Until Ashlyn by Aurora Rose Reynolds

You know the old adage that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” I think we can all agree that it never holds true in romance novel land. That shit always follows you home.

What’s it About?

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Dillon Keck knew Ashlyn Mayson was drunk when she suggested they get married. He knew he should have taken her back to their hotel room and put her to bed. Instead, he did what he had been craving to do since the moment they met. Claim her as his.

Waking up married in Vegas isn’t something Ashlyn Mayson ever thought would happen to her. Having Dillon, her boss, a man she thinks is a dick, insist they stay married is absurd, but every time he touches her, she gets lost in him and wonders if maybe they are meant to be together. But someone isn’t happy for Dillon and Ashlyn and their new found romance, and they’re willing to do anything to keep them apart. Even commit murder.

First Impressions

Alright, when it comes to full on first impression of Dillon, it’s not too hard to come up with a description of his character: the dude is basically a dick. He has taken over the dental practice where Ashlyn works, and upon first meeting he states that he’ll need to re-interview her to ensure she has the necessary skills, as he doesn’t just need a pretty thing to look at every day. Well f*ck you very much your majesty. Sure, meet with her a few times to double check she meets your standards, but don’t imply that just because she’s pretty she can’t be skilled and useful. We do eventually learn that this was his particular take on a classic schoolyard tactic to hide how he really felt about her by acting douchey, but it still doesn’t leave a very good first impression. Strike one against you sir!

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Unicorns Left and Right

One feature of this novel which was pretty unique is the fact that when Dillon and Ashlyn finally do the dirty in that Vegas hotel room, it’s revealed that this was actually the first time either of them had had sex. Unfortunately, there’s no real discussion between them about how special this is! Dillon does express that he had never closed the deal with another woman beforehand because it never felt right, but come on! The rarity in this day and age of having two grown adults remain virgins for so long deserved some more attention! There’s another adage out there which compares women who haven’t had sex by a certain age to unicorns, in that they are basically mythological creatures. In this case, we have both a male and female unicorn! I think this feature really deserved a discussion, but instead was kind of glossed over in a one off comment from Dillon.

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From Rom Com to Horror Film

The start of this novel truly reads like a romantic comedy; pretty silly and light-hearted. We have two co-workers who hate each other, yet have some underlying sexual tension, so they get drunk and married in Vegas. Because we’re dealing with a novel in the Until series world, we of course have an uber alpha male who refuses to let Ashlyn get away. She too also has an inherent sense of possessiveness when it comes to Dillon. At one point his crazy bitch of an ex tries to weasel her way into the picture, and Ashlyn kind of goes off on her after a fair amount of goading. While Ashlyn didn’t like the jealous person she became in that moment, Dillon was totally into it, as it showed she was just as in love with him as he was with her.

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Awwww, isn’t that just the cutest?! Well, flash-forward a bit and things start to take a turn for the bizarre. Someone tries to run Ashlyn down with their car, and two women in this small Tennessee town are found murdered. Suspense. Intrigue! Well, we’re gonna put that on hold for another large section of the book for some more lovey dovey stuff and familial interactions. Until the last 10% of the book of course when it pretty much turns into a full on horror film. I’m talking kidnapping, stabbing, some more murdering. To introduce and resolve all of that murder mystery within the final 10% of the book was just too rushed. Although an interesting plot twist, it was kind of jarring to go from what felt like an Ashton Kutcher rom com to Saw in such a short amount of time. Ok, so Saw is definitely too out there of a comparison, but you catch my drift. I also don’t watch horror films, so my repertoire is lacking.

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Series: Until Her, book 3. Personally, I would recommend reading these in order. Although each novel focuses on a different stand-alone couple, there are certain reappearing characters and themes that would be helpful to know from the beginning.

Should you read it? All in all, a good addition to the Until Her series. That being said, while I found the suspenseful murder aspect of the novel to be totally enthralling, it definitely could have been integrated better into the overall story line.

Smut Level: Something must be in the water in this small Tennessee town which causes “alpha male syndrome”.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 225 Pages.

 

 

Knight by Kristen Ashley

Knight? Well, that’s definitely a…unique name for a human being. Talk about pressure! Certainly a name you’ve gotta live up to.

What’s it About? 

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Anya Gage has learned that to get anything good in life, you have to work for it. She has no expectations, no dreams. Then she finds herself at a party where she doesn’t want to be and she meets Knight. Knight Sebring knows who he is, what he wants and what he likes. And he gets it. But he never expected something as sweet as Anya Gage to wander into his bedroom during a party he did not expect to be having to borrow his phone.

Knight tries to leave Anya to the life she deserves of white picket fences and a man who watches football on Sundays – good, normal and clean. But when Anya comes to his nightclub and finds herself in a situation, he knows someone has to look after her, he can’t fight it anymore and he decides that man will be him. Knight teaches Anya that, just as with the bad, in life you should also expect the good. And he teaches her this by giving it to her. But Knight has a dark past and just as he desires Anya for exactly who she is, he fears when she finds out exactly the man he has become and always intends to be, she’ll leave him for good, normal and clean.

First Impressions

I will say I did enjoy how this novel started off. I think we can all relate to being at a party at some point in our lives that we simply wanted to escape from. This is how our story opens; with Anya feeling totally out of place surrounded by such splendor in her knock-off shoes and out of season clothing. Luckily for her, she ends up meeting a sexy man who is prepared to take her to pleasure town. With a layover in orgasm city. Unluckily for her, said man also happens to scare the dickens out of her.

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Fear and Control

Anya repeatedly acknowledges throughout the novel that Knight scares her. He’s intense, overbearing and controlling. She honestly doesn’t know what he’ll do if she disappoints him, or doesn’t follow his directions. When she admits her fears to her friends, what do they do? They repeatedly tell her to just “forget the scary.” That…seems like dangerous advice to follow when fearful of an overbearing guy you just met.

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Anya tries to convince herself that since meeting Knight he’s only made her life better. While I do think that he’s made her feel more confident in her own skin by constantly saying how beautiful she is, she never lists this as one of his influences. Every single reason she gives for the impact he’s made in her life relates to material possessions. If we were to take all that away, I think Anya would just be left with an uber controlling guy who scares her. And yeah, sure, gives her lots of orgasms.

A D/S Daddy

I’ve been reading romance and erotic novels almost exclusively for about 3-4 years now. I’ve read a lot of novels in that amount of time which have featured dominant/submissive relationships, and I’ll admit I’m finally just now starting to fully understand what they’re all about. Took long enough! As Anya’s close friend comments, “that’s bedroom, not in life.” For her in particular, she leads a very stressful life where she’s the one in charge and making all the decisions. By giving up control in the bedroom, she’s able to let go, relax and let someone else make the decisions for once. I can sort of see how such a relationship could be freeing. When it comes to Anya and Knight though, it seems his controlling ways do expand beyond the bedroom. He even says “Unless I tell you what to do or not to do, do whatever you wanna do.” Umm…that’s not really what I consider to be the definition of freedom there buddy.

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So I might just now be understanding of how some women could get into the whole d/s relationship without it being considered misogynistic. I’m learning here. Something I still don’t for the life of me understand the appeal of though is calling your lover “daddy”. Like…no. Not the time or place I want to make reference to dear ole dad. I mean, I feel like it doesn’t go both ways, which simply isn’t fair, right? I’ve never read an erotic novel where the guy calls his girlfriend “mommy” as she spanks his ass. I just don’t get it!! Can someone out there explain the appeal of calling your lover daddy? Seriously, I’d really love to get a discussion going.

Series: Unfinished Heroes, book 1.

Should you read it? The writing was just ok. Pretty basic descriptions were used, with “very” as the descriptor of choice. Very expensive, very tall, very pretty. By the end I thought if Anya said “Oh God” or “Oh my God” one more time I was gonna scream. About 145 times actually. When it comes down to it, repeatedly using the term “daddy” is a sure-fire way to kill my mood. Also, you shouldn’t be afraid of your significant other! She never really communicates her fears or misgivings to Knight, so he has no way to address/resolve them.

Smut Level: He sure does like to use the “c” word in reference to her…lady bits.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 285 Pages.

Carnal Secrets by Suzanne Wright

Ok, I have a question for ya. Why is it that male wolf shifters can always smell the arousal of their female mates, whereas the females only get an increased scent of woods and pine for their male counterpart? Doesn’t exactly seem fair, does it? Could also make certain situations hella awkward!!

What’s it About? 

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Half-shifter Shaya Critchley may hold a submissive role in her pack, but she’s done taking orders. After her Alpha wolf mate refused to claim her—but committed to interfering in her life—she took off. Now she hides from him, posing as a human in a town full of anti-shifter extremist groups. She thinks he’ll never find her again, and that suits her just fine. But she’s wrong.

Nick Axton can barely control his feelings for Shaya, but he could never claim her—not if he truly cares for her. The degenerative brain condition he keeps secret would ultimately leave her with a burden rather than a mate. But when Shaya runs away, Nick can’t bear the thought of never seeing her again. After tracking her down, he discovers Shaya’s feisty and passionate side in the process…a side he’d never seen before. Under the menacing gazes of territorial local packs and violent human extremists, Nick vows to finally claim the spirited Shaya…and despite her initial resistance, Shaya just might find his fiery determination to be the ultimate aphrodisiac.

First Impressions

This was definitely an enjoyable continuation of the Phoenix Pack series, as this story takes us away from the other pack members for a large majority of the novel. This allows us to meet some new characters along the way; some are delightfully awesome, others are homicidal psychopaths. It’s all good fun! Another way this novel sets itself apart from the others in the series is that our two lead characters, Nick and Shaya, knew upon first meeting they were mates. No confusion about it! Their mating did create some added complications though. As alpha of his pack, Nick doesn’t want to claim Shaya because she is a submissive wolf, meaning she would constantly be challenged by other females who could push out dominant vibes over her. To escape the pain of being near her mate without being claimed, Shaya runs away. Little did she know Nick would give up being alpha of his pack to come after her. But come on, we all knew he wouldn’t let her get away!

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Wholesome Little Town

What I really enjoyed about this book was that it was so distinct from the others in the series so far. Yes, we have two mates struggling to come together, but in this instance we also have the added complication of battling human extremists. Unlike books 1 and 2, which dealt more with feuds between or within packs, this dealt with a battle between species. And I gotta say, humans can kind of be major dicks!

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Within this small town Shaya settled down in there is a group of human extremists who want shifters removed from their society; tagged and registered. If that doesn’t work they’re willing to go to ever greater lengths. In this case, the extremists have even created a game preserve where they take captured shifters to be hunted by other humans. Good God Shaya, could you have picked a shittier town to settle down in?! Seriously, it’s like we’ve wandered onto a filming of the Purge: Shifter edition. Definitely creepy, yet also a clever way to demonstrate a threat which impacts all shifters, not just one particular pack.

That Time of the Month

In addition to hearing more about the interactions and obstacles facing shifters and humans, I also liked that we got to learn some more day-to-day aspects of shifters that are rarely discussed. For example, did you know that female shifters have periods?! Shocker!! To quote this book directly, “the shifter menstrual cycle is a bitch.” I mean, you’ve got both the female and wolf to contend with, throwing around all kinds of hostile attitude. No male shifter wants to be around that much irritability. I don’t know why, but I just loved this little detail. Let’s face it, you don’t usually read much about this monthly occurrence in romance novels! The fact that Nick chooses to stay by Shaya when most other male wolves would run for the woods means I might officially be in love with him.

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Matters of Trust

Although Nick gives up his pack to pursue Shaya, she doesn’t initially welcome him with open arms. Trust is definitely an issue in their relationship. For Shaya, she has difficulty accepting Nick into her life considering he rebuffed her from his so many times. To turn your back on your mate is unheard of, and it’s a lasting pain. An event from Shaya’s past also makes it difficult for her to trust men in general. Her first lover tricked her into thinking they were mates, when all he really wanted was to get into her pants.

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As for Nick, events from his own past impact his relationship with Shaya. When he was young, Nick killed a human, and maimed two others who raped his sister. Because Shaya is half human, he thinks she’ll shy away from him after learning the truth. He simply forgot she is also half shifter, which means her loyalties don’t automatically side with humans.

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Nick also has debilitating headaches, and he refuses to go to a female healer for help. The reason being that this healer also has the hots for Nick, and he doesn’t want her scent on him when he’s around Shaya. If ever there was a need for a wolf shifter version of Craigslist calling all male healers this would be it! Eventually his headaches become so terrible he starts to lose his memory, and he decides he’s going to leave Shaya rather than become her burden. Dude! Tell her what’s up, and go to a healer already! I’m sure she’d be supportive of that decision!! Just take a bath if you need to get the other woman’s scent off ya.

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Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 3. Gotta say, I’m really enjoying this paranormal series!

Should you read it? Overall a good read with an intense ending. I do think there could have been a smoother blend between scenes of threatening human extremists and Nick and Shaya learning to trust each other. It felt kind of stop and go at times. The novel starts with him pursuing her to give him another chance, but as things progress and Nick’s headaches worsen we find that Shaya is the one who has to go after him, and convince him to stay. Nice parallel there!

Smut Level: Nick leaves marks all over Shaya’s body. But they’re the good, paranormal claiming mark kind!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 377 Pages.

 

Henry by Andria Large

I love me an office romance. However, I think I can safely say this is the first one I’ve ever read where we aren’t privy to any office sex scenes. Shocking!! It’s definitely implied they do it at least once in his office, but we don’t get any of the juicy details. The scene “fades to black” as it were.

What’s it About?

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Henry Beck, the gorgeous CEO of an advertising company, was in need of a new personal assistant. He expected HR to hire someone older, more experienced, maybe even with gray hair. Who he got instead was the beautiful, young, single mother – Claire Russell. A woman who he is having a hard time keeping his eyes off of…Claire never expected her new boss to be the most gorgeous man she’s ever laid eyes on. She also never expected him to be sweet to her two year old son, Ethan. But Henry is her boss and there is no future with him. Or so Claire thinks…Will Henry and Claire be able to fight the obvious attraction between them? Will Henry’s overbearing mother come between them? Or will a freak accident change their perspectives on life and what’s most important.

First Impressions

As mentioned, this is an office romance, so right off the bat we know we’ll be dealing with some ethical dilemmas. Sex between boss and employee? Yikes! However, I will admit office romance novels are kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. That sense of the forbidden can really amp up the lust. Therefore, I couldn’t help but be surprised that it takes these two so long to do the horizontal deed!! About 60% of the way through the book as a matter of fact. Their desire for one another is extremely palpable, so you’ve gotta give it to them for waiting a few months and getting to know each other outside of the office before tearing their clothes off. Unfortunately, just because Henry waited so long before officially pursuing Claire, I can’t really call the man a professional, and here’s a few reasons why.

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Professionalism in the Workplace

Henry is the head honcho in the office, and Claire is his personal assistant. Within the first month of her working for him, he already has a pet name for her: darlin’. In addition to Henry, we see anther co-worker in the company, who just happens to be Henry’s best friend, refer to Claire as sweetheart. I’m sorry, have we lapsed back into the days of Mad Men? I get pissed when someone refers to me as “girl” in the office. I’d probably have a coronary if someone went as far as to call me “darlin'”. 

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From Near Death to Smooth Sailing

The flow of the plot was rather interesting in this novel. On the one hand it was good, on the other…not so much. As previously discussed, these two don’t officially start a physical relationship until 60% of the way through the book. The influencing factor which finally tipped the scales was that Henry experienced a terrifying near-death experience. In that moment, he was able to admit to himself that Claire and her son were the most important people in his life. He wasn’t going to wait anymore. Life’s too short for that. Claire also realized in that moment that the thought of living without Henry wold crush her. In that sense, I kind of appreciated how they came together.

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After that though? I kept waiting around for one final twist to the plot. Surely everything can’t come together at 60% without one final hiccup or problem to come along. Nope! Everything is basically smooth sailing from that point on, and it all ends with a Merry Christmas kind of happily ever after. Almost like a build-up of anticipation that leads to nowhere. Usually with these kinds of books there’s some kind of argument or drama surrounding another woman, like an ex-girlfriend. In this case it was Henry’s overbearing mother who didn’t approve of Claire, someone who had a child out of wedlock. Again though, Claire and his mom’s main disagreement came at that 60% mark. They eventually make up with no real fuss.

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Series: The Beck Brothers, book 1. I might read the next book featuring Henry’s brother Sebastian. No rush though.

Should you read it? Meh. It was just ok. The characters were likable for the most part, especially Claire’s adorable son Ethan, but the writing was rather sub-par. There were many grammar mistakes, including your standard your/you’re and there/their errors. However, this might be the first time I’ve ever seen “heals” used instead of “heels”.

Smut Level: These two get naughty in his garage. Seems like the ultimate private location. That being said, garages do have the tendency to echo, and in this case the noise drew the attention of Henry’s mother, who proceeds to walk in on them. Oh my!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-published. 177 Pages.

Alpha by Jasinda Wilder

What would you do if you received a $10,000 check in the mail? It’s addressed to you, yet the signature is illegible. There’s just one word written in the memo line: “You”. So, what would you do? Cash it? I feel like I’d harass someone at the bank for more info, even if they couldn’t give it to me. Ask around a bit!

What’s it About?

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The first time it happened, it seemed like an impossible miracle. Bills were piling up, adding up to more money than I could ever make. Mom’s hospital bills. My baby brother’s tuition. My tuition. Rent. Electricity. All of it on my shoulders. And I had just lost my job. There was no hope, no money in my account, no work to be found. And then, just when I thought all hope was lost, I found an envelope in the mail. No return address. My name on the front, my address. Inside was a check, made out to me, in the amount of ten thousand dollars. Enough to pay the bills and leave me some left over to live on until I found a job. Enough to let me focus on classes. There was no name on the check, just “VRI Inc.,” and a post office box address for somewhere in the city. No hint of identity or reason for the check or anything. No mention of repayment, interest, nothing…except a single word, on the notes line: “You.” Just those three letters.

If you receive a mysterious check, for enough money to erase all your worries, would you cash it? I did. The next month, I received another check, again from VRI Incorporated. It too contained a single word: “belong.” A third check, the next month. This time, two words. Four letters. “To me.” The checks kept coming. The notes stopped. Ten thousand dollars, every month. A girl gets used to that, real quick. It let me pay the bills without going into debt. Let me keep my baby brother in school and Mom’s hospice care paid for. How do you turn down what seems like free money, when you’re desperate? You don’t. I didn’t. And then, after a year, there was a knock on my door. A sleek black limousine sat on the curb in front of my house. A driver stood in front of me, and he spoke six words: “It’s time to pay your debt.” Would you have gotten in? I did. It turns out $120,000 doesn’t come free.

First Impressions

When our main female lead receives this mysterious $10,00 check she decides to cash it. She just got fired from her job, her mom is in an assisted living facility, her brother is in college, she’s in college, and her rent is past due. I think I’ve got all her bills covered! Although she debates over it for a while, she seemingly has no choice but to cash it. I must say, I did admire that one of the first things she did was give some of the money to her best friend to help with rent payments. Pretty selfless if you ask me. She made sure to take care of her own responsibilities rather than, say, go on a shopping spree. Kyrie also has the sense to admit to herself that there’s no way this money is being given absolutely free. Eventually, someone will come to collect. And after one year of receiving a $10,000 check every month, that collector comes a knockin’!

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10k Here and There

Now, you’re probably asking yourself the same question I did whilst reading this one: why the hell would you continue cashing these checks, and racking up even more debt to this unbeknown benefactor? Especially considering the first 3 checks spelled out “you belong to me” in the memo lines. Creeeeepy! However, I gotta give it to Kyrie, she had a pretty logical answer to this conundrum. She was desperate to cash that first check to take care of herself and her family, and she knew there was no way she could have paid back that initial $10,000. When the others started coming she figured, what the hell? I’ll never be able to repay any of it, might as well keep cashing ’em. It kind of makes sense.

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The set-up to the novel was interesting, but the first year of cashing checks did drag on for a while. Then when the collector finally comes along things get pretty weird. Her benefactor’s personal driver comes to “collect” Kyrie, and when he brings her to Mr. Rich Guy he insists she wear a blindfold whenever she’s in his presence. He also refuses to tell her his name. Dude, you’re basically kidnapping this chica, maybe try and make her feel a bit more at ease rather than making it seem like she’s trapped in a horror film.

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A Billionaire Beast

In a way, this novel reminded me of a blend between Beauty and the Beast and Pretty Woman. Our mysterious benefactor is rather moody at first, he has his own personal quarters which are off-limits to Kyrie, and they manage to bond over his ginormous library. As for Pretty Woman, well, he provides her with her first ever opera experience!! The only difference here is that she had to remain blindfolded the entire time, and he makes her come during the “climax” of the performance.

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And this brings me to the discussion of their sexual relationship. Gotta say, not a fan. I’m sorry, but I feel like there is a big difference between pushing your lover to try new things, and making them do things they legitimately don’t want to do. Prime example was when the blindfold was eventually removed, and Roth is feeling up Kyrie in his car. They quickly catch the attention of the driver in the car next to them. Kyrie repeatedly tells him to stop, that she’s embarrassed, and she keeps trying to push his hand away. But he ignores her, and keeps shoving his hand up her skirt. Personally, I found that to be disturbing rather than hot.

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Keeping Secrets

Now for the other annoying feature of the story. Roth admits right off the bat upon first meeting Kyrie that he has a big secret he’s keeping from her. Eventually he’ll tell her what it is, but he admits it will cause her to run from him, so he’s going to keep it to himself for now. Kyrie is initially concerned, but then basically just focuses on her burgeoning sexual relationship with Roth, and all the pretty things he keeps buying for her. I thought this secret was ridiculously obvious, but what really irked me was that Roth didn’t tell her what it was upfront. Yeah, she would have withdrawn from him, but then he could have tried to win her over through his actions. Instead, Roth tries to get close to her, make her fall for him, and then try to bring honesty to the discussion. Seems pretty manipulative to me.

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Narrator

I listened to this one as an audio-book. Overall I would say the narrator was just ok. Although she does a good job with Kyrie, she seemed to have a more difficult time with Roth. He’s supposed to have a slight British accent, and I felt she focused so much on trying to get that right that his voice came across as much older, and lacking any real emotion. When it came to Roth’s Mexican housekeeper, Eliza, and his Italian restaurant owner friend, both came across sounding Russian. The accents were definitely a problem. The last chapter of the novel was told from Roth’s point of view, and we suddenly get a male narrator, who actually did a great job. However, it was kind of jarring to suddenly have this deep and rumbling voice for just a few pages at the very end.

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Series: Alpha, book 1. I wasn’t a huge fan of the decisions some of these characters made in book one. Not sure I’ll want to carry on with book 2. Stranger things have happened though!!

Should you read it? Upon first collecting Kyrie, Roth was pretty insistent that this wasn’t all about sex, and if they do eventually have sex it wouldn’t be prostitution even though he gave her $$. Umm, sure, whatever you say. I have to call slight B.S.though considering it’s not long before he’s making her moan.

Smut Level: Funny how these billionaires always have a friend who owns an Italian restaurant. In this novel, Roth makes Kyrie secretly come by fingering her under the table as his friend presents their dinner of lasagna and chicken parmigiana. Who needs to worry about awkward dinner conversation when you have that going on under the table?

Get it on Amazon:  Click Here. FREE. Self-Published. 450 Pages.

Wicked Cravings by Suzanne Wright

Another female shifter with inner wolf problems!

What’s it About?

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For years, wolf shifter Jaime Farrow has harbored a not-so-secret crush on gorgeous Dante Garcea. But the time has come for Jaime to face facts: despite her best efforts, Dante just isn’t interested. And that’s probably for the best. The last thing Jaime needs is for anyone—particularly Dante—to find out about her little “problem.” The one that haunts her past and threatens to destroy her and everyone she loves…As the pack Beta, workaholic Dante Garcea doesn’t have time for distractions—especially the kind promised by Jaime Farrow. It’s all he can do to keep her at arm’s length and his desire at bay. Yet when her flirtations abruptly end, Dante becomes suspicious. She’s hiding something, something big, and unless he can convince her to trust him, their entire pack could be in danger. He knows hot-headed Jaime will resist him…but Dante never takes no for an answer.

First Impressions

This sequel in the Phoenix Pack series definitely had a slower start than the first book, and overall wasn’t as intense. That being said, I must say I did like the lead characters much better. They were more likable and less cocky than the alphas of the pack. Jaime has always had a crush on Dante, and has been following him around like a lost puppy for years. One day, she overhears him in a conversation with another pack member, where he mentions he could never have a relationship with someone like Jaime. Feeling slighted, Jaime decides she must finally relent, and avoid interacting with him whenever possible. As could be expected with similar playground antics, Dante finds himself drawn to her even more. Pay attention to meeeeee Jaime!!!

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The Struggle of a Beta

Unbeknownst to Jaime, Dante has actually always had an eye for her as well. He’s found himself drawn to her very presence, but Dante has vowed to never be with someone in his own pack. As beta of the Phoenix Pack, he realizes that if he were to claim a female, his attentions would eventually be split between his mate and pack business. Dante believes that he would inevitably choose his pack over his mate, and he would never want to put any woman through that, least of all Jaime. However, this doesn’t prevent them from entering into a sexual relationship! Instead of “friends with benefits”, it’s more like “pack members without the expectations of mating”.

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Living with a Wolf

I must say, I find the inner wolf identity of these characters to be a rather unique feature of this series. Although their wolf is an essential part of their character, it’s also a distinct and independent feature of their personality at the same time. They even refer to their wolves in the third person as though it’s another character entirely.

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As mentioned earlier, Jaime has some severe wolf problems. She refuses to let her wolf out anymore because of a tragic event from her past. By continually suppressing her wolf, the animal becomes increasingly restless, and tries to overpower Jaime. Because of this, Jaime vows that she doesn’t want to discover who her true mate is, as she could never ask him to put up with her dysfunctional wolf. Unfortunately this just makes her wolf even more restless. Such a vicious circle!!

Series: Phoenix Pack, book 2. The first book had more action, but I still enjoyed this one. Definitely looking forward to more from this series!

Should you read it? Pretty easy to see where the plot was headed with this one. Both Dante and Jaime have put up a wall where they don’t want to find their mate, which makes them blind to what’s right in front of them. Then you’ve got her wolf ultimately coming out to play, and some rather jealous/overbearing female foes to contend with. Still an enjoyable read though!

Smut Level: These two like to push each other, both in and out of the bedroom. They also like to bite and claw each other in the sack!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 395 Pages.

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Falling Away by Penelope Douglas

Man, who knew such a small group of friends in an unassuming Illinois suburban town could lead such dramatically complicated lives. Every single one of them!!

What’s it About?

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K.C. Carter has always followed the rules—until this year, when a mistake leaves her the talk of her college campus and her carefully arranged life comes crashing to a halt. Now she’s stuck in her small hometown for the summer to complete her court-ordered community service, and to make matters worse, trouble is living right next door.

Jaxon Trent is the worst kind of temptation and exactly what K.C. was supposed to stay away from in high school. But he never forgot her. She was the one girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day and the only one to ever say no. Fate has brought K.C. back into his life—except what he thought was a great twist of luck turns out to be too close for comfort. As the bond between them grows, he discovers that convincing K.C. to get out from her mother’s shadow is hard, but revealing the darkest parts of his soul is nearly impossible.…

First Impressions

I really really really hate to say this, but I’m sort of falling out of like with this series. I can’t even say “love” because it was never really one of my ultimate favorites to begin with. I definitely liked book 1, that’s for sure, and my feelings towards book 2 were sort of lukewarm. However, when it comes to this 3rd book, I think I have to say I actually disliked it. Both KC and Jaxon come from troubled pasts, but that’s definitely not the reason why I had an overall negative impression of this book. Rather, I couldn’t help but feel that Jaxon and KC had a pretty toxic relationship that made me slightly uncomfortable at times, and even worrying for KC’s safety at others.

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Love/Hate Continues Again

As is the theme with most of the novels in this series so far, our lead couple starts off with some feelings of animosity towards one another instead of love. Eventually, their mutual feelings of enmity build up to a boiling point until they can’t help themselves, and they start attacking each other’s mouths. However, in this book I was somewhat disturbed at a few of the ways Jax pursued KC. Let’s look at a few examples.

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Stalking is as Stalking Does

Let’s start with the less threatening (if you can call it that) of his pursuits. So, Jax pretty much cyber stalks KC when she’s away at college out of state. This includes, but is not limited to, logging in to check her class schedule, grades, setting off pranks to push back a test she was unprepared for, and hacking her police record so she could complete her community service at their local high school where Jax just so happens to volunteer as well. Eventually, KC uncovers the extent of how closely he’s been monitoring her activities while she was away at school, and she is understandably confused and disturbed.

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But then Jax manages to talk his way out of these stalker tendencies to the point where KC just brushes off the whole thing rather quickly. He explained that the reason she was so upset with his monitoring of her was because she doesn’t want anybody else to get too close to her. Umm, actually it’s called an invasion of privacy! You wanna know what’s going on in her life, maybe you should give her a call, or send her an email. Not hack her school records.

The Heart of the Matter

I suppose if you really want you could write off his computer stalking as him being overprotective, and wanting to check up on her. Whatever. What disturbed me even more was their physical relationship. At times, it was scorching hot. At others, I was legitimately concerned I was about to read a rape scene. There are many instances in this book where Jax pins KC up against a wall in the heat of an argument, and starts to devour her mouth in a passionate kiss. But there are also many times where KC tries to pull away from these ministrations, saying “no” and trying to push Jax away.

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Now, I listened to this as an audio book, and the narrator for KC was amazing, but in these particular scenes she verbalized some very convincing “no’s” and also had an element of fear in her voice. For Jax though, it would appear that when it comes to KC “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no. It just means keep kissing her until she submits and says “yes”. The fact that at one point he even pulled a knife and started taunting her with it while pinned against a wall made me feel that this relationship has a lot of serious problems. Sure, KC would eventually always succumb to his seductions, and pull him towards her instead of pushing him away, but I felt like Jax must not respect her very much if he used intimidation to bend her to his will instead of talking things out.

Troubled Pasts and Vicious Characters

Jax and KC both come from troubled pasts. Her parents had her in order to supplement their previous daughter who died, and Jax was physically and sexually abused at the hands of his father and his father’s friends. While we aren’t privy to all of the specific details of Jax’s abuse, it was still definitely very hard to read at times.

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His abusers are disgusting people with zero redeeming qualities. It’s heartbreaking to think of what he endured as a child, and how his past has influenced his actions as an adult. Jax attempts to push KC away once she starts to develop loving feelings for him, as he doesn’t want her to deal with his toxic past. Especially when his past comes back to haunt him, as his father has been harassing him more and more as his parole from prison draws ever closer.

Series: Fall Away, book 3. Will I continue with this series? Maybe, as the next book revisits the couple from book 1. It just might take me a while before I go there.

Should you read it? Jax is a troubled individual, and the horrors of his past definitely influence his relationship with KC. I get pushing her away because he doesn’t think he’s good enough, and we’re supposed to admire KC for sticking through all of this to eventually find the loving Jax hiding underneath. I still couldn’t help but feel disturbed though at some of the ways he treated her, especially when it came to their sexual relationship. The whole pulling a knife scene left a really lasting negative and frightening impression on me. If others have read this one and had a different view of their sexual relationship I’d love to discuss it!

Smut Level: Let’s just say they do some pretty…creative things with a popsicle.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 429 Pages.

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