Aurelius by Jessika Klide

This is quite literally the climax that fans of Aurei and Siri have been waiting for!

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It’s my turn. I’m ready. I want the “Golden God.” I choose Aurelius Moore. F*ck, that’s a sexy name. I’m going to turn my Wild Thang loose on him because I know he can handle her. When Aurei returns home from his military obligation at the same time Siri has been dropped off by the taxi, she turns up the heat determined to let their chemistry take them on a thunderous ride. I’m going to scorch him, brand him, and make him mine!

First Impressions

Alright, so full disclosure right off the top. This post is going to be more of an observation rather than a review for one very important reason. This is the fifth book in the “A Scorching Stripper’s Love Story” series, and I haven’t read any of the previous books which came before this one. As such, it definitely feels like I’m a bit late to the game! You can tell this story picks up immediately from where the last book left off. Like, it literally feels as though this is just the next chapter in the story rather than a firm beginning to a new novel. It was a unique feature to be sure, as it almost give the sense of this series being a continuous periodical that flows from one book to the next.

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Now, as a fresh newcomer to this series, I can’t say it was my favorite mechanism ever, as it didn’t really give me a chance to fully get to know our characters, or really understand the backstory and dynamic of their relationship which was presented in the earlier books. I kept wishing throughout the book that I could have been privy to a few more recaps of what came before. At the same time though, I can completely understand that if I had read this series from the beginning, too many recaps would definitely interrupt the flow of the series. It’s a uniquely outside of the box approach to storytelling, but if this book has showed me anything, it’s that this series doesn’t attempt to be conventional or predictable in any way!

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Untold Secrets

From what I can tell, these two have been desiring each other for quite a few books now, but they have yet to act upon these desires. Until now of course. Wink wink. Readers finally get to see the climactic moment when Aurelius and Siri come together to, well…climax 🙂 Honestly, I’m shocked that with the amount of sexual vibes these two are emitting they haven’t consummated before this moment, and it makes me wonder what in the world they could have been doing for the last 4 books! It seems as though Aurei and Siri don’t want to rush into a sexual relationship, and even in this book we see how things are delayed a bit at the start.

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As it turns out, in spite of Siri being an unbelievably sensual woman, she is still a virgin. When she finally decides that Aurei is the man she wants in her bed, he is mighty surprised to discover that she hasn’t been with another man before him. This prompts him to want to reveal every “dark secret” he has, so that she is fully aware of who it is that she’s giving such a precious gift to. And apparently, the dude’s got a lot of secrets. Rather than get into the nitty gritty details of everything though, Siri insists that she wants Aurei no matter what. There is nothing he could tell her that would make her want to change her mind, so they proceed with their sexual activities without really revealing any of the secrets of their pasts. If other romance novels have taught me anything, this is just a recipe for eventual disaster and catastrophe. I kept waiting for some kind of big momentous secret reveal later on in the novel which would test this budding relationship. Surprisingly, it never comes, but we’ll just have to wait and see if this holds true for future novels too.

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We do get one brief glimpse of this dark side which Aurei is alluding to the morning after he and Siri explore each other’s bodies in every possible way. While he’s taking a shower, Siri quietly sneaks in with him for a morning quickie, but in the process she gets more than she bargained for. It’s in this moment that, I at least, discover Aurei suffers from PTSD due to previous tours of duty. He mistakenly lashes out at Siri, but she is quick to calm him back to reality. Now, it’s going to sound weird, but I wanted more of these moments! To see an emotional connection between Siri and Aurei that went beyond just their obvious physical chemistry. For all I know, it’s possible this was already discussed in a previous novel, or there might be plans to delve deeper in a future book. However, just based on what I was presented with here I wanted more of these scenes where Aurei and Siri share personal details about themselves. I wanted to see that darker side to Aurelius that he hints is lying beneath the facade of the beautiful Golden God.

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Suggestive Entertainment

I might be a bit late to this series, but one thing is for damned sure. Siri is one sensual woman. She performs suggestive dance, and as Aurei describes it she is involved in “erotically charged entertainment”. While we don’t get as many recaps as I would have liked regarding Siri and Aurei’s relationship up until this point, we do get a few brief snippets as to the events which went down at a “Cock and Tail” swingers party which Siri attended in the last book. And holy shit does it sound like it was one hell of a party. We’ve got mention of pole dancing, a riding crop, masturbation, oral sex, and a rather erotic version of Russian roulette. Based on this brief overview I kind of get the feeling it might be too erotically charged for my tastes, but at the same time it sounds like Siri is all about helping people delight in sex, orgasms and pleasure. She’s not necessarily an active participant, but rather a guide for others to find a pleasure they may not have even realized they were seeking.

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

Series: A Scorching Stripper’s Love Story, book 5. This novel sort of ends how it begins. There really is no firm beginning or end, but rather it feels like a continuous story. You get the sense that the next book will pick up immediately from where this one left off.

Should you read it? I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing what I did, and use this book as the starting off point for the series. I felt like I missed out on a lot, and at times it was kind of difficult to follow the dynamic of Aurei and Siri’s relationship. That being said, if you’ve been a reader of this series from the beginning I imagine that this book would be the ultimate culmination to everything you’ve wanted from the very start. After so much build up, and witty suggestive banter back and forth the two have finally decided to give in to their sexual desires. And they hold NOTHING back.

Smut Level: Oh boy. Aurei and Siri perform all kinds of sexual acrobatics. At one point he has her pinned up against a wall with her legs thrown over his shoulders. Seriously, I get a cramp just picturing this scenario!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 290 Pages.

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Saving the Sheriff by Kadie Scott

A man in uniform, a narrow alleyway, and a steamy kiss in the rain. Yup…sounds like my kind of book!

What’s it About?

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There’s a storm brewing…

The day his wife died, Sheriff Cash Hill discovered she was leaving him for another man, one she’d loved since before their marriage. How could the single dad ever trust another woman again? But when Georgia’s best friend, Holly, comes back to town, something about Holly’s sweet, sassy vulnerability has his protective instincts kicking in hard. Holly Jensen left La Colina, Texas with regrets. She’s returned home to work as the new large animal vet and to watch over her best friend’s daughter. But Holly’s knowledge of Georgia’s past could rip a family apart. And she’s reluctant to go to the sexy…and single…sheriff, as he’s made it clear he wants nothing to do with her. Both are faced with a choice…stay locked in the past or allow their reservations to be silenced by a passion hotter than Texas summer nights. Can they learn to trust their own hearts and each other?

First Impressions

This novel manages to approach a very complicated romance in a brilliantly delicate way. After all, we are dealing with a single father whose wife died just one year before, and he’s starting to fall for his wife’s best friend. Definitely a love story that needs to be dealt with carefully so as not to seem widely inappropriate. And I’d have to say it was handled damn near perfectly, and you never really get the sense that either Cash or Holly are somehow crossing a line by exploring a relationship with each other. While Cash is still reeling from the death of his wife, we quickly discover that all was not perfect in their little family. Yes, they may have had a beautiful daughter together, but their marriage was seemingly one of obligation after an unexpected pregnancy. And on top of it all, on the day of his wife’s death Cash found a letter from her stating that she was leaving him because she had always been in love with another man.

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As for Holly, she’s had a crush on Cash for as long as she can remember, and when her best friend made a move on him which resulted in pregnancy, their friendship almost fell apart. Holly has since moved back to this small Texas town to keep an eye on Sophia, the daughter of Cash and her deceased best friend. Little does Cash know that Holly is aware of another of his wife’s secrets. There’s a chance the darling Sophia might not be his after all. In the beginning both Cash and Holly are wary to start any kind of relationship. They both understand their history is a complicated one, and when Holly reveals the possibility of Cash not being Sophia’s father, things get even worse. However, something that I particularly appreciated with this read was that the two really don’t rush into anything. Sure, they feel a simmering attraction, but they obviously have some things to work out together. While it does prolong their eventual romp in the hay (quite literally!), you also have to admire their ability to talk out some of their issues before jumping into anything too hastily.

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A Shy Extrovert

Something I could really relate to while reading this book was Holly’s demeanor. She can come across to others as very personable and outgoing, but internally she is reeling from shyness. Whether it be with Cash, his family, or even his daughter, Holly has the tendency to use humor as a way to deflect attention away from herself, and avoid having too many personal discussions. My God it’s like reading a description of myself! I could also relate to the internal struggle Holly was experiencing at moving back to her small hometown after going to school in a big city.

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“At a school of over forty-thousand students, it’d been easy to blend in and go unnoticed. She’d forgotten how into everyone else’s lives people got around here. Small-town Texas.” As someone who grew up in a small town in Ohio, I totally understand what Holly is talking about here. There is something about going to a big school, in a big city, where you have the ability to blend into the crowd. You rarely stand out and are able to just go about your life without the worry of others getting up in your space. But when you inevitably go back to small-town life, you go through a kind of culture shock at the suddenness of not being able to stay invisible.

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A Title of Deception

Since the death of his wife, Cash has become a shell of his former self. His ability to trust others has lessened considerably, especially when it comes to women. His wife hid the fact that she had been involved with another man right before she became entangled with Cash, which has now raised doubt as to the paternity of his daughter. Not only that, but Holly was aware of this other relationship, and kept it a secret from Cash for so long, thereby impeding his ability to trust her as well. However, it is because of Holly that Cash is able to learn to love again. He is able to break out of this shell he’s been suffering in for the past year so he can be a better father to his daughter, and a man that Holly can fall in love with.

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Although we see how this story encompasses “Saving the Sheriff”, in my opinion the novel has a much stronger focus on saving Holly. Her back story is just as compelling as that which Cash went through with his wife. In her mind, Holly is undeserving of love based on her own actions years before following the death of her grandmother. As the eldest of three children, Holly was suddenly thrust into a caregiver position for her two younger siblings. But rather than put her life on hold, she made the decision to go off to school, and put her siblings in the care of a foster family. The small Texas town felt that Holly had abandoned her family, and Holly came to believe the vitriol they spouted her way. When Cash and his daughter Sophia come along, she doesn’t feel worthy of becoming a part of their lives for fear she might one day abandon them like she did her siblings. Holly is standing on the precipice of living her life alone, and Cash takes it upon himself to prove that she is not only worthy of love, but deserving of his love specifically. As you can see, we’re not just dealing with a tale of “Saving the Sheriff”. These two really come to save each other.

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

Series: Hills of Texas, book 1. Cash’s family is delightfully entertaining. With a number of siblings, I can’t wait to discover what romance is in store for each and every one of them!

Should you read it? This is a very well thought-out tale of romance. Normally when dealing with a tale where two leads are dragging their feet to enter into a relationship, you just wanna yell at them to get over it and have sex already. But with this book their hesitancy really does make sense, and you become intrigued to figure out how they’ll be able to overcome all of these obstacles together. And there are definitely a number of hurdles for them to jump. The incorporation of Cash’s daughter into the story was damn near perfect. Not too much, not too little, and she’s pretty freakin’ adorable. I do feel that this first book in the series is really laying the groundwork by introducing us to all the characters of this loving family, and that Cash and Holly are sort of the starting off point for even better things to come. I for one am all in, and am excited to see where this series might take us!

Smut Level: There’s only one sex scene, and it comes pretty late in the story. That being said, it’s in a barn hayloft for crying out loud, so totally worth it. We also get to enjoy plenty of steamy kisses before then!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing. 206 Pages.

Being You by S.T. Heller

This novel has convinced me that if I should ever leave city-living behind for the wonders of nature, I 100% need to buy a house by a lake that has a dock. It just seems like all of life’s major discussions and problems can be resolved by the serenity of sitting on a dock next to a peaceful lake.

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What’s it About?

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After years of trials and tribulations, Keegan and Jack are finally living their happily ever after. With their daughter and sons, their parents, and their friends, they are surrounded by love. Like all couples, Keegan and Jack face everyday issues, dealing with raising their children and concentrating on their careers, while remembering to focus on one another. But what happens when outside forces disrupt their happily ever after? Over the course of years, the strength of their bond is challenged by the ever-changing lives of their loved ones and by ghosts from the past that continue to haunt them. And, each time, Keegan and Jack must determine if their love for each other and their relationship can adapt and stand the test of time.

First Impressions

Mkay, so full disclosure: I have not read the first two books in this series. And my God! It sounds like I definitely missed out on a lot!! Personally I found that reading the synopses of the first two novels was a big help to understanding the main dramatic elements from the start of the series. In addition to that, I really appreciated the fact that the author gave us a brief recap of most of the key moments from the previous novels pretty early on in this book. Every time we are introduced to a character we are provided with the back story to how they relate to the main characters, and how their relationships may have evolved over time. That being said, I must admit it was rather difficult to keep all of the complicated relationships straight at times! Also, some of the major plot lines from the previous books were mentioned so nonchalantly there were a few times where I had to pause and ask, “Wait, what happened?!” From a casual mention of brain surgery, to an ex-girlfriend lying about Jack having died in a fire, it definitely seems like I missed out on some craziness in books 1 and 2!

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An Observation on Life

While it’s difficult for me to discuss exactly how this novel compares to the previous two, I can only assume this one was pretty mellow after reading the synopses of those first books. We have no undercover investigators, nor tales of murder to contend with. Instead what we are presented with is more of an observation on life. The book is littered with minor dramatic moments that any of us could encounter in our own lives. From a child needing stitches, to the stresses of work, and even having to put down a beloved pet. At the same time we are privy to the delightful moments of life which can offset those which seem so terrible and scary. Marriages, family vacations, and hanky panky fun times when the kids are asleep 😉

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While this definitely helps us relate to our characters with the everyday joys and problems of life that we too experience, it was also a bit light in terms of an underlying plot. Keegan and Jack do encounter two significant issues which threaten to impact the happy bubble they’ve created for their family. The first controversy doesn’t really come about until the half-way point of the novel, and all in all it is resolved fairly quickly. The second problem is more of a slow build-up to an eventual climactic point of contention. Through it all we question if Keegan and Jack will be able to overcome these dramas, or if outside forces will break the strong link which binds them together. One thing’s for sure, meddling exes definitely seem like a common theme throughout this series! Ultimately we see how Jack and Keegan’s strong commitment to being open and honest with each other provides the underlying stability to their relationship. No doubt this was built upon throughout the previous two novels!

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The Extended Family

The characters in this novel were unbelievably captivating and entertaining. Jack and Keegan especially are the driving force of the story, and I think one of the main reasons I liked them so much was the fact that they were in their late 40s when the novel began. This allows them to bring a crucial amount of maturity to their discussions which can oftentimes be lacking in romance novels featuring couples in their early 20s. They aren’t quick to make assumptions, or if they are they have the ability to talk to each other! Thank goodness we finally have a couple who can communicate!!! So refreshing. The book is told from their alternating points of view, with a few chapters told by their daughter Molly, which was always a unique surprise.

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As for the other characters of the novel, they too are a delight, but holy crap are there a lot of them! Seriously, you need some kind of 3-D diagram in order to keep all these people and relationships in order. We have ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, step siblings, half-siblings, and then just the general friend group. Phew, I’m exhausted! Again, with the first mention of each character we get a snippet of their background and how they relate to our main characters from the first two novels. It was a lot of information to keep track of. I seriously think some kind of extended family tree would have been very helpful, mainly just to maintain who is actually related to whom. I remember at one point Molly mentioned how when she grew up she was gonna marry a boy named Jace, and for a moment I panicked and exclaimed aloud, “But he’s your half-brother!!!” But then…I retraced the various webs of relationships and realized, ok phew, not a blood relative. Proceed!

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

Series: The Dock Series, book 3. While I definitely appreciated the recaps of the events from the previous books, I almost wonder if I had read them beforehand I would find this read almost too repetitive at times. It’s always nice to have a refresher when continuing on in a series, but I could see that in some instances a reader of the whole series might think they know all this already. Personally, I would really enjoy if we get a 4th book that follows their daughter, Molly. Fingers crossed!

Should you read it? I loved the calm of the lakeside scenery, and I honestly think it helped contribute to the levelheadedness of our lead couple. Sure, they have a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part their communication skills are a thing to be admired. The novel is mainly an observation of how Keegan and Jack get on with their everyday lives, whether that includes the good, the bad, or the ugly. I do wish we had been introduced to more of a concrete story line earlier on in the book, but in the same vein it also made the book more of a refreshing lesson in how moments of happiness are bound to come after those that might seem hopeless or overwhelming.

Smut Level: Overall a fairly clean read, but it still has some spicy scenes! Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Key to success? Back rub massages in a bubble bath.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 304 Pages.

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The Milanese Stars by Pamela Q. Fernandes

It would appear that Vita and her co-conspirators may have just gotten away with the jewel heist of the century. But when a sexy investigator comes to town, Vita realizes she might not escape from Milan so easily with the jewels intact…or her heart for that matter.

What’s it About?

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The heist of the decade and yet, no one would have guessed… it was her. The Milanese stars are missing from the famous Buccatino boutique. When American insurance investigator, Samuel Keane is called in to liaise with the polizia, he finds the whole heist odd. Not only are the Milanese stars, a set of five pink diamonds, not listed in the inventory of stolen items, worse, none of the surrounding owners or passersby witnessed a thing.

Samuel is anxious to solve the case and partners with local café owner, Vita, who has a very good vantage point to watch Buccatino. Vita herself has quite the interest in Samuel. He’s a decent man, not to mention delicious, and he’s smart. But the last thing she wants is to be caught. After all, Vita has planned the heist for years. Five to be exact. The only thing she didn’t plan is falling in love with the young American.

As Samuel digs further into the history of the stars, he discovers Vita’s friends and her physically challenged sister are all connected to them. He learns of Vita’s past and the loneliness she’s resigned herself to in an effort to protect herself from loss. Samuel also learns Don Giovanni, proprietor of Buccatino, is no ordinary man. He’s a local Mafioso and will stop at nothing till he gets the stars. The more Samuel investigates, the more dangers he and Vita face. Can he solve the case and what will happen with Vita? What will he do when we learns the heist of the decade isn’t about stealing pink diamonds… it’s about settling the score.

First Impressions

Vita can’t deny the desire simmering between her and Samuel. There’s just one problem. He’s only in town for a short time to investigate a jewel heist worth millions. And Vita just happens to be the thief responsible. Okay…so that might be more than just one problem now that I think about it. One of the best parts of this novel is Vita’s inner turmoil of whether or not to pursue anything with Samuel. Why would she possibly risk inviting a wolf in sheep’s clothing into her life and home? He is investigating the heist after all, and she’s directly responsible for it. But considering the heat passing between them, to push him off would be even more suspicious than inviting him in. She doesn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to herself, and ironically enough the best way to do that is to go on a few dates with the man. At the same time she’s helping to coordinate the sale of the stolen jewels and plotting her own escape from the city. Who would have thought she’d have time to fall in love with all that drama going on?

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The Heist

So, first things first. Honestly I feel the synopsis gives away a bit too much of the plot. I think I almost would have preferred if we didn’t know going in that Vita was involved in the heist. It could have been such an interesting twist to uncover maybe a few chapters in. After all, Vita has such a sweet and inviting personality, I don’t think I would have suspected her right away. Samuel obviously doesn’t! In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity to have some fun with the audience, and keep us all on our toes!

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As for the heist itself, I must say it was a good one. I don’t want to give away all the details, although again the synopsis does hint at some things. Even though we know immediately that Vita was responsible for the heist, you do sort of question throughout the novel the backstory involved to carrying out such a crime. You also can’t help but wonder if Vita and her co-conspirators will get away with it all. About halfway through the book you can start piecing all of the links and ties together, but it isn’t until the very end that we get one final explanation of the why, how, who, and what now? When all of these pieces ultimately come together you can’t help but smirk and think, “Well I’ll be damned!”.

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Sisterly Love

While everything does eventually come together full circle in the end, I do feel that we missed out along the way with some key details which really could have made this story a home-run. Firstly, Vita’s relationship with her sister, Tecla. This is one aspect of the novel that I just wish would have had more focus. Their dynamic is a major influencing factor to so many of Vita’s decisions, but I wanted more development regarding Tecla’s side of the story.

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Throughout the book we understand Vita’s driving force behind this heist was directly linked with wanting to take care of her sister, and yet at times you can sense some bitterness emanating from Tecla regarding how Vita treats her. Is it because Tecla doesn’t want to feel like a cripple who must be fawned over? Is it because she wants Vita to not miss out on all that life has to offer? Honestly, I’m not really sure, and I wish we could have had a few more scenes which just centered on sister and sister.

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The Don

Another important feature of the novel that was somewhat glossed over was the character of the Don. He’s the proprietor of the boutique from which the jewels were stolen, and a well-known mafioso. Understandably so, he’s a presence which sort of lurks in the shadows; a villain not to be trifled with or confronted. And yet, I guess I was surprised to find that Vita and her co-thieves don’t seem as wary of him as they probably should? While they all plan to leave town shortly after selling off the jewels, they don’t seem to discuss much of a plan regarding ensuring that this criminal Don never finds them again.

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Let’s face it, the fact that they all plan to leave town at basically the same time guarantees he’ll know they’re responsible, but they never really discuss going into hiding, changing their names, appearance, etc. Heck, even Vita’s plan is to flee to the town of Fusine. Sure, it’s gorgeous, not to mention a 5 hour drive from Milan, but it’s still in Italy for crying out loud! There may not be any direct evidence linking Vita to the heist, but the Don also seems like the type of guy who doesn’t bother with silly things like the law, or proof. He seems like the type of guy who would put a bullet in you if he suspected you of making him look the fool, and then ask questions later.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? The base of the story is all here, and it’s one with great bones. That being said, I think it also could have used with a bit more description, and some embellishment here and there to give us a fully robust story. It’s a quick read, but almost too quick if you know what I mean. The details of the heist were awesome, and it’s great when you have a book that can have you rooting for a bunch of jewel thieves to succeed. The relationships of the story also could have been expanded upon more, including the sisterly dynamic between Vita and Tecla, as well as the romance between Samuel and Vita. I will say though, be prepared to want to book a flight to Italy pretty much as soon as you finish this one!

Smut Level: No hanky panky here. But at least we are warned straight off from the get-go that we won’t have any sex scenes. Honestly, I prefer that situation to being relentlessly teased throughout the whole thing wondering if we’ll have more. We do get some passionate kissing scenes, but nothing to make you blush too hard.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. TouchPoint Press. 152 Pages.

Gull Harbor by Kathryn Knight

This small coastal town harbors a deadly secret that one woman is determined to uncover. In order to do so she’ll need the help of a beloved local, her ex-boyfriend…and a ghost. Nobody ever said being a medium was easy!

What’s it About?

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When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day.

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she’s facing a danger beyond the paranormal. When Claire risks everything to help a desperate spirit, Max must race to save her–before another tragedy tears them apart forever.

First Impressions

This novel blends together a second chance romance with a supernatural murder mystery. Claire has traveled to Gull Harbor to rid a beautiful home of the spirit of a young woman who met a tragic fate within the house at the hands of a drug dealer. As if that wasn’t a trying enough itinerary, Claire quickly discovers that this quaint town also contains her ex-boyfriend, Max, who deserted her years before with no explanation. Upon first reading, you immediately assume that in addition to dealing with the awkward end to their relationship, Max and Claire must also butt heads over her supposed supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits. However, something which I found to be rather refreshing when it came to this novel is the fact that we don’t really encounter any characters who doubt Claire’s ghostly abilities. We never come across a scene where Claire must desperately try to convince someone of her morbid gift, and I must say I absolutely loved this feature. From the beloved coffee shop owner, to the devastatingly handsome Max, and eventually even the murderer of our sad ghost, it really doesn’t take much for all of them to believe in her abilities. These characters have enough drama to deal with, we don’t need to add on another element of questioning doubt to the story.

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A Meddling Father

From the opening scene of the book, we are presented with two separate mysteries. The first revolves around the complicated history between Max and Claire. The two were inseparable towards the end of their collegiate careers, and yet for some inexplicable reason Max left her just when their lives together were about to start. What reason could Max possibly have for leaving town without a word, and will Claire ever be able to forgive him when the truth is eventually revealed? Only time will tell. The fact that Max can serenade the lass with a soothing voice, avid guitar skills, and a healthy sexual appetite…well let’s just say I’m confident the two will work it out.

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We quickly discover that Claire’s father played a meddling role in ridding her life of Max all those years ago. There’s also an additional interesting ultra-side story involving Claire’s mother who has been stuck in a coma for years. While interesting, I couldn’t help but feel as though this drama revolving around her mother didn’t really fit in with the rest of the story. On the one hand I do wish we’d learned more about the dynamic between Claire and her father, but at the same time I feel like any more attention on this side story would have made the novel as a whole feel more disjointed. As it stands it’s sort of a weird limbo of not knowing enough, wanting to learn more, yet also wanting to get back to our ghostly haunting.

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A Tale of Woe

The second mystery of our novel is significantly more tragic, in that it deals with our mournful ghost with unfinished business. We discover the heartbreaking tale of a young woman named Maria who fled Mexico in the attempt to earn money which she could send to her family back home. Rather than find a land of opportunity, she is quickly used, abused, and pays the ultimate price with her life. The reality of the scenario is difficult to deal with at times, and yet I must say some of the best and most heartbreaking scenes of the entire novel deal with Maria sharing with Claire the experiences which led up to her death. The hopelessness, the fear, and even the moment when her spirit floats away to stare down at her lifeless body. But who was responsible for Maria’s death?

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Maria’s murderer is a sleazy drug dealer who once inhabited the home that Claire is now investigating. I must say, it seemed like a rather strange place for a drug dealer to be based. A cozy house in a small harbor town? It just seemed like he would have risked drawing unwanted attention to his nefarious activities seeing as he’s living in a quaint town where everybody knows everybody. Sure, access to the coast would be convenient when getting a drug delivery, or even the delivery of a young woman who unknowingly got caught up in human trafficking. At the same time though, it seems like the last thing he’d want is to possibly have a nosy neighbor coming by to deliver a pie.

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He Is Here!

This novel starts off particularly strong with the immediate tension between Max and Claire meeting again after so many years apart, especially considering their awkward end. Plus, you have the supernatural element on top of this where Claire is trying to connect with Maria so she can move on to a better place. While they encounter some communication difficulties at the beginning, eventually Claire discovers that Maria is lamenting the details of her death in Spanish. Once this language barrier is discovered the two ladies reach an understanding in that Claire is just trying to help Maria find peace. However, this is also the moment when the momentum of the story starts to slow down a bit.

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You’d think that once they figure out how to communicate, the truth surrounding Maria’s death would come to light fairly quickly. Instead we end up waiting around a bit for the final showdown of when Maria’s killer inevitably returns to town to try and shut up Claire’s snooping. A rather frustrating feature of the story is when the drug dealer sneaks into the house, and is momentarily scared away by Maria’s ghost. Maria proceeds to tell Claire just once in Spanish that “he is here”, and of course it had to be at a point when Claire wasn’t really paying attention. Maria then switches focus to urging Claire to find the location of her buried body, and the whole time you’re sort of yelling at Maria to re-warn Claire that the bad man is back in town.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? In hindsight I think I almost would have preferred if Max and Claire didn’t know each other upon meeting in Gull Harbor. While I did enjoy certain aspects of their history, it did open up additional side stories involving Claire’s mother and father that weren’t really fully explored. If Max was just a sexy bartender in town who helped Claire get to the bottom of the ghostly mystery haunting this old house, I think it could have lessened some of those moments where the romance and supernatural aspects seemed disjointed. That being said, I found Maria’s story to be really interesting, and while I wish Maria had been more forceful in warning Claire of the reappearance of her murderer, it did result in an exciting and worthwhile climax to the novel.

Smut Level: Max and Claire usually get intimate at his place…or even in his office! Can’t blame them for wanting to avoid a ghostly audience!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.82. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 270 Pages.

The Beast of Aubyn Hall by Alex L. Michaels

A slightly quirky and accident prone bookworm? Check. A sexy as hell and overly confident alpha male? Check! You can definitely understand why this book would be part of the Bookworms & Alphas series!

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The man they call the beast, sworn off love, meets the bookish beauty who thinks that love exists only in books. When Bronte Beltran finds out that her next assignment is cataloging the famous Aubyn Hall library, she’s ecstatic. But when she finds out they call the owner the Beast of Aubyn Hall, not so much. A week in a dusty library should be right up her alley. But a wrong word at the wrong time and she might just find out what exactly is beastly about the Beast of Aubyn Hall.

First Impressions

Holy crap this book is the epitome of sexual tension build-up. Practically from the moment that Bronte crosses the threshold into Aubyn Hall, and hears the dark and foreboding voice of Caine, aka our Beast, you can practically feel the air get thick with desire. That being said, prepare yourself to be teased, as we don’t get a full and final…climax to this desire until the very final moments of the book. You’ll want to scream out loud, “Just ravish each other already!”

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In a way, it sort of follows the same story arch of the first novel, where we were also presented with some delayed gratification. Whereas book one presents us with a plethora of being pushed up against a wall and being whipped around for an intense close-up discussion, in this novel we get the added glory of Caine continually coming up behind Bronte in the heat of an argument. Sexy whispers in her ear, not to mention that a particularly part of his anatomy is usually…digging into her bum. I will say, although we are being teased right along with the characters, this makes for a very quick read because you just keep reading on and on so you can get to the moment when they consummate this thing.

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Sexy as Hell, buuuuuuut…

This book is sexy as all get out, but at the same time I also found the dynamic between Caine and Bronte to be somewhat worrisome. It’s clear that Caine is set and determined to have Bronte in his bed, and while she is obviously affected by his sexy whispers and passionate stares, she expends quite a bit of effort to convince both herself and him that she’s not receptive to his sexual ministrations. He’s also quick to boss her around, and while sometimes it relates to the fact that she’s working for him, in his home, cataloging his library, it also crosses the line of professionalism. Below is one quote which I found to be particularly concerning:

In fact, I don’t think he ever approached me in a kind or respectful manner. He just kept sneaking around me, provoking me, making me feel uncomfortable and sometimes he plainly insulted me. He also made me feel foolish, confused, insecure and sometimes plain afraid. But he also excited me enormously, that much I was able to admit to myself.

I mean, goodness gracious if it weren’t for that last sentence I’d be screaming at the woman to get the hell outta that house! At the same time though, whether she’s sexually excited by this man or not, I feel like the fact he sometimes made her feel “plain afraid”, can’t really be a good thing??? The last thing we want is to have an alpha male who borders the line into jackass. Although, I guess we were warned right in the title that we’re dealing with a beast here 🙂

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However, based on how the novel progresses it becomes clear that Bronte is definitely attracted to this man, and she just doesn’t want to admit it to herself, so it results in Bronte continually running away from her feelings for this man. One of my favorite quotes from the book is said by another woman who has her sights set on Caine, and during one confrontation with Bronte she declares, “and you want him to get you whether you’re willing to admit this to yourself or not”. Such an intelligent statement that can carry over into so many romance novels. I guess I just wish there weren’t those moments thrown in where Bronte admits she doesn’t feel respected by Caine. It kind of throws a damper on the sexual fire that is spreading throughout the rest of the book.

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A Library in Disarray

Bronte and her team have been brought to Aubyn Hall in order to get Caine’s library in order for eventual public view. Maybe I’m just too much of a book nerd, but I sort of wish more time had been spent talking about the details involved with this work. I mean, what exactly goes into cataloging a library? Apparently a lot of heavy lifting, but what else? Alphabetizing? Writing down all the titles? Making sure there’s a designated romance section? This sort of ties in as well to my wish that Bronte and Caine had connected a bit more over their shared love of books. They both admit to the fact that they’re book lovers, but maybe having just one or two additional moments where they connect over books in the library might have transformed their relationship beyond just the obvious sexual connection.

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A Beast with a Set Mind

Apparently Caine has a motto in life when it comes to Bronte, and that would be “I have set my mind on you.” This is his answer for everything when it comes to why he is constantly pursuing Bronte, and why he refuses to give up on her. No matter how many times she says no. Bronte is totally stumped when it comes to Caine’s pursuit, since she can’t understand why someone as gorgeous and rich as him would pursue a bookworm such as her.

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This brings us to the inevitable confrontation and blow-up between Caine and Bronte. Just when they are starting to make some progress and headway to starting a relationship, it is revealed that Caine asked for Bronte specifically when it came to the work on his library. Apparently he had seen her once before, and this provoked his mind to be set on her. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble understanding why this was seen as such an offense to Bronte. She is immediately pissed, and explains that it was a way of Caine using his money to try and exert his control into her life.

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Which, ok, I can see is kind of weird. He could have just been a normal person, walked into the library where she was working and ask her out for a cup of coffee. But then we wouldn’t have a book, would we? 🙂 I guess her reaction seemed just a bit over-the-top considering this ploy to get her in his house was essentially his version of a pick-up line. My favorite comment on this entire situation comes from Bronte’s friend who states, “…boo hoo. So what? Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest type of seduction, but it wasn’t the worst either.” Amen sister!

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

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 2. You really don’t need to read the first book in this series to follow the plot of this one. The female lead from book 1 does get a mention towards the end of the novel, but there’s no plot carry over, so you should be all set! I’d love to see future books in this series focus on some of the supplemental characters from this book, as they are an absolute hoot!

Should you read it? This is sort of a different take on your classic Beauty and the Beast tale, in that our beast is actually gorgeous. He’s more beastly in manner, not to mention a beast in the bedroom. When it comes to building sexual tension this book has perfected it to a damn near science, but I wish we would have seen a bit more connection between the characters over their love of books. It’s sort of the only time we see a soothing to his beastly manner, and I just wanted more of it. I also wasn’t a huge fan of their dispute over why Bronte was brought to Aubyn Hall to begin with. While it provided conflict to the plot, I couldn’t really understand why she was soooo offended at the thought of being brought there because he’d seen her before.

Smut Level: Caine just loves to make a happy hour of Bronte, in that he has the tendency to pour his alcoholic beverages over her before lapping it up. While we have to wait quite a long time before they officially have sex, we get a delightful amount of dirty talk and teasing before then.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 153 Pages.

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Love Comes in the Mourning by Erin Bevan

A big city girl in a small Georgia town. When house renovations are involved, you just know fun mayhem is bound to happen.

What’s it About?

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Recently divorced and down on her luck, Lesley DeLoach is determined to make a new life for herself. When she inherits her great aunt’s estate, Rosalyn Manor, her future seems to be heading in the right direction—until she sees the home’s crumbling skeleton.

Widower John Hambrice is barely keeping his construction company afloat and his children fed, so when he’s offered a job restoring the Rosalyn Manor he can’t turn it down. But the big city client with the high falutin lifestyle reminds him too much of the last time he was burned by big money.

As the summer temperatures rise, so does their attraction. He learns there’s more to the city girl than he expected, while she learns the country boy’s gruff exterior hides a heart of gold. But each has lost so much in love already…is the chance of another broken heart worth the risk?

First Impressions

My goodness ladies and gents if I have one piece of advice for you, it’s be sure to have the tissues ready before you attempt this one. Little did I know that by reading the short prologue I’d be going on an emotional roller coaster that would basically have me ugly crying by the time I got to the first chapter. This is what I get for thinking I can just nonchalantly start a new novel 15 minutes before bedtime. We open on a hospital room where John is saying his final goodbyes to his wife as she dies from cancer.

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My God, the waterworks are coming again just thinking about this scene! Definitely a sad start, but believe me when I say this book actually has some funny shenanigans thrown in as well! Those begin a year later when Lesley moves to town following her divorce, and starts renovations on the old mansion she inherited from her Aunt Myrtle. And just who do you think is selected as the contractor for this huge project? Why John of course! It’s a tale of second chances at love and starting over, even if you didn’t think you’re ready for it.

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Moving On

Lesley has moved to Georgia in an attempt to start her life over for herself. To live independently for the first time in her life following the separation from her cheating ass-hat of an ex-husband. People think she’s crazy for putting so much time and money into the decrepit old house her Aunt Myrtle left her, but she sees this potential to run her own B&B as a way to take back control in her life. She seemingly doesn’t have time for love, but upon her first consultation meeting with John it’s undeniable that something is pulling them together. Should she take a chance on this man so soon after the end of her marriage?

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As for John, he too is contemplating this immediate attraction he has towards Lesley. Not only is the woman a complete and total klutz, but John has already found and lost the love of his life to a terrible sickness. He also has his two children to think about. Getting involved with a big city girl who might give up on these crazy renovations before the week is out isn’t something he can take a chance on. Or is it? The more time these two spend together fixing up her aunt’s house, the more difficulty John has at staying away. But is he betraying the memory of his wife by essentially moving on with someone else? To quote his own inner turmoil, “…thinking about Sandra and Lesley in the same thought just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Like he disrespected both women without even trying”. This poor man! Can I have the chance to give him a hug please?

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The Renovations From Hell

Although this novel has a decidedly sad prologue, I was surprised at the abundant amount of humor we get injected into the story line as well. Lesley is far from a HGTV star, and seemingly trips over everything. That being said, this woman has dedication, and she’s no quitter. John quickly recognizes the fight in her, and he becomes determined as well to help her through this renovation.

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A large portion of the novel is spent focusing on John and Lesley within the confines of the house, working and sweating away on getting the house in tip-top shape. However, every once in a while we also get to see the various personalities of the locals, and they added just as much hilarity to the story as the bickering between John and Lesley. Heck, they even hold town hall meetings à la Gilmore Girls. What’s not to love here? And although the novel starts off with Lesley as an outsider to this small little corner of the world, with time we see how they start to adopt her as one of their own. It’s pretty touching to see this whole town rally together to support someone they once saw as an outsider.

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An Unexpected Romance

They tried to fight it as much as possible, but we all knew that eventually John and Lesley would end up in bed together. And it’s so delightful when they do. However, something I wasn’t expecting is that this novel also presents us with a little historical romance as well. Soon after arriving in the house, Lesley locates some journal entries from when her Aunt Myrtle was a teenager which recount a passionate romance she had with a poor artist who was traveling through town. I must say the author did an amazing job at weaving together these two romances; one contemporary and one historical. We see that there are corresponding themes between the romances, such as learning to take a risk in life, as well as opening up and taking a chance on a stranger.

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Unfortunately, things are a bit more depressing when it comes to the aunt’s story, mainly because we know from the get-go that she won’t get her happily ever after, no matter how much we cross our fingers in the hopes that she will. When the story opens we are told that Aunt Myrtle lived her life as a recluse, never marrying or having any children. In addition, as Lesley researches more about this artist Myrtle fell in love with, she mentions early on that he only became famous after his untimely death. Sooooo…we all know this won’t end well! That being said, having these brief journal entries interspersed throughout the novel still created a sense of anticipation in that you wondered how it would all come together, even though in a way we knew how it was going to end.

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The Warm and…Depressies?

Although I really really enjoyed this unique inclusion of a historical romantic story line, I must say I wasn’t thrilled with the timing of how it all ended. Essentially, the novel ends with a happily ever after between John and Lesley, and then in the epilogue we read one last sad journal entry which ultimately closes the book on our historical romance. It’s quite a jarring juxtaposition to see that while John and Lesley took a chance on finding new love after their first loves ended, Aunt Myrtle took no such chance. She chose to live out the rest of her life with just the memory of this one great love.

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I almost wish these journal entries had provided us with the conclusion to aunt Myrtle’s story at maybe the halfway or 3/4 point in the novel. Instead, our book closes on both an incredible high and rather depressing low. Get the tissues out again folks! I found myself thinking about this ending a few days after finishing the book, as you’re sort of caught in an emotional limbo. You want to celebrate the fact that John and Lesley found happiness with each other, but at the same time you’re stuck thinking about poor Aunt Myrtle and her artist. Instead of ending the book with the warm and fuzzies, it sort of felt like the warm and…depressies.

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

Series: A beautiful stand-alone.

Should you read it? This book will have you experiencing almost every range of the emotional spectrum. From a devastatingly sad start, to a quirky and funny middle, and a romantic finish at the end. While slightly predictable, there’s moments of suspense and the exploration of faith. It’s a great read if you’re debating between a contemporary or historical romance, as you sort of get both mixed in together! My one piece of advice would be to start this book when you have enough time to get a few chapters into it so that you can get beyond the initial sadness of the death of John’s wife. It’s an emotionally heartbreaking start, but you’ll soon find yourself smiling at the sexy flirtations between John and Lesley. Trust me!

Smut Level: When a hurricane is blowing into town you just know what that means. Sex in the rain!!! Or at least, sex starting in the rain before stumbling indoors. And we get some delightful moments of being pushed up against a wall of course. Classic!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 300 Pages.