The Darkness Within by Rebecca Hefner

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Beyond the Romance

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

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

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The Cave of Wonders

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

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

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The Troubled Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ride Steady by Kristen Ashley

This is one of those romance series that seems to improve with the addition of each novel.

What’s it About? 

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The ride of her life. . .Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy—until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling, single mom and stranded by a flat tire, Carissa’s pondering her mistakes when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.

Climb on and hold tight. . .In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he’s the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa’s acting, it’s clear she’s falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker’s secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa—or ride away forever . . .

First Impressions

The standout feature of this novel which sets it apart from all the others which came before is our heroine. Simply put she’s an outsider, one completely removed from the motorcycle world. The previous two novels dealt with women who knew the customs and traditions of a motorcycle club, and what it meant to be a man’s “old lady”. Carissa is getting a crash course in these customs after Joker comes to her rescue after her car breaks down on the side of the road. What’s particularly fascinating though is that the club seems to claim Carissa before Joker does.

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It’s not just that Joker has expressed an interest in her that the club has chosen to envelop her into their world, although that is certainly what drew their attention to her in the first place. Rather, it’s after this initial introduction when they work on her car that they hear her story. They see a woman who is being mistreated and emotionally manipulated at the hands of her ex. A mother who wants nothing more than to care for her child. This is what causes the entire club to rally behind her as though she were already one of their own. It’s a beautiful reflection of what this motorcycle club of seemingly rough and intimidating alpha men is all about. They’re looking out for those less fortunate, and should they have the means to remedy the situation in some way they throw everything they can at it.

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The Growth of a Tigress

Something even more intriguing than the development of Carissa and Joker’s romance was the evolution of her dynamic with her ex-husband. At the start of the novel, he’s doing anything he can to make Carissa’s life a living hell, and using his stature within the law community to take advantage of their separation. Our story opens with a focus on Carissa’s many burdens. From a lack of child support payments, to a mountain of lawyer fees she can ill afford, and the increasing loss of custody of her son to the point where she’s considering desperate measures to attain a sub-par lawyer to represent her against her cutthroat ex. This is when Joker and the Chaos Motorcycle Club come in. They support her in any way they can. But it’s not as though they just throw money at her in the hopes her situation will improve.

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They bring her in as one of their own, and become an emotional support and shoulder to lean and cry on that she was desperately in need of. Joker shows her and her son a selfless expression of love that she’s never experienced up until this point in her life, even from her ex-husband. They become her family. And it is through their support that Carissa finds her own inner strength, and the will to stand up for herself and her son in the face of her ex’s intimidation tactics. However, it is only after Carissa starts to exude confidence, and following the introduction of Joker to her ex that he starts to re-think their separation entirely. He adopts a renewed vigor to win her back after he sees another man encroaching upon his assumed territory. The question soon becomes, which was worse? His desire to push her down, or his tricks to try and win her back?

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Series: Chaos, book 3. Hands down, my favorite story of the series so far.

Final Impressions: In a way, the romance between Joker and Carissa is almost a second chance at love. They both crushed on each other in high school, but he ran away before they could ever voice their feelings for each other. All these years later Carissa is a single mother, and Joker is a tough-as-nails member of a motorcycle club, but none of that can interfere with their long suppressed feelings from coming to the surface. This novel also finally provides us with the introduction of some club drama with a rival gang, though it still takes a backseat to the developing romance between Joker and Carissa. What helps this novel supersede the others which came before is that the plot doesn’t just focus on our lovers learning to navigate their relationship, but we also have the added intrigue of them learning how to navigate the intrusion of Carissa’s ex into their relationship.

Smut Level: The sex scenes between Carissa and Joker often involve her desperate pleas for him not to stop. While definitely steamy, they also reveal a deep-seated neglect at the hands of her ex to fully satisfy her sexual needs.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 628 Pages

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Fire Inside by Kristen Ashley

Lanie approaches Hop for what she assumes will be a one-night stand. Silly Lanie. You should know this Chaos motorcycle club is full of alpha men who aren’t willing to let their women go once they’ve had a taste.

What’s it About? 

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Lanie Heron isn’t looking for love-no surprise, considering her last serious relationship nearly got her killed. So when Lanie propositions Hop Kincaid, all she wants is one wild night with the hot-as-hell biker who patrols with the Chaos Motorcycle Club . . .

For Hop, Lanie has always been untouchable. She’s too polished and too classy for his taste. But when she gives Hop the once-over with her bedroom eyes and offers him a night in paradise, he can’t say no. And he doesn’t regret it when he finds that Lanie is the best thing that’s ever happened to him-in or out of bed. Now the trick will be to convince her of that.

First Impressions

Lanie definitely got more than she bargained for after approaching Hop for a little romp between the bed sheets. While he’s initially thrown off by her proposal, and it’s rather entertaining to see her be the initiator in the beginning, it doesn’t take long at all before he takes back the reins in their relationship. One taste is all it takes, and even though Lanie tries to brush off his advances, he’s determined that the two have a connection which is more meaningful than just one night.

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It’s possible that not all the readers out there will be comfortable with Hop’s constant pursuit of Lanie in spite of her many initial objections. However, we soon learn that Hop does have a soft and nurturing side underneath his tough exterior and leather cut. Lanie has awoken feelings in him which he thought would lay dormant forever, and he recognizes that she too is struggling to overcome some of the trials and heartbreaks of her past. Perhaps if he can show her that he’ll always be there for her, no matter how much she might push him away, he won’t abandon her like others had done before.

Battling the Past 

When we first meet Lanie at the start of the book, she seems like a go-getter who isn’t afraid to pursue what she wants, and in this matter what she wants is one night with Hop. But why does she insist on limiting things to just one night? As it turns out, Lanie has been battling certain demons from her past for years. Her attempt to limit things with Hop is her attempt to protect herself, as well as her heart, from the same kind of pain she experienced when her ex-fiance put her in the direct line of danger to protect himself. She also hasn’t exactly had the perfect example of love when looking at her own parent’s relationship. It’s really no surprise then that when Hop comes along, and tries to insert himself fully into her life, she would try and do everything possible to push him away.

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As for Hop, he too has experienced pain in regards to love lost. He’s been cheated on, lied to, manipulated, and fought alongside his brothers to defend their turf for years. However, whereas Lanie tries to close herself off from the possible pain a new relationship might bring, we see the opposite is true when it comes to Hop’s outlook on love. He’s able to recognize in Lanie a kindred spirit; a woman who will challenge him every step of the way; someone he sees as being different from any woman who may have come before her. He’s an alpha male, through and through, and he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure this unique woman he’s falling for doesn’t get away. He also has the difficult task of opening her eyes to why it’s worth going all in on their relationship, and overcoming the pain of her past to take a chance on them.

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The Dramatic Focus

This is the second novel in the Chaos series, and like book one I was once again surprised to discover that the bulk of the drama surrounds the developing relationship playing out between our lead characters rather than any kind of drama related to motorcycle club business. We do get many references to the past events involving Lanie and her ex-fiance being shot and left for dead by the Mafia, and even though they’re suspenseful in nature, the fact they’ve already taken place years ago means they play a more important role on Lanie’s current state of mind rather than lending any kind of actual drama to the plot.

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This is quite similar to what we saw in book one in that we see multiple references to events which have already taken place in a sister series. However, the implementation of still making these past events relevant was executed much more successfully in this sequel. I would have to say it was pretty disappointing though that the main drama we see involving club business takes place at the very very end of the novel in the epilogue, and even this dramatic scene is one we already witnessed play out in book one. It’s like this whole series so far has been an insinuation of drama which will inevitably happen in a future book, but it’s definitely taking us an awful long time to get there!

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Can (Almost) Never Push Him Away

One of the most endearing features of Hop as a male lead is that he refuses to give up when Lanie keeps trying to push him away. We get multiple descriptions of his knowing smirks, as though he’s thinking “yeah right, like I’ll just walk away from you, pffft!” Deep down, Lanie knows that she wants a life and a future with Hop, but she’s simply afraid of giving her heart over to another person again. She openly warns him that she’s prone to overreacting when it comes to relationships, and she’s wont to think the worst of a certain situation. Therefore, I loved that Hop was willing to stick by her so many times as they stumbled across a few hurdles here and there. At first. Turns out, there’s only so much one man can take. Eventually, Lanie pushes Hop away one too many times, and he decides to end things between them.

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Throughout so much of the novel up until this point, we’ve seen Hop insist that he’ll never walk away, and yet we shockingly discover that it’s only so long before he actually turns his back on her. Now, I could definitely understand why he would’ve reached a breaking point. There’s only so many times a man can be accused of something from his past that he didn’t actually do, and he was pretty fed up with Lanie always defaulting to think the worst of him. He certainly had more patience than I ever would have, but I was still shocked that he actually did reach a point where he gave up. Especially when we see her admit she was wrong, and all her attempts to win him back are rejected. Hop was definitely giving her a taste of her own medicine, and again although it was understandable for a time, you still can’t help but taste the bitterness of his actions.

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Series: Chaos, book 2.

Final Impressions: Where is all the drama?!?! We’ve seen multiple mentions throughout these first two books of a rival motorcycle gang encroaching upon Chaos territory, but aside from one escalated argument in the final epilogue, we really haven’t seen much suspense or action when it comes to this rival gang. I’d say the first book had a few more references to them, but in this second one the drama was almost entirely absent. Ultimately this sequel was more successful though in summarizing previous events from the past. In addition, I think I also appreciated Lanie and Hop’s relationship more than the couple from the first novel. They are both finding out how to move forward from their pasts, and it’s in each other that they are able to find the love and strength necessary to succeed. Hop definitely comes across as a tough guy, but his devotion to Lanie and even his poetic descriptions of music evoke a softer side to this motorcycle man. This made it all the more surprising when he eventually pushed Lanie away, but at the same time you can’t necessarily fault him for reaching a breaking point.

Smut Level: The fact that Lanie and Hop’s first time together isn’t described in any detail shocked me to my very core! Don’t worry though, what follows are plenty of descriptive, dirty talking sexy scenes to make you blush. Some even involving a waterbed!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 421 Pages.

Heaven’s Sinners by Bella Jewel

Ever wonder how our lead male character got the nickname of “Spike”? Easy. He has a line of barbell piercings on his willy wally ding dong, and at either end of each barbell he has attachable spikes. Am I the only one who wonders what kind of outline that would form in his pants? Or what a pain it would be going through airport security?

What’s it About? 

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Contains adult content, recommended for readers over 17. A modern day biker romance.

Spike knows tragedy, he knows that feelings are better left hidden. He refuses to put his heart out there again, it’s a pain he’s not willing to feel a second time around. He’s accepted he’s going to spend forever alone. That’s all he deserves.

But then there’s Ciara, the sister of his deceased wife. She’s beautiful and damned determined to throw herself into his life in hopes they can reform an old friendship, but Spike won’t hear of it, and Ciara refuses to give up.

Who will win the battle of wills?

First Impressions 

Spike is trying with all his might to push Ciara away. They have a troubled past, and he’s convinced the two of them are better off away from each other. There’s just one problem with that. The fact they have such a long history together means that Ciara knows all the tricks and ploys he might use to try and push her away. This allows her to not only stay one step ahead of his attempts to get rid of her, but she knows how to push his own buttons to get an emotional reaction from him. Now, I will say some of their attempts to “one-up” each other get somewhat petty. For example there are several instances where they try to use other people to make the other one jealous, which is a bit too high school drama for my liking.

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However, I must admit I did appreciate that Ciara especially didn’t always choose to wither away when Spike was up to something. It’s often the case in romance novel land that a female lead will run off in a huff of anger if she comes upon the male lead making out in the back of a bar’s storage area with another woman. For Ciara though? Well, after catching Spike’s eye during said make-out session she decides to rile him up a bit by erotically touching and stroking herself. Right when he’s on the edge of coming because of her antics, she leaves the room with a knowing smirk and wink. I simultaneously wanted to roll my eyes at how they resulted to some immature methods to provoke each other, yet also applaud Ciara’s ability to stare him right in the face without backing down. An unexpected dichotomy for sure.

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Past vs. Present; Ciara vs. Spike

The format of this novel was rather unique, in that it constantly switches back and forth from the past to the present. The past particularly focuses on the history of Ciara and Spike’s friendship, his pursuit of Ciara’s sister Cheyenne, and the aftermath of Cheyenne’s death. Their present is more focused on both of them learning how to forgive each other for the misunderstandings of their past, as well as pursuing a new romantic relationship with each other. While it was definitely an interesting format, something felt a bit disjointed in the execution of it. Firstly, the scenes in both the past and the present were constantly flip-flopping between both Ciara and Spike’s points of view. Secondly, the flashbacks to the past didn’t necessarily happen in chronological order, which made it rather difficult to keep track of what happened when. At the start of the novel, all we know is that in the present scenes Ciara and Spike have a definite animosity towards each other, and in the scenes from the past we see how close they used to be in their friendship.

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From that point on the entire novel felt like a build-up to understanding what exactly happened between Ciara and Spike all those years ago, as well as the animosity which developed between them because of his relationship with Cheyenne. While interesting in theory, I found it somewhat difficult to follow along with some of their arguments in the present when we don’t fully understand everything that happened in the past. Whatever happened to end the friendship between Spike and Ciara, and push him into the arms of her sister was obviously the foundation for their current animosity, but because we were left in the dark for soooo long you couldn’t help but feel frustrated at their continual bickering in the present. The true break in their relationship all those years ago never received the amount of attention it deserved, and therefore you just want them to forgive each other and get over it already.

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The Blame Game

Misplaced blame seems to be the name of the game in this novel. Everyone places blame where it doesn’t belong in every argument they have. They’ll blame each other, themselves, Ciara’s deceased sister Cheyenne, etc. The funny thing is that at some point, each of those people were in fact responsible for some kind of misunderstanding or error in the past, but they always blamed them for some other misdeed at the wrong time. This was especially true regarding both Ciara and Spike’s relationships with Cheyenne, including how Spike and Cheyenne ended up marrying each other, as well as the details surrounding her death. We know that Spike only turned towards Cheyenne all those years before out of frustration that Ciara never seemed to notice his attempts to woo her.

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All these years later he’s insistent that he did actually love Cheyenne with all his heart, but it’s kind of difficult for us to understand seeing as we never saw any affectionate moments between them. The only Cheyenne-focused scenes we did see involved Cheyenne being pretty manipulative in her pursuit of Spike, even though she knew her sister was infatuated with him. Spike blames himself for Cheyenne’s death, and Ciara initially blamed Spike as well, but both also admitted that Cheyenne wanted to be there with Spike during some kind of dangerous biker mission. It seemed like the only person they didn’t always involve in the blame game was the man who actually pulled the trigger to kill Cheyenne in the first place! It wasn’t until the very last moment of the book that we got a quick and rather intense focus from Spike on revenge towards Cheyenne’s killer.

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Series: The MC Sinners, book 2.

Final Impressions: This read definitely started strong, as you can’t help but wonder how Spike and Ciara’s strong friendship from so many years ago devolved into pure hatred in the present day. Will they be able to move on from their misunderstandings of the past? The main issue with this book though is in the execution of the story. This constant back and forth from past to present, and the lengthy delay in finding out how their friendship broke down when they were younger goes on for far too long. There was too much focus on their bickering, which resulted in the highly dramatic and suspenseful conclusion to feel rushed.

Smut Level: Spike definitely takes Ciara out of her sexual comfort zone, including going to a sex club where they watch others engage in sexual acts from behind a one-way mirror. Ciara can’t help but feel an initial sense of shame for liking something which seems so perverted. However, he teaches her how to embrace her desires. Hell, I guess when you think about it it’s basically just like watching live-action porn!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 260 Pages

Bold Living: V. Lets Her Freak Flag Fly by Sheryl Dee

If a famous, sexy actor suddenly started to show an interest in dating me, and his response to what it was about me that intrigued him was “Talent will out”, I think I’d say, “Umm…ok?”

What’s it About?

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Virginia is ready to rock the world, but will love, lust and dangerous desire kill the boldness she’s fought hard to embrace?

Environmental engineer Virginia “V.” Will, the youngest in a protective family, has played it safe for years. The death of her adventurous mother is a wake-up call. At age 39, V. leaves her job and joins the D.C. band Love Bunny as a drummer, but she wants more than just a drum throne and a voyeur’s view of the wild parties of her twenty-something bandmates. Just when she thinks her family was wrong about the dangers of the nightlife, she starts feeling very out of sorts at a band party. And did she just hallucinate her favorite actor Jack Leeds? Not good.

Jack Leeds knows how to blend into the background to enjoy a beautiful talent. He sees V. at a show. He must have her. He plans to approach V. at a listening party, where her odd behavior interrupts his kinky preoccupations. Can he keep her safe and protect his TV career and his heart? Hot sex, soulful art, empowerment, obsession and violent secrets give the lust and love story of Jack and V. its own seductive, bold rhythm.

Fans of BWWM romance, leading ladies with a sense of humor, power exchange, erotica and nerds getting love will have a blast dancing to the beat of Jack and V.

First Impressions

I must admit I had some trouble following along with this story at times. There wasn’t always a seamless transition between scenes, or between Virginia and Jack’s points of view, which made it tricky to distinguish who was even telling the story. I also couldn’t always understand which people or events our characters were referencing. In a way, it almost felt like I was coming into the third or fourth book in a series rather than starting one fresh. I will say there were certainly some moments that seemed rather poetic in their description. For example a line that really stood out to me was “I lack the words to do her justice. I wonder how many painters scoured cities and countrysides for the stuffs to mix into pale imitations of the shades of the objects of their obsession.” Such a thought-provoking sentiment!

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The only issue though was that sometimes there were almost too many poetic streams of thought packed together one after the other after the other. You sort of lose the impact these poetic moments could have had if they’d been spread out more evenly, or even used more sparingly. Another writing method that was used quite frequently that I can’t necessarily say is my cup of tea was an abundance of short sentences. When you combine this with the quick switches between scenes, you sort of experience moments of literary whiplash. One such example was after Virginia finished a call with her brother and she muses to herself “Was that the third time Corey called me outside of my birthday? I bask in the love. I try to ignore the messy motivation behind it. I walk and drop three young adult novels into a community library box in the park. In the afternoon, I masturbate three times.” Woah, what?

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A Medley of Plots

There are so many different story lines going on at once in this book that it contributed to a lack of focus to the overall plot. Each story in its own right held some merit, but none was really fleshed out to it’s full potential. We have:

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  • Virginia exploring a new musical career somewhat later in life
  • Virginia’s relationship with Jack the TV star
  • Jack’s tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife
  • A few appearances by Jack’s son
  • A creepy DJ who seems intent on drugging and raping Virginia if he can ever get her alone
  • Virginia auditioning for a reality TV show
  • Jack writing a play or book or some kind of project
  • Flashbacks of Virginia’s past assault by a guy who may have been a boyfriend
  • A mention here and there of Virginia’s sister who may have been murdered at the hands of said possible boyfriend
  • A slew of family members and friends of Virginia’s that I could never really tell who was friend or family member
  • The briefest of mentions that Virginia’s siblings were trying to locate other potential relatives from their father’s extra-marital affairs years before?

No one story line received the necessary attention for me to say with absolute certainty what the dynamic really was between any of the characters. We also get a rather abrupt end to the book, and it was a conclusion without resolution to some key plot points, such as whether or not the creepy rapey DJ met justice, or merely set his sights on another victim. In the end I felt like I came into a story at the halfway point, and left it before it fully concluded.

Who is in Control? 

And on top of it all! We have this somewhat BDSM relationship developing between Virginia and Jack, where you could never really tell who was in control, how they got into bdsm, whether Jack was only newly discovering it because of Virginia’s interest in it, or whether they were both exploring it at the same time for the first time. After their first serendipitous meeting, Jack apparently starts to do research on dominance and submission, as though this were his first foray into the subject. He seems so intent on dominating Virginia, putting her on all fours, spanking her, etc. etc. However!

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At the beginning of their very first date Virginia seems to be the one who is in control, and she gives orders to him by dictating how the date was going to proceed. She even limits Jack to what he could and could not touch. Throughout the rest of the book we see a constant switch back and forth over who is in control, which could have been a really interesting twist to the entire d/s motif we normally see in romance novels. I can certainly say I’ve never read one that features a dominant and submissive switching roles mid-scene, and it definitely could have been an interesting discussion here. Unfortunately I can’t say for sure if this was the true nature of their relationship because it was never focused on to its fullest potential. The groundwork was definitely there, but it just needed one additional push.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: All in all I felt like this book was kind of difficult to follow. I would say there were about 4 primary story lines happening at the same time, each of which contained their own side stories, twists and turns. Virginia’s music career, her family dynamic, her new relationship with Jack, and the impact of Jack’s ex wife on their newfound relationship. Unfortunately they didn’t all come together in a cohesive way for me, which resulted in the overall story feeling pretty disjointed and lacking in focus.

Smut Level: We’ve got sex swings, sex clubs, spanking, phone sex, rubbing, thrusting, fruit, and chocolate sauce.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 166 Pages

Dirty English by Ilsa Madden-Mills

A man who can analyze the themes and characters of Pride and Prejudice? Hell yeah!

What’s it About?

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A scarred fighter.
A girl with rules.
One night of unbridled passion.
There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Bennett: she’s smart as a whip, always in control, and lives by a set of carefully crafted rules. She’s learned the hard way that people you love the most always hurt you in the end. But then she meets Declan Blay, the new neighbor at her apartment complex.

A tattooed British street fighter, he’s the campus bad boy she’s supposed to avoid, but when he saves her from a frat party gone bad, all her rules about sex and love fly out the window. She gives him one night of unbridled passion, but he longs for more. With only a cardboard-thin wall separating their bedrooms, he dreams of possessing the vulnerable girl next door forever. One night. Two damaged hearts. The passion of a lifetime.

First Impressions 

Our opening scene presents us with waking up the morning after a night of sex. Unfortunately it’s not the post orgasmic bliss we’d hope to see at the start of a romance novel. Instead we see Elizabeth wake up the night after prom to the realization she’s been assaulted and raped by her boyfriend, Colby. She blames herself for the events of that night, for being drunk and not saying no to whatever drugs and alcohol Colby pushed on her. Fast-forward two years, and we find Elizabeth in college. She admits to herself that the events of that night didn’t ruin her sexuality, but rather impacted her trust of men. She’s established rules since then involving how she interacts with men. Elizabeth isn’t afraid to hook up with men for a one-night stand, but she vows to never hook up with popular, rich, or hot guys. She has to make the first move, and she has to be on top. Essentially we see that she’s built walls around her heart to keep it from breaking again, and has established rules to keep most men at a distance. But rules, as they say, are meant to be broken. Will a bad boy Brit convince her to throw her rule book out the window?

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The Sentimental Fighter

At first glance, Declan is entirely wrong for Elizabeth. He’s smolderingly sexy, he’s a fighter, and he’s well-known on campus. The two are neighbors, and also happen to be in a Pride and Prejudice class together, which means try as she might Elizabeth can’t ignore him for long. There’s a link drawing them together, and as she gets to know him more than the fighter he is on the outside, Elizabeth discovers there’s a sentimental and kind-hearted man lying beneath the surface. Declan might be a fighter, but he can’t fight the pull that’s continually putting him and Elizabeth in the same path. He knows she has her rules, and he slowly starts to put the pieces of her past together to realize someone hurt her emotionally and physically to be so distrustful of others. Maybe he can convince her that he’s worth taking a chance on.

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I definitely enjoyed the initial back and forth between Elizabeth and Declan as they warred with their mutual desire for each other. In the beginning they both try to fight their attraction, and this is more so on Elizabeth’s side since she worries about how much Declan could hurt her if she opens her hear to him. As a fighter Declan insists he doesn’t need a distraction to his focus like Elizabeth. Eventually they can resist no longer, and after having sex (on the mats of his gym no less!) there’s further debate between them over whether or not their relationship will continue beyond that one night. Personally, I think this is when their back and forth started to feel too repetitive, and the story dragged on for a bit too long.

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Needless Repetition

Declan is seemingly dead set on making things work between them, whereas Elizabeth insists on keeping to her rules of one and done. This is compounded by the fact that Declan’s ex keeps sniffing around trying to insert herself back into his life. It raises all of Elizabeth’s insecurities, and she tries to convince Declan that she doesn’t feel anything for him other than lust. This understandably makes him a bit…moody. But then the back and forth begins where Elizabeth tries to make amends, Declan tries to show that he’s moved on, and then when he realizes she was making an effort he tries to get her back. But then she remembers how he said no so she turns away from him, which makes him get all snippy again. I mean my God people just rip off your clothes and have sex with each other already. Play time is over, you both like each other, let’s move on from all this petty high school drama.

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You can definitely understand each person’s hesitancies. Elizabeth is overcoming a lot of shit in her life, from a crappy mom with a slew of endless boyfriends, to the tragic events in high school at the hands of someone she thought she loved and trusted. We can’t fault her for putting up walls around her heart. As for Declan, he’s putting himself out there as much as he can, but in the constant face of rejection from Elizabeth he wonders if she’ll ever be able to overcome her past, or if she truly feels nothing on an emotional level for him. Look, I get it! But having this constant back and forth where neither was on the same page at the same time turned it into a repetitive circle of misunderstandings and snippy comments like, “well what do you care anyway?”Again, too high school for me.

Coming Forward

“Why had I let a mere boy destroy me?” One of our main goals with this read, other than to see Declan and Elizabeth find a happily ever after together, is for Elizabeth to bring her ex, Colby, to justice for what he did to her all those years ago after prom. This little douche monkey can’t possibly get away with what he did to her. At several points in the story it seems like the decision to open up about Colby’s past transgressions might be taken out of Elizabeth’s hands entirely. Her deadbeat mother and her mother’s boyfriend of the month are desperate for money, so they come up with a plot to blackmail Colby’s senator father.

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They’re convinced that he’ll be willing to pay big bucks to prevent them from revealing to the press what his son did all those years ago. In this moment we are presented with such an interesting dichotomy because while he want Colby to pay for his crimes, we don’t want it to happen in this way. It has to be on Elizabeth’s terms. It has to be her story to tell. Not theirs. However, Elizabeth seems so determined to keep the events from that night buried deep in her past. Surely the sick weasel won’t get off scot-free? Eventually Elizabeth can’t ignore that night anymore, especially when she realizes Colby is transferring to her school.

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Series: British Bad Boys, book 1. Declan’s brother Max was probably my favorite character in the whole book. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for him next!

Final Impressions: A sad initial start, but this story definitely had a strong overall beginning. The connection between Declan and Elizabeth is undeniable, and you’re rooting for Elizabeth to overcome her past trauma to let love back into her life. Towards the halfway point though the book started to fizzle and drag for a bit as our couple constantly danced around their feelings for each other.

Smut Level: Dirty English indeed. He’s quite adamant about…licking her up clean.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Little Dove Publishing. 272 Pages.

Wicked Ties by Shayla Black

What’s the one thing that every hunting cabin in the middle of a Louisiana swamp needs? A playroom of course!

What’s it About? 

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She didn’t know what she wanted…

Morgan O’Malley has seen a lot of kinky things as the hostess of a cable sex talk show. But she’s never met a man like Jack Cole before. A self-proclaimed dominant, he’s as alpha as a male can get—and good for Morgan to have around when an obsessed stalker ratchets up his attempts to get to her.

Until he made her beg for it.

Though Jack is a bodyguard, Morgan feels anything but safe in his presence because, slowly and seductively, Jack is bringing her deepest fantasies to the surface. And when he bends her to his will, what’s more shocking than her surrender is how much she enjoys it—and starts to crave his masterful touch. A willing player in Jack’s games, Morgan knows that his motives aren’t pure, but she has no idea how personal they are…

First Impressions

How to pass the time when you’re stuck in a cabin deep in the bayou of Louisiana after fleeing a stalker with the propensity for murder? Gee, I don’t know. Play cards? Work on a puzzle? Nope! In this novel our female lead decides that a good way to get her mind off the drama of a stalker drawing ever closer to killing her is to explore a d/s relationship with the dominant bodyguard stuck in the cabin with her. Oh, and did I mention that she just met this guy for the first time one day earlier? Sure…seems like a great distraction.

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An Absent Stalker

The impetus for Morgan and Jack to go off in their cabin of lustful seclusion was a stalker closing in our female lead, even making the bold mood of shooting at her in broad daylight. Thankfully she just happened to be interviewing a professional bodyguard at the time to learn more about the intricacies of BDSM for her sex-talk cable show. This stalker story line definitely provided us with a bang-filled start, but unfortunately after Morgan and Jack hide away in his swamp cabin, stalker drama is essentially absent for a large portion of the book.

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Sure, they keep mentioning it here and there as a reason why Morgan can’t leave the overbearing dominant who seems determined to open her mind to a new kind of sexual experience. After the attempted shooting to eliminate her, we get no further contact between her and her stalker. No phone calls, no letters, no carrier pigeons. Nada. I was so convinced in my mind I knew who the perpetrator was, not to mention I was so determined to be disappointed that the drama was seemingly resolving itself in the background away from our two lovers. However, I will admit I exclaimed aloud in surprise when we eventually see this story line come back at the ultimate end of the novel. I’ll be the first to tip my hat in appreciation at the clever way this resolution sneaks up on you. Much like the stalker himself! Or herself? Mua ha ha ha.

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A Deceptive Meeting

Morgan’s first meeting with Jack the bodyguard initially seemed entirely linked to her cable show, and her attempt to learn more about the world of BDSM to ultimately share with viewers. In addition, this allows her to satisfy her own curiosity about a sexual lifestyle which has intrigued her for years, and was the source of her previous relationship falling apart. When Morgan’s stalker attempts to end her life, Jack is determined to protect her, and hide her away in the middle of a Louisiana swamp where nobody will be able to harm her. The fact he was able to satisfy his own lust by tying her down and having her submit to him initially seemed like a serendipitous added bonus. There’s just one rather major problem with this whole scenario. Jack ensured that he was the dominant Morgan sought out, because he had an ulterior motive of his own which was to get her in his playroom from day one.

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Jack’s initial draw to Morgan was actually to use her as a source of revenge against her half-brother, Brandon, who is somehow responsible for wreaking havoc on Jack’s life. We’re not exactly sure what the cause of animosity is between these two men in the beginning, but Morgan is clearly caught between them as Jack mistakenly assumes that Morgan and Brandon are a couple. To quote an inner musing of Jack himself, “He lured her in to fuck her as payback”. That’s just…disturbing. By satiating his own lust for Morgan, he’s essentially killing two birds with one stone by also destroying what he assumed was a romantic relationship between Morgan and Brandon. I think we’re supposed to be placated by the fact that Jack is genuinely attracted to Morgan, but I couldn’t help but feel disconcerted that Jack intended to use Morgan as a pawn in his chess match against Brandon. The fact he even went so far as to send a sex tape of Morgan and himself to Brandon as proof of his conquest was too close to a form of revenge porn for my liking.

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An Irresponsible Dominant

A crucial aspect of this novel is to look at the d/s relationship between Morgan and Jack. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to BDSM. To be honest, I’m not usually a huge fan of romances which feature it, but I try to read them every once in a while to try and further understand the appeal of a relationship which can initially come across as rather demeaning and abusive. Upon meeting Morgan, Jack quickly realizes that she’s a natural submissive who simply hasn’t had the opportunity to explore her fascination with the BDSM lifestyle, and he is drawn to her so completely that he’s more than willing to show her the…ropes. Yeah, BDSM pun absolutely intended right there.

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While Morgan is definitely intrigued by and interested in engaging in a d/s sexual relationship, she’s not exactly well-versed in the rules of BDSM. And I must say, Jack is a pretty poor teacher. Just because he knows she’s a natural submissive doesn’t mean he can skip over the instructions related to their new relationship. She’s new to the lifestyle, and obviously has a lot of questions and concerns. Not to mention, a lot of other stressful shit is going on in her life right now! It’s inevitable she’d wonder what the heck he was intending to do when he demanded she kneel naked on the bed, bend forward, and stretch her arms towards the headboard. And yet Jack felt it was within his “right” to dole out punishment to her for questioning what would happen next, and not placing her full trust in him. It’s almost like he was reprimanding her for not feeling 100% safe with him during a scene. DUDE! She’s known you one day, and recently had a crazy stalker shoot at her in broad daylight. Frankly, I’d be concerned if she didn’t ask what the hell you were gonna do with those velvet ropes of yours.

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An “F” for “Effort”

Even though Morgan has always had a secret desire to explore a BDSM relationship, she’s hesitant to fully engage in one seeing as admitting this fantasy of hers was the cause for her ex-fiance to leave her. The time she spends with Jack in the swamp cabin makes her realize just explosive this kind of relationship can be, yet admitting this to herself scares her to death. Therefore, she asks if Jack wouldn’t mind trying to have “traditional” sex with her that doesn’t involve all the spanking, punishment, and bondage.

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I must say, their attempt at “traditional vanilla” sex was beyond frustrating. When she asks him to accommodate her request he smirks knowingly, having predetermined that he’s going to twist her request against her. Which…come one dude, don’t be a dick. Jack clearly isn’t into it, and really doesn’t forth much of an effort into pleasing Morgan. Just because it’s missionary doesn’t mean you can’t use a bit of dirty talk, or maybe grip her hips with passion rather than a soft caress? After this sad display at a “traditional” sex scene, Morgan whole-heartedly admits that he was right, she was wrong, and demands he take her to his playroom. Let’s face it, this is what he wanted all along, and he knew that by putting forth as little effort as possible into her request for vanilla sex that she’d end up in his playroom where she belonged.

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Compromise, or Incompatibility? 

Later on we see another moment of incompatibility between these two when it comes to Morgan admitting her deepest desire of having a menage with two men. It’s clearly evident to Morgan, to us as the reader, hell to all the creatures hanging out in the swamp, that this is something Jack really doesn’t want to do. He doesn’t want to share her, and is terrified of losing her to another man. And yet, we see that he eventually gives into her desire, saying it’s his job to make all of her sexual fantasies come true. So…he’s willing to put his full effort behind this request of hers, but put a half-assed attempt behind her previous request for “traditional” sex. Why is willing to give in to this request?

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Personally, I think it’s because at least this is a request which falls in his wheelhouse, and he still has the opportunity to steer the scene with total and absolute control. While I agree that it’s great Jack is able to help Morgan finally explore her deepest desires, I can’t help but question if they’re actually compatible with each other and showing what it means to compromise in a relationship, or if they’re simply settling with each other. Perhaps they are so thrilled to find someone who engages in their kind of lifestyle that they’re willing to overlook the fact they’re both finding themselves in sexual scenarios that they aren’t entirely comfortable with. Jack put up with sharing Morgan with another man, even though it was one of his biggest fears. Morgan puts up with being tied down and denied sexual gratification for lengthy periods even though it frustrates the hell out of her to the point where she stares daggers at Jack…and the other man in the room.

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Series: Wicked Lovers, book 1. I might continue with this series. There are some interesting secondary characters I’m intrigued to learn about.

Final Impressions: While the resolution involving  Morgan’s stalker was a huge surprise, I wish it had been featured more prominently throughout the bulk of the novel. Instead we see more of a focus on Morgan admitting her true desires to herself, and Jack seeking out his revenge against her half-brother. These two definitely have a strong physical connection with each other, but I couldn’t help but wonder at times if they were choosing to ignore key aspects of their relationship which made them uncomfortable. After all, they’ve only known each other for about three days at this point. Maybe they don’t know each other as well as they think they do.

Smut Level: There’s definitely some sensual aspects to this novel, including menage, bondage, dirty talk, and anal play. I will say though compared to other BDSM romances I’ve read it’s not necessarily an outlandish level of sexploration.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 354 Pages.