The Boss by Abigail Owen

Finn’s scent is subtly smoky, with additional undertones of Bourbon and Coke. My God I think I’ve died and gone to dragon shifter Heaven!

What’s it About?

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Finn Conleth leads his team of enforcer dragon shifters with an iron fist and a cold heart. Every dragon seeks his destined mate, but the process to turn the woman he once thought was his killed her and devastated him. He will never risk his heart again. His team is his family now. When his body eventually gives out, he’ll leave, living his last days alone.

Delaney Hamilton moved across the country to escape the freak fires that plague her. But when another suspicious fire erupts and rapidly escalates around her, her hopes for a new life go up in smoke. She has no choice but to turn to the mysterious men who come to her aid.

Finn knows the fire is dragon-caused, which puts Delaney’s problems directly in his jurisdiction. No matter how her wounded grey eyes call to every part of him, he refuses to risk her life in the mating process. Until another dragon threatens to claim Delaney for his own, and Finn has to sacrifice everything to keep her alive…

First Impression

Our story here takes place concurrently with the events from the prequel, The Mate, and it was quite fun to see how the two story lines wove together into one cohesive drama. In our short story prequel, we got just a small taste of the intricacies of the dragon world, with the primary focus instead being on the official mating process between a dragon and his mate. In this book we finally get the fuller description that I was hoping for in regards to the details of the different dragon clans. We also get more detail about the importance and difficulties involved in hiding their presence from humans, so I was pretty thrilled to find this novel answer some of my logistical questions from the prequel.

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I really did enjoy the short prequel involving Finn’s brother Fallon discovering his mate, Maddie, but there was one component of this premiere novel which I think gave it a slight edge over the first one, and that would be the introduction of the Enforcers. We meet such a lovable team of characters, each with their own unique personality, and I for one can’t wait to get to know them more throughout the rest of the series. I have a feeling though that I might get slightly heartbroken, as you really do fall in love a bit with each of them, yet we know that there is one enforcer among them who is an informant for a former teammate gone rogue. There are some members of the group that we get to know better than others, but through it all you can sense that even though these dragons all come from different clans they have formed their own little family.

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When Mating Goes Wrong

Finn has spent the last few hundred years mourning the death of his supposed mate, Phoebe. The book opens with the moment the two tried to mate, but rather than it resulting in a successful link we instead see how Phoebe burned to ash in his very arms. She had looked upon him with such trust and love which quickly turned to the most brutal agony. Needless to say, Finn has had a rather difficult time getting Phoebe out of his head, and it’s easy to understand why they say that choosing a wrong mate doesn’t just result in the death of the female. A part of the male dies as well. He hears her screams every time he considers sleeping with another woman, or any time he thinks about finding his true mate. In spite of his immediate connection with Delaney, it will undoubtedly take some time before he can look into her eyes without his mind picturing the frightful way Phoebe burst into flame.

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His previous mating experience resulted in intense mental anguish, and a change in his personality. As he spends more time with Delaney though, Finn’s surly demeanor changes to one of possessiveness and desire. It’s something he tries to quell with all his might because when he sees the potential path it might lead him down with Delaney he once again just sees Phoebe burning. While I understand why his mind would be switched off to the idea of going through the mating process again, I must say it was kind of surprising how looooong it took for Finn to realize that Delaney was his mate. True, he lost a part of himself when Phoebe died, and he’s worried about the possibility of choosing wrong once again. However, surely he must realize that this connection he feels with Delaney, this pull between the two of them, is so much stronger, so much different than whatever it was he felt with Phoebe?

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Clan Drama Infighting

I do wish we had progressed just a bit further along with the drama of the coup d’etat involving Finn’s blue dragon clan, but we pretty much end at the same point that we concluded with in the prequel. It sort of feels like we’re moving up a mountainside, and just when we think we see a crest in view where maybe we’ll move along further, instead there’s more hill in front of us. I really wanted to see our characters connect directly with their new king who staged the coup, but that story still sort of remains in the background. At one point we even see an emissary of the king arrive, and it seemed like he would request Finn and Delaney travel to his hideout to meet him, but instead they remain behind to conclude the drama of Delaney’s stalker. The novel doesn’t necessarily end on a cliffhanger, but it definitely ends on a moment which will peak your interest to immediately want to dive right into the next book. The fact that I can’t has me itchy with anticipation!

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The ending implies that Finn, Delaney, and the rest of their dragon team aren’t necessarily out of the woods of danger. We also have quite a few plot questions left unanswered. We know that there’s an informant in the middle of Finn’s team. While I definitely have my suspicion of who our informant might be, we never receive a big reveal aha moment. Our story also ends with the implication that there’s someone else out there spying on the characters we’ve come to love throughout this book. Most importantly though, we never really figure out why Delaney is so different as a dragon mate. Normally, when a dragon mate is located, breathing dragon fire on the back of her neck produces a faint outline of which clan her mate will belong to. However, Delaney has no such mark, which is why Finn was adamant for so long that she was just a human. While we eventually see her emit other signs of being a dragon mate, we never discover why she never had the tell-tale mark on the back of her neck. Curious-er and curious-er. We’ll just have to see what answers, and maybe even further mysteries we’ll encounter going forward!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be continuing on with this series. I also have a feeling I’ll want to make a T-shirt of all the cover art from the series because…well my God just look at it for crying out loud!

Final Impression: While I wasn’t expecting it to take so long for Finn to entertain the idea of Delaney being his mate, I must say the depiction of his inner struggle over whether or not to complete the mating process with Delaney perfectly captured his turmoil. He doesn’t want to risk the possibility of Delaney suffering the most excruciating kind of pain to burn and die in a pile of ash, but at the same time he doesn’t know if he can survive the rest of his life without her. We want to believe that the two are destined to be together, but we also can’t help but hold our breath as they consider whether or not to take that risk together in each other’s arms.

Smut Level: Well well, we have a little dirty talker on our hands. Since the death of Phoebe, Finn has certainly kept himself at arm’s length from other women, but that doesn’t mean the man has lost his touch! As for Delaney, she gets off on the idea of the rest of the enforcer team watching on as she and Finn make some flames in between the sheets. Finn is definitely too possessive to ever see that fantasy come true, but he’s more than willing to create the picture in her mind to bring them to the ultimate pleasure. You naughty little fire starter you!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 286 Pages.

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The Mate by Abigail Owen

Finding a mate as a dragon shifter isn’t easy, and if you just happen to pick the wrong one you might die in the process. Jeez…and I thought my dating life had its complications. Maybe they just need some kind of app to bring them together. Dragonsonly.com, unlock the fiery passion within, and hopefully you won’t burn to ash.

What’s it About?

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Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it.

To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.

First Impression

I’d have to say this short prequel certainly does it’s job. First of all, it’s a fantastically quick, yet exciting read. I was able to finish it in one sitting during the time it takes to fly from DC to Columbia, South Carolina. I know because, well…I did it. We’re provided with a brief, and interesting introduction into this world of dragon shifters and enforcers. It doesn’t get too bogged down with unnecessary details, but instead lays the groundwork of what, why, how, and who wants to kill who. Whom? The simmering passion between Maddie and Fallon is palpable to the point where you’ll want to start fanning yourself to relieve some of the heat. A sexy and possessive dragon shifter who loves to tease, use sexual innuendo, has scorching blue dragon eyes when he gets riled up, and likes to refer to our female lead as “luv”? Seriously, somebody crank up the air conditioner in here, because these fiery dragons are setting my Kindle on fire!

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From the Mate to the Boss

This prequel also does a great job of piquing your interest for what will come in the next book, The Boss, which just so happens to come out on Monday! We are briefly introduced to Fallon’s troubled brother, Finn, who is the main focus of the next book. We are provided with a glimpse into Finn’s tragic back-story in which he tried to mate with a woman who wasn’t actually his mate. Turns out when you do that the woman goes poof into ashes. That’ll certainly put a damper on your evening. Although our time with Finn is brief in this novel, we can already tell he’s wise, endearing, and slightly broken. Gotta love a troubled male lead! I just can’t wait to find out what might be in store for Finn, and hopefully learn even more about this tragic event which has so greatly impacted his outlook on life.

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However, I have a pretty good feeling we’ll see him find his true mate after all. Something I’m assuming we’ll see more of, or at least I’m sincerely hoping, is more of an in-depth description and explanation of the dragon world dynamics. We are introduced to a fair number of key players in this novel, including a few kings with names I certainly can’t pronounce correctly, a variety of clans, families, blue dragons, red dragons, etc. I can’t say I fully understand how everything fits together, especially the dragon and human interaction, but I also don’t think we necessarily need to know all of that detail at this point. Again, I imagine this prequel is really laying the foundation for the next piece in the series where hopefully we’ll dig into things a little deeper.

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A Missing Meet Cute

Now, an important thing to keep in mind with this read is that while it’s definitely an entertaining prequel, it’s not necessarily a stereotypical one. I feel like in most instances when we have a prequel we are either presented with an introduction to how our lead couple met or will meet in the premiere novel, or we see just one side of the couple present their story. That doesn’t really happen here. As a matter of fact, we sort of get the opposite in that we basically walk into the middle of Maddie and Fallon’s relationship. We never really witness their initial meet cute first-hand, and the details of the first few months they spent together before eventually going separate ways is discussed sort of piecemeal.

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Apparently they investigated some arson cases together, and had already developed a cute rapport and physical interest. But our opening scene presents them to us months after they’ve split because Fallon thought she was a human that he could never claim. It’s almost like we’re missing the prequel to our prequel! Do I feel like we need a whole separate book showing us how Maddie and Fallon first met and what exactly happened during their time together before splitting? No. Do we need an extra 100 pages of set up to provide a more chronological view of their relationship from the start? Not really. A prologue may have been nice though. Something to establish right off the bat why their meeting in this castle is so profound.

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Breaking the Prequel Mold

Another way this differs from your typical prequel is that from what I understand of the synopsis of the next book, Maddie and Fallon really won’t be the main focus. Instead Fallon’s brother is. I imagine we’ll see mention of Fallon and Maddie somewhere in The Boss, but for the most part it appears as though that is a full Finn focus. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m excited as hell to read Finn’s story. Normally with a short prequel like this though, it’s meant to provide us with a brief introduction to what the main focus of the next book will be.

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In a way, it almost seems like your standard series progression would be a prequel showing how Maddie and Fallon first met, fell for each other, but then split because they didn’t truly understand who or what the other was. The premier novel would then be what we saw here, where Maddie and Fallon meet months later to pick up where they left off and go through the mate selection process. Then maybe we’d see a sequel with Finn as the lead. I’m not saying it’s required to follow this progression, and honestly it’s pretty refreshing to mix things up a bit! However, I think one initial scene which either showed Maddie and Fallon meeting, or splitting would have helped to create a fully comprehensive story arch.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 0.5. This prequel has definitely sparked my interest to see what might happen next for our blue dragon clan, and thankfully we don’t have long to wait! The Boss releases Monday, September 24, and hopefully I’ll have a review up and ready to go.

Final Impression: This novel might be short, but I think what draws you in and holds you tight is how we witness the progression of Fallon’s desire for Maddie. When he first arrives at this luxurious castle to meet a potential mate, he brushes it off as an impossibility. But then when he sets his sights on Maddie, and discovers it’s the “human” he fell for months before, his jaw hits the floor. We see an almost alpha desire and need for possession take hold of him. As we move along, and the possibility of Maddie choosing someone else as her mate comes to the forefront, we see Fallon’s initial desire turn to desperation. He knows with every fiber of his being that he and Maddie belong together. This teasing, confident man is suddenly overcome by the need to mate with this woman, and he’s even willing to go so far as to get down on his knees and beg for it to come about. To see this mating process surrounded by a growing tension of clan disputes and questions of loyalty, not to mention a final dragon battle, provides us with a delightful mix of lust, romance and action.

Smut Level: In order for two dragons to complete the mating process, the male dragon must fill the female with his fire. I’m sorry…but if that’s not a hint, hint, wink, wink moment then I don’t know what is.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Entangled: Amara. 114. Pages.

Extravaganza Conclusion: This is the final review this week as part of my marathon post extravaganza! Thanks everyone for playing along 🙂

 

A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

Two men with a past. Will their mutual obsession with art draw them closer together, or drive a wedge between them forever?

What’s it About?

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An honorable artist: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .

A hedonistic viscount: Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process.

Sinner and saint–can both win at love? But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?

First Impression

A feature you notice from the very opening page of this book, and which the author should be commended for, is that it truly feels as though we have been transported to the Regency Era. I’m sure some of you are thinking that for a 19th century historical read, we damn well better feel like we’re in the 1800s. Well, hear me out! To write a historical romance is one thing, but to feel as though the novel was actually written in the 1800s? That’s a talent all in itself. From the syntax to the British slang, the work felt reminiscent of something written by Jane Austen or Frances Burney. While it was a noticeably admirable trait of the novel, it did also make for a slightly slower read. What can I say? It took me some time to decipher what the characters were actually trying to say. But I also couldn’t deny that my desire for a pot of tea and tray of cucumber sandwiches grew stronger with every page turned.

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Classic Beauty vs. the Unnatural

In my opinion, the true mastery of this novel lay not necessarily with the romance between Benedict and Dulcie, but instead through their discussions and debates of art. Benedict’s goal in life is to open a national art museum for the British people. All British people, regardless of class, station, or wealth. Dulcie on the other hand is one of the leading art critics of the day, with his sights set on acquiring unique pieces for his own private collection. The heated discussions which erupt between the two, as well as with their fellow high-class art peers, were so insightful and thought-provoking that you couldn’t help but feel moved to take up an opinion on the matter as well. As the novel progresses we see a shift in the conversation from who is worthy of appreciating good art to who decides what good art is in the first place. The scrutiny placed on the artistic system was riveting, as our characters understand that sometimes you have to look beyond the paint to what is hiding underneath.

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What hit me the most though was how this discussion of art and beauty could find direct symmetry in the romance between Benedict and Dulcie. The two are art connoisseurs, yet they can both appreciate the talent in an artistic piece that might not be considered classically beautiful. While some might view tangled limbs and an imperfect male specimen on a canvas as grotesque, they are both enamored with the emotion such a piece can evoke in the viewer, and therefore can’t deny that it deserves praise. Even if the majority of their contemporaries don’t agree with them.

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Do me a favor. Do yourselves a favor. Stop talking, and look. You’re not required to write a paper. You’re not even required to like it. You *are* required to consider it. – Mona Lisa Smile

When we look at Benedict and Dulcie’s relationship, the majority of regency society would also look upon it as something grotesque and unnatural. And sadly, there are many in our own time who would see it in the same context. But what lies underneath the surface? What do you have when you push the physical component to the side. What lies beneath the paint? Simple, it’s love. Love between two consenting adults who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Love is love and romance is for all. While they can see the beauty in this, and a minuscule number of their contemporaries understand it, for the majority it is seen as too far removed from what society deems as “right” or “proper”. Again, the parallels between their love and the discussion of modern art was so subtly clever that I’m still thinking about it.

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Romance vs. Challenge

While I was fully entranced by the discussion of art for the masses, unfortunately there was one aspect of the novel that I’m sorry to say I had a much harder time falling in love with. And that would be Dulcie. Now, let me start off by saying that eventually he does manage to redeem himself by becoming a devoted partner and friend once again to Benedict. The problem is that it took sooooo long to happen. Throughout the novel Benedict is this adorable, wide-eyed puppy dog that I just wanted to pick up and snuggle, even though he definitely has some bark behind his bite. When it came to Dulcie though, he was like a predatory hawk. Constantly circling, searching for who he could mess with next.

Ok, ok, so a hawk might be too harsh a comparison. How about a puppet master who loved to pull the strings of others? He could tease, seduce and manipulate with the best of ’em. It was really a struggle to know whether or not his heart was ever behind his pursuit of Benedict, or if it was simply a challenge to regain Benedict’s childhood affections. Again, eventually we see Dulcie open up with Benedict, and share some of his innermost thoughts, feelings and fears. I just wish it had come a bit earlier on in the novel. Something else which I think could have helped me warm up to Dulcie earlier was if we could have received a prologue to show how the two initially connected at school all those years before. We see the moment where their interaction ends, and towards the end of the novel we realize how both of them suffered following the end of their friendship, but the missing element for me was that initial crucial moment which connected them in the first place.

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Let’s Get Physical…Or Not

Duclie’s pursuit of Benedict throughout the novel is fairly relentless. Both admit to an undeniable attraction that seems to be pulling the two of them together. For Benedict though, he doesn’t want anything to happen between them unless Dulcie is willing to offer up his mind in addition to his body. For Dulcie? He’s basically just looking for a good ole rough and tumble in the back room of a tavern. He employs all the seductive looks, touches, and smirks at his disposal to try and sway Benedict to his line of thinking. Essentially, he’s a classic playboy. What I found to be so fascinating though was what happened when the two finally did get physical.

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There’s some rubbing, some tugging, some “spending”. Anything beyond that though? Shockingly this is where Dulcie becomes more reserved! Throughout the whole novel his attitude and confidence towards getting Benedict in his hands sort of implies that he’d be the expert and dominant when it came to the physical side of their relationship. What debauchery might they get into when the seducer finally captures his prey? Who knew it would be the complete opposite with Benedict being the more experienced one?!?! It was very interesting to hear Dulcie’s rather negative opinion towards the concept of oral sex, not to mention penetration, almost as though it was beneath his high stature to engage in such uncivilized and…unsanitary behavior. I have a feeling Benedict might succeed in changing his opinion on that matter though 😉

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Penningtons, book 4. This was the first book I read in this series, and I will admit I had trouble with the links between some of the different characters. It was kind of difficult to understand the relationship and familial webs at times.

Final Impression: Overall I can’t say I was fully connected to Dulcie and Benedict as a couple. I couldn’t help but feel that Dulcie’s eventual transformation into a caring and selfless lover came a bit too late in the game for me, and if anything I wanted more for Benedict. As a social and artistic commentary though it was an enthralling read. There are arguments about classic beauty versus opening the mind to modern interpretations that will keep you thinking for a few days.

Smut Level: Any time a couple can successfully balance on a chaise longue whilst exploring each other’s bodies deserves honorable mention. While we don’t get any scenes involving penetration, we get a few decent kissing scenes, tingling spines, tightening of groins, cock-stands, and “spending” a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Bennet Books. 298 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: The Mate by Abigail Owen. Paranormal, Shifters.

Between the Shadows by Casi McLean

I think I can definitively say this was my favorite book of the whole series. It’s like everything finally clicks into place, and the story which has been building for the past three novels comes full circle.

What’s it About?

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She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold.

An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnapping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?

First Impressions

Alright, so let’s get this party started! Our novel once again focuses on the mysterious happenings around the fantastical Lake Lanier in the hills of North Georgia. Near Dahlonega. Well I’ll be a son of a b*tch if I’m not sitting in a hotel room in that very city typing out this review. Small…world! Here’s to work travel bringing you to the edge of the fantasy realm. Now I just need to be sure and avoid any and all lakes. Oh…my…goodness. My drive later this afternoon literally has me going right by Lake Lanier!!! Alright everyone, if you don’t hear from me by the end of the day tomorrow, let’s just assume that I’ve been sucked into a time portal which has thrust me back in time.

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When Past and Future Meet Present

Based on the synopsis you sort of get the sense that Kenzi and James would be the main leads of the novel, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! In my mind, this story revolves around York and Izzy, and they were an undoubtedly intriguing duo with a unique allure that sets them apart from any of the other characters we’ve seen so far throughout the entire series. York is from the future. Izzy is from the past. And yet we see them connect in what we know as the present. It was such a smart way of storytelling that distinguishes it from practically any other time travel romance. And my goodness have I read a few of those. They may meet in the present, and feel an undeniable link to each other, but both can sense that the present is not where they belong.

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Discovering she’s in 2018 rather than the 1800s induces no fear for Izzy, and instead she attempts to see the entire episode as an adventure. She’s definitely braver than myself, lemme tell ya! York is set on saving this woman from whatever fate befell her in the past. She knows she was attacked by a black-bearded man in an abandoned stone cellar in the wilderness of North Georgia at the end of the Civil War. Since her blackout she’s been stuck in the area around Lake Lanier, and can’t move beyond it’s perimeter. When York and his dog come along, she’s shocked that this man can hear her, touch her, feel her. For York, he too is surprised at the immediate connection with this woman from the past, and also by the fact that he feels they’ve met before in his future. That’s all it takes for him to become convinced their destinies are linked, and that he was meant to travel back in time to save her.

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Kenzi and Tess Enter the Mix

York is set and determined to risk his life to save Izzy from her sad, wandering fate. He can’t do it alone though, and relies heavily on Kenzi’s help. She knows how to activate Tess, her grandmother’s time travel device which can help them pinpoint a destination in time by channeling the fantastical energy surrounding Lake Lanier. Not only that, Kenzi also has medical training, which just might be the most useful time travel knowledge to have. Although the synopsis sort of sets Kenzi up as the main focus of the story, in my opinion she took on more of a supporting role.

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The importance of her character was undeniable, as well as her romantic link with a soldier from the past, James. However, I just didn’t feel the same connection with them  as I did with York and Izzy as a lead couple. Kenzi and James’ attraction came across as a bit more surface level, whereas with York and Izzy I felt their fear, their sadness, their desire for each other so much more. There was depth to their connection that was the beating pulse of the whole story. Again, this isn’t to say I didn’t like this other story with James and Kenzi, but it wasn’t the shining feature for me.

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A Time Travel Balance

What made this novel stand out for me when compared to the others in the series is that we see a perfect balance of time eras. We start things off in the present. Izzy is from the Civil War era and somehow infiltrates the solitude of York’s existence after he traveled back in time from the future. York then decides to travel back to Izzy’s time with Kenzi in the hopes that they can save her from whatever tragic fate apparently trapped her to wander the shores of Lake Lanier for centuries. And then we see the ideal culmination of events where Kenzi returns to the future with a companion in tow, while York remains in the past in an attempt to save Izzy. It’s a beautiful story arch of going from the present to the past, and then having the final scenes alternate back and forth between the two. Almost like a song or dance where we have two separate performances which finally blend into a cohesive duet. It made sense, it flowed, and you constantly questioned when and where our characters might end up.

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Fate, Fantasy, and Science

It may have taken me the entire series to finally comprehend, but I’ve ultimately come to the realization that this tale can’t be explained by just science or fantasy alone. Rather, it’s a melding of the two. We have the mysterious time travel element of Lake Lanier which really can’t be explained. This fantastical element can also influence some of our characters to have premonitions of future events, as well as communicate with people in the past. However, the power of the Lake can be harnessed and focused with scientific precision into Tess, which thereby becomes the entrance to the time travel portal. The mystery of Lake Lanier is sprinkled with magic, yet also built upon with science. You sort of need to allow your mind to open up to these possibilities, and realize that it’s not a case of just one or the other. The melding of these two characteristics is so much clearer in this final book that I finally feel like I understand how it all works.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Lake Lanier Mysteries, book 3. A great end to the series in my opinion. Definitely my favorite of the three, but I think it’s imperative you read these in order. Book 1 especially lays the groundwork for all of the time travel elements going forward.

Final Impression: We’re presented with a nice conclusion that combines fate, fantasy, and science. York and Izzy were the standout characters for me, as well as his dog, Prince. Kenzi was sort of the tool to bring them all together, but I couldn’t really connect with her story as much. While interesting, it was definitely overshadowed by the connection of the other two characters, and the suspense of everything they’re dealing with to save Izzy. Everything from the previous books finally clicked into place for me. There’s no question left unanswered, or a set up for some other breakaway story. It’s a touching conclusion to a mysterious series.

Smut Level: We see a number of chin raises, open mouthed kisses, neck nuzzles, and a few mentions here and there of burning loins and rigid members. But no final climactic burst of ecstasy!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 320 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet. Regency, Historical, LGBT

Within the Skin by Zara West

She’s hidden her true identity from everyone for years. Dressing like a man on the outside, on the inside she’s a princess longing for her prince.

What’s it About?

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Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar.

Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy.

Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.

First Impression

First things first, I must say I really appreciated the synopsis that we’re presented with at the start of the novel. One of my main complaints from book two was that we were thrust right back into the story from book one without much of  recap. We’re dealing with a story which spans over the entire series, even though we focus on a different lead couple every time. Everything weaves together, and it’s crucial to know the dynamics of the characters and the intricacies of what has come before. We get a nice little summary at the start of this book which goes over most of the main themes and events from the last novel, which made it much easier to hit the ground running and jump right in with El Toro, aka Alba, and Pharaoh, aka Fur Tree. Man, I really need to up my nickname game. Totally slacking.

Believing in Fairy Tales

You know, this might very well be my favorite book in the series so far. The main reason being I was entranced by the complexity of Alba’s identity as El Toro. She’s worn the facade of being a boy for years to survive on the streets. To help her brother survive. And yet underneath the baggy clothes is a talented artist and young girl who once loved fairy tales and princesses. Her El Toro persona might be as the King of the group, but on the inside hides Alba, a little girl who once dreamed of being a princess. To have two identities within the same person, and witnessing her attempt to try and break free from her El Toro persona for the first time in years was a deeply emotional journey that I loved to travel along with her.

The Juxtaposition of Desire

Another fascinating aspect of this tale was the juxtaposition of El Toro and Pharaoh’s desire and need for each other. She’s secretly craved him for years, but has had to hide her identity behind the notion of brotherly camaraderie. When she finally gets her hands on him, it’s fulfilling a dream she’s wanted to come true for years. For Pharaoh, it’s seemingly love at first sight when he spots this beautiful “stranger”. An inexplicable draw when he first catches a glimpse of her as a woman. His desire is immediate, but if anything he tries to stay away because of his assumption that she must belong to his best friend, El Toro, not knowing that they are one and the same. When he finally gets his hands on her, it’s a sense of the forbidden, yet there’s also a link which was undoubtedly born of their friendship which he isn’t even aware of at this point. You can’t help but wonder what will happen when he undoubtedly discovers that the woman he’s lusting after is actually his best friend.

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Jumping from Building to Building

Overall this novel feels very fast-paced. Everyone is always on their feet, chasing around the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. In addition, we’re constantly wondering how, or even if, they’ll ever escape from our villain Kiro’s clutches. You also lose count of the number of times El Toro’s brother, Hanger, escapes from Kiro only to be snatched up again pages later. But throughout all the running, chasing and threats of evil there are just a handful of moments where time stands still, and that is when Toro and Pharaoh come together in each other’s arms. They explore each other as thoroughly as possible, and make the other see the stars.

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What’s Missing?

Throughout the whole novel I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing, but I could never quite place my finger on it. Only when we get to the final climactic scene where Pharaoh is chasing after El Toro and Kiro did it come to me. I thought, “Oh maybe now he’ll finally find her and they can just have a hug already!” That’s when I realized, these two spend a vast majority of the novel separated from each other. They’re both sort of off doing their own things in the beginning. She’s trying to make it in the art world, and he’s becoming ensnared in a criminal enterprise against his will. Eventually both are dedicated to finding out what happened to Hanger and rescuing him from Kiro’s clutches, but it’s pretty rare to actually find them in a scene together. It does make those few scenes where they come together all the more precious, but I think one or two additional scenes towards the beginning with the two of them interacting, whether for her as El Toro or Alba, would have helped with the balance of the novel.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: The Skin Quartet, book 3. As I mentioned, this might be my favorite book of the series so far. El Toro and Pharaoh were such complicated, yet captivating characters. Be sure to read these books in order though so that you know who all the key players are.

Final Impressions: You really do wonder how they’ll ever manage to get out of this mess with Kiro. I felt like for a good portion of the book I was holding my breath, waiting for a calm in the midst of all the suspense. Those few peaceful moments are also the handful of scenes where we see El Toro and Pharaoh come together in the physical sense, but it doesn’t take long before the pressures of their world start to impede on their small bubble of serenity.

Smut Level: El Toro has been too busy disguising herself as a man, and protecting her brother on the streets to ever get physically intimate with a man herself. She’s desired Pharaoh for years, and when they finally come together she refuses to lay back and let him do all the work. She takes an active role in getting her hands allllll over him. You get some girlfriend!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 245 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: Between the Shadows by Casi McLean. Time Travel, Fantasy.

 

Rogue Dragon Rising: Part One by T.J. Shaw

Let’s kick off the new release extravaganza in style! Shifters and herbivores and a sexy-ass dragon, oh my! This novel is jam-packed with fantastical characters, and its cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more.

What’s it About?

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Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her.

Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy.

As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?

First Impressions

I’m definitely intrigued by this world! It literally pulls you in from the opening scene. But at the same time I can’t help but feel a little bit lost in it. There’s a lot going on! We have shifters, one-souls, sheep, dragons, herbivores, predators, half-breeds, Trinity moon, auctions, Eldians, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things here. Oh, healers! That’s another one. Rogues! Panthers! Gahhh, fantasy character overload! I thiiiiiiink I understand what most of it means, but I would have appreciated a few extra pages focusing on the unique features of this world so I could confidently understand how all the players fit together. Something that you don’t need a guide map to understand though is the electric magnetism bringing Amari and Jaxon together. At times they don’t even need to exchange words. All of their desire and fascination can be expressed solely in their eyes. It’s some pretty heady stuff at times, and it’ll keep you turning the pages for more.

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Who Are You? Who Am I?

In addition to all the fantastical elements at work here, there’s another unique added plot element of Amari having lost her memory. This takes place right at the very start of the book, so we as the audience are just as lost as she is in regards to who she is, or where she comes from. We’ve all encountered romances with this feature, but what makes it even more intriguing in this instance is that she can’t remember what her designation is. Herbivore? Predator? Who knows?!? Definitely not her! When she finds herself being sold at auction she unwittingly declares that she’s a sheep. This is something that Jaxon insists he and his dragon would never be attracted to, but he also can’t deny the intense desire he feels that is constantly pulling him towards Amari. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that she’s not really a sheep, but something else entirely.

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A Desperate Search

Interspersed with Amari’s desperate attempts to remember who she is, we also get a few scenes here and there providing us with glimpses of her family desperately trying to find her. We quickly discover through these side scenes that Amari isn’t a simple, helpless sheep. Far from it. She’s a drakaina. A dragon. Aka, something Jaxon and his dragon had pretty much given up hope of ever finding. It certainly explains to us as the reader why Amari isn’t afraid to look Jaxon in the eye, and even to challenge him at times. She’s his equal, and quite obviously his mate, even if neither of them realize it yet.

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Something I didn’t fully understand though, either through these side scenes with Amari’s family, or the main focus on Amari herself, was in regards to her visions. At the very start of the book when one of the trackers reaches for Amari to kidnap her, she seems to get a vision of how he’ll die. However, this unique ability is never really mentioned again. Why doesn’t it happen when she touches Jaxon? Is it because she’s lost her memory and can’t access this part of her mind? Again, this is another area where I wish we could have seen a bit more explanation, but I have a feeling I’m probably just too impatient at this point, and need to wait to see what book 2 will have in store!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Outside the Veil, book 1. This book ends on a mini cliffhanger. Not the kind that will make you angry, but it leaves you on a point of lustful suspense. I don’t see how you can’t be seduced to find out what comes next.

Final Impression: I was quickly enchanted with this world, but I can’t help but feel as though I was dropped into the middle of it with an old compass to guide me instead of the fancy GPS I’m used to. I can see how more detail and explanation is forthcoming in the future books, especially in regards to Amari’s transition into her dragon form. Not to mention all the drama which might come with that, as her family seems to have kept her in the dark about some of this. That being said, I think a few more pages of set-up introducing some of the particularities of this world would have helped 🙂

Smut Level: We get a lot of smoldering, intense looks. A big build-up at the end as Jaxon pushes her up against a rock with his arms on either side of her. Running his lips along her neck. Pushing his hips into hers. Looks into her eyes to ask for a kiss. We’ll just have to read book 2 to figure out what other sexy good times might be in store!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing, LLC. 105 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: Within the Skin by Zara West. Multicultural Suspense.

Review Madness Starts Monday!

Hey everyone, don’t forget that starting Monday I’ll be switching up my regular posting schedule due to the plethora of new releases coming out next week. I’ll be featuring five novels from five different authors. A new review every day of the week! There’s a little something for everyone, so be sure to check out the schedule outlined below to find out which novels you might be interested in. Prepare yourself for the madness!!

Monday, September 17: Rogue Dragon Rising by TJ Shaw40921417
Genre: Fantasy, Gothic
Synopsis: Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her. Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy. As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 194 Pages.

Tuesday, September 18: Within the Skin by Zara WestWithin the Skin
Genre: Suspense, Multicultural & Interracial
Synopsis: Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar. Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy. Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. 342 Pages.

Wednesday, September 19: Between the Shadows by Casi McLeanBetween the Shadows
Genre: Time Travel, Fantasy
Synopsis: She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold. An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnaping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 320 Pages.

Thursday, September 20: A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss BennetA Sinner Without a Saint
Genre: Regency, Historical, LGBT
Synopsis: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process. But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 287 Pages.

Friday, September 21: The Mate by Abigail OwenThe Mate
Genre: Paranormal
Synopsis: Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it. To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. FREE!! 114 Pages.