Her Patriotic Prince by Ayla Asher

I can’t remember the last time I was so sad to see the conclusion of a series!

What’s it About? 

It was only supposed to be one night…

Laura Cunningham is gorgeous, witty and tough as nails…and still single in her late thirties. After dating every man in Manhattan, she’s resigned herself to the fact that true love just might not exist for her. Certainly a bummer for the woman who observed her two best friends fall in love with sexy, strong men who are their soulmates. Adam Gardner is a soldier who’s been committed to the cause his entire life. Nearing forty, he realizes that once his next mission is complete, he wants to settle down and build a home and family.

Laura and Adam meet on a romantic summer evening, knowing their time is limited due to Adam’s impending deployment. Taken by their instant chemistry, they commit to spending one passionate and intimate night together.

Years later, Adam returns to find Laura with a daughter who shares his sky-blue eyes. Determined to be a father to the little girl, and still enamored by the woman he could never forget, he strives to discern the best path forward. Laura is shocked by the appearance of the man who stole her heart so many years ago…and who still possesses it. Can the star-crossed lovers build a life together or will their secrets and fears keep them from achieving happiness?

First Impressions

Alright, confession time. I’ve never been a huge fan of secret baby romances. I always find myself getting upset with the female lead for keeping such a massive, literally life-changing secret from either her one-night stand, or maybe an ex with whom she’s had a falling out. Needless to say I was a little hesitant to pick up this third and final read in the Manhattan Holiday Loves series. While I did think that Laura could have done more to locate some contact info for Adam to send him word about the fact that their one night together resulted in a baby, I have to give it to the author for putting up as many legitimate road blocks to make that as difficult an act as possible. From a phone number washed away by a coffee spill, to friends getting in a life-threatening car accident the morning after, to Adam having to report the next morning for a multi-year international secret ops mission where he wouldn’t have been able to go home or contact Laura on the reg even if he wanted to. So…yeah! A bit more challenging than your standard “she just didn’t want to tell him” secret baby romance.

From Steam to Intimacy

The other truly stand-out feature of this novella, other than the fact it got me to sympathize with a secret baby romance scenario, was the structure of it all. The novella opens with Laura and Adam meeting on a balcony under the starry night sky after having attended neighboring wedding receptions. They both decide rather quickly to fall into bed together. What I assumed would either be a quick sex scene, or perhaps a fade-to-black cut to the morning after, was anything but. Sure, they fall into each other’s arms pretty speedily upon arriving at the hotel room, but we surprisingly see their one night together play out over several chapters. This small detail was ultimately unbelievably critical in establishing a sense of intimacy between these characters, where we legitimately believe they would pine after each other for the next several years throughout Adam’s deployment.

Normally with one-night romances like this I always question “yeah but how could they fall in love so quickly”, or “how much could they really learn about the other person in such a short period of time?” With this novella, that was never once called into question because we essentially see every critical conversation and loving gesture play out during those first chapters. Upon reconnecting after years apart, Laura and Adam discover the chemistry and desire is still clearly evident between them. However, they choose to push this desire aside for a while so Adam can focus on getting to know his daughter, and Laura can focus on sharing her daughter with someone else for the first time ever. Once that’s resolved they do fall back into bed, or rather over the arm of the sofa, together again. This structure of having the moments of physical intimacy forming the book-ends to Laura and Adam forming a family unit together was just brilliant.

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

Series: Manhattan Holiday Loves, book 3. We may have seen the tales of romance play out for each member of this friend family, but I’m secretly hoping we’ll see some additional installments to cover all the other holidays in a calendar year. I mean, maybe they can all have some long-lost relatives show up that they never knew existed. Totally plausible, right?

Final Impressions: Each novella in this series is a pure delight. This final installment might jump into the steamy bedroom quicker than the previous two, but then we are thrown for a loop with a few dry spell chapters inserted in the middle. Towards the end we do get a bit of over-the-top drama concerning Laura’s prissy mother and a misunderstanding around some paperwork, but all in all it was important to show how miscommunication can lead to the most intense of arguments, but only by coming back together with an open mind can they potentially overcome anything together as a couple. This whole series presents us with some crucial takeaways for having a successful relationship, and this third novella is no different.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaang! Adam is the dirtiest talking of the bunch, and presents us with a sex position I can’t say I’ve ever seen in all my years of romance reading. Hats, gloves, shirts, pants and all possible clothing off to you my friend!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 125 Pages. Get the whole series.

The Wages of Sin by Kate A. Knight

Amy has been determined to locate her parents’ killer and uncover the reason for their murders for over a decade. When Todd Birch comes on the scene, he threatens to distract her in ways she never thought possible.

What’s it About?

Amy Koehler knows deception better than anyone. Half her life is a secret and the other half is a lie.
The only truth she knows is her love for one man.
Todd Birch is everything she ever wanted and doesn’t deserve.

When there are no more secrets…
Todd must decide whether Amy is worth fighting for.
Broken beyond anything he ever imagined, Amy tests the limits of his love. He puts everything on the line to save her – his career, his honor, his life.
But even that may not be enough.

When all that’s left is the truth… and there’s nowhere left to hide…
There isn’t anything Amy won’t sacrifice to avenge her father.
She knows she is no better than the people she hunts… merchants of death, beasts without a soul.
But Amy will tear their world apart, even if it means destroying the man she loves.

The story must end…
Because the wrongs of her past can never be righted.
She must kill the ones who wronged her. They will pay for their sins with blood.

It is only a sacred truth… that the Wages of Sin is death.

First Impressions

From Jamaica to the Dominican Republic, to Paris and the outskirts of Washington, DC, the entire series has been building to this moment. Books one and two in this series may have followed the same characters, but the plots of the books were so distinct that you couldn’t help but question how the two were supposed to link together in any meaningful way. Well, enter book three where all the different pieces are joined together to form one haphazard and troubling puzzle. We have Amy’s confrontation with the man who will lead her to her father’s killer, her work bringing a terrorist to justice, her complicated relationship with Anne, and finally her tumultuously passionate yet argumentative relationship with her husband, Todd Birch. There was certainly a lot going on…too much going on in my opinion, to the point where it felt like no one story line received the depth and attention it deserved. Finally, all of the progress from book two of Amy learning to trust Todd seemingly evaporated between the last page of that novel and the first page of this one without any explanation.

A Confusing Marriage

Throughout all the mystery and espionage of the last two books there has been one element that has remained constant throughout the series, and that was Amy and Todd. They’ve been linked and drawn to each other since day one, and Todd is really the only man Amy has ever deigned to love. The main dilemma for us as the readers though is that neither character can be considered “likeable”. With each additional novel I found it near impossible to root for them to succeed as a couple, and questioned at times if the series would conclude with them riding off into the sunset together, or killing each other. Either option was certainly plausible. Amy herself would constantly waffle between an internal dialogue of pure infatuation for the man, to be quickly replaced by one of suspicion, fear and pure animosity. They were both abusive to each other mentally and physically, and seemed like they were using each other for ulterior purposes. Again, it was a challenge to root for either of them.

The Big Reveal

If we had to toss out one plot line that seemed quite unnecessary, it would have to be Amy’s work case to get to a known terrorist. This story line resulted in her seeking out the terrorist’s son to uncover personal information to convince the other son to reveal where their father was hiding. It was just…too many lines removed from the main drama of the novel, and the only way it really impacted any of the story was that it brought Amy to Paris where a man who knew about the man who ordered the death of her parents was located. As you can see, there’s a lot to keep track of here.

When we finally get to the big penultimate reveal of who was responsible for the death of Amy’s parents I only had one reaction, “Well…duh!” I couldn’t be sure if this was supposed to be a huge, shocking twist, but honestly it was something that seemed fairly evident since book one. While I could understand and sympathize with Amy’s quest for vengeance, I couldn’t stand behind some of her methods towards discovery, such as killing most of the associates involved in her plotting to ensure nothing could be linked back to her. There was so much senseless killing involved that you question if Amy is supposed to be our heroine, our villain, or perhaps a little bit of both.

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 3. Honestly I was happy to see this series come to an end.

Final Impressions: Overall, it was difficult to connect with, or even like, a single character in this series, let alone our main character. Too much was happening, the pacing was off, and it was difficult to tell if our lead couple loved or loathed each other. The ending was rather predictable, anticlimactic and rushed, and there were significant grammatical errors littered throughout. It definitely had the potential to be an intriguing tale of espionage, but there were too many elements that needed reworking.

Smut Level: Like Amy and Todd’s emotional relationship, their physical relationship was rather problematic as well. At times it was full of steam and passion. Other times left bruises and other physical pains. Even when the two fought and screamed at each other, they always maintained an intense desire for each other. Talk about whiplash!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Khaton Press. 400 Pages.

The Protector by Abigail Owen

Lyndi and Levi have been denying their true feelings for over 200 years. When the fates of war threaten to pull them apart, they finally have to confront the desire they both feel for each other.

What’s it About? 

The cousin of the High King, Lyndi Chandali has lived with the constant threat of being pawned off as a political prize. A rare, female-born dragon like Lyndi can’t truly mate—not in the way it counts. Which is why she’s kept her distance from a certain sinfully delicious Beta. Instead, she’s built a life for herself giving orphaned dragons in the Americas a home.

As Beta of his team of enforcers, Levi Rowtag is a fighter first, last, and always. His job is to protect—his team, the shifters in his territory, and the stubborn woman hell-bent on fighting with him at every turn. He knows from the moment they first meet what she’ll never accept—they are destined to be mated.

But with the kings at war, the enemy is now coming for Lyndi. Worse, he’s coming for her orphans, too. He’ll have no choice but to defy his king and go rogue if he has any hope of protecting them all…and finally claiming his mate.

First Impressions

Every once in a while you manage to come across a very special series that fills you with excitement with the start of every prologue. After a thrilling journey full of delightful characters and gripping storyline you’re almost sad to have the story end. But then each epilogue fills you again with that familiar excitement of anticipation as another sequel’s groundwork is laid out before us. This fantastic addition to the Fire’s Edge and companion Inferno Rising series proves once again that Abigail Owen has succeeded in brining us into this world that we never want to leave, or ever see the series end for that matter.

Throwing Away the Rule Book

A truly thrilling aspect of this series is that we’re constantly kept guessing as to what might happen next, or which preconceived assumptions will change with every turn of the page. While we’ve come to understand some of the basic components of this fantasy world of dragons, it’s a world without a rule book, or at least, the rules are constantly evolving. The Huracan Enforcer team have come to realize how long they’ve been kept in the dark by their leaders when it comes to mates, mating, and what is or isn’t possible in their magical landscape. The impossible is seemingly increasingly possible with each passing day. This lack of a rule book is what keeps each new addition to the series interesting and unique from that which came before. I definitely had a moment or two where I had an “oh snap” exclamation of surprise from a plot twist I didn’t see coming.

The Couple of the Series

Hands down, Lyndi was my favorite heroine of this series so far. She was a powerhouse of a woman who could hold her own with the boys, had a heart of gold to take in orphans who nobody else wanted, and a sprinkling of self-doubt when it comes to her worth in life as a sterile female dragon. Levi has loved her since first meeting, but her initial cold shoulder has kept him at a distance from admitting his true feelings for centuries. When Levi is called away by his king to fight in a war of kings, he realizes he has no more time to stay away from Lyndi. It’s when they’re at risk of losing each other that they can voice how important the other is to their very existence.

As if the prospect of Levi being called away wasn’t hard enough of a trial for their burgeoning relationship, when a dragon from a rival enforcer team comes to claim Lyndi as his own mate, the challenges before them are thrown into overdrive. Levi and Lyndi’s connection was palpable from the first page, and their combined strength in the face of adversity made them a standout couple of the entire series. Lyndi is convinced her infertility means Levi is deserving of more, but he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to prove to her that he not only loves her, but that they’re fated mates who deserve to be together. You root for him to succeed in convincing her to accept him fully into her heart, and you keep your fingers crossed that they’ll both succeed in defeating a common enemy who wants Lyndi for himself.

Digital painting by Sunima (Sunniva Myster)

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 5. I can’t wait for the next book!!! I’m beyond excited to focus on a former member of the Huracan team who went rogue. Be sure to read this series in order, as well is in conjunction with the Inferno Rising series.

Final Impressions: Once started, it was near impossible to put this book down. I actually read the whole thing in about 3 sittings. Levi and Lyndi’s story immediately pulls you in and won’t let go. They have so many forces trying to pull them apart, that you can’t help by stand by on the sidelines cheering on every success they achieve in the face of hardship. What seemed like years of animosity between them have shown how much they’ve watched and learned about each other in all that time. Lyndi and Levi are the ones to draw you in, the rest of the team will pull you in even closer with their familial support, and their battles against injustice will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Smut Level: These two may have waited hundreds of years before indulging in their ultimate physical desires, but we certainly don’t have to wait long before Levi has Lyndi spread out and tied to her bed. Talk about dragon’s fire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 254 Pages

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.