and pain.
“Because I feel something for you. And I’d hate for you not to know how fucking fantastic it feels. Even if I die today, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
Adding to the complexity between Ayden and Kane are the surrounding forces at play. The General of the Alexi is intent on getting Ayden back under his command and continues to plot against the Lycans for his own gain. After going AWOL, Ayden hired the Wrath demons to find those responsible for her lost life and as more details are uncovered, the demon brothers are posturing to fulfill their contract obligations. However, with unexpected complications the action becomes tense with so much at stake.
“No species is spared,” she muttered. “We’re all victims of something bigger, aren’t we?”
In this book, the paranormal world is layered with different species – humans, hybrids, demons, beasts, succubi, etc. – that offer nuances within their own life forms. With many secondary characters in this story, the foundation takes some time to establish but once it takes hold, the pace is swift. I enjoyed all the character relationship dynamics, as each character had clearly definable traits that enhanced the plot direction. With the Sons of Wrath brothers, it certainly begs the question about each getting their own books within this series but I absolutely loved Gavin and hope he gets what he’s been seeking for centuries. Of course, Ayden was a kickass heroine that I won’t forget.
Overall, Keri Lake’s writing style is energetic and fresh yielding to a layered plot steeped in fraternity, acceptance, love and truth. For those who wish to get lost in a supernatural world, I recommend Soul Avenged.
Separation Games opens just where the first book closed with Adam’s admission and Diana’s shock at the turn of events. With the thirty days not fulfilled, Diana decides to fight in the only way she knows how. As she tries to save her marriage, she is also trying to resolve her own unanswered questions that have been buried for so long. Whatever the results may be, she is determined to finish her exploration.
“I wanted him to catch me, but I wanted him to chase first.”
What ensues feels raw as Adam and Diana fight for what they believe is right. As they continue to reveal layers of deep emotions and the history behind their feelings, the dance between their interests is like a tango involving passion, strength and an impenetrable connection.
“Your problem isn’t that you don’t love. Your problem is you love so much it scared you.”
With Diana beckoning the inner sadist in Adam, he responds with such perfect dominance to bring them to a truly equal power exchange. Adam is a natural leader who takes control of any situation so when it comes to dominating his submissive, it is beyond hot. So when he demands Diana to give all of herself to him, she complies bringing immense pleasure sexually and emotionally.
“You’re beautiful like this. You’re perfect. I want to fuck the breath out of you. I want to hurt you. Mark you. I want you to beg me to stop and love it when I don’t.”
As Adam and Diana navigate through the intricacies of their relationship, the emotions are complex and feel quite real. Dissecting the reasons for their failures are difficult but putting the pieces back together requires much more strength and dedication. Told in dual POV, getting to know the pulse of Adam and Diana leads to deep character development due to their self-reflection. With this C.D. Reiss’ writing style, the dialogue simply flows and tells a poignant story of two people finding their own way.
To say this duet was moving would be an understatement. Being in CD’s fictional world is always one of lyricism and I simply adored this journey. I highly recommend!!!
*This was a (F)BR with Sue, Liz and Loyda!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.*
Batsheva “Eva” Roselli is a violinist, an Italian citizen and a young Jewish woman caught in the turbulent time under Mussolini’s rule in Italy and Hitler’s oppressive vision. As a child, Eva was privileged due to her family’s successful business in Florence, but when a boy comes from America to live with Eva’s family and war is later declared, her entire world changes.
“I danced around him for years, trying to get his attention, wanting only to see him smile. Wanting only to be near him, wanting only to love him and be loved by him.”
Angelo Bianco is the son of Italians who emigrated to America. After Angelo’s mother dies, his father sends him to Florence to live with the Roselli family and to ultimately become a priest. Distraught over his mother’s death, Angelo meets Eva, two years his junior, and they form a bond that is continually tested
“When you love someone that completely, you will do anything for them.”
What transpires over time between Angelo and Eva is beautiful and endearing yet they are surrounded by loss and the hatred. Using his position as a Catholic priest, Angelo is determined to help give shelter to Jews hiding from the SS and when Eva’s family becomes a target, he knows there is no other way but to remain a priest to carry on his mission to save lives.
“But we have to live in order to learn. And sometimes we have to fight in order to live.”
With Eva being highly principled but also a realist, her strength is tested when she decides to help her brethren in every way available to her. Eva’s path takes an unexpected journey but she uses that opportunity to fight for her family, for love and for a greater cause.
“They can humiliate us and dehumanize us. But they cannot take our thoughts. They cannot take our talents. They cannot take our knowledge, or our memories, or our minds.”
The intensity of the current state of events lays heavy upon Eva and Angelo. Living in constant fear and hiding Jews is their goal but their love continues to shine and grow stronger leading them to a place where they can no longer deny. With Angelo’s vows to the Church, his heart is conflicted and he must reconcile his reasons for choosing the priesthood. After years of fighting, Angelo’s choice becomes clear.
From Sand to Ash is a book that causes reflection and produces a range of serious emotions due to the subject matter. But, while there is so much tragedy, there is also unyielding bravery, resistance and dignity for those who fought and protected those in danger. Within this setting, it may seem an unlikely place for love to flourish, but during such trying times, life and death becomes crystal clear and the intensity of such feelings deepens. For me, reading how Eva and Angelo united for a greater cause was extremely moving.
Told in third person, Amy Harmon writes a narrative that is compelling, candid and thought provoking. Set in such a turbulent time in history, the sense of family, principle and friendship prevails raising hope and humanity. I highly recommend!
In this final installation, we are reunited in a continuous timeline with William York, the Prince of Florence, and Raven Wood. With tension building, there are numerous factions vying to unseat the Prince causing William to protect his city and most importantly, Raven. In seeking support from his biggest and most powerful ally, William executes a decision that could have grave consequences or long-lasting benefits. But with human and vampyre forces at play, trusting anyone becomes perilous.
“You are the only trust that exists in my world.” He spoke against her mouth. “I trust no one else.”
Being the Prince for centuries taught William many lessons about the capricious ways of vampyres and guarding what he loves exposes his weakness to those closest to him. Of course, William has the means, power of an old one and the mental acuity to react as needed. With their love for each other, William and Raven vow to fight together rather than be separated. Raven’s unwavering strength and principled views parallel the depth of reverence William feels toward Raven leading to unconditional acceptance.
“Because of you, love has entered my cursed existence.”
Through the series, Raven stayed true to her beliefs despite having vulnerabilities that could have caused her to make different choices. William evolved tremendously due to his love for Raven and lessons learned in his formative years. Reading about their love and admiration for each other was heart warming. However, I would have liked to have read more about The Roman and his relationship with William, especially given the eponymous book title.
From the first page, the action is nonstop due to a well-choreographed cast of characters and flowing prose. Combining Renaissance art, clandestine underground organizations and the paranormal makes for a unique plot that leads to steady character arcs and an unexpected culmination. For dedicated fans of the Florentine series, you will not be disappointed in the journey and the finale.
Elise “Red” Vale is a graduate student studying archeology. Using her student credentials and under the guise of her thesis, she intends to enter the private property of Blackwood Estate to search for Native American artifacts, however she is intent on finding answers related to the suspicious circumstances surrounding her father’s death.
“Nothing here is untouched. Everything is spoiled, ruined.”
Garrett Blackwood is a former professor and is known to be a mysterious and potentially dangerous recluse. Keeping to himself has never been a problem but when Elise shows up on his doorstep requesting permission onto his property, he begins to wonder if she is a hassle or something potentially much more interesting.
“Some things are better left in the dark, Red.”
With dimensional secondary characters and plot twists, Elise uncovers clues learning more about her father than she ever knew while he was alive. While Garrett believes she is searching for Choctaw artifacts, he soon discovers that his Red is looking for more than just arrowheads and pottery. Despite her shrouded deception, Garrett agrees to help Red when the dangers become too risky to search on her own.
“If you said ‘please’, I’d fuck you so hard that you wouldn’t be able to sit down, walk, or breathe for days without thinking of my cock inside you.”
In addition to the thriller aspects, the relationship that develops between Red and Garrett is endearing and extremely hot! Not afraid to push the limits, Garrett shows Red just what it’s like to be ravished by the big bad wolf.
“This.” He glanced at my throat. “Is just a sample, Red. My appetites would disgust you. Fuck” He ran a hand through his hair. “Sometimes they disgust me, but I can’t escape them.”
Throughout the book, I liked Red’s tenacity even when she was in way over her head at times. While she was skeptical of Garrett in the beginning, she was also freely willing to accept his circumstances and experience what he can offer.
As for Garrett, he is very manly yet he isn’t afraid to share his sensitivities despite being ostracized for his private predilections. It’s so often that rumor can become truth and with Garrett, the rumors couldn’t be further wrong about his character.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Elise’s father led to some tense and action packed moments with the plot developing at a steady pace. The shadows about his death persisted and certainly added to the thriller elements of Blackwood. Even though, I knew who was guilty early on, it didn’t lessen my experience nor my search for more clues. Plus, the dynamic between Red and Garrett is a strong one for the plot footprint.
If you haven’t experienced a Celia Aaron book yet, Blackwood is a perfect entry into the thrilling, twisty and sexy world of this author. With prose that effortlessly narrate a story chock full of tonality and emotion, it’s clear Ms. Aaron is a natural born storyteller. I highly recommend Blackwood!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review! Thank you!*
Chere Rouzier is a high-class call girl that lives in New York City. Without having many options or much guidance, Chere viewed her job as an escort to be lucrative in that she could pay her bills and help support her boyfriend’s spiraling art career. It isn’t until she meets the nameless and faceless client she refers to as W that she slowly begins to unravel and question her lifestyle and own needs.
“You don’t get to know my name. You don’t get anything from me but what I want to give you. Cock, yes. But first, a little pain.”
Known to be exacting and a sadist, W isn’t looking to form emotional attachments and hires Chere for a session to fulfill his particular sexual predilictions. Upon discovering her unknown submissive side with the combination of her need to fight before total surrender, he is intrigued by her spark and continues to reserve sessions with her.
“You’re so juicy from having your pussy whipped, it’s dripping onto the bed. You’re making a fucking mess, you little pain slut.”
As Chere and W’s time together passes, Chere realizes how she craves what only W can give making her quite the lovely masochist. While their sessions are sexually intense, both mentally and physically, Chere begins to gain the courage to make changes in other aspects of her life. As she takes these steps, W asserts himself and views his actions as protective yet he still isn’t willing to give more unless Chere is willing to accept all of his terms.
“You can see me, starshine. You can see all of me.”
What transpires between Chere and W is complex. On the surface, you have these two characters that unite so perfectly on a basic primal level, but they also have their own emotional vulnerabilities that trap insecurities. I admired Chere’s inner strength and fight and was so glad she made a certain decision. As for W, well, he is walking sex but he also has a deeper range that I enjoyed.
“That’s what he said, but all I really absorbed was “I can make you feel.”
In reading Torment Me, I was simply glued to the pages to see what would happen next between Chere and W! The writing just simply captured me, as told from Chere’s point of view, but also with engaging dialogue. What Chere and W share isn’t necessarily romantic to some, with their rough BDSM play and degradation, but reading how they connect kept me riveted.
The author’s style of writing is forthright and sexy with an edgy sense of humor, which is a win-win for me. I cannot wait to see how the story continues in book two! For those who haven’t read Annabel Joseph’s books yet, I highly recommend Torment Me!
I won this book in Shh… ♟ Dispelling the MYTHS about BDSM Giveaway ♟!! Thank you!! https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/…
In Dollars, the plot timeline opens in succession with Pim trying to negotiate her new surroundings away from the white mansion. Not knowing whether Pim’s circumstance has improved, she is tentative and doesn’t know how to react to the demands being made upon her. Despite feeling powerless, Pim tries to overcome her past but doesn’t know what feelings to trust, as certain trained behaviors have been instilled in her core.
“And if he wasn’t like the others, how could I predict what he wanted?”
Pim isn’t the only one trying to adjust to the new living arrangements, as Elder is at odds with his decision. Exposing himself to Pim could lead to disaster but Elder can’t stay away from her. Battling his demons, he is forced to reconcile emotions he buried long ago causing tremendous inner turmoil.
“You owe me, Pimlico. I told you I wasn’t the hero.”
What draws Pim and Elder to each other is complicated. Elder has been very open about his sexual inclinations toward Pim but it’s more than just the physical in that Elder feels a deep connection to her. While Pim is processing her feelings, she is angry and feels betrayed that her body feels an attraction to Elder who wants a certain gift before succumbing to his basest desires.
“I want to fuck you.” His hips thrust again. “I want to hurt you.”
In this second installment, a range of emotion is present that includes reflection, healing, anger, betrayal and gratitude. With a somber tone, it is obvious Pim has been through hell and knowing the time it will take for her to rebuild adds tremendous tension. Adding to the conflict is the mystery surrounding Elder’s secrets and vulnerabilities. While we get a few glimpses into Elder’s world, there is still so much to be revealed and for Pim to experience.
“I need to live in the moment. The future I cannot control.”
With much contemplation, Pepper Winters takes her characters on a thoughtful and arduous journey. The plot moves at a pace that forces the reader to pause and feel how Pim’s emotions take a step forward but three steps back. At times, it is frustrating but also realistically portrayed considering her painful experience. With Elder, there were times when I wanted him to surrender to his urges and unleash the beast despite knowing how it would affect Pim and their future.
In all, the storyline successfully continues to build layers of intrigue and added dimension. There is still much to discover in this series and I look forward to continuing to see how it will all unfold.
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Alejandro Martinez was destined to fulfill the path already chosen for him leading to a life of crime, corruption, greed, lies and tragedy. At 20 years old, he was already feared and known as El Diablo, but knowing the destruction and pain his family caused, Alejandro vows to protect what remains in his life despite the consequences. Learning to be a “Martinez” at a very young age, Alejandro shields his heart but as decades pass, he begins to question whether loneliness is his fate or a fool’s choice.
“This is what we do, hijo. We protect what’s ours any means necessary. No. Matter. What. Family comes first.”
Having a childhood marred by neglect, Lexi learned at a young age to fend for herself and to take joy in the art of ballet. In trying to be independent and follow her dream, Lexi applies for a job at an establishment owned by Martinez. Exuding his influence in subtle ways, Alejandro cannot turn his back on Lexi. After feeling a strong connection with Alejandro, the tension builds but neither could have imagined how their futures would blend in so many ways.
“I want you to come on my fingers, cariño, I want to see your face get flushed, your breathing hitch. I want to feel your pussy pulsate so fucking hard it pushes my fingers out of your sweet little hole.”
As Alejandro is a conflicted man suffering an incredible amount of despair, he steadfastly forges ahead to lead the Martinez family legacy. After vowing to never open his heart to anyone again, Lexi tests Alejandro, and while it’s his nature to protect and love, he can’t give what he wants despite her wholehearted acceptance of Alejandro’s dual personas.
“I warned you. I told you I don’t know how to love. I ordered you to stay away from me, time and time again. I’m not the man you think I am. I never was.”
“The good and bad. Heaven and hell. Every part of him. I took what I could get. Every last ounce of him.”
Alejandro is a man of deep passion whether he is showing his gentle or vile side and I like how he wavered between these warring factions within himself. The tender moments were so warm which served to reinforce his true nature because if he was as ruthless as his father, Alejandro would have been a very different man. By the end, I felt comfortable with his choice of possible salvation with Lexi but parts of “the how” didn’t seem to completely coalesce with his character. However, it didn’t deter from the impact of Alejandro’s journey and the arc of his character development.
As for Lexi, I admired her resilience and ability to balance the positive and negative in her life. By choosing Alejandro and his lifestyle, Lexi was fully aware of the risks involved yet she was willing take a chance whether it lasted for a brief moment or for more time than she could imagine. To me, Lexi proved she was a match for Alejandro.
Also, the secondary characters were vital to supporting the failures and successes of the main characters and the ongoing plot. For those familiar with the The Good Ol’ Boys series, being reunited with some friendly faces will be an added plus. I would like to know more about Alejandro’s friend, Leo, in the future.
From the onset of El Diablo, an epic tone is cast upon the Martinez family that unfolds into a richly developed plot spanning many years and a multitude of dimensional characters. With engaging prose, M. Robinson successfully captures a story steeped love, violence, passion, redemption and friendship. I highly recommend!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Tori Garrison is a successful romance author married to Landon, an absolute dream and the man she met in college. Her life is full with kids, career and the day to day, and while Tori’s family has been a solid foundation where she feels mostly content, she starts to feel like something is missing. Turning to another author’s advice for book research, Tori establishes an account on a social website that caters to certain sexual lifestyles. Not exactly sure as to what she hopes to find, she experiences much more than she could have ever foreseen.
“I’m a blank canvas that I can paint however I desire. For the first time ever, I get to be the character in my own fantasy land.”
Upon being contacted by Alec, Tori forms an online connection with him almost immediately. From the outset, he is very forthcoming about his lifestyle and preferences, and while Tori opens herself to Alec about intimate details of her life, she fails to tell him about the most important facts. Knowing she is being deceitful to her husband and even to new friend, Tori feels like she can’t stop talking to Alec and starts to crave more.
“I was desperate for it. I needed it. Needed the excitement, the allure, the temptation.”
From this point, Tori makes the decision to transition her friendship with Alec to an emotional level of intimate lovers by talking and sharing aspects of herself that only her husband should enjoy. Addicted to Alec and what he offers, Tori’s descent begins and just when you think she is about to come to her senses, her world shatters. Secrets are discovered, hearts are broken and all that seemed safe and loving transforms into deceit, resentment and doubt.
“You fell for him, didn’t you?”
Obviously, this is a story about an affair and the emotional elements surrounding Tori’s experience are gut-wrenching; however, it is also addicting and exhilarating at times. From the outset, you know Tori is going to make many wrong decisions that will affect her husband and family yet there is also a feeling of sympathy for not just Tori and Landon but also for Alec. Adding to the affair theme, there is a deeper element that surfaces causing Tori to examine her life choices in an effort to save herself and ultimate decision.
Even though there are some who are already feeling the pain that an affair book can bring forth, what makes Tori’s story relatable is that such a situation can happen to any of us because life isn’t black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. Sometimes, people change and detour for a bit. Did I like Tori? While I wished she would make the best decision for herself and her family and wanted her to stop this destructive behavior, I still liked her and I empathized with her plight. Did my heart break for Landon? Absolutely and I cried for his pain. Did I hate Alec? Not at all and I actually fell for him at times. And, that’s the beauty of E.K.’s writing, she forces the reader to experience a range of emotions and doesn’t sugar coat an ounce of this story. It is raw and real.
Author Anonymous is based on a true account of an author’s experience told through the creative mind of E.K. Blair. All the names and identifying details have been changed to protect the author. After finishing this book, I can understand why Anonymous felt the cathartic need to share her story. Honestly, this story blew me away. It is titillating, erotic, sad, painful, provocative and forces the reader to confront a range of emotions in an intensely difficult situation. I’m still reeling from the emotional impact of this one and hope Tori (Anonymous) is able to find her way. Needless to say, I highly recommend Author Anonymous!!
*An ARC was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
~4 Crazies Stars~
Taylor Jake grew up in a variety of foster homes that enabled him to create a protective wall around his emotions. Upon meeting Haley as a teen, she became his family and part of his heart; however, Taylor’s weakness was preyed upon by a rival gang and Haley paid the price of evil. Vowing to avenge Haley’s pain, Taylor became Six, a killer succumbed by rage, guilt and inner turmoil.
“I was hollow, lost to what it felt like not to be lonely, and I was okay with that.”
Fast forward fifteen years, Taylor “aka Six” is released from prison for his crimes but seeking revenge for the remaining gang members still lingers in his soul, as a day doesn’t pass where he can forget that horrific night and the ensuing pain. Now a respectable bar owner, Six chooses to keep few close to him until a certain woman enters his bar that tests his restraint.
“She’s too delicate for me. She’s like a flower and I’m a weed growing strong around her. I’d strangle her and then everything that makes her bloom will be gone.”
Misty is a woman down on her luck but is working her way through her own loss and is ready to start a fresh beginning. Upon being hired by Six, Misty is immediately attracted to him and once she starts getting mixed signals from Six, she isn’t about to be ignored or overruled by him. What ensues are sexually charged exchanges and when they finally get together it is hot!
“All I want you to do is strip me bare, bite my neck, yank my hair, and fuck me until I’m a quivering mess. She draws out her words and I almost come without even touching her.”
Based on his past, Six is resistant to give all he has to Misty in order to protect her and also his own heart. Just when Six is ready to move forward, his past comes back to haunt him and he must act to end it all.
“Carnage lays everywhere, blood and insides litter the walls and floor, and the whining of death is like a balm to my soul.”
Six is a character that I liked immediately and felt the weight of his burden. Knowing his hurtful past and how it formed his present, I understood his resistance to pursue Misty but I loved how Misty fought to pierce his shield. With Six carrying such a need for revenge, I welcomed his violent path to give Haley reverence and peace.
While I am usually drawn to Ker Dukey’s darker books, the plot in Six was mostly steady with a few lags in between. There were some areas where I would have enjoyed more development to further the impact and character dimension for Six, Misty, Haley, Lucky and Max. But, I did feel like I was immersed in Six’s world. Overall, I enjoyed Six and recommend!
~4 CRAZIES STARS~
Cordelia “Cordy” Baxter is a college student that comes from a working class coalmining town. Having always played soccer, and due to Title 9 criticism, Cordy secures a spot as a Kicker on the football team earning her a partial athletic scholarship. Being on the team isn’t easy since she is known mostly as the “Mav” but it’s also difficult because she is constantly around the one person she wishes to erase from her heart.
“He’d been beautiful when we’d first met, his boyish good looks the first step in my downfall.”
Trent Carrington is the star Quarterback and with his dark hair, green eyes and an easy smile with the brains to back it up, Trent is every campus girl’s dream. With his athletic ability, his future in the NFL is pretty much a done deal. However, two years ago Trent made a decision that impacted his love life much to his chagrin. Now that he’s a bit older and wiser, he is determined not to make the same mistake twice.
“I was going to get the chance I’d been dreaming about for two years. I had so much to tell her, so many things to explain.”
Being in his senior year, Trent can no longer ignore his feelings for Cordy and tries to resurrect the connection they both previously shared. Knowing this task is not going to be easy, when Trent sees an opportunity with Cordy he takes full advantage of their private time. However, Cordy is prepared to maintain a platonic distance from Trent because she will not be hurt again by his love ‘em and leave ‘em ways.
“In his place, there was a man who kissed like the devil and made me stupid with just one look.”
As Trent and Cordy spend time together, she slowly learns more about Trent’s decision and what he really represents. By giving him another chance, Cordy opens her heart hoping this time it’s permanent.
“I don’t think I can stop if we start this. Understand? I want you so bad it hurts.”
Wowzie! There were times in this book when I felt hurt, angst, lust, need and the strong connection between Trent and Cordy. Their story is passionate, tender and full of firsts etching every moment in their timeline. To feel that overcoming sense of love is moving but also anxious because these characters are vulnerable to their emotion. Immediately, I liked Trent and Cordy and with alternating first person POVs, it only strengthened my empathy with their roles. I am a sucker for second chance romances and I was rooting for them throughout the entire book!
In Kicked, Celia Aaron continues to dazzle with her prose and ability to draw the reader into her written world. If you are looking for a romance with a good dose of love and determination, I recommend Kicked!
In Chained, the timeline continuously flows from the ending in Caged where Khloe Grant discovers she cannot trust anyone. Lying in wait, Khloe is prepared to take action, but when the man standing in front of her is Anderson Cain, she is forced to make an irrevocable decision. In this final book, the plot continues to thicken in quite an ominous mode with darkness continually lurking its ugly head around Khloe and Anderson.
“I needed him to love me, whichever way it came.”
Moving forward, Anderson is committed to his plan to avenge his own abuse no matter the consequences. By acting on his rage and pain, Anderson seems willing to sacrifice his only chance for happiness or hope.
“How could you fall in love with someone who was hell bent on destroying you?”
Meanwhile, Khloe’s descent into darkness spirals into an abyss. In order for Khloe to truly move forward, she must accept her past but she has always been more selfless and wants to give Anderson exactly what he needs. With the present and future outweighing her past, Khloe accepts her hand and gives all she can.
“I was created to serve you, Anderson. I was made from the very horrors of hell that birthed you. We were cast from the same mould. But which gift will you take?”
The twists and course of events that occur could not be predicted, as the evil that pervades the lives of Anderson and Khloe is insidious. The evolution of Khloe’s character felt vividly honest and weighty. She suffered and yet she coped in ways that eased her mind. With Anderson, to have survived his circumstance, his mental state swallowed all the pain but his rage had to be quelled before he could truly be the man he was destined to be. The strengths and weaknesses of these two characters grounded them together providing a balance and foundation for a future.
“This is how I want to picture you forever. You have no barriers up. You are you, free from the obligation you force on yourself.”
While Anderson and Khloe felt an instant bond with each other, their relationship was tumultuous at times, with each feeding off the freedom to share in their rage, pain and cravings. With having such a deep yet fiery connection, the sex between Anderson and Khloe is off the charts hot!! It is uninhibited, rough, demanding, and deliciously deviant.
“Pulling me away, his gaze hooked on the length of spit from my lips to his cock, the wicked gleam in his eyes making every part of me throb.” “Suck me until I come in your dirty little mouth.”
With the end of this duet series, the plot is reconciled and questions are answered as to motives of these dark characters. The chapters are divided between first person POVs for Anderson and Khloe which further irons any doubts about their thoughts and emotions. With the inclusion of an early chapter, the dark tone in the book is underscored and the certainty of how the plot is going to unfold remains a mystery until the very end. For me, this series was a riveting read that yielded so many emotions and I loved both Anderson and Khloe for their faults and resilience.
In addition to the outstanding layered characterization of Anderson and Khloe, the secondary characters also played such a pivotal role in the plot structure. Robbie, Anderson’s best friend, really proved himself as a true friend. Additionally, Ben, Khloe’s ex-husband, finally redeemed himself in my eyes.
For those who are fans of dark reads, Chained will not disappoint. It offers a range of themes from revenge, hatred, healing, redemption, evil, honesty, hope and ultimately love. I highly recommend!