Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins

A delightful African-American western historical romance practically filled to bursting with witty banter between our two leads. It will leave a permanent smile on your face for sure!

What’s it About?

Award-winning romance author Beverly Jenkins offers up another high-stakes historical romance that is sure to make you swoon.

With Destiny’s Embrace, Jenkins brings readers back to the American West, where Logan Yates, a self-important ranch owner, must confront his feelings for his beautiful, free spirited housekeeper, Mariah Cooper. While they bicker incessantly, their sexual tension is palpable, and only rises when Mariah’s former lover arrives on the scene. Will she accept Logan’s heart?

Set in 19th-century California, Destiny’s Embrace features unforgettable characters and a satisfying mix of adventure and passion from nation’s premier writer of African-American historical romance.

First Impressions

This was my first foray with a Beverly Jenkins novel, and it was such a fun journey from start to finish! In my mind, this was a most wonderful display of a historical romance, as it sparks your interest to want to explore this time period in even more detail, whether it be through a trip to the local library or a museum. From the streets of Philadelphia to the wide-open ranches of California, we are introduced to such a diverse range of settings and characters that it left me wanting to research as much information as I can find about the experiences and convergence of the indigenous peoples of California, African-American and Hispanic communities of the era. It seemed like at every turn our eyes were opened to another fascinating window of history that we don’t always see as the primary focus of western historical romances. Again, I always see this as the sign of a good historical read, when it lights a fire under you to want to go beyond the pages of the story, and dive deep into the pages of history.

Lying in Wait

Fleeing the physical and mental abuse of her mother, Mariah Cooper sets out across the country to take up a housekeeping position under the employ of a surly bachelor. While I can’t say this romance can be categorized as an enemies-to-lovers story per se considering the short amount of time our two leads have known each other, it’s certainly a tale of stubborn-employer-employee-to-lovers. And honestly, this just might be one of my new official favorite tropes! Both of these characters are strong-willed, strong-headed, and not afraid to admit how much the other drives them absolutely up the wall. However, underneath the stubbornness is a sexual chemistry lying in wait, threatening to break free at any moment. They both try to avoid and ignore it, but it doesn’t take long at all before they’re giving into their desires for each other, even if they lie to themselves that it will only be the one time.

Watching the Clouds

The playful banter between Mariah and Logan had me giggling like a school girl more than I care to admit, and their physical connection had me grinning and blushing in delight. However, something I loved even more was witnessing the growth of these two characters as they spent more time together. One of the most poignant moments in the entire read for me was when Mariah and Logan took a moment from their busy and hectic lives to simply lie back and stare up at the shapes they could distinguish in the clouds. It was a momentous occurrence for Mariah, as we realize she’s never had an opportunity to just be a kid with no worries who could stare up and daydream at the sky.

She was always living under the oppressive thumb of her mother who refused to allow her to engage in such frivolities. Only by striking out on her own is she finally free to act…freely. And Logan is the one to hold her hand and show her how. The mere fact this rough and tumble rancher would take the time to engage in a childhood pastime with his housekeeper shows the kind of influence she’s had on him to simply live in the moment and enjoy life. To take a break from the stresses and responsibilities of ranch life to lie in the grass with someone who is coming to mean a great deal to him. In my opinion, this was the most beautiful and intimate scene of the whole read.

Series: Destiny, book 1. I had a brief moment of panic in the epilogue when we are introduced to a woman giving birth to a baby who she declares she intends to inform the father about. I was so worried we had a cliffhanger on our hands that it was Logan’s, and this would throw a major wrench in the happiness of our couple, but reading the synopsis of the next book reveals that it’s thankfully not the case! We are introduced to so many fun and lovable characters in this first read, I might just have to see what comes next for Logan’s brother.

Final Impressions: It wouldn’t really be fair to categorize this as a slow-read, more that it feels like we have been provided the chance of sitting in to witness the daily lives and evolving love story of our characters. I remember at one point when I was mid-read, I picked up my Kindle one day to say to myself, “ok, let’s see what Mariah and Logan are up to today.” They might be fictional characters living in another era, but they almost feel like friends or neighbors by the end. It’s a funny, sweet read, and witnessing the journey of Mariah transition from a mere child living under her mother’s rule to blossom into a headstrong woman who stands up for what she wants was truly a sight to behold!

Smut Level: This read introduced me to my new favorite form of foreplay: aiding someone up and down from a carriage by grasping their waist and holding them close through the entire action. Phew, mercy me!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. Avon Books. 389 Pages.

Resolutions Embraced by Ayla Asher

When our male lead is introduced as having Stephen Amell good looks, and a personality that’s a cross between Dolly Parton and Tom Hanks…I just knew we were in for something special here!

What’s it About?

She came back to win…and to rewrite a narrative created so long ago…

Chad Hanson has one true love: being mayor of Ardor Creek. With his charming personality, kind nature, and adoration of the small town, it’s as if he was born for the role. Although he dates constantly and loves playing the field, he’s never come close to falling for someone the way he loves his job.

Abby Miller left Ardor Creek after high school, determined to become something other than a pariah.  Chad Hanson had accidentally bequeathed her the name “Flabby Abby,” which destroyed any chance of making friends or having a normal high school existence.

Two decades later, Abby returns, fierce and confident after her tenure as a senior advisor for a prominent Washington D.C. senator.  Armed with her skills and experience, she begins an invigorating campaign to become the first female mayor of Ardor Creek…and to exact a smidge of payback against Chad.

Chad is blown away by his opponent. Drawn to her, he slowly realizes she might actually win…not only the election, but Abby Miller might be the first woman to capture his heart.

First Impressions

Throughout this series I have come to discover that my level of excitement to start every book increases with each new addition! However, while I adore the journey of romance we traverse with all our couples, I also find myself getting increasingly sad as the last page of each book grows ever closer. I fall in love with every couple we meet to the point that I don’t want to see their story end, even if I know another fabulous addition to the Ardor Creek series isn’t far behind. This sentiment also holds true for book four, as we finally get to see the tale of romance play out for our beloved Ardor Creek mayor which has been hinted at in each preceding novel. It is an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance that will leave you smiling and giggling, even when our couple is preparing for sexy fun times. Nothing better than some witty banter to get ya in the mood!

The Past Repeats Itself

Chad and Abby’s story actually began quite a long time ago in high school when both were running for student body president. Chad has always been presented as one of the most lovable characters in all of Ardor Creek, and we see that this was true even back when he was a teenager. And yet, when Chad realizes Abby has a legitimate chance of dethroning him in his reign as student president, he panics at the thought of losing a position he’s loved for the last few years. What follows ultimately turns out to be the biggest regret of his life when he incurs a hurtful nickname for Abby which results in her being a social outcast for the rest of their high school careers.

All of these years later, Chad is preparing to run for a third term as mayor in this small and sleepy town in Pennsylvania. It’s a job that means the world to him, and one that gives his life meaning. He’s convinced he’ll run unopposed, just like the last time he ran, but that expectation crumbles with the return of one very headstrong woman on a mission. Abby is not only determined to bring change to Ardor Creek by being elected as the first female mayor, but also to seek a bit of revenge against the man who ruined her life all those years ago. Let the games begin!

The Thrill of the Race

This novel definitely presents us with an interesting premise, as we are essentially rooting for both of our main characters to win, even if we know that’s not technically possible. Then there’s the issue of their complicated history which brings such a compelling dynamic to both the campaign and the evolution of their relationship. For our fun-loving mayor Chad, while initially surprised at suddenly having some unexpected competition, he’s actually looking forward to the challenge of a race he’s convinced he’ll win.

Not only that, but he’s also eager to have the opportunity to finally apologize and make it up to Abby for the wrong he caused in high school. For Abby, she’s constantly questioning his motives, wondering if his apparent regret is genuine, or if he’s trying to throw off her campaign. Or maybe he’s just that desperate to be loved by everyone? It seems that both characters come to the realization at roughly the same time that their past had a larger impact on their present than what was initially thought, but also that it’s time to put the past behind them and finally move on. Once they achieve that, then they can finally move on to the good stuff!

Find Someone Who Makes You Laugh

Of all the couples we’ve seen so far, Chad by far is my favorite male lead. He has an endearing silliness about him that pulls you in from the get-go, and while you want to slap him upside the head for the lasting hurt he caused Abby, you also realize his regret and desire to make amends is one-hundred percent authentic. As soon as he and Abby can put that history aside and start to work towards a common goal together, this is when the fun of the read truly begins. They are probably the most playful of any couple so far, and their personalities are alike in a way where they complement each other exceedingly well as a couple. Even during sex they had the ability to joke and play with each other that you’ll find yourself simultaneously giggling and blushing from their banter. At times you almost forget they were once enemies, as have quickly become so in-sync with each other that it seems like they have been and will be best friends forever.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 4. Even though I didn’t want this story to end, I also can’t wait to see what comes next!

Final Impressions: In looking back at all of the fun I’ve had with this series so far, this may have been the book that made me smile the most. The mayoral race between Abby and Chad starts things off with a bit of fun competition, and once their relationship officially starts they both kind of let their true silly personalities fly free. I loved how relatable this couple felt, from their nightly routing of brushing their teeth before bed and sexy times, and sometimes even feeling so bloated and exhausted from an oversized burrito that sex simply isn’t gonna happen. The author always shows us the real and even unglamorous side to a relationship that it helps establish the foundation of their characters as people we might really know. They become our friends, and we feel part of the group. Abby’s drive and ambition made her a character we couldn’t help but admire, and Chad’s propensity to sometimes drop the playful persona to show us a glimpse of how vulnerable he can be underneath makes us fall in love with him even more. Who knew that was even possible?!

Smut Level: Three words: edible…strawberry…lube.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 218 Pages.

Truly Inn Love by Amelia Foster

She’s been given a second chance at love with the man she left behind all those years ago. Will these two be able to overcome the mistakes of the past to find a future of happiness together?

What’s it About?

Life choices separated them, but fate proves they are truly in love.

Inheriting the Willow Falls Inn from their aunt and uncle was a gift the Alden sisters couldn’t pass up. With each sibling facing upheaval in their personal and professional lives, eldest sister Gavynn sees returning to the place they called home as the fresh start they all need. But the century old Victorian picks their return to show its age with broken pipes and a mess that makes Gavynn question her choices. But the real chaos comes in the form of the handyman dispatched to rescue them.

Cade Donaldson was finding a new kind of normal after his father’s heart attack. The family construction business flourished under Cade’s management while the older Donaldson recuperated and his routine gave him much needed predictability and comfort. That is until the girl who left Cade without so much as a goodbye came crashing back into his life without warning.

The adolescent bond they formed lingers under the surface, but ghosts they each battle threaten the new future hanging just within reach.

First Impressions

This is a delightfully sweet, light-hearted second chance romance that you’ll want to be sure and bring along on your next beach vacation. Gavynn and Cade were high school sweet hearts with a connection that went right to the heart, but that all ended when Gavynn left for college, breaking up with Cade in a hand-written letter that was bare as to the reasons why. When Gavynn and her sisters move back to Willow Falls to fix up and reopen an inn left to them by their late aunt and uncle, it’s not long before their paths cross with contractor Cade. The love of her life. And my goodness does it sound like this man grew up good. Some chin scruff and a tool belt on top of a killer smile, with a distinct tendency to waggle his eyebrows when he’s feeling cheeky. Seriously, gotta consider the whole moving to a small town to open a business in need of repairs…thing.

Realistic Characters

Something I really appreciated about this read is how mature our two main characters could be when it came to approaching the subject of their past. Let’s face it, Gavynn’s actions were pretty unforgivable, and it could have been so easy for Cade to give her the cold shoulder for however long he wanted to over her past mistake. And yet, aside from some initial awkwardness at their unexpected reconnection over a burst water pipe, for the most part these two realize pretty quickly that the feelings they had for each other never fully went away. More importantly, these feelings are still strong enough to be worth exploring after all this time apart. Cade also allows Gavynn to explain her reasons for leaving on her own terms, when she is good and ready to do so. He never demanded an explanation, and I was pleasantly surprised that the author presented us with a reason that was quite easy for us to understand and sympathize with.

The Bliss and Blunders of Family

Family plays a critical role in the progression of events for our characters in this read. After all, it was dedication to and a love of family which brought Gavynn and her sisters back to their aunt and uncle’s inn, as well as the reason they were willing to pour their life savings into such a risky venture. However, family is also what prompted Gavynn to call things off with Cade when she headed off to school years before. She saw the downfall of her own family at the hands of her irresponsible and selfish parents. They married and had children far before they were ready, and were so enamored with each other that they had no qualms about leaving their three daughters behind with relatives so they could go gallivanting off on their own adventures. Gavynn was abandoned, yet also taken in by family, and she feared that she and Cade were at risk of falling into the same trap as her parents. Only by leaving Cade behind could she live and experience life on her own, and at the end of the day she found her way back to him when the time was right.

An intense fear of losing family is also what causes Cade to almost screw things up once again for this young couple. After his father’s heart attack one year ago during which Cade had to perform life-saving CPR on his dad, Cade subsequently moved in with his parents to always be close by should his father take a turn for the worst. The fear of involving himself so closely with Gavynn that he might be absent when his parents need him most has him act rashly towards his relationship with her, merely out of love for his family. Family was an important theme to be sure, as well as fighting hard to correct mistakes which were made with the best of intentions.

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

Series: Inn Love, book 1. I was looking forward to reading this book. I am absolutely giddy with delight at the prospect of reading book two. The fact I don’t have it at the ready on my Kindle is pure torture.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read with very little conflict, as we instead focus on Cade and Gavynn learning how to love each other again. It was refreshing to see them act as mature adults who have the same hopes, fears and propensity to flub up sometimes, just like the rest of us! They were relatable, personable characters, and even though we didn’t have a ton of drama we did still cover some very poignant discussions on the importance and tribulations of family. Cade and Gavynn were an entertaining couple, but the dynamic between the Alden sisters simply stole the show. I can’t wait for them to get books of their own!

Smut Level: Cade might live with his parents, and Gavynn with her sisters, but that doesn’t mean these two can’t find some time alone to rock each other’s worlds.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sweet Heat Books. 166 Pages.

Desires Uncovered by Ayla Asher

Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any better, the author presents us with a fake engagement story-line. Consider me all aboard on this train to Romancelandia!

What’s it About?

It was supposed to be a casual affair…

Dr. Teresa Roe moved from the bustling city to small-town Pennsylvania, hoping the slower pace would help her focus on finding a partner and building a family. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and Teresa finds herself single in her mid-forties, unable to have the children she craves. Determined to focus on the positives, she builds her thriving therapy practice and joins a hook-up app looking for a fun, no-strings-attached affair.

Mark Lancaster has no time to date or cultivate a relationship, so meeting women on hook-up apps is perfect for his busy schedule. When he meets Teresa, he can’t believe his fortune at finding someone so smart, sexy, and funny. In fact, his casual affair with her quickly becomes the highlight of his hectic life.

When Mark decides to run for County District Attorney, his opponent quickly reveals their relationship, spinning their affair as nefarious and creating a scandal that almost derails the campaign. Thankfully, Teresa agrees to enter into a fake engagement, saving him from ruin. But the road to victory isn’t easy, and as they grow closer, the relationship they both swear is casual begins to grow into something real…

Can two fiercely independent souls find true love amidst scandal?

First Impressions

This series is an absolute treat! We’re now three books in, and aside from a picturesque setting and lovable characters, the other thing I love most is the fact that no two couples or tales of romance are completely alike. I’ll be the first to admit my memory is total crap, and yet I’ve had no trouble remembering the details of our previous couples when they make a reappearance in this book, as each novel has a distinct personality which clearly sets it apart from the others. This installment is particularly delicious as we meet an older couple of main characters who tried to keep things as casual and sexual as possible in the midst of their busy lives. Neither has the time for anything serious, and their precise routine of twice-a-week hotel sex meet-ups works for them in every way.

Upon starting this book I didn’t really read the synopsis beforehand, as I like to be as surprised as possible when it comes to the plot, so you can imagine my utter confusion when these two characters (with obvious chemistry) decided to break things off within the first few chapters, as Mark was going to announce his candidacy for County District Attorney. The bewitching Teresa was someone he knew he wouldn’t have time for anymore, even if he felt a pull to spend as much time with her as possible. I thought to myself…where the heck is this thing going?! Lo and behold, when the details of their hook-ups surface in the news due to some digging by his political opponent, there is only one solution to save Mark’s reputation in the eyes of his constituents. That’s when I fully realized where this story was going and I shouted aloud, “Fake engagement, yasssssss!!!” Totally here for it.

Bad-Ass Boss Bitch

Mark and Teresa are another phenomenal couple to add to this series, but Teresa might take the lead as my favorite female character so far. This woman is pragmatic, strong, totally bad-ass, and honestly the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up. After the initial shock of being labeled as a something of a whore in the press, and considering the potential ramifications on her therapy practice, she allows herself a brief amount of time to mourn and lament before picking herself up by her stilettoes and trudging on. I was so worried that the presence of the press and potential invasion of her privacy and routine would cause a rift between her and the delectable chemistry between her and Mark, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. This woman wasn’t afraid to stand up, speak out, and put on a show when it mattered most. Such a queen of the highest order!

A Touch of Drama

There were a few dramatic components to the plot which lent a distinct flavor to this particular read in the series. Firstly, Teresa is older than your average romance novel heroine, and the fact she can’t have children comes front and center as a major story-line beside the budding romance with Mark. We get a poignant intro before the novel begins that this won’t be one of those reads where a woman thinks she can’t have a baby, but then we get a happily ever after ending with a miracle pregnancy. Nope, this isn’t one of those novels. Pregnancy is a closed door to Teresa, and I for one really appreciated this focus on a woman entering her late 40s who can still take life and love into her own hands, and in a way that sometimes traverses an unconventional route.

Another major component of this story is Mark’s campaign, and how a case involving his sister opens the possibility of defeat. The truly standout feature of this read is that it is really the first book in the series where we are introduced to a villain. We’ve seen a few douche-rockets here and there, but Mark’s political opponent presents us with a whole other level of selfish bum-hole. I remember at one point thinking his combativeness maybe should have been toned down a bit. Surly this transparent level of evil was a tad too cartoonish in its representation? But then it just took a few moments of scrolling through some political tweets on Twitter for me to realize, “oh yeah…this totally tracks.” Hell, if anything he was tame by comparison!

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 3. Since book one I have been eager to get to the story of the next novel, but we were introduced to a new potential future couple for book 5 that has my anticipation level skyrocketing!

Final Impressions: Another great addition to the series. There’s always a perfect mixture of romance, lust, fun and drama in each book, and yet each story and character manages to remain unique from all the others. Honestly, the only hang-up I had with this read was the name of our male lead, but that’s just because I work with a Mark who’s kind of a pain in the bum. Being reminded of his face every time I came across the name was slightly disconcerting, but considering that was really my only complaint…I guess I really can’t complain!

Smut Level: These two might have busy schedules, but believe me…they find time for the good stuff. There is a rather epic scene which takes place in the bathroom that will leave you especially weak in the knees.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 227 Pages.

The Way the Story Goes by Samantha Chase

This sweet read essentially presents us with mini versions of some of my favorite romance novel tropes. From enemies (though brief) to lovers, and neighbors (though temporary) falling in love, all surrounded by a beautifully picturesque beach setting. What’s not to love?

What’s it About?

Thriller writer Mia Kingsley has been hit with a serious case of writer’s block and she needs a little peace and quiet. A beach front property in Magnolia Sound seemed like the perfect escape and just the change of scenery she needs to get the words flowing again. That is, until her noisy neighbor starts running power tools and blasting music at all hours of the day and night. Before long, the next victim in her story starts to bear an uncanny resemblance to the contractor next door.

Austin Coleman never wanted to come back to Magnolia Sound. But sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn and the only way to get back on your feet is to go home. His plan is to avoid all things connected to his past, and renovating a beach house in the off-season is just the way to do that—there’ll be no neighbors and no distractions. Or so he thought until he almost maims his sexy neighbor with a flying sink. Despite his best efforts, trouble follows everywhere he goes.

At first she wanted to kill him. Now she wants to kiss him. Sometimes you have to wait and see where the story goes.

First Impressions

This novel has an adorable meet-cute, and poses the question of what we would do when presented with a noisy neighbor who does construction, blasts loud music and sings horribly off-key all the live long day. Some of us might knock on the door to politely ask if they would mind keeping things down. Others might call the cops out of sheer frustration. Certain people, such as myself, would probably just sit and stew in silence while secretly hoping the universe finds a way to punish them. Mia Kingsley chooses to take the authorly approach by writing this inconsiderate noise-maker into her next novel so she can kill him off in her fictional story rather than in real life. Simply perfect.

If Looks Could Kill…or Resolve Everything

Once Mia sets sights on Austin for the first time however, and he gracefully cleans and wraps an injury on her foot, the rest (as they say) is history. The romance which developed between these two was so adorable. They both acknowledge that whatever is formulating between them is temporary considering they both have professional lives far away from this sleepy seaside town where they’ve met. However, while there is an obvious physical connection that they immediately choose to explore, their interactions aren’t solely reserved to the bedroom. They go on dates, he teaches her how to ride a bike, she allows him to introduce her to his mother’s book club, etc. All of this time they spend outside of the bedroom, having conversations and really getting to know each other, makes it more believable that when faced with the possibility of going home they both question if this newfound romance is worth making drastic changes in their life for.

The Good, the Bad, and the Family

The concept of family plays a critical role in the lives of our characters, both positive and negative. Not only the family they were born into, but the friends they’ve chosen in life who have essentially become family throughout the years. For Austin, family has always been a bit of a sore spot. His mother’s family was viewed as “from the other side of the tracks”, marrying up into his father’s wealthy family. And yet, it was his father who abandoned him, his mother and his brothers when he was just a boy. While he’s always loved his immediate family, the actions of his father had a direct impact on him misbehaving as a youngster, with the entire town and his more uppity family members looking down on him. However, it’s his cousins who have now drawn him back into their world, making him realize he truly belongs even if he still questions whether or not he does.

As for Mia’s family, she was shown love and support all throughout her childhood. It’s really only as she spends more time with Austin and his family that she realizes how much her parents are like Austin’s more judgmental and wealthy relatives. She has the stark realization that her mother and father would look down on Austin just as his rich relatives have, and she wants to spare him the humiliation of ever having to be at the receiving end of their vitriol. However, the fact she isn’t willing to introduce him to her family when he brought her into his leaves Austin feeling like Mia is ashamed to bring him fully into her world. Only when these two listen to the words of wisdom from their best friends and cousins do they realize they’re still worth taking a chance on.

Series: Magnolia Sound, book 7. This is the first book I’ve read in this series, and I’m now tempted to go back and start from the beginning! I could still follow along with the story even though I came to the party rather late, but I can tell we’ve been introduced to a lot of previous characters who were the featured couples of earlier books.

Final Impression: This is a sweet beach read, and I really enjoyed seeing Mia and Austin’s romance develop following such an adorable meet-cute. I also appreciated how open they were about each other’s pasts, though the hiccup with Mia’s parents and Austin’s reaction to not being introduced to them was a bit frustrating. Everything ultimately comes together for a sweet ending that will have you going “awwwww”.

Smut Level: These two have turned foreplay into an art form, especially making use of the elevator in Mia’s beach rental. However, these scenes always ended in a fade-to-black conclusion.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Chasing Romance Inc. 270 Pages.

The Traitor by Abigail Owen

This is the story we’ve all been waiting for! We finally get to explore Rune Abaddon up close and personal, and lemme tell ya, you won’t be disappointed!

What’s it About?

Decades ago, rogue dragon shifter Rune Abaddon took a stand against the decaying, corrupt systems governing their people. He now uses his bad-ass reputation to protect the innocent as it all comes crashing down. But he’s pushed the limits one too many times. His hideout is destroyed, his few allies are scattered and hiding, and the Alliance has placed a dead-or-alive bounty on his head, making him the most wanted dragon in the western hemisphere.

And then the most enticing woman he’s ever met barges into his mountain, demanding an audience.

Hadyn Reece’s future was ripped away long ago. The man fated to be her mate was murdered alongside her parents before Hadyn was old enough to be turned, leaving her to be raised and trained by her dead mate’s parents in the dragon shifter world. Now, the Alliance has come for the only family she has left. It’s a good thing she was raised by dragons, because the only one who can help her save them is a traitor she’d be smart to fear.

Especially when his dragon decides she’s theirs.

First Impressions

I’m in no way exaggerating when I say I have been waiting for Rune’s story with bated breath ever since we were first introduced to his character in book one of this dragon series. After five books in this Fire’s Edge series, and three books in the equally stellar Inferno Rising companion series, the wait is finally over. I’ll never forget seeing when Rune was officially announced on my Twitter feed as the protagonist of this sixth book, and literally squealing in delight upon the reveal, followed closely by a little shimmy dance of delight. This rogue dragon has lingered in the backdrop throughout most of the series, but has slowly been emerging from the background as a key player in this war of dragons. He was initially presented to us as a traitor to his fellow Huracan team of dragon enforcers, an enemy of the high king, stealing female dragon mates from their potential partners. However, as the series progressed it was revealed that this supposed traitor wasn’t stealing mates, he was saving them.

Saving them from certain death at the hands of greedy rulers who cared more about taking mates for themselves rather than finding their true mates. I mean, can you think of a more delicious hero than a rough and gruff dragon with a hidden soft spot, willing to risk having himself labeled as a traitor in order to do what is right? Pardon me whilst I swoon! If I had one mild critique of this part of the story, it’s that I wish we had dug just a bit deeper to hear more from Rune directly what that moment was like years before when he realized that in order to save these helpless women he would need to take measures that would result in his dragon brothers looking upon him with disdain rather than trust. We do get a few moments where Hadyn acknowledges she can’t imagine how devastating that must have been for Rune, or we get a brief glimpse of sadness from this strong man, but it still felt like we only scratched the surface of where we could have gone.

The Rules are Changing

The thing I love most about this series is that it still has the ability to surprise, shock and awe. Each book does have the tendency to follow a standard trajectory of a surly dragon who meets a woman that kicks off his protective alpha tendencies, followed by some sexy fun times, and concluding with an epic battle between our protagonists and enemy dragon forces. However, there are always a multitude of twists and turns mixed in which manage to throw everything you thought you knew about this amazing world completely out the window. This tracks with the progression of the series as a whole, as our characters are starting to realize that the rules of their species and existence are in a state of change.

What once had clearly designated lines of black and white have now blurred into varying shades of gray that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what unexpected development might occur next. This series also has the uncanny ability to tug at the heartstrings, and while most of the books have brought tears to my eyes at some point in the plot, this particular read had the distinction of making me reach for the tissues twice! What can I say? The emotional connection that this author manages to create between our featured couples always latches on hard to your heart, and when something tries to tear them apart we can’t help but feel that heartache ourselves. It is far and above more impactful than the delectable physical connection we also see established between our leads.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 6. Gimme more…gimme everything.

Final Impressions: I wanted it, it was given, it met and even exceeded my expectations. Rune and Hadyn are definitely a standout couple of the series, as both weren’t afraid to lay all their cards out on the table in front of the other. Whether it was admitting how frustrated the other person made them, how much they craved each other, or ultimately how completely devoted they were to each other. Hadyn especially was one of my favorite heroines of the series so far, as she never cowered in the intimidating presence of her surly dragon shifter, and wasn’t afraid to push him to help her when it mattered most. Putting the romantic part of the storyline to the side, the climactic battle scene at the end was so fast-paced and action-packed that I had to force myself to stop trying to skim ahead to the bottom of the page to see what would happen. Always a good sign of a great suspenseful moment in my opinion!

Smut Level: There is a scene on a boat…quickly followed by a scene in the back of a demon’s taxi cab that will leave you looking for a spray bottle of water to cool yourself off.

Get it on Amazon: Click here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara.

Hunting Season by Kate Rudolph

As if being a doctor didn’t present its own challenges, Stasia also has to deal with almost being kidnapped for not the first time in her life, as well as discovering her sexy bodyguard is a werewolf. And I thought I was having a stressful week.

What’s it About?

This werewolf will protect his mate.

Owen has one job: keep Stasia from being abducted. Easier said than done when his fiercely independent client tries to fire him the moment they meet. His werewolf senses howl to life and he’s certain of one thing: Stasia is his.

She’s sick of cocky men.

When her wealthy father hires a bodyguard, Stasia says no. Not exactly a smart move after someone tried to nab her off the street. But she doesn’t need a babysitter. Especially not a cheerfully overbearing bodyguard who makes her heart pound and her fantasies run wild.

When Stasia is yanked out of her glittering world and into Owen’s she’ll need to grapple with an impossible new reality that includes werewolves, silver bullets, and fated mates.

Is she ready to embrace her new world? Or will she run back to a universe of glittering high rises and leave her destiny behind?

First Impressions

A rather distinctive feature of this fantasy romance is that while our hero Owen and his fellow bodyguard teammates are werewolves, they were only recently changed into these lycan beasts through some mysterious ceremony. They weren’t werewolves by birth, or by being bitten. Not only that, but after the conclusion of the ceremony, their captors disappeared, leaving them no information as to the expectations or rules of this world they’ve now been brought into. It’s not like they can easily pick up a handbook in the local library to learn what their new lives will entail that might be different than myth or pop culture might lead them to believe. Everything was a question mark for them to discover on their own as time passed rather than having it all clearly outlined for them, which definitely made this werewolf story different than any other I’ve come across recently. I did have a good giggle at one point though when Owen was commiserating the fact there wasn’t much source material out there for them to reference beyond Teen Wolf, and I thought, “Oh sweetie, have a walk down the romance novel section of any bookstore and you’ll have plenty of options to consider.”

Right, Werewolves!

Even though I enjoyed the fact our lycan characters were still learning what it meant to be a werewolf, unfortunately I don’t think this storyline was incorporated as fully into the overall plot as it could have been. I actually found myself continually having to remind myself throughout the first half of the book that this wasn’t just a standard bodyguard/client romance. Other than Owen feeling uber possessive towards Stasia in a way that has him wanting to refer to her as his “mate”, there really weren’t many paranormal elements built into a good portion of the story. Once the werewolf storyline does eventually present itself front and center, sadly this is when my disappointment with the book came full throttle.

Upon discovering that the man she’s been sleeping with is a werewolf, and one of his teammates has bitten her, but none of them know if she’ll be fine, die, or turn into a werewolf herself, Stasia seems…perfectly fine with these revelations and subsequent uncertainties. No real moments of panic at any point. I don’t know if this was supposed to reflect the strength of her character, or that her trust in Owen surpasses any possible concern, but even for a werewolf romance it felt somewhat unbelievable that she would have so little reaction upon this discovery. Especially when we consider she’s known Owen for about a week. I almost wish this was a world in which everyone knew about the existence of werewolves, and she just had to deal with the realization that her new bodyguard was one of them. It would have made her apparent lack of shock more plausible. The only real freak-out she has in the book is when someone suggests she and Owen might marry soon. Werewolves and mates she could deal with, but not with the concept of being a bride? Mkayyy?

Series: Guarded by the Shifter, book 1. I’m debating on whether or not to continue with this one.

Final Impressions: The vast majority of this book is build-up, with very little progression or resolution to Owen’s werewolf storyline. Even when it comes to Stasia’s multiple kidnapping attempts throughout the book, one of which was quite violent, we never really learn who was behind it or why, just that it had something to do with her father’s business dealings. The most frustrating aspect though was the lack of forward momentum in the werewolf origin story. When Owen recognizes very early on that one of the members of Stasia’s security team was present at the ceremony that turned him and his teammates into werewolves, he sits on this info without telling them until almost the last scene of the book. We don’t even get one scene involving Owen confronting or speaking to this man. It was such a disappointment that the story never really progresses towards any kind of tangible revelation, and instead we’re left with the impression more will be revealed in future novels.

Smut Level: Owen might view Stasia as his, but she’s not afraid to stand up and claim him as her own. While the steamy scenes were quite detailed and enjoyable, I do think after a while there was too much focus on them rather than moving the plot forward where it really required attention.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Celestial Heart Press. 274 Pages.

Sexy Filthy Boss by Piper Rayne

This sweet and steamy romance is the perfect example of why office romances are the best of bad ideas.

What’s it About?

He’s the sexy alpha male in the corner office who goes through assistants faster than free donuts in the breakroom.

I’m the assistant who was chosen to cover for his last fire.

The owner of the company is clear–hook the biggest client in our firm’s history and there’s a partnership for him and a promotion for me. Stipulation–we do it together.

It doesn’t take a tarot card-reading psychic to figure out where our story is headed… late nights, trips out of town, and more than a few awkward moments filled with sexual tension.

No worries though. I pride myself on my willpower. I can totally ignore his sexy grin, his rock-hard body and his dreamy brown eyes. I will not become the woman other women hate.

But it turns out that Enzo Mancini has a lot of layers and if I don’t stop peeling, I’m going to lose everything, including my dignity.

First Impressions

I will admit, based on the title of this read I think I went into it expecting something filthier than what we ended up getting! 🙂 While Enzo was definitely all kinds of sexy, and he certainly enjoyed his dirty talks and sexting, I’m not sure he ever exhibited any behavior deserving of the moniker “filthy”. For something like that I think we would have needed to see some office desk, elevator or stairwell sexcapades. Instead, we get some delicious slow-build of heat and flirtations which ultimately boil over into an explosive work trip with just one hotel room, followed by a plethora of heated scenes where Enzo and Annie finally give into the desires they’ve been pushing aside after the last few weeks of working together in such close proximity. These two may have taken some time to admit their willingness to give a go at a relationship, but it was fairly clear early on that Enzo wasn’t the difficult hard-ass he had been portraying himself to be. He actually has a soft spot for his family, a dedication to his work, and a growing need for Annie that extends beyond the bedroom. Things couldn’t always be smooth sailing though, and eventually we see how office romances aren’t just sexy affairs with no consequences.

Office Romance and Culture

This book does a fantastic job of not only showing us the potential pitfalls in exploring an office dalliance with a co-worker, or more accurately in this instance, a supervisor and subordinate. It also provided an unexpectedly profound window into office culture, and how even some good people with the best of intentions can sometimes be blind to the inequities around them. First things first, I appreciated that this read provided a glimpse at the realistic highs and lows of an office romance. Working together in such close quarters brought about a sense of closeness and chemistry that neither Enzo nor Annie could ignore forever. However, thankfully they reserved their physical relationship to moments outside of the office itself. Sure, there were a few times when Enzo tried to tempt Annie into a quickie with the office blinds closed, but it never resulted in anything, and surprisingly his suggestions came across as rather cringeworthy in their professional surroundings.

These two characters felt like real people rather than fictional strangers, so even though I would normally applaud some office desk sex in a romance like this, I almost appreciated it more that the author refrained from taking things that far. Although this novel was fairly light-hearted with some pretty comedic scenes between our lovebirds, as well as his family members, we also get a rather serious look at the outdated and sexist opinions which can still exist amongst the leadership of a workplace. Even though Enzo never really participated in it directly, we do see the impact of the fact he never noticed the realities of the situation around him until Annie opened his eyes to it.

Series: White Collar Brothers, book 1. I’ll continue with this series. Enzo’s family members were hilarious, and I’d love to spend more time with them.

Final Impressions: I enjoyed this read! Sexy, dirty-talking boss may have been a more apt title, though I understand it’s not quite as catchy. I loved Annie’s ability to put her ideas forward, and to have her voice heard when it mattered most. A strong heroine for sure! As for Enzo, he remains rather cocky throughout most of the book, but we get a fabulous grand gesture at the end that is hard not to swoon over.

Smut Level: This read gives us the perfect combo of a slow burn in the first half, followed by some steamy sexiness in the second half. Let’s just say Enzo and Annie manage to work through all their condoms the first night they spend together in the hotel.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 328 Pages.

Gray’s Promise by Anni Fife

Zoey and Gray have tried to put their tragic past behind them, but they both realize that their only hope for moving on is to confront their past together.

What’s it About?

Zoey Morgan seems to have it all as a successful surgeon in Boston. However, perfection lies only on the surface. Plagued by nightmares and amnesia from a tragedy that ripped her family from her fourteen years ago, she finds the courage to reach out to the only man who can make her feel safe. She’s buried the memory of their love, but her heart—and her body—responds to the ex-marine in ways that are all too familiar.

Grayson “Gray” Walker’s heart shattered when Zoey chose another man over him. Since then, he’s built an impenetrable wall around his emotions. But from the moment she implodes back into his life, her vulnerability breaches his defenses. His skills as an elite member of the King Security team cannot shield him from the devastation of learning he might have left Zoey high and dry when she needed him most. Now, Gray must navigate the tripwire of helping her heal while protecting himself from being hurt again. As the embers of their potent love reignite, an old threat awakens, leading to greater danger than ever before.

First Impressions

I made the somewhat regrettable decision to start this book about 30 minutes before my designated bedtime, and I really need to get in the habit of avoiding this tactic unless I know with absolute certainty that I have a light-hearted comedy at hand. While I knew this was going to be more of a suspenseful read, I wasn’t prepared for our book to open on a hospital scene in the aftermath of Gray discovering the love of his life has been raped, her family brutally murdered, and if that wasn’t cruel enough, she’s wearing an engagement ring given to her by his brother. If that’s not a gut-wrenching way to start a book right before you go to sleep, then I don’t know what is!

Moving on From Tragedy

I must say, I did find it a little hard to believe that Gray would have left Zoey behind after facing such an epic tragedy, especially seeing as her mind wouldn’t allow her to remember the details of that tragic evening when everything changed. Even if she was suddenly and unexpectedly engaged to his brother, their love was so strong simply a day before that to pick up and leave seemed rather odd. However, if anything it demonstrated that in the immediate aftermath of inexplicable horror, sometimes we’re not always thinking clearly. After a few years, Gray does make the attempt on repeated occasions to try and connect with Zoey once again, but her inability to confront what really happened that night to her and her family means that she ultimately pushes him away until he refuses to try anymore.

It was fascinating to see that both of these characters mistakenly assumed that by turning their back on the past would they then be able to move forward into the future. However, one day Zoey comes to the realization that only by forcing herself to try and remember who attacked her family would she be able to bring justice to their memory, and truly be able to move on. She just needs the presence of one man by her side to do this, the one man who always made her feel safe, the one man who seemingly no longer wants anything to do with her. The wounds she encountered that night weren’t just physical, but rather they also had a deep-rooted mental impact. After so many years removed from their family homes, it’s only by looking back at everything with a fresh perspective that Zoey and Gray are able to realize that what they were both led to believe about that night only raises more questions than answers.

A Somewhat Expected Conclusion

For about the first two chapters of this book I had one primary suspect in my mind as the perpetrator of the heinous crimes committed against Zoey and her family. After some slight tweaking, I had a new theory that I held throughout the remainder of the book, and lo and behold it ended up being right. While it provided for some interesting dynamics between various characters, I also couldn’t help but feel that it was almost a bit too obvious of a realization. It might make sense that some characters were too close to the action for them to be able to acknowledge the truth, but surely it would have been obvious to the local police or other investigators throughout the years? Although the “who dunnit” aspect of the mystery was fairly obvious, it didn’t lessen the intensity level as we see Zoey and Gray slowly start to put together the pieces of the puzzle. This ultimately led to an exciting climactic conclusion that brings everything back full circle to the tragic scene upon which our novel opened.

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

Series: A King Security Novel, book 2. I really do love the members of this security team.

Final Impressions: It was interesting to see Zoey and Gray learn how to trust each other again before they could take the next step of confronting their past together. Nevertheless, because the mystery had a somewhat obvious conclusion, it almost made the journey to get there feel a bit tediously drawn out. The many years of distance from the events of that evening helped create this delicious tension between Gray and Zoey that they were forced to address, but I almost wonder if it would have made more sense if the novel had taken place just a few months, or at most a few years afterwards. As it stood, it was kind of hard to believe the perpetrator could have gotten away with it for as long as they did, especially considering the only thing attributing to their freedom this whole time was the fact Zoey’s mind wouldn’t let her remember the events of that night.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaamn! Even though Zoey and Gray don’t have intercourse until almost the very last scene of the novel, that doesn’t mean they don’t explore all manner of delicious dirty deeds before then. And these scenes are not only detailed, but lengthy, so you have plenty of time to enjoy them in their entirey.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 408 Pages.

Garridan’s Mate by Rebecca Hefner

These two bad-ass Vampyre soldiers are committed to doing whatever is necessary to save their fellow countrymen, and each other, from the forces of evil.

What’s it About? 

Lose yourself in the magic…

General Garridan has lived for centuries without a bonded mate. Born an aristocrat, he chose to forgo his family’s wealth and privilege to fight in the Vampyre immortal army. After the centuries-long War of the Species ended, a new foe emerged, reaffirming his vow to protect his people. Although his father wants him to bond with an aristocrat and settle down, Garridan only has eyes for one woman.

Siora is a natural warrior. When the immortal army finally allows women to join, she pledges to become the first battalion leader as conflict consumes the realm. Once they defeat Bakari, she can settle into a security role at Lynia and help her father at his farm. Dreams of the amber-eyed Vampyre who relentlessly pushes her during training have no place in her world, even if the general is the only man who’s ever made her long for a bonded mate.

Consumed by her skill and effort, along with her inherent natural beauty, Garridan offers to help Siora secure a leadership position as they near the final battle. Although she swears they have no future, Garridan finds himself longing to claim the stubborn woman as his mate, no matter the cost. Can two warriors from different paths find love amid their blazing desire, or will fear douse their spark before it’s barely begun to burn?

First Impressions

We were initially introduced to Siora in the sixth novel of the Etherya’s Earth series “The Cryptic Prophecy”. I distinctly remember the first scene where she was introduced to interact with one of our main characters in that book and immediately thinking, “Mkay, so she’s definitely gonna need her own book one day.” Lo and behold, wish for something with every fiber of your being, and you shall receive.

While Siora and Garridan don’t get their own full-length novel, we get this perfect intermediary novella which essentially takes place in the last few weeks leading up to the epic battle which took place at the end of book six, and concludes with us in the same timeframe as when that book also ended. This novella was truly the perfect vehicle to tell the story of these two soldiers. It makes sense with their combat training that their love would blossom in the close quarters leading up to the final battle. Had there been an attempt to squeeze their story into book six in between the scenes of Callie and Brecken’s romance, I don’t think it would have received the attention it deserved. Therefore, this novella provides us with the perfect opportunity to see their story as a stand-alone rather than an afterthought, while still fitting into the overall general timeline of the series. Smart move by the author for sure!

An Activity Better than Sex?

Do you know how I realized this book was going to be amazing within just the first few pages? Easy. Battalion commander + soldier = sparring. Lots…and lots…of sparring. And lemme tell ya, that is Siora and Garridan’s physical activity of choice throughout the vast majority of this read, which of course inevitably leads to a more sultry pastime. When Garridan first offered to train with Siora for a few hours in the evenings I immediately said to myself, “If these two don’t end up with Siora flat on her back and Garridan splayed out over her thighs with her hands held down by both of his at some point, you can revoke my romance novel fan-card right now.” Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long at all for this blessed scenario to occur. The true benefits of a novella: you don’t have to wait around before you get to the good stuff. And believe me when I tell you there was plenty of delicious stuff to enjoy in this one.

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 6.5. Part of the Hearts Unleashed Anthology. While I didn’t read the rest of the anthology in which this novella appeared, I can tell you that Etherya’s Earth is definitely one of my favorite series ever.

Final Impressions: Sometimes I don’t always understand half-books in between full-length novels of a series, but in this instance it really worked. We get just a small glimpse of the suspense of battle at the very end of this short read, but for the most part this novella provides us with a welcome breather in between some of the more intense action happening in the series as a whole. We primarily get to indulge in the passionate scenes of Siora and Garridan learning how perfect they are for each other. I also appreciated that Garridan never pushed Siora into admitting they were destined mates before she was ready. When she expressed hesitancy over a future with Garridan, he had the wherewithal to give her the space she needed to realize on her own that they were meant for each other. Absolute perfection!

Smut Level: So…much…sparring!! The fact Garridan had the strength to literally tear the sports bra from Siora’s chest on more than one occasion was a pure delight. We’ve all come across scenes of panty ripping, but sports bra ripping is a special category all on its own.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Naughty Nights Press, LLC.