Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan

By the end of this novel you can’t help but wonder who loves Melanie more: the man or the dragon?

What’s it About? 

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In exchange for a vial of dragon’s blood to save her brother’s life, Melanie Hall offers herself up as a sacrifice to one of the British dragon-shifter clans. Being a sacrifice means signing a contract to live with the dragon-shifters for six months to try to conceive a child. Her assigned dragonman, however, is anything but easy. He’s tall, broody, and alpha to the core. There’s only one problem—he hates humans.

Due to human dragon hunters killing his mother, Tristan MacLeod despises humans. Unfortunately, his clan is in desperate need of offspring to repopulate their numbers and it’s his turn to service a human female. Despite his plans to have sex with her and walk away, his inner dragon has other ideas. The curvy human female tempts his inner beast like no other.

First Impressions

When I first started listening to this audio book, I remember thinking that the description of this agreement to live with a dragon-shifter clan as a “sacrifice” seemed a bit over the top. After all, that term is usually associated with death, and this contract essentially seems to revolve around sex. A vial of life-saving dragon’s blood in exchange for Melanie spending six months with a dragon in an attempt to procreate. However, it’s not long before we discover that most women who enter into this kind of exchange aren’t strong enough to survive the complexities of giving birth to a dragon. More often than not, it results in the woman dying. Lo and behold the sacrificial moniker seems a bit more appropriate!

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The premise of this novel seemingly had everything you would want in a fantastical romance that would result in an exciting and phenomenal read. Human and dragon thrown together. A binding agreement to have a child in exchange for the blood needed to save her brother’s life. Moving to a remote dragon community which is un-trusting of outsiders. Dragon hunters for crying out loud!! Let’s get this party started!!! Unfortunately, after this premise is outlined to us and we’re introduced to all the key players, the story never really gets elevated to it’s full potential.

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It’s Almost Too Easy

Melanie gets pregnant almost immediately, meaning the question of whether or not she’ll be able to fulfill her side of the bargain evaporates instantly. The next feature which we would undoubtedly start to wonder about would be the threat to Melanie’s life in childbirth. However, this never really seems to be an issue at the forefront of our character’s minds, or at least we’re never presented with a building amount of tension as her pregnancy progresses where it appears to be a primary concern. Instead the sole focus is on the interactions between Melanie, Tristan, and his dragon, as well as Melanie figuring out how to integrate into this new community she’s found herself in.

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The animosity between Melanie and the dragon villagers was another feature that I thought could build up some interesting tension, but yet again this is an aspect which never resulted in any kind of direct confrontation. The angst and contention of the novel is focused instead between Melanie and Tristan, but possibly more so between Tristan and his dragon. Upon first meeting, Tristan’s dragon immediately recognizes Melanie as his mate, and the urge to claim her as their own kicks in right away. However, we see that Tristan is constantly fighting against his dragon’s connection to Melanie, and it seems as though his dragon has a strong emotional connection to her than he does throughout the entirety of the book. They obviously have a sexual connection, but if we didn’t see such desperation on the side of his dragon to be near Melanie, I seriously question if Tristan was really all that interested in her.

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Series: Stonefire Dragons, book 1. While this first book wasn’t my favorite, I was intrigued by some of the secondary characters. I could see myself exploring book 2 at some point in the future.

Final Impressions: Simply put, I wanted more from this one. The foundation for a spectacular novel was definitely there, but it wasn’t as action-packed and suspenseful as I would have liked. The most disappointing feature of the book for me was the fact that we never see any direct conflict with the dragon hunters. The only action sequence which does take place with them happens “off camera”, and we only see the aftermath rather than the action described in real time. I will say the inner musings and arguments that Tristan has with his horny dragon were quite humorous, and combining this erotic desperation with the voice of our narrator (who sounded like a stuffy British librarian) lent an unintentional comedic tone to certain aspects of the story. Overall I think too much time was spent on Tristan trying to fight his connection to Melanie, and I was never fully convinced of his commitment her.

Smut Level: Upon first mating, Tristan’s dragon is determined to impregnate Melanie as quickly as possible. Let’s just say they don’t leave the bedroom until it’s mission accomplished.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Mythical Lake Press, LLC. 258 Pages.

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Walk Through Fire by Kristen Ashley

Can you think of any better start to the day than a bad-boy biker romance audio book that’s 17 hours and 45 minutes long? Because I sure can’t.

What’s it About? 

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Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder-a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and made it so he had no choice but to walk away. Twenty years later, Millie’s chance run-in with her old flame sparks a desire she just can’t ignore. And this time, she won’t let him ride off . . .

Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was a beautiful woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when his true love walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous, but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep-and he doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break all over again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man . . .

First Impressions

Almost 18 hours of audio book. That’s over 600 pages in equivalent page length. Did this book need to be that long? No. Did it feel long? Pretty much. The first part of our story involves a constant switching back and forth between Logan and Millie’s idyllic past featuring the start of their relationship, juxtaposed against their tension-filled present which takes place 23 years after Millie walked out on Logan with no warning or explanation. It’s kind of strange to think they’ve lived in the same town all that time without bumping into each other, but then one random stop at a Chipotle’s can change everything. Throughout this entire first half of the book we’re constantly questioning how/why Millie could have abandoned Logan, but then we eventually discover how her leaving was a demonstration of her “walking through fire” for him. She brought pain to herself and him, but she thought it was all so that Logan could live a better life without her.

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When we do eventually discover why she felt the need to throw their relationship by the wayside, I must admit it was a pretty disappointing reveal. She caused so much turmoil for something that could have been less painful if she’d merely opened up to Logan, and admitted the hard time she was going through. Instead, she chose to turn her back on him, and leave him wondering for over two decades what went wrong. Something I did appreciate though was Logan’s reaction to finally discovering her reasoning. Understandably, he’s pissed. Like, super pissed. He even goes to her sister, who knew all along why Millie felt the need to run away, and he gives her a good talking to saying that if she’d merely confided in him he could have resolved things fairly quickly. And yet, he also admits to both himself and her sister that if the roles had been reversed he probably would have made the same decision Millie did. It was such a mature acknowledgment for him to say that while he doesn’t blame Millie for her decision, it doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it.

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The Missing Element

After Logan learns why Millie left him all those years ago, we see how the second half of the book deals with him determined to win her back, and get back to a life of somewhat normalcy. This is something that I feel Kristen Ashley does very well, which is to paint us a picture of the regular, everyday lives of seemingly bad-ass bikers. For example, we see them bicker over what to cook for dinner, and what shows to watch on television. I’m sorry Logan, but I’d have to agree with Millie that Downton Abbey is always the correct choice. Then we see some more of the complexities involved with Logan and Millie coming back together, including learning how they’ve both changed in the years since their separation, and slowly introducing Millie to Logan’s two daughters. This biker might have a tough exterior, but we’re also witness to moments of affection between him, Millie, and his daughters that help ground him.

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As you can see, a lot is going on with this read. Flashbacks to Logan and Millie’s initial love story, scenes in the present reflecting their animosity, a final admission to the root cause of Millie’s abandonment, learning to love again, introductions of Logan’s daughters and ex-wife. And yet, on top of all this there was one thing missing. Those of you who are familiar with my reviews of this series will probably know what I’m going to say. There’s barely any suspense! Once again, we hear mention throughout the entire book of a rival gang to the Chaos motorcycle club, and a villainous leader who seems intent on bringing down our favorite MC. However, we’re always deprived of any kind of momentous confrontation between the two groups, which makes the entire book feel relatively lacking in action. At this point, I can’t help but wonder why there’s even a bother with putting in these brief snippets of suspense in each book when they continually go nowhere? It’s like the whole series is building up to one final battle, but we’re not getting enough incorporation of this side plot for us to be fully invested in its resolution.

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Series: Chaos, book 4. Of all the books in the Chaos series so far, I’d have to say this one was probably my favorite.

Final Impressions: Even though I didn’t agree with Millie’s abandonment of Logan with no explanation, they are both rather enjoyable characters, and you become invested in seeing them find their way back to each other. She also had two adorable-sounding kittens that were my favorite aspect of the book. That being said, it could have been half the length, and this side plot with the rival motorcycle gang that always goes nowhere brought things down for me. Not to mention, you could have played a drinking game with the number of times there was a reference to Millie having to “walk through fire”, or having “walked through fire, or was currently “walking through fire” in regards to Logan. There’d probably be a good chance of alcohol poisoning though. Consider yourself warned.

Smut Level: Take my advice and don’t read this baby in the bathtub like I did. You’ll spontaneously combust from the excessive heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 602 Pages.

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Knights’ Sinner by Bella Jewel

Serenity has finally found a family that she can connect with, and love wholeheartedly. Too bad she’s been sent on a mission to infiltrate their ranks, and ultimately bring them down.

What’s it About? 

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Jackson is always considered the ‘softie’. He’s the first to help people out when they’re in need. He’s President of the Hell’s Knights and he figures it’s about time he shows the world how much of a sinner he can be.

Serenity has a dark past. Secrets haunt her and she has no way of escaping them. Hogan is the only family she knows and life with him is brutal. And it’s about to get worse.
He sends her on a mission.

On a mission to destroy the Hell’s Knights and the Heaven’s Sinners. Can she pretend with a club she doesn’t know? Or will she betray Hogan for the man she’s falling in love with?

First Impressions

Of all the novels in the MC Sinners series, I must say this has been my favorite one so far. I was on the verge of stopping the series altogether after the first two books, but this third novel really brought things together on a bit of a high note for me. Whereas the first two books kept the dramatic and suspenseful elements of the plot relegated to the background, Knights’ Sinner brings it more to the forefront with Serenity’s espionage of going undercover to become a mole inside of the Hell’s Knights and Heaven’s Sinners compound. We see a big focus of her falling in love rather quickly with the MC president, Jackson, but throughout it all there’s the constant fear of everyone discovering her true identity, not to mention the fear that her abusive father will realize she’s starting to side with this enemy biker gang. While it’s not without its flaws, this third book has been the most exciting of the bunch, and had a more even blend of intrigue, romance, and erotic passion.

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Priorities

While Serenity’s undercover mission lent an air of suspense and excitement to the plot, it was also by far the most frustrating aspect of the story. Serenity knows pretty quickly upon arriving at the compound, and meeting Jackson, that she won’t follow her father’s orders of relaying accurate information about the club’s plans and security forces. She cares too much about this family of bikers who took her in when she seemingly had nowhere else to go, and she can’t imagine betraying them. That being said, she pushes aside every opportunity to tell Jackson the truth about how she came to be with them, and that her father is plotting to bring them down. In the beginning it’s understandable why she would be hesitant, but as time goes on it just becomes more and more ridiculous and puzzling as to why she refuses to open up to Jackson about her past, and ask him for help to release her from the clutches of her father.

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At one point Serenity is on the very edge of admitting the truth, but she clams up and instead decides that blurting out how much she’s intrigued by the concept of a threesome involving Jackson and one of his biker brothers would be a better idea. Um…ok. She knows she’s waiting too long, and acknowledges that Jackson will hate her when the truth inevitably comes out, especially after he admits how much he was hurt by an ex who turned out to be someone she wasn’t. And then it happens, the truth comes out, and what she feared would happen…happens. Jackson pushes her away. The biker family no longer trusts her. Just like she knew would happen. And yet Serenity’s response to their shunning her is pure rage and frustration. How dare they judge her! They don’t know the emotional and physical abuse she suffered for years at the hands of her father. She had no choice, yada yada. But…the problem is that she had soooooo many opportunities to come forward and ask for their help! Instead she seemed more interested in getting her three-way on. Priorities girl, get it right.

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Series: MC Sinners, book 3. It looks like there’s just one more half book in this series, but I think I’ve found myself at a good stopping point.

Final Impressions: Overall I really enjoyed the suspense of Serenity’s deception which was woven throughout the romantic story line developing between her and Jackson. That being said, her secretiveness went on for way too long, and diverting attention away from her past to focus instead on a threesome with Jackson just seemed like an odd tactic, albeit a sexy one. There was an exciting build-up of anticipation as you wonder how and if the club will finally succeed in taking down Serenity’s father. In the end, you gotta love he’s one of those villains who likes to pause and describe in long, drawn out detail all of his plotting and scheming. Although it wasn’t a perfect story from start to finish, it was definitely an improvement upon the groundwork which was laid from the first two novels.

Smut Level: Serenity might start off as a virgin in this novel, but by the end she’s had a threesome, explored the painful euphoria of anal sex, and come into her own as a sexy vixen and temptress for Jackson.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 350 Pages.

Aflame by Penelope Douglas

What happens when the happily ever after ends?

What’s it About? 

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Everyone wants to be me. Maybe it’s the sway of my skirt or the way I flip my hair, but I don’t care. Even though their attention is the last thing I crave, I just can’t stop. I dominate the track, the speed rattles my bones, and the wind and the crowd screams my name. I’m her. The girl driver. The queen of the race. And I’m surviving—something he thought I’d never do.

They all talk about him. Did you see Jared Trent on T.V? What did you think of his last race, Tate? When is he coming back to town, Tate? But I refuse to care too much. Because when Jared does come home, I won’t be here. Tatum Brandt is gone. I’m someone new.

First Impressions

So, it’s been over two years since I read the last book in this series. The fact that this fourth novel revisits the couple allll the way back from book one meant that I needed a bit of a refresher to remember who the heck these people were! After reading through a few synopses online it all came rushing back to me, but nevertheless the start of this novel definitely throws you for a loop. After all, the last time we saw Tatum and Jared they were madly in love with each other, and were always the glue that held this small group of friends together throughout the entire series. However, when this fourth and final book opens we find that they’ve been broken up for a few years now, and seemingly can’t stand to be around each other. As far as the progression of a series, this one is surely unique in that we once again get to revisit the couple which started off this whole world, and we see that things weren’t necessarily all rainbows and sunshine after their happily ever after.

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A Bump in the Road

While Jared and Tate had a rocky road to eventually finding love during their last year of high school, books two and three of this series highlighted that their relationship was stronger than ever. So where did it all go wrong? As it turns out, when Tate was happily following her dream of studying in college, starting out on the path to one day becoming a doctor, Jared was secretly sulking. He may have been blissfully and wholeheartedly in love with Tate, but he was unhappy with other aspects of his life, mainly in regards to what his calling would be in terms of a profession. Jared ultimately decided he had to break out of the humdrum routine of his life to figure out what it was that he really wanted to do. Mkay, totally understandable. The problem though is that he went about it in a rather shit way!

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Essentially, Jared secretly stewed in his melancholy without opening up to Tate about how he was really feeling, and basically made up his mind on his own to pack up his bag and leave her behind one day without any warning whatsoever. For all she knew up until that point, they were both living their best lives. Tate saw his departure and search for an identity as a selfish choice whereby he abandoned her. Jared on the other hand still loved her, and just assumed that because of their close connection she would understand what he was thinking. His biggest misstep in this whole situation was that he assumed she would wait for him. Why should she? Jared gave no indication of where he was going, when he might be back, nor did he attempt to establish any lines of communication with her before he left. While we do sympathize with his ennui with life, Jared should have confided in the love of his life about everything. All in all, he certainly dropped the ball on the matter, and shouldn’t have been too surprised when Tate ultimately turned to another man in an attempt to move on following Jared’s departure.

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“I left so I could be a man for you, so I could come back to you.”

A Trip Back Home

So that’s how our novel opens! The perfect couple apparently wasn’t so perfect after all. They haven’t seen or spoken to each other in years, and yet when Jared is called home by his mother to welcome the birth of his little sister, his and Tate’s paths cross once again. After all these years Tate is still bitter about Jared’s unexpected departure, and he judges her for not trusting in him to return. Lo and behold when the two meet again they can’t help but revert to their old ways. It was pretty humorous, yet also somewhat preposterous that now that we see them as adults they both adopt the same relentless strategies they used when they were teenagers, and the story once again manages to feel like a high school drama.

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The truly interesting component though is that whereas their teasing back in book one quickly devolved into controversial bullying, now that they’re adults the teasing becomes a form of sexually charged foreplay. Sure, they throw out some low blows and say some shitty things to each other, but you almost roll your eyes at the fact that we all know where these two are gonna end up. In bed…naked…with each other. Why do they fight it? No freakin’ idea. Especially when they both admit to themselves they still have feelings of desire and love for one another. They can push each other away all they want, but if the history of these two characters has taught us anything, it’s that the harder they push, the harder they’ll fall. They might as well just give in and get rid of their clothes already.

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Series: Fall Away, book 4. This appears to be the last full book in the series, with a few half and quarter books here and there to follow. However, we seem to get a nice conclusion to the love story of Jared and Tatum.

Final Impressions: The start of this book was rather jarring to see that the seemingly strongest couple of the series was no longer together. It was important to show though that not every relationship is perfect. While there may be a few bumps in the road, if it’s true love then nothing can keep a couple apart. However, it didn’t take long before the immature antics of our lead characters started to get old, and you sort of yell in frustration for them to admit they’re still in love with each other. We know it’s an inevitability, yet I was still surprised when it eventually did happen, as there was still a good portion of the book left. I guess the progression of the story seemed somewhat off kilter, but overall it was an interesting and engaging tale. It was also fun to eventually get a glimpse of what happens to our characters even a few more years down the road.

Smut Level: Tate and Jared spend a good portion of the book trying their hardest to dislike each other, but all that does is build up an immense pressure of sexual tension. When that pressure is ultimately released…it blows the roof clear off!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. InterMix Publishing. 222 Pages.

Trying to Score by Toni Aleo

I’m starting to notice some shared features of the books in this series. 1) they’re about 200 pages too long, and 2) the female leads are extremely frustrating.

What’s it About? 

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Fallon Parker’s dream has always been to turn her family’s wine company into a runaway success and eventually start a cellar of her own. Since graduating from college, she has worked relentlessly to make that dream a reality, especially after taking a chance on love–and losing. By the time Fallon becomes an official sponsor of the Nashville Assassins, she feels like all her hard work is finally paying off. And then the man who broke her heart skates back into her life.

On the ice, Lucas Brooks is the NHL’s leading scorer–at least when he’s not in the box. Off the ice, he’s a mess, with all his anger and misery bottled up inside. He threw away the most important person in his life and has regretted it ever since. But when Lucas returns to Nashville in a trade, he’s determined to convince Fallon that he’s a changed man. The attraction is still there. The tension is electrifying. But the odds are stacked against them–especially after Lucas finds out that Fallon has been keeping a devastating secret.

First Impressions

This novel definitely left me with some conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I can’t help but commend the author for succeeding in making me sympathize with our male lead Lucas, who cheated on Fallon years ago when they first dated. Cheating is a big no-no, and often a death knell for my opinion of any character. However, we’re able to see how troubled Lucas was back then as he turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with his father’s death. While this was certainly no excuse for his cheating, it demonstrated how tumultuous his head space was back then. More importantly though, we see how much Lucas has struggled and grown as a person in the seven years since, and succeeded in moving past his depression and addiction to become a whole new man. One who is ready to fight to win back the love of his life, Fallon.

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And this is where the conflict comes in. Fallon is definitely one of the most frustrating female lead characters I’ve encountered in a long time. Following the discovery of Lucas in bed with her best friend, Fallon ran away as fast as her legs could carry her, and vowed to cut Lucas out of her life entirely. Girl, I feel ya! You do you. Her misstep though was that she soon discovered she was pregnant with Lucas’s child, and yet she chose to keep it a secret from him. It’s only when Lucas is ultimately traded to the hockey team in Fallon’s home town that their lives are thrown together once again, and Lucas discovers the shocking truth that he’s a father to a son he never knew existed. Fallon may have had every right to cut Lucas out of her life, but not their son’s.

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Where Past Meets Present

Now I know what you’re probably thinking. If Lucas was douche enough to cheat on Fallon, how was she supposed to know how he might treat their child. As it turns out, pretty easily! Throughout the first part of the novel, we see a constant interweaving of their present situation with flashbacks from the development of their past relationship. We see it all, from the night they first met to the moment when everything fell apart. We also see some of their more intimate conversations of what they wanted out of life, and how much they loved each other. It’s during these flashback scenes that we learn how much they both wanted children, Lucas especially.

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Fallon fully acknowledges that Lucas was always very open about how much he wanted children, and admits that if their relationship hadn’t fallen apart years ago they’d probably have a few children by now. That makes it almost impossible to sympathize with her decision to keep Lucas in the dark for so long about the fact that they have a child. Yes, he cheated on her like an ass hat. Inexcusable. But he should have known about his kid. Especially when we learn how crushed he was after the death of his father when he was just a teenager, and his vow that no child should grow up without a father. She not only robbed Lucas of the chance to see his son grow up, she also denied their child the opportunity to get to know his dad.

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Letting Him Back In

Eventually Lucas discovers that he has a son named Aiden, who is just about as adorable of a character that you can get. They’re both so excited to get to know each other, and Lucas’s love for Aiden is clear as day. However, Fallon seems determined to be annoyed or angered by everything Lucas does when it comes to his interactions with her son. Even the simple act of giving Aiden a nickname fills Fallon with unnecessary rage and annoyance. While most would see it as a cute way for father and son to bond, she sees it as Lucas interfering in everything she’s built and developed with her son, including his very name. Mkay chill out a little bit, it’s not like he took him to get a legal name change or anything, it’s a nickname for crying out loud.

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When it comes to Lucas, he is absolutely determined to not only get to know his son, but also to win back Fallon so they can finally have their happily ever after. I couldn’t help but question…whyyyyyy her?? Fallon never told him he was a father, and kept their son from him for over seven years. On top of it all, once the two reunite Fallon is as standoffish and close-minded as ever when it comes to allowing Lucas back into her life. She pushes him away at every turn, is rather demeaning in her comments towards him, and yet Lucas keeps coming back for more. Dude, there are other fish in the sea you know! Even when they do start dating again, and Lucas opens up about all the pain and addiction from his past, it’s clear that Fallon is still holding back from placing her full trust in him. She’s seen how much he cares for their son, that he wants nothing more than for them to all be a family, but it’s almost like she’s just waiting around for him to make some kind of mistake that she can use as an excuse to end things between them.

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Series: The Assassins Series, book 2. While the story lines for books one and two were definitely distinct, they were still similar in being too long and having female leads who were beyond frustrating. I’m thinking I’ll give one more book in this series a try. If we see yet another heroine who gets on my nerves I might have to call it quits.

Final Impressions: Aiden and Lucas were far and away the two bright lights of this story, with Fallon being the dark stain of the group. I almost wish we could have just seen a story which focused on the two of them learning how to be father and son, and simply eliminated the romantic component between Lucas and Fallon. While we can certainly understand Fallon’s initial distrust of Lucas considering his past misdeeds, the fact she kept Aiden’s existence a secret for so long was inexcusable, and her inability to see how much Lucas has matured and grown as a person over the past 7 years was beyond frustrating. I couldn’t help but feel that Lucas could have done better.

Smut Level: Fallon seemingly does everything in her power to push Lucas away, so it’s understandable that it takes a while before they do the deed. When they finally do, Lucas is determined to show that their connection is as strong as ever, and he won’t let her get away so easily a second time.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Loveswept Publishing. 578 Pages.

Handsome Death by Sara Dobie Bauer

“Priority one has always been to keep him safe, but the joke was on me: I’m the most dangerous thing he’s come across.”

What’s it About? 

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I’m not hunting him; I’m protecting him. At least, that’s what I tell myself. In New York City, a beautiful creature like Tristan Clement should not be walking the streets alone, and I’m the perfect vampire to watch his back. But what if keeping him safe isn’t enough anymore? What if I want to touch? And taste? I need him. But I’ve never needed anyone.

In a world where paranormal creatures live amongst us and must follow certain laws, living life as a dangerous loner works for vampire Ethan. Inhabiting his gleaming apartment, wearing his designer suits, jetting around the world as a fanged killer-for-hire, Ethan does it all alone.

That is, until he literally runs into Tristan. Tristan, who is clearly trouble wrapped in skinny jeans and an oversized sweater. Tristan, with his shock of angelic blond curls. Tristan, who plays piano more beautifully than the old masters– and Ethan would know; he saw Beethoven.

Tristan is gorgeous, a little sassy, and irresistible. Also, Ethan is horrified to note, Tristan has no idea how incredibly tempting he is to things that go bump in the night.

Overcome by the urge to keep Tristan safe, Ethan begins to… well, stalk is such a strong word. What starts as an obsession quickly becomes something more, something that Ethan needs. And to his surprise, Tristan seems to need him, too…

This darkly romantic tale delivers steamy passion and a happily ever after. Be advised that Handsome Death includes explicit m/m content, stalking, mentions of past abuse, and graphic violence.

First Impressions

Guy meets guy in a NYC coffee shop. Seems like a rather standard meet cute, no? Well, when one of those guys is a centuries old mercenary vampire, and the other is a young unsuspecting music student, let’s just say it ramps up the intrigue to a mouth-watering level. At first, Ethan finds his draw to this young human completely inexplicable, but the one thing he does feel is an intense desire to protect and safeguard him. Perhaps it’s simply a lustful attraction which will soon fade.

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However, as time passes and their relationship evolves, we see how both of these men help the other learn to live again. Tristan has the ability to make this rugged mercenary laugh, and feel something for the first time in a long time. It’s shockingly charming to witness the sensitive romantic side of this tough vampire slowly emerge before us. As for Ethan’s influence on Tristan, he helps this young man move on from a previously troubled relationship which made him feel weak, useless and ugly. It doesn’t take long after being enveloped in Ethan’s arms to feel both beautiful and desired at the same time.

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Brought Right to the Edge

Edging plays a rather large role in this novel. Not that kind of edging! Although…come to think of it Ethan does have a lot of fun repeatedly teasing Tristan right to the edge of full pleasure before pulling away. But no, when I refer to edging in this instance I mean that we’re always sort of brought to the edge of something going terribly wrong for our characters, but ultimately things resolve themselves before we’re pushed over that edge. There’s the cusp of our characters breaking up, the finality of death, or in some cases being caught by the authorities. However, things always end up working out before they go too wrong…in most instances.

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In a way, this lent a rather refreshing sense of lightness to the plot, but also meant we were constantly waiting for a shoe to drop that never does. For example, I was confident at the start of the book that Ethan’s mercenary past would in some way insert itself into the bubble which he and Tristan had created for themselves. Perhaps an old enemy would come back to bite him (vampire joke totally intentional). And yet, that never happens. The main focus of the story is really centered on Ethan and Tristan figuring out how they fit into each other’s lives, and discovering that you can find love even when you weren’t looking for it.

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

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Series: Stand-alone. I will say we’re presented with a few delightful secondary characters who I would adore to see more from. Tristan’s spunky best friend in particular was so much fun.

Final Impressions: I read this book in one day. Was that because the characters wouldn’t release me from their captivating world, or because I’ve been stuck inside my apartment for the last week due to covid-19 lock down? Definitely a mixture of both. There is one especially suspenseful moment towards the middle of the book which turns everything topsy turvy. Although it was a moment which we could foreshadow, it was still intense in its delivery. I think I would have liked to see some aspect of Ethan’s mercenary past come more to the forefront in his relationship with Tristan, just as a way to heighten the suspense even more. Overall though, an engaging read that highlights the strength and healing nature of true love.

Smut Level: My goodness gracious, what do these two hunks NOT do?! Some of it is intensely erotic, from the aforementioned edging to the use of ropes, and of course a bit of required biting from our vampiric alpha male. They’re openly communicative though when it comes to the rougher side of their sexual relationship, and have a clear go-no-go system in place. Respect!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Carnation Books. 257 Pages.

HANDSOME DEATH BLURB

The Enforcer by Abigail Owen

Sparks are certainly flying in this dragon shifter paranormal romance!

What’s it About? 

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Death comes for everyone. Even Drake Chandali. The aging process that twists all unmated dragon shifters’ bodies into something useless has taken hold of his body centuries early. A mate could have reversed the process, but now it’s too late. To protect his team of enforcers, he leaves, and comes face to face with the woman he’d thought was human when he saved her from a fire months before.

Except she’s not human. She’s a mate.

Camilla Carrillo almost lost her family to wildfire. To discover she’s fated to mate a creature made of flame and rage, and become one herself, should be terrifying. But somehow a rightness settles inside her, especially when she’s around the glowering red dragon shifter who wants nothing to do with her.

When Drake learns Cami bears his mark—the same mark as the High King—he refuses to believe she’s meant to be his. It’s too late. How could he turn Cami only to take her with him to the grave? At the same time, he can’t walk away. Hiding her from the corrupt, rotting High King might be the last honorable thing Drake ever does with the little time he has left.

First Impressions

Whenever I begin one of these dragon shifter romances, I always find myself surprised how determined these men often are to ignore the signs that their mate is right in front of them. Of all the books in this series so far though, I would have to say that Drake had the most compelling and understandable reason. All of the signs point to say that Camilla is his destined mate, staring him right in the face. Her proximity, her touch, make him feel alive in a way he’s never felt before. He feels drawn to her from the very first moment he lays eyes on her. And yet, he does everything within his power to try and push her away. The reason? He’s dying.

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All unmated dragons eventually age die if they ultimately go too long without mating. This degenerative process usually impacts dragons centuries down the road, but for Drake it’s hitting him earlier than anyone would have expected. He’s too proud to admit to his shifter teammates the sad fate that he knows will overtake him soon, as he quickly starts losing the ability to move, so he decides to abandon them to die out in peace without the need for them to witness his decline. When he runs to an old friend to live out his last days, he’s confronted with Camilla, and the very real possibility that she’s his mate. Rather than feeling a sense of relief at finding the one person meant for him, he instead refuses to hope that she could be his salvation.

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Better to Have Loved and Lost…

Drake is convinced he’s too far gone to be pulled back from the brink, and worries that if they should proceed with the mating process when they are in fact too late, his eventual death would result in Camilla’s death too following their solidified link as mates. He vows he’ll never risk her life in an attempt to save his own. However, just as much as I admired Drake’s selfless determination to protect, you’ve gotta love Camilla’s stubbornness above all else!

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She might be new to this world of dragons, mates, councils and enforcers, but when she acknowledges wholeheartedly that Drake is her destined mate, her reaction to his attempts to push her away are fabulous. Essentially, tough shit buddy! Yes, mating might eventually link them together in a way that would simultaneously cause her death with his own, but Camilla realizes that she would rather spend those few precious moments with Drake linked in the most firm emotional and physical connection possible, than to live out the rest of her life never having experienced it. She refuses to turn her back on him, and it was quite entertaining to see this slight woman stand up to an imposing and surly dragon shifter. You get it girl!

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 3. This series by Abigail Owen is an absolute delight, as is the corresponding Inferno Rising series which focuses on the clan kings rather than this enforcer team of shifters. There’s action, romance, political intrigue, deception, and of course some fantastical elements mixed in as well. What’s not to like?

Final Impressions: This was a great addition to the series. The moments where we witness vulnerability from this seemingly brusque, tough dragon were by far the most compelling. He gives off this air as though nothing can infiltrate the protective barriers he’s set up around himself, but Camilla has taken hold of his heart and refuses to let go. A missing element to this book which was featured prominently in the previous novels was the brotherly connection of these dragon enforcers. It makes sense in a way in that Drake didn’t want his team to witness his decay, and he’s leaving them behind so as not to have to struggle through an emotional goodbye. This results in the story being much more focused on his relationship with Camilla. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, and while we get a few scenes which highlight the brotherly affection of the Huracan Enforcer team, I think I would have enjoyed another scene or two involving these dragons coming together as brothers.

Smut Level: Some dragon shifters have the unique ability to shift only certain parts of their bodies without fully shifting into their dragon form. For Drake, he has the unique ability to shift his human tongue into a forked dragon tongue. Camilla discovers that’s quite a handy trick to have in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 325 Pages.

 

The Darkness Within by Rebecca Hefner

If you’re looking for a romance novel featuring a conflicted hero and a tough-as-nails heroine, then look no further. This paranormal read has everything you could possibly want and more!

What’s it About? 

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Arderin, princess of the illustrious Vampyre kingdom, has always marched to the beat of her own drum. Motivated by a calling to heal others, frustration consumes her since her brother, King Sathan, doesn’t understand her desire to study medicine in the human world. Moreover, the son of the Dark Lord Crimeous has moved onto their compound and he seems obsessed with driving her absolutely insane. Hating him for his sharp tongue and dark nature, she tries to squelch her unwelcome attraction to him.

Darkrip has been enthralled by Arderin since the night he knocked her unconscious and sent her down the river, prompting the end of the War of the Species. Never has he met a woman more beautiful and passionate. Frustrated by her dramatics and consumed by his desire for her, he vows to stay away. For the son of Crimeous, with his malevolent blood, could never have children or a normal life.

When Crimeous threatens both their lives, forcing them into a shared captivity, they do everything they can to escape and survive. As their connection grows, so does their attraction. Knowing they have no future together, and the consequences of furthering their relationship would be disastrous, they forge ahead in the conflict against the Dark Lord. But the Universe is fickle and can muddle with even the best laid intentions…

First Impressions

I have been impatiently waiting for the book which would highlight this stubborn couple since the first novel in the series! At last, said book has been delivered and does not disappoint. Arderin and Darkrip are delightfully strong-willed, and at first glance appear to have an intense animosity towards each other which impacts their ability to even be in the same room. But when they’re forced to spend time together through either mission or complication, we finally see them having to confront the deep emotion and attraction which is constantly pulling them together no matter how hard they try to push each other away. I mean, what’s not to love with that set-up!

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Beyond the Romance

If we push the intense and sometimes controversial romance between Darkrip and Arderin aside, there are a few other key features presented in this novel that I really appreciated. First and foremost, the importance of family is highlighted through a variety of different relationship pairings. From Arderin and her over-protective brothers, to Darkrip’s complicated interactions with his sister and half-sister, to the couple from the first novel finally welcoming a child into their lives. Each pairing has it’s own complexities, yet throughout it all we see this group of slayers, vampyres and deamons come together to form the most unlikely of families.

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The other theme that this series has continuously grappled with is the concept of time for our Immortals. In the last book, we saw how time was explored in a way where our characters felt they had all the time in the world to eventually admit their feelings for each other, yet simultaneously discovered how fraught and limited time can be in this violent world. In this third book, time is once again featured as a focal point which can impact the relationships of our characters. When you live forever, you can’t help but question what is your true purpose in life? For Darkrip, he looks at his life as being divided into two parts: a time before and after Arderin. Before her, he simply floated along. He lived in an endless, mindless world of killing and raping. After her, he finally feels as though he has a purpose, even if it’s something as simple as making her laugh. It is because of her that he remembers the small pleasures that life has to offer, and this troubled deamon finally starts to live again. It was such a complex and beautiful point to examine that never felt too “in your face” with its scrutiny.

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The Cave of Wonders

There is a point in this novel where Arderin and Darkrip find themselves trapped in a cave by his evil father, Crimeous. This Deamon King is intent on forcing our two leads to mate, resulting in a child with both deamon and vampyre blood running through its veins that he can then manipulate and train to become his ultimate weapon. Hands down, these scenes involving Arderin and Darkrip’s imprisonment were the most revealing and poignant moments of the entire book. For it is during this time that they have nowhere to run or hide from confronting how much they actually care about the other. All their cards are laid out, face up on the table, whether they want to or not. And it’s during this time where we discover how vulnerable these two characters truly are. They may put on a facade of toughness to those around them, yet underneath all the stubbornness and sass are two sensitive souls who can no longer deny their feelings.

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It’s also during this time in the cave that we see how strong and inspiring they are. For her part, Arderin refuses to give up hope that they’ll make it out of this seemingly hopeless situation alive. For Darkrip, we see his desperation to do whatever is necessary to keep Arderin alive. Even if it means she’ll see a window into his entire past, and every dark deed he’s ever committed. The only way to save his vampyre is to give her his blood, which will thereby link her to him by viewing snapshots of his entire life. To ensure the survival of the love of his life, he must allow her to see how much evil has coursed through him, and risk her never wanting anything to do with him. Again, such a beautifully revealing moment to see this cocky, strong deamon crumble under the fear of being alone, and of possibly losing Arderin forever. Either he’ll lose her through death, or through his attempt to save with his blood. He sees it as a lose-lose decision, but one he can’t ran away from.

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The Troubled Hero

Darkrip is a troubled soul in every sense of the word. He refuses to see the good in himself, and also refuses to hope for a future with Arderin. He’s spent so long living in the shadow of his evil and cruel father, that it’s difficult for him to envision a future of peace. Growing up, whenever Darkrip allowed himself to feel or love it would always result in pain. His father would repeatedly rape and abuse his mother and sister as Darkrip was forced to watch on. He’s scared that if he allows himself to acknowledge his love for Arderin, she’ll become a target for his father to focus his wrath upon. He’s not willing to risk that.

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Darkrip was so convinced that by providing Arderin with his blood in the cave that it would result in her pulling away from him. However, we see the opposite come true in that it actually causes her to pull him closer. Yes, there was evil in Darkrip which controlled his every action for the first 200 years of his life. But through the love and influence of his mother he successfully changed his ways to fight against that inner darkness, and refused to let it overtake him again over the last 800 years. That strength, that willpower, is what draws Arderin to him even more. He might be convinced she deserves better, and try to push her away with all his might, but she’s just as stubborn and strong-willed to keep him in her life.

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 3. Three books down, just one final installment to go. I can’t wait to see how everything will come together in what is bound to be a climactic and exciting conclusion!

Final Impressions: Looking back at the entire series up until this point I would say this is probably the one which featured the least amount of direct confrontation with our primary villain, Crimeous. This is kind of interesting when you consider the fact he’s Darkrip’s father, and the two definitely have a long and troubled history. That being said, the emotional and psychological impact of this toxic father/son relationship is still featured prominently in this third book. In a way this is really Darkrip’s tale of learning how to see the good in himself, and acknowledging that he is worthy of Arderin’s love. These two have a commanding presence that will captivate you right from the get-go, whether they’re in a scene together or solo.

Smut Level: This is by far the steamiest book of the series so far. As a deamon, Darkrip experiences pleasure from pain, and while we don’t get any scenes that are overly kinky, that sort of speaks to the fact that this deamon isn’t a slow and gentle lover. There’s plenty of dirty talk and alpha male direction in the bedroom to keep you blushing and satisfied!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 232 Pages.

 

The Elusive Sun by Rebecca Hefner

Vampyres have lived in the dark for centuries. For Lila and Latimus, openly declaring their love for each other seems just as elusive as seeing the sun again.

What’s it About?

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Lila, a high born aristocrat of the Vampyre kingdom, was betrothed to Sathan, King of the Vampyres, for a thousand years. The betrothal, declared by the goddess Etherya, was deemed unbreakable. Although she cared for Sathan, and loved him as her king, secretly her heart yearned for his brother. When Sathan falls for another, Lila ends the betrothal, terrified at what her life will become now that she won’t be queen.

Latimus has loved Lila since they played together on the grassy riverbank as children. Knowing that his brother was the better man, he never begrudged his betrothal to the woman he secretly loved. Now that Sathan has married another, Latimus becomes aware of Lila’s feelings. Determined to push her into the arms of a worthier man, he believes that a war-torn army commander such as he could never offer her the life she deserves.

As the war against the Deamons rages, Latimus fights for his people, protecting them from the evil Dark Lord Crimeous. When Lila suffers a brutal attack, Latimus is shaken to his core. Resolved to avenge her, he acknowledges the emotion that has always burned for her in his blackened heart. But Lila has moved on and, as the war ensues, he worries that it might be too late to claim her…

First Impressions

A common theme of this novel focused on how Lila and Latimus struggled to cope with the expectations for the lives they’ve been born into. Both were raised around a sense of duty. For her, it was an aristocratic one. She had a duty to her king, to her people, and an overarching duty to produce heirs for said king to continue ruling their subjects together. For him, it was a duty to lead and command his Vampyre army. Latimus has constantly led a hard life of danger and service, constantly seen as second best to his brother, the king. After the events of the last novel, and with the opening of this one, Lila and Latimus are both starting to realize they’ve had a mutual attraction to each other for centuries.

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You can’t help but question why they don’t take full advantage of their new situation in life, and tear each other’s clothes off!! After all, Lila is no longer betrothed to his brother, and she’s free to choose whoever she wants in life. However, when you’ve spent the last 1000 years living a certain life, and fulfilling a particular duty in that life, you can see why they’d both struggle to suddenly toss out everything they’ve been raised to believe about their purpose in life. Duty was always first and foremost to beat out love or emotion. Latimus in particular feels these countless years of killing has tainted him to the point where he’s not worthy of touching Lila considering how much blood he’s had on his hands. He constantly focuses on the bad, whereas she and everyone else can recognize the good in him.

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The Slowly Ticking Clock 

Obviously seeing the romantic relationship develop between Latimus and Lila was a high point of the novel that makes your toes curl in delight with every scene. However, another one of the more fascinating observations with this read was the concept of time for our immortals. On the one hand, they feel like they have forever, so they convince themselves that some admissions of love or emotion can wait. In reality, they are still vulnerable to the ceaseless and unmerciful Deamon attacks which have been ramping up since the events of the first book.

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At one point in the story we see a 1000 year-old vampyre killed in battle. As a human you can’t help but think, geez he had a good run! That was a long time for others to know and love him, and a long time to live as a soldier. Yet in the same vein you see how soul crushing the deaths of comrades can be. When you’re an immortal expecting to live forever, any moment of death is seen as too soon. This also plays out in the relationship between Lila and Latimus. After pushing aside their long-held grievances they finally have an immortal lifetime to spend together, and yet they still lament over how much time they’ve wasted these last 1000 years bickering with each other. It helps them realize that they don’t want to waste any more time, and make up for as much time as they can which was spent apart from each other.

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 2. I am squirming in anticipation for book 3!!

Final Impressions: I am officially addicted to this series. The characters draw you in, and you find yourself holding your breath in anticipation wondering what troubles might befall them. At times Latimus and Lila are almost too overly supportive of each other, fawning over how amazing the other is whenever one says they deserve someone who isn’t flawed. This sequel does sort of lack the sense of urgency and momentum which was so prominent in book one. While the Deamon King, Crimeous, is still an active threat in this second book, the battle against him isn’t really the driving force of the plot. Instead, it’s really about Lila and Latimus learning to communicate their feelings for one another after keeping them secret for centuries. It was still an interesting tale to see their trust in each other and romance unfold, but also kind of lacking in the suspense department.

Smut Level: Daaaaamn! This sequel was 10 times steamier than book one. Plenty of dirty talk and passionate thrusting to really get your blood flowing.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 224 Pages.

The End of Hatred by Rebecca Hefner

Get yourself a copy of this exciting paranormal romance NOW. It’s got Vampyres, Slayers and Deamons. What else could you possibly need to get you in the mood for Halloween?

What’s it About? 

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These are dangerous times on Etherya’s Earth…Slayer Princess Miranda, heir to the throne, has hated the Vampyres for a thousand years. Since the Awakening, she’s fought to protect her people, choosing to be a warrior more than a royal. When a female Vampyre washes up on the shore of her compound’s riverbank, she seizes the moment to take the offensive.

Sathan, King of the Vampyres, distraught at his sister’s disappearance and captivity, agrees to travel with Miranda to resect the Blade of Pestilence, also hoping to change his people’s state of endless war. Although the woman hates him due to the constant raids on her compound for the Slayers’ life-giving blood, he can’t help but admire the stubborn and strong princess.

As their journey progresses, both begin to understand that they are aligned in their hatred of Crimeous, leader of the Deamons, as well as their hope for peace between the Slayers and Vampyres. Determined to fight their growing attraction, they forge a tentative truce. But old wounds run deep and trust is scarce. Their faith in each other must remain strong or all will be lost…

First Impressions

Wow, wow, this book pulled me in from opening bell and simply would not let go. When I first read the synopsis I thought, mkay a beautiful bad-ass female slayer falls for a sexy alpha male vampire. Let the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel comparisons begin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you, I was definitely looking forward to it! What I didn’t expect though was for the author to succeed in creating a unique world that manages to not only incorporate some of the paranormal elements we’re familiar with when it comes to blood-sucking entities, but even more than that to develop an enchanting mythology to provide a history for why Slayers and Vampyres have been pitted against each other for centuries. It’s an addictive read that is so much more than a battle between species. It involves putting aside long-held animosities, learning to trust enemies, standing up for what’s right, and sometimes questioning that which we always believed to be true.

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Finding Peace…to go to War

Miranda, Princess of the Slayers, is fed up with the constant fighting plaguing her people, and she’s determined to finally bring peace to her land. Unfortunately for her, succeeding in this endeavor will require her to partner up with those who she’s been taught to hate her entire life. The dynamic between Miranda and Sathan, the Vampyre King, is definitely one of the highlights of this novel. I loved that they didn’t just throw away centuries of hatred after one lustful glance, but rather their road to trust, and eventually love, is a long and difficult one. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there are still moments of doubt which arise throughout which make us question if they’ll ever succeed in their quest for peace. Eventually they realize that they must rely on each other in order to achieve their common goal, and it’s only after they start to trust each other that they allow themselves to acknowledge the stirring of lust which has been humming just below the surface.

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Another aspect of the novel that I appreciated was the fact that their journey for peace is also a tumultuous one filled with twists and turns, as well as a slew of compelling characters who will capture your attention with the turn of every page. There are times where you never really know who you can trust, or if Miranda and Sathan will eventually come out on top in their desire to destroy a common enemy, the Deamon King. It’s in their arduous search for the ultimate weapon that Miranda and Sathan learn to put aside their differences, but this leads to yet another difficult task in convincing their people to do the same. We do reach a point in the middle of the book where things start to drag a little bit as Miranda and her army trains for the final battle against the Deamon King, and she also struggles to teach her people how to forgive their Vampyre enemy. However, at the same time this was an absolute necessity to demonstrate that the end of hatred isn’t easy or quick.

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 1. I needed book 2 like, yesterday. This first novel lays the groundwork for each of the couples who will be featured in a future novel, and I honestly can’t say which one I’m looking forward to the most!

Final Impressions: This is a unique world that manages to turn some classic elements of Vampyres and Slayers on their head. It’s definitely not a predictable read, and presents us with some lovable characters, yet also some flawed ones who don’t always get a happily ever after. We’re presented with a delicious build of anticipation throughout the book, and while things culminate in a heart-stopping battle, the larger war is far from over. I’m excited to see how this theme might continue throughout the rest of the series!

Smut Level: The road for Miranda and Sathan to go from enemies to lovers is a complicated one, and while it takes some time before they eventually fall into bed together, we do get some mouthwatering teasing and flirting that will make you grin with delight. Once they do finally give into their desires, my goodness will it cause your toes to curl. They’re passionate, possessive, and not afraid to rough things up a bit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 330 Pages