Illusions Unveiled by Ayla Asher

Our journey through the small town of Ardor Creek continues as we explore how one man will do whatever it takes to prove to the one woman who got away that he’s worth taking a chance on. All I gotta say is if she won’t take him, I certainly will.

What’s it About?

Sometimes you squander all your second chances…

At the tender age of seven, Peter Stratford fell in love with the only woman who would ever claim his heart. But Carrie represented Ardor Creek, the town Peter detested. Determined to make something of himself in New York City, he leaves her behind, breaking both their hearts.

Carrie Longwood accepted that Peter would never love her enough to stay. Embracing her inner strength, she married another and had her precious boys before her messy divorce. Alone in Ardor Creek, she builds her life around her small family unit.

When Peter returns to Ardor Creek, battered and broken from addiction, he begins to heal, knowing Carrie will never forgive him. But Carrie kept her own secrets and, whether they’re ready or not, all of their illusions will be unveiled…

First Impressions

We were initially introduced to Carrie and Peter in the first Ardor Creek novel, and even though they were secondary characters at the time, it was clearly evident that they had a chemistry and history that was worth exploring in more detail. This second addition to the series give us the chance to look back on how Carrie and Peter’s picture-perfect high school romance devolved following his move to the big city and subsequent fall into drug and alcohol addiction. Carrie gave him a few chances to win her heart throughout the years, and while the chemistry was always there, they could never get the timing right. It’s now years after Peter’s recovery and Carrie’s divorce from a grade-A bumhole. As their close friendship has stayed true and strong after so many hurdles, it finally seems like they both might be at the right time and place in their lives to make another go at it. They’ll just have to make it through a health scare involving one of Carrie’s boys, as well as her many insecurities before that long-held dream might become a reality. For those of you who like second-chance romances, this is more like a third or fourth chance romance that will steal your heart!

Secrets Unveiled

It’s been a long and arduous journey for both Carrie and Peter to finally get to the healthy place they’re both at when the novel opens. Peter has confronted the many demons of his past, and has successfully entered recovery after years of addiction. Now he’s finally ready to confront his future, and for Peter that means settling down in Ardor Creek for good with the love of his life by his side. He’ll just have to learn about a critical secret that Carrie has been keeping from him for years…and maybe donate a major bodily organ before she’s willing to explore taking things to the next level with Peter once again. Carrie’s hesitancies to let Peter fully into her and her boys’ lives was a major theme of this book. I’ll admit, at first I just wanted to yell, “Oh just get over it already! This hunk of burnin’ love is obviously a keeper, and is fully committed to you and your kids! Let him in!” However, there were several key moments where I think Carrie’s concerns were communicated to us in a logical way that didn’t just make it seem like the plot was stalling for time.

Roadblocks to Happiness

Firstly, it’s one thing to be fun “Uncle Peter” for a few hours throughout the week by playing video games or soccer with her sons, and sitting down for dinner as a group when it’s convenient. Taking things to the next level would invite the not-so-glamorous side of parenting 24/7, from driving the kids to piano lessons and soccer games, helping with homework, being woken up in the middle of the night from unexpected nightmares, etc. It’s not something he can just turn away from when he’s too tired after a long day of work, and Carrie needs to make sure Peter understands what it means to transition from the fun family friend to a trustworthy father figure. Then there is Peter’s past to contend with.

Thankfully, I was pleased to see that Carrie never really saw Peter’s addictive tendencies as a reason to keep him at a distance from her or her boys. If anything, this seemed like more of a hang-up for Peter than it ever was for Carrie, and she always admired him for his strength to get clean. Her main reservation was always a fear that Peter would tire of the small-town life that Ardor Creek and her small family would ever be able to offer him. How long before he’d be called back to the bright lights and excitement of the city? After all, it called him away from her several times in their past, why would it be any different this time around? Well, Peter is determined to show her that Carrie and her two boys are all he’s ever wanted, and they represent his future happiness in every way.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 2. Every book in this series has ended with an epilogue of our characters heading to the wedding of the town’s notorious bachelor mayor. I can’t wait to finally get to that story, but it looks like we have one more romance to explore before we finally get invited to the blessed event.

Final Impressions: I am definitely in love with this series, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the residents of this small town. This sequel felt a tad more serious at times when compared to book one, but it was still a great addition to the series which incorporated a great blend of romance, drama, a smidge of comedy, and sexy fun times. Peter was such a commendable character in my mind to have overcome such debilitating addiction, and retain enough patience to never give up on a future with the love of his life. The final scene of the book provides us with a picture-perfect moment that left a tear in my eye, and you’ll just have to read it yourself to see why!

Smut Level: These two may have entered their forties, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still up for all manner of sexy fun times. Carrie and Peter can get downright raunchy when the kids go to sleep, and even kick things up a notch with a sexy nurse’s outfit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 196 Pages.

Mister McHottie by Pippa Grant

This is the epitome of an enemies-to-lovers romance, with an abundance of hate screwing thrown into the mix. Toss in a propensity for our lead characters to prank each other every chance they get, and what’s not to like?

What’s it About?

The best enemies make the best lovers….

There are three things I hate: 

Bratwurst in any form, my neighbors boinking like farm animals at 3 AM, and Chase Jett.

Mostly I hate Chase Jett. It’s been 10 years since he took my virginity – I’d make a bratwurst joke, but the unfortunate truth is that it would have to be a brat-best joke, and yes, it kills me to admit that – and now he’s not only a billionaire, he’s also my new boss.

Turns out our hate is mutual. And this kind of hate is horrifically twisted, filthy, and banging hot. I just might have to hate him forever.

First Impressions

Pretty much from page one you can tell this is going to be a fun, silly ride filled with down-to-Earth and sarcastic lead characters. Various chapters are told from alternating points of view between our somewhat hyper female lead and our smirkingly delicious male lead. The narration of the novel definitely plays out in a way that makes us feel part of the inner circle of friends for our characters. At times with Ambrosia’s chapters especially, we almost see her stream of consciousness as she gets especially frustrated when confronted with the tormentor of her childhood, Chase. They haven’t seen each other in years, having pulled endless pranks throughout their younger years which eventually culminated in an explosive argument (and sex) in the back of a bratwurst wagon. Upon reconnecting years later when billionaire Chase buys out the company Ambrosia works for, it takes mere seconds for all of their old frustrations and prankful ways to immediately resurface. And with all that supposed hatred comes another kind of frustration…sexual frustration.

A Sultry Romantic Comedy

As the first few chapters of this novel played out, I merely expected this to be a light-hearted, fun-filled romantic comedy with plenty of pranks and sarcastic comments hurled back and forth between Chase and Ambrosia. And while that was certainly true, the element I wasn’t expecting was the explosive heat and dirty-talk-filled sex scenes which permeate this entire read. Even though I can’t say the transition from spewing insults to sticking their tongues down each other’s throats was a seamless one, it was certainly an enjoyable one. I remember listening to this audiobook as I cleaned my dishes, and when Chase and Ambrosia were arguing in an elevator together I though, “oh, this should be fun,” and the next thing I know Chase has her bent over with her clothes ripped off, and he’s slapping her bum. That was definitely an unexpected escalation for their first sexual foray in adulthood. As the book progresses we see these two characters constantly trying to either avoid or one-up each other before their frustration ultimately builds into them tearing their clothes off, and continuing to exchange insults as a humorous form of foreplay.

Series: Girl Band, book 1. I think I’ll continue with this series. It’s full of crazy antics and even crazier characters you can’t help but love.

Final Impressions: If you’re looking for a fun read that will leave you giggling, yet also sweating from the steam burning between these two, then this might be a read you’ll want to try. The sarcastic dialogue of Ambrosia reminded me of my own personality at times, though it was also a challenge to follow her fast-paced stream of disconnected thoughts, even if it lent an air of fun casualness to the read. Overall it was a cute, silly, passionate read with a few flaws littered throughout, but it came together in the end for an awwwww-filled conclusion.

Smut Level: Elevator sexy fun tiiiiiimes!! The tone of this book might read light-hearted comedy, but my goodness do the sex scenes escalate into something fully charged with heat and eroticism.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Bang Laugh Love LLC. 184 Pages.

Bishop by Sawyer Bennett

You can’t help but wonder how star hockey player, Bishop Scott, doesn’t leave a trail of melted ice behind him considering the intense sexual heat he emits wherever he goes.

What’s it About?

Bishop Scott, co-captain. Not too shabby, huh? It’s all part of my fresh start with the NHL’s latest expansion team, and that means new teammates, a new coach, a new city, and a big new contract. Basically, I cannot f***ing wait to show my old squad what they’re missing.

But first, I decide to check out the town before the grind begins. Turns out Arizona chicks are totally smokin’, and I’m fortunate enough to meet one who’s looking for the same thing I am: a night of anonymous, unforgettable, no-strings-attached sex.

Fast forward to the Vengeance arena. It’s the last place I expect to see her again—let alone in her own office. Then bells go off and I finally realize who this girl is: Brooke Perron. My new coach’s daughter. All of a sudden, we’re picking up right where we left off, which means our hands are all over each other. That’s when her dad—my boss—walks in. And before I can get a word out, Brooke’s introducing me as her fiancé.

Sure, she just saved my ass. So why do I get the feeling Brooke’s going to turn my world upside down? Maybe it’s because this fake relationship feels way too real. . . .

First Impressions

If you’re a romance reader like myself who hates having to wait around a long time for sexy fun times to appear in your read, then this is definitely the book for you! Not only do our lead characters jump into the sack almost immediately, but their sexual chemistry is off the charts to a point where you don’t have to wait long at all before they’re tugging each other’s clothes off again. While their relationship started off as a one-night stand which evolved into casual sex buddies, there always remains a level of mutual respect and friendship between them which can’t help but ultimately transition into a partnership chock full of emotion. This was definitely a couple it was easy to fall in love with, and one that you were quickly rooting for to succeed.

Nothing Fake About it

I love a fake relationship as much as the next person, and a fake engagement trope is just the icing on the cake. After Bishop and Brook’s one-night stand, they can’t stop thinking about each other, and both are shocked the next day upon the realization that Bishop is a player for the hockey organization that Brooke now works for. Their surprise quickly transforms to desire, and it’s while they’re locked in an intimate embrace in Brooke’s office that her father walks in, who just so happens to be Bishop’s coach. Quick on her feet, Brooke blurts out that they are engaged so that her father won’t try to get Bishop kicked off the team. Even though I immediately broke out into a wide grin upon Brooke’s declaration, I can’t say the fake engagement aspect of the story was entirely necessary to the plot.

It’s something that Brooke and Bishop almost immediately walk back on, from “oh we’re engaged!”, to “oh we’re almost engaged!”, to “oh we might be a while away from an engagement!”. I almost think it would have been better to simply start off with the fake relationship aspect, and only after some insistent prodding from the dad would a ring have been involved. However, as it stands Bishop and Brooke really only have one awkward dinner with her dad following his walking in on them, and then he kind of disappears from the story entirely. You almost forget that he was the initial impetus for their deception, and I think I would have appreciated a few more scenes involving Bishop having to face off with Brooke’s father.

Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 1. I’ll definitely be continuing with this series. We are introduced to a slew of Bishop’s teammates that I can’t wait to get to know better.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a steamy and fun read that you’ll want to bring along on your next beach vacation. I do think we were missing a critical integration of Brooke’s father into the story line, and instead we see a focus on an old acquaintance of Brooke who comes to wreak a bit of havoc on the sultry bubble that Brooke and Bishop have created for themselves. Thankfully, she never became a point of misunderstanding between Brooke and Bishop, which was a prevalent fear of mine throughout the latter half of the book. However, it was nice that, for the most part, our lead characters could remain logical in the midst of this other character’s craziness.

Smut Level: You’ll need to keep a few ice cubes nearby to cool yourself off with the scenes involving these two. We’ve got dirty talk and all manner of sexual exploration going on here.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Loveswept Publishing. 221 Pages.

Stumped by Pamela Q. Fernandes

A review of their past will make these two contemplate if a future together is possible.

What’s it About?

Love behind the wickets.

English vice-Captain Claude de Lussan is the poster boy for English cricket. He’s smart, handsome, rich and a damn fine cricketer. And Delilah Taylor loves him to bits. Her whole existence revolves around him so much so, she polishes his autographed ball from his first century every weekend as it sits in her cabinet. Except, Claude de Lussan doesn’t love her back.

Following a heady summer, she finds herself suddenly married and divorced from the cricketer only to find him return to her world years later. Can they resolve old hurts and bury the past to rebuild a future together? Can they overcome family resentment, old flames and misunderstandings to accept that they what they had was and still is special?

First Impressions

Alright, confession time. I have never in my life watched a cricket match. Game? Competition? After reading this book I understand wickets are involved…whatever they are…Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, typical American! Well, if it helps at all, it’s not like I’m only into football or baseball, I just don’t care for sports in general. Probably because watching people enduring so much physical activity reminds me how I should probably work out more 🙂 All that being said, do you need to understand all the rules of cricket to understand or follow along with the plot of this novel? No, not really. Every chapter is entitled after a cricket phrase, and our two lead characters do bond over Claude’s expertise in the game. However, I do think it would have added an extra layer of appreciation to understand how the cricket chapter titles maybe corresponded to the content of that chapter, but alas I just had to go with the flow. I will say though I am very intrigued now to watch a cricket match after completing this read!

Plenty of Angst

If I had to describe our lead characters in one word it would be the following: flawed. In a way, it made them more relatable and “human” to see they were subject to making some of the same mistakes, and even jumping to rash conclusions, like we are all capable of doing. The flip side of this though was that it was also kind of difficult to fall in love with our leads for a decent portion of the novel. It wasn’t even until the final scene of the book where I was somewhat convinced that it would be a good idea for Claude and Delilah to make another attempt at a relationship together. Pretty much from day one, Claude was always head over heels in love with Delilah’s friend, Grace, in a way that reminded me of Romeo’s infatuation with Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet. Essentially, you know he’s smitten, but you have absolutely no idea of what he sees in her beyond good looks. Even though he completely adored Grace, her blasé attitude toward him slowly made him turn to Delilah as a second choice.

Claude constantly straddled a line between the two women throughout the whole book. It seemed as though he didn’t really care for Delilah at all as a person until he eventually loses her. He keeps going back to Grace even as she was dating his brother, and when she ultimately reveals herself to be the ultimate duplicitous villainess, Claude is still willing to consider a future with her. At one point in the story Claude and Delilah were really starting to build a strong foundation together, and yet he was more willing to believe Grace’s word over Delilah’s, even though Grace has never really give him any reason to trust her. There was one scene in particular where we witness Grace’s ability to get inside Claude’s head, and it results in him spouting the most heinous vitriol towards Delilah that he no longer seemed relatable as a character, just downright mean. It was during moments like this that I couldn’t help but wonder if Delilah would have been better off without him. We eventually see Claude turn a corner, and realize that he lost something truly special by letting Delilah get away. However, this turnabout sort of came too little, too late in the game for my opinion of him to flip entirely.

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

Series: To Love a Sportsman, book 2. I hadn’t read book one in this series, but had no trouble diving right into this second novel.

Final Impressions: Aside from disliking one half of our lead couple through some critical scenes, another aspect of this read that I had a bit of trouble adapting to was the flashback format. While it was interesting to see scenes of Delilah and Claude divorced in the present juxtaposed against flashbacks to how they met, married and what led to their split, it was also tricky to follow along at times. As the novel progressed, and the timelines got closer together involving their somewhat constant arguing as Claude continued to waffle between Grace and Delilah, it became harder to distinguish between when we were in the past versus the present.

Smut Level: Nothing too descriptive, though there are a few moments of passion. However, seeing as these passionate scenes occurred between Delilah and Claude when he was still technically involved with Grace, it was kind of hard to become fully invested in these sensual moments.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. TouchPoint Press. 137 Pages.

Hearts Reclaimed by Ayla Asher

This small town romance is a must read for your next beach vacation. Or mountain cabin retreat. Or a standard Tuesday night. Just read it!

What’s it About?

Two weary souls find each other against all odds…

Ashlyn Rivers left her cheating fiancé behind and moved to Ardor Creek to revamp her life. Done with men in general, she has plenty to focus on, like building her new business and renovating her house for the local haunted homes tour. Falling in love is definitely not on the agenda.

Scott Grillo lost his family in a tragic accident several years ago. Still processing the loss, he throws himself into his contracting business, pushing away the loneliness and heartache.

When Ashlyn blazes into Scott’s life, he turns down her request to renovate her house, vowing to squelch the desire she stirs deep inside. But Ashlyn is a force to be reckoned with and Scott finds himself longing for her embrace each day she remains in Ardor Creek.

Can these two disillusioned souls reclaim their hearts and choose to love again?

First Impressions

In a word, this book is fantabulous. I finished it in one day it was that good. The first thing I noticed almost immediately with this read was that it made my face hurt from the constant grin I had plastered on my face, starting at about page three. It was quickly evident that this was a small fictional town I wish I could move to as soon as possible, and have a BBQ with all the delightful town residents you can’t help but fall in love with. Above all of that though, the two lead characters in this read have a chemistry that electrifies you through the page. A friendly flirtatiousness that makes you want them to rip each other’s clothes off, yet also drag out the delicious playfulness for as long as possible. I was thrilled that throughout this entire read, while we see Scott and Ashlyn’s relationship evolve from client/contractor to friends to lovers to something more intimate, they never lost their sense of playfulness with each other. It’s a detail that will make your toes curl and keep that smirk of satisfaction constantly on your face.

In the Face of Tragedy

Now don’t let that introduction fool you, this book isn’t all light-hearted flirtations and a sexy shirtless contractor on top of a ladder…although both of those details are certainly present! We do get a few serious notes built in, especially as Scott confronts the idea of opening his heart fully to Ashlyn as their relationship progresses, while also balancing this against the loss of his wife and baby daughter years before. And I would say this was a concept that the read as a whole manages with absolute perfection: balance. When I first read the synopsis and learned that Scott was still struggling with the death of his loved ones I was concerned that we’d be dealing with an overwhelming emotional read.

And while there are certainly some emotional scenes that left a tear or two in my eye as Scott opened up to Ashlyn about the tragic loss of his family and his fears at allowing Ashlyn into every corner of his heart, these emotionally heavier scenes were intertwined so beautifully with the scenes of playfulness and sensuality between Scott and Ashlyn that I was never left feeling the book leaned too heavily one way or another. It would have been easy for Scott to have just been all ready for a new relationship, and for the author to simply push the harsher realities of that emotional confrontation to the background. But that doesn’t happen here. On the flip-side, it would have been easier to rely more heavily on the inner struggle Scott faced in moving on with someone new, and leave the comedy bits out entirely. The fact the author could so seamlessly blend the two themes together made it feel even more reminiscent of true life and love being filled with the most spectacular highs juxtaposed against tragic lows. Again, a beautiful balance.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 1. I had to force myself not to immediately dive into book two! It’s a rule of mine to always try and break up the books in a series with another read.

Final Impressions: Read…this…book. It’s a five-star read that presents us with fun, sexiness and even a bit of drama. Something I appreciated even more than the smile this book left on my face was how our characters reacted to the drama with which they were presented. Every reaction felt entirely authentic. Nothing was overblown for the sake of unnecessary drama. Their reactions seemed like those I might have, or someone I know might have, once again lending an air of reality and balance to the read as a whole.

Smut Level: In a way this book sort of reads as a romantic comedy, but that doesn’t mean our characters avoid the subject of sex. They’re more than happy to explore each other’s sexual fantasies and even enjoy a good pounding out on the front porch.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 168 Pages.

Delicate Ink by Carrie Ann Ryan

A rugged, alpha-male tattoo artist sets his sights on the demure boutique owner across the street. Sounds like a classic Romancelandia premise to me!

What’s it About?

One look at the woman who comes in for new ink and Austin Montgomery knows she’s the one for him. The problem: she can’t stand him. Now he’ll have to be his most charming and brooding if he has any chance of changing her mind…and claiming her heart.

Sierra Elder has reasons for keeping away and secrets close to her heart. An accident took her first love and scarred more than her soul in the process. Now the inked man with a wicked grin is starting to melt the ice she’s built to keep her safe, but the danger isn’t only from what she feels.

Some secrets were never meant to be kept and when mistakes from both of their pasts come knocking, they’ll have to trust each other, even if it could hurt them both in the process.

First Impressions

I think every avid romance novel reader does a little internal twirl of delight whenever we discover the male lead comes from an extensively large family network. And when family members gather together for regularly scheduled family dinners or BBQs? Forget about it, we’re doing a full on happy dance!! After all, that can only mean one thing: sequelssssss. That was definitely true when it came to this first novel in the Montgomery Ink series and we discover that Austin Montgomery comes from a family with multiple siblings, cousins and even “strays” that his family has picked up throughout the years.

There was only one major negative with having so many members of the Montgomery clan, and that was the feeling that we were introduced to too many of them at once in this first novel. While large family romances will often give us a tease to the focus of the next novel, it felt like we got a glimpse to something like five different future story-lines, and even multiple chapters involving the couple from the prequel to this book. We’re only in the first novel and I already feel like I’ve got all my Montgomery members mixed up! The fact we will ultimately get offshoot Montgomery Ink series set in Boulder, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins makes me hope we’ll see some extensive family trees going forward so we can clearly remember who is who.

Flogged with Surprise

It’s no surprise to my readers that I’m not typically a huge fan of BDSM-focused reads. I actually didn’t realize when adding this book to my TBR pile that it had a D/S component, so I had a mini moment of “oh boy, here we go” when gathering together my read-ahead notes for this one. However, while I might not personally understand the appeal of flogging, I did appreciate how this novel presented us with the foundations of a healthy BDSM relationship built upon honesty and respect. Austin had his “sub-dar” activated upon first meeting Sierra and realizing she might be the submissive that his dominant side was craving.

When it became clear Sierra not only understood the fundamentals of BDSM, but also that her previous relationship had been steeped in it, the two were ready to start setting their boundaries. They were very clear in establishing limits, safe words, getting new and clean equipment for their scenes, and Austin clearly outlined that Sierra was safe with him. No skin would be broken by his flogging. They were very good about keeping their D/S dynamic reserved to the bedroom rather than having it take over every aspect of their interactions with each other. It was also refreshing to see that Austin and Sierra didn’t need BDSM play every time they had sex. Sometimes they craved the kink, while other times they craved something more traditional. All in all it was a BDSM relationship I could get behind whole-heartedly.

Series: Montgomery Ink, book 1. It seems kink and BDSM is a hobby that runs rampant throughout this family. If I can manage to keep all these characters straight I think I’ll give a few more a try.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a quick and entertaining read, though at times it seemed there were a few too many components going on. This felt especially true when we started to see the groundwork being laid for the love stories of other Montgomery family members. I couldn’t help but wonder, can we at least get through this first couple’s tale before weaving in details of all the others? This also resulted in some of the key dramatic aspects of Austin and Sierra’s story being pushed to the very end, producing a conclusion that felt a bit rushed.

Smut Level: Austin wants to feast on Sierra every chance he gets, and she’s more than willing to be his appetizer, main course, cheese plate and dessert all night long.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Self-Published. 370 Pages.

Hunter by Eden Summers

Sarah is determined to bring justice to those that the law can’t, or won’t touch. But when the chance arrives to seek vengeance on the man who murdered her family, she realizes she might not be able to do it alone.

What’s it About?

A seductively thrilling game of cat and mouse destined to leave you breathless.

I’ve been running for ten years – fleeing my past and clawing my way toward an inescapable act of vengeance.

Until he walks into my life, sure and strong and full of secrets.

He dilutes my thirst for retribution with his touch. He obliterates my need for solitude with his kiss. But it’s his hidden agenda that makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.

He wants something. Something that doesn’t revolve around sweaty skin and tangled silk sheets like he’d have me believe.

I have to stop falling for him, otherwise the last ten years will all be for nothing. I need to keep running, keep fighting for vengeance, even though I know he will track me down.

But trying to escape him is just another problem. Because now I crave the hunt.

First Impressions

The premise and opening sequence of this novel had everything going for it. After all, how many times do we wish the slimeballs of the world could finally pay for their crimes? The fact it was a solitary woman ensuring that nobody could escape the long arm of justice, and that someone was always looking out for those less fortunate made it all the more satisfying. It was almost reminiscent in a way of Promising Young Woman, where we encounter an independently strong and feisty female lead who isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right following a tragic event in her own past. Her dalliance with the mysterious and alpha Hunter upon first meeting at a local bar was all the more delicious. After this opening sequence though, things started to get a bit more muddled.

Can Someone Tell Me…What’s Happening?

So here is what I do know when it comes to Emma/Steph/Sarah’s back story which led her to the vigilante path she’s now on today. Her entire family was killed about 10 years ago at the hands of an ex-boyfriend who she’s been trying to locate ever since, and she’s only now starting to get hot on his trail. As to why exactly her family was the subject of such horror, how this man got away with it, and how he’s succeeded in disappearing all this time? Hell if I know. It’s kind of surprising when we consider that this was the impetus for Sarah’s life trajectory up until this point in the novel, how little actual clarifying information we receive regarding the event itself. I kept thinking we were being intentionally left in the dark so that we might ultimately get some kind of passionate reveal between our two main characters, but alas that never happened.

This wasn’t the only back-story that was painstakingly avoided throughout the entirety of the book. We also get very little to no history on our male lead, Hunter. We know that he is involved with some kind of criminal enterprise as a hit-man, but as to how he got involved in this line of work, as well as his dynamic with our lead villain who might not actually be a villain is also a total mystery. What we do know is that Hunter’s work and Sarah’s search for her family’s killer causes these two to cross paths. Once they get a taste of each other, Sarah feels the need to run away from the unexpected desire this man has awoken within her, whereas Hunter is more than willing to give chase to the woman he doesn’t want to let go.

Series: Hunting Her, book 1. Even though this first book didn’t leave me fully satisfied, I’m not at the point of giving up entirely seeing as book 2 focuses on a secondary character who brought plenty of personality to this read.

Final Impressions: Overall I think this book left me with more questions than answers. It certainly had good bones, but needed to be more fully fleshed out so that we could clearly understand the forces bringing all of our characters together.

Smut Level: A large part of this book is a game of cat-and-mouse with Hunter in pursuit of Sarah in her attempt to get him off her trail. The few moments where they do come together though are positively sinful.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 268 Pages.

Sinful Surrender by Erika Wilde

You can’t help but say “sign me up” when a billionaire beast wants to tie you up to his bed with the sole intent of doing things to your body that apparently Batman wouldn’t even do to Catwoman.

What’s it About?

A debt repaid . . . in the form of her surrender. Rich and powerful, Maddux Wilder has built his empire with one thought in mind . . . exacting revenge against the man who killed his parents. But he never planned for his enemy’s daughter, Arabella Cole, to offer herself in exchange for her father’s debt. Innocent and captivating, Maddux can’t resist her allure, or the lust she stirs within him.

When Arabella sacrifices her life to save her father’s, she does so with the intention of hating the man who now owns her. But beneath Maddux’s gruff, boorish exterior she discovers a compelling man. One who makes her burn with need and awakens deep, forbidden desires she can’t deny. Soon she’s surrendering more than just her body to Maddux.

What starts as an act of vengeance becomes something far more consuming. Can this beauty tame the beast, or will revenge cost them both everything that matters most?

First Impressions

Overall I’d have to say this is a delightful beach read. It has a good amount of heat, a bit of drama involving the mafia to hold your interest, and references to one of the best fairy-tales of all time: Beauty and the Beast. I appreciated that while this modern adaptation had a bookish beauty falling for a tough and grumbly beast, it wasn’t simply a scene-by-scene retelling of the story we all know and love. There was enough personality to distinguish this from the standard story-line. For example, while Arabella stands in to pay off her father’s debt to this beast, it’s because he has a criminal history of which she is totally unaware. Her father is certainly a far cry from the bumbling and lovable father figure we may have been expecting. Although some details are unique to this version, two things clearly remained the same: we have a surly male lead who manages to ooze sex appeal in spite of his beastly demeanor, and we have a feisty female lead who is far from a wallflower when it comes to interacting with this alpha billionaire.

She Knows What She Wants

Arabella’s admirable independence was clearly evident when she chose to stand up for her father, but it was even more visible in her sexual relationship with Maddux. At first, it almost seemed like Arabella would be a timid and delicate princess when it came to her sexual appetites. When we first met her she seemed like a bit of a loner living under the oppressive thumb of her overbearing father and his villainous sidekick, Gavin. Even though we see she’s initially quiet upon first meeting, it doesn’t take long before her voice is heard in every sense.

This is true not only in her declaration that she’ll do anything Maddux asks of her while living under his roof to pay off her father’s debt to him, but also when she makes it clear how much she wants Maddux to introduce her to all manner of erotic sexcapades. I was worried at first if this read would present us with a situation where Arabella was beholden and trapped to obey any sexual whim that entered Maddux’s head. Instead, what we see is Arabella is the one demanding that Maddux not treat her like a fragile ornament that might break at the slightest touch. She might be a virgin, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have some downright sultry desires that she’ll beg Maddux to help her fulfill. It definitely makes you wonder who is wearing the pants, or more willing to rip them off, in this relationship.

Series: The Sinful Series, book 1. I’ll be continuing with this series, as we see a hint of a Cinderella story involving Maddux’s brother.

Final Impressions: Again, this is a fun beach read to explore this summer. I probably would have appreciated a bit more exploration of the dynamic between Arabella and her father, but it also wasn’t 100% necessary to the plot. The interactions of Maddux with his siblings and their seeking of vengeance for the death of their parents more than fulfilled the required familial dynamic for the plot to move forward.

Smut Level: It takes some time before we get to the ultimate climax, but we get plenty of teasing dirty talk before then to keep us satisfied.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 286 Pages.

The Wrong/Right Man by Aurora Rose Reynolds

What starts out as a blind date for the record books turns into something a bit more awkward the morning after when Dakota discovers the man lying in bed next to her isn’t the man she was supposed to meet.

What’s it About?

Waking up to a text asking why you stood up your blind date is not the best way to start the day, especially when the man in question is standing half dressed in your kitchen.

Maybe Dakota Newton shouldn’t have assumed the gorgeous man with a devastating smile standing outside the coffee shop was her date. She probably— Okay, she definitely shouldn’t have slept with him, regardless of how hot the chemistry between them was. But how could she know Mr. Right was actually Mr. Wrong?

Braxton Adams has been called a few things in his life, but a liar was never one of them. That all changes when he’s approached by a beautiful woman who thinks he’s there to meet her for a date.

As a businessman, Brax knows to trust his gut and never let an opportunity pass him by, so he pretends to be someone he’s not.

Maybe he shouldn’t have lied. Maybe he should have come clean. But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because now he has to prove he’s not the wrong man but the right one.

So what if he’s not the man she’s expecting? She’s the one he’s been waiting for.

First Impressions

So the synopsis of this book gives away what might be the biggest spoiler alert of the entire read, which is that Braxton wasn’t the intended date match for Dakota to begin with. This lent an almost bizarre air to the start of this read, as we see how Brax cleverly hides details, or even outright lies about his identity in order to continue his date with Dakota. The romance reader in me chuckled along to some of his deceptions, whereas the real woman that I am was screaming that if this happened in real life it would be beyond creepy. As the two proceed with their relationship and Brax’s overly protective/stalkerish tendencies come to the forefront, you’re kind of simultaneously hoping Dakota will file a restraining order, but also maybe throw him up against a wall for a passionate make-out scene following a heated argument. Such a strange juxtaposition!

Danger, Danger?

As discussed, Braxton engages in some super sketchy tracking of Dakota’s movements, texts, and even has her followed at one point by one of his minions. We’re initially led to believe that this is just part of his alpha-male intense infatuation with Dakota. She understandably gets angry and argumentative with him over his invasion of her privacy, not to mention a lack of boundaries. The aspect of this novel that I didn’t really care for was how this inappropriate behavior was shrugged off and ultimately explained away. Firstly, the “point” is made that the fact Dakota is willing to argue so vehemently with Brax over his invasion of her privacy demonstrates how much she must trust him. Her anger is reflected as her feeling comfortable enough with him to let her true emotions out. But like…he was still tracking her whereabouts and communications without her permission!! Not exactly healthy.

And this brings us to how Brax’s behavior is explained away as a knight in shining armor plot point. At the end of the novel it is revealed that Dakota has an actual stalker who is constantly calling her work and sending inappropriate things to her office. Details which Brax chooses not to share with Dakota directly. When her stalker ups his game by breaking into and trashing her apartment when she’s out one evening, Brax must finally admit that he’s been hiding the fact another man is watching her every move. It’s after this confession when Dakota has a moment of realization that the reason Brax was following her so closely all this time was because he wanted to ensure she was safe, and that her stalker didn’t get to her first. But like…then why didn’t you just tell her this from the get go?!

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This was a quick read with a strong beginning that kind of fizzled out at the end. While I could appreciate the blind date fiasco would have been a much bigger issue in real life, it was kind of fun to see the scene play out in romance land. After that though, Brax’s need to control and monitor almost every aspect of Dakota’s life was truly worrisome. The stalker element definitely felt rushed at the end, and also lacking enough background for it to truly feel part of the plot.

Smut Level: Sooooo many sexy times!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Dreamscape Media, LLC. 170 Pages.

Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty

A modern twist on a classic fairy-tale. From a devastatingly handsome Prince Charming to an enchanting, down-on-her-luck heroine. The only missing detail was a delicate glass slipper!

What’s it About?

Garrett Tucker inherits his grandfather’s casino empire and steps into the reclusive billionaire’s shoes as the “Prince of Vegas.” His first act is to buy a bankrupt casino in Biloxi. When he discovers embezzling in his new operation, Garrett goes undercover. His prime suspect is the new finance supervisor–the spitfire brunette who stole his heart at first sight.

Andi Ryan moves to Biloxi to care for her godmother and takes a job as finance supervisor for the renovated Bayou Princess casino. She discovers someone is skimming from the till and starts her own investigation, worried she will be blamed for the theft when the new owner discovers her godmother has a gambling addiction.

A rival Vegas competitor has sent a spy in to ruin the Bayou Princess, and Garrett and Andi are forced to work together to prove her innocence and discover the identity of their casino spy.

First Impressions

This sequel in the Cinderella Romances series had all of the classic fairy-tale details which were only hinted at in book one. From evil step-mother and step-sisters, to a cheery godmother, and everything culminating in a fancy gala with our female lead draped in a gorgeous sparkly blue gown. However, this isn’t simply a rehash of the story we all know and love, but rather those details are sprinkled into the bigger story being told of embezzlement and corporate espionage. I did appreciate that all of the Cinderella elements weren’t solely reserved to our heroine, Andi, but also shared equally with her Prince Charming, Garrett. While she may have been the one cursed with the villainous step-relations, Garrett was the one who was hiding the nature of his true identity from the woman with whom he was quickly falling in love. I always felt like the Prince was a secondary character at best in this particular fairy-tale, and it was refreshing to see Garrett as a primary character in his own right.

Screeching Villainesses

Once we immerse ourselves into the plot of this sequel, there were aspects that weren’t quite as successful as book one. First and foremost, it was a bit overly-complicated at times, especially in terms of some secretive behind-the-scenes plotting, and probably could have been about 100 pages shorter. In addition, while I appreciated seeing more of the classic Cinderella details, some of them were almost too over-the-top for reality. This was especially true for Andi’s step-mother and one of her step-sisters who took the roles of wicked villainess to the extreme. They acted as Andi’s boss and supervisor at the casino where they all worked, and while many of us have dealt with overbearing and demanding bosses, these two acted in ways that were clearly an HR nightmare. Their propensity to literally shriek at the top of their lungs in front of everyone about their disappointment in Andi’s work performance and personal life was especially cartoonish. Having villains who could have been more sly and cunning in their deceptions would have been scarier in my opinion than the surface-level crazy these two characters constantly emitted.

Another rather frustrating detail of this read was that almost every chapter would end on a cliffhanger scene or comment, and then the subsequent chapter would change gears to focus on another issue entirely. It was literary whiplash! It seems this technique was employed in an attempt to build a sense of tension to the read which all culminated in what was probably supposed to be an unexpected climactic twist. Unfortunately, the surprise we were presented with was fairly obvious early on in the book, so all of that build-up eventually led to a final reveal that wasn’t as rewarding as I was hoping for.

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

Series: The Cinderella Romances, book 2.

Final Impressions: While this sequel certainly had more Cinderella elements than book one, not all of the wider plot points necessarily came together in a cohesive way. The ending focused more on resolving the romantic story-line between Garrett and Andi rather than tying up all the loose ends of some of the more dramatic embezzlement plot points. We may have gotten our happily ever after, but not everything felt entirely finished.

Smut Level: These two shared some passionate kisses that left Garrett desperate for more and Andi’s eyes rolling into the back of her head. They never take things into the bedroom though.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Soul Mate Publishing LLC. 434 Pages.