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.

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 Wages of Sin by Kate A. Knight

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

A Confusing Marriage

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

The Big Reveal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sins of the Flesh by Kate A. Knight

The Sins of the Flesh by Kate A. Knight

In this second installment of the Sins Trilogy, we find Amy finally starting to open up about her troubled past to her husband Todd. These moments of confession are even more disturbing than we could have anticipated.

What’s it About?

Amy Koehler is among the best the Intelligence community has to offer… exactly as her father intended her to be. Today, she is the closest anyone has ever come to solving the mystery of her parents’ assassination. It doesn’t hurt either that she has recruited Todd Birch as her cover. He’s a charismatic diplomat whose smile could charm the panties off a saint, and Amy is counting on just those winning ways to secure her place at the top, where her parents’ murderers are hiding.

Falling for her mark could be the worst thing Amy has ever done, which is a tall order, because she has done some really bad things in her life. But that shouldn’t be a problem… right? If anyone can fix this – falling in love with a man who doesn’t love her in return – Amy can! After all, killing has always come easier than feeling, and that’s just what she’ll do when her attraction to her husband gets out of hand. Stop feeling. Kill all that lies between them. And find her parents’ murderers so she can kill them too.

First Impressions

There are a few unfortunate aspects of the first novel in this series which also managed to show up in this second book. Firstly, there are some distracting grammatical issues which can remove you from the action or intensity of a given scene. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s poignantly challenging to connect with, or even like, either of our main protagonists. The very nature of their secretive government work means they are closed off from each other, as well as from us as the audience. Amy has been building internal walls to emotionally distance herself from others ever since the death of her parents when she was a teenager. Todd seems determined to break down her walls, and teach her how to open up to and trust in someone else again. However, just because Todd is able to insert his way into her life doesn’t mean we are afforded the same luxury. We’re never really given the chance to sympathize or emotionally connect with her, primarily because she herself is unable to emotionally express herself in so many scenes. She basically gives off a robotic aura in her interactions with others, as well as within her own internal musings.

A Small Window Opens

Up until this point, the main thing we know about Amy’s past is that her parents were murdered when she was younger, and she has been devoted to uncovering the identity of their killer ever since that tragic night. This second novel provides us with more of a window into who Amy has become as an adult, mainly because Todd demands it of her. We discover that her desire for hard and excessively rough sex links back to a disturbingly violent event which occurred when she was a teenager. Following the death of her parents Amy closed herself off from everyone and didn’t feel anything anymore. However, she admits to Todd that when she was raped by a family friend the experience caused her to “wake up” and feel something for the first time since they died. Even if it made her feel anger, disgust, and humiliated, she was grateful to feel anything after living in a fog for so long. Following this experience she continually craved extremely fierce and dominant sex that might leave her with bruises, or cause her to pass out, since it would once again make her “feel” something. So yeah…I’d classify it as a dark read that I wasn’t prepared for.

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 2.

Final Impressions: In a way, this whole book kind of felt like a distraction. We barely make any progress on Amy finding out who killed her parents, and the character of Anne that we met in book 1 was almost entirely absent. We see Amy focused on this other case that doesn’t really have anything to do with the big picture. The best part of the novel was the finale, as we finally see Amy trust Todd, seeing as she spent such a large portion of this book pushing him away. They even fight together during a final mission and it was an exciting glimpse of how much more entertaining they can be when they’re fighting for the same goal.

Smut Level: The sex scenes were too disturbing for me seeing how rough Amy likes it, including erotic asphyxiation, while Todd would prefer to take things more gently. Learning the background of why she enjoys it so much made it even harder to read.

Click Here: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Khaton Press. 341 Pages.

The Sins of Our Father by Kate A. Knight

I listened to this novel using the text-to-speech function on my Kindle. I figured it would be a great way to read a non-audio book while working my way through the day. Turns out, big mistake!

What’s it About? 

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Amy Koehler was reared to exacting standards to be a better version of her father – a senior counter-intelligence officer with the CIA, an American hero killed in his prime. He devoted his life to his country. Then his country betrayed him. A loving daughter must choose between loyalty and love… Even if she must betray her country in the pursuit of justice, Amy will finish her father’s work and avenge his death Amy.

Todd Birch is a charismatic diplomat who complements Amy’s rise to the apex of her career. Despite her best intentions he becomes more than just a means to an end. The pure, primal attraction between them can neither be tamed nor denied, and they know they could wait a lifetime and never feel the like again. But Todd is not who he claims to be. When the time comes to choose between sacrificing herself and running from the consequences of her work, will Amy finally understands what it means to love someone more than herself?

First Impressions

Amy shies away from people. She’s a methodical woman who doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion in her interactions with others. Therefore, the robotic voice of my Kindle’s text-to-speech made her seem even more mechanical than she already is. Definitely a major fault on my part. However, that still didn’t change the fact that I found it pretty hard to relate to Amy on any kind of emotional level. She works so hard to distance herself from other characters in the hopes of not being hurt herself, that I feel she also distances herself from us as the readers.

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Todd vs. Townsend

There’s a pretty interesting/strange dynamic when it comes to Amy and her love interests. She initially set out with the intention to have an affair with the dashing Townsend, who is kind of a co-worker of hers. Unfortunately for him, he arrives late to the party where Amy intended to approach him. So along comes Todd. He swoops Amy off her feet, and the rest is history.

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Only it turns out there’s a lot more history involved than any of us were aware of, including Amy. Todd and Townsend have a history of their own, as they were both involved with a woman named Mona, who met with a tragic end. There is obviously a lot more to this story that we aren’t aware of, which gets kind of frustrating at times. I did find it funny though how Todd and Townsend were basically in a pissing contest when it came to who would be able to take Amy home for the evening. Seriously boys, just whip ’em out and measure already.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!

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The sex presented in this novel was out of my personal comfort zone, but to each his/her own! Amy likes it rough, including being choked by her lover. Todd is hesitant at first, but let’s just say he quickly gets into it. I guess as long as both partners are comfortable with it, that’s the most important thing? Unfortunately, things start to take a darker and more violent turn.

Things escalate rather quickly with their sexual relationship in way that was pretty concerning. Choking turns into slapping, and Amy gets visible bruises following their amorous activities. When she runs into Townsend with her visible marks, he is obviously concerned. The fact that she is so tight-lipped about anything relating to herself makes him even more worried. I’m not sure if we were supposed to side with Amy in this scenario, but I could definitely see where Townsend was coming from in thinking that some abuse was going on.

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 1.

Should you read it? The sex scenes were too rough for my taste. In addition, I felt like there were too many stories happening at the same time. We have a love triangle, drug smuggler, the murder of Amy’s parents, and a few other story lines that are mainly build-up for the next novel.

Smut Level: And you thought Fifty Shades was rough?!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Khaton Enterprises LLC. 396 Pages.

Driven by Fire by Eden Rayna

Who knew the sleeper cab of a semi-truck could be such a delectably sexy place an afternoon delight?!

What’s it About? 

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When Piper walks in on her boyfriend with another woman, she ends up alone, walking the highway leading into Fort McKay in Northern Alberta. Piper realizes how much she’s sacrificed for this relationship—her friends, her lifestyle, and most importantly, her career as a chef—and she determines to leave this small town behind and reclaim her independence. But when a semi-truck pulls up behind her and lurches to a stop, she fears her night is about to get worse.

Desperate for some respite from his gossip-worthy life, tech millionaire Brandon takes up long-haul trucking after a messy divorce. While driving into Fort McKay, he sees a woman walking on the side of the highway. Trying to be a gentleman, he pulls over and tries to offer her a ride. She refuses—yet the look in her eyes makes him feel protective of her at first sight.

When Piper and Brandon have a chance encounter the next day, the chemistry between them is undeniable. Neither is looking for love, but they end up spending a hot afternoon together. Brandon’s awaiting business in Edmonton and Piper’s newly-single mindset allow both to say goodbye quickly and get on with their lives. But wildfires raging in the area force Brandon to stay in Fort McKay, leading to a smouldering week with Piper. Despite Piper’s reluctance to depend on another man and Brandon’s determination not to fall in love, they both start to realize how incredible they are together. Piper opens up in ways she never knew possible, and Brandon remembers how it feels to love someone.

As the wildfires rage closer, evacuation orders pressure the lovers to decide on their future. Piper’s friend Danielle knows these two are falling in love and implores Piper to take a leap in this passionate relationship. But Piper has to make her own decision: Will she keep her promise to reclaim her independence, or will she follow Brandon back to his life in Edmonton?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the opening scene of this sexy romance reads like the start of a horror film. We have a young, beautiful woman walking alone by the side of the road on a dark and smoky night, as a semi-truck slowly follows behind before offering her a ride. If I were in Piper’s shoes I’d probably collapse in a mess of tears. Highlighting a sense of realism to the story, she does remain extremely wary of this driver, denying his offer of a ride to proceed on her path into town. Had she willingly jumped into his cab willy-nilly it probably would have been difficult to continue reading! However, this opening scene perfectly captures the personalities of our characters. Piper is a strong-willed woman with spunk who can take care of herself. As for Brandon, our truck driver, he’s actually a caring, compassionate man who puts his whole heart into those he loves. The question is whether or not Piper is prepared to receive the full force of his affections…not to mention his sexual stamina.

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Can You Make One Week Last Forever?  

After they both find their way into town, Piper and Brandon’s paths continue to cross, and they can’t help but exchange smoldering glances of lust which quickly turn to physical expressions of their desire. In the beginning, both are under the impression this will be a one-night stand to blow off some steam as a forest fire slowly encroaches upon this small mountain town. It doesn’t take long before they realize that something more meaningful is simmering between them. Brandon is more willing to admit to himself that they’re starting to develop a relationship which he wants to continue beyond his short stay in her town. He’s been single for so long following a nasty break-up with his ex, so he understands that the emotions stirring for Piper are uniquely special.

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Piper is definitely more timid in acknowledging that she wants more time with Brandon. Her feelings for him have evolved so quickly, and the last time she followed her impulsive nature for another man she wound up in a tiny oil town for 5 years, abandoning all her career ambitions along the way. While she would love to see where things with Brandon might lead, she also doesn’t want to make the same mistake in running away with him. She only just broke up with her boyfriend one week ago, a relationship which lasted for years and was all wrong for her in so many ways. The night of the break up was also the same night when she took that lonely walk along the side of the road that Brandon happened upon. Piper might try her darnedest to convince both herself and Brandon that they should keep their fling short and sweet, but he certainly delights in trying to persuade her that he knows how to treat her right.

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A Billionaire Trucker

The one feature of this read which I found a bit hard to swallow was the fact that Brandon was simply moonlighting as a trucker. He’s actually a wealthy tech billionaire, but following the publicly disastrous break-up with his ex he chose to get away from the stresses of his world by hitting the road. It provided him with a sense of anonymity and peace that he’d been craving for some time. I definitely understand plot-wise why Brandon has this secret other life. It lends a sense of suspense to his growing relationship with Piper, as she wonders how long they’ll have together until he finally has to leave town. We as the audience constantly question what Piper’s reaction will be when Brandon admits the truth about his wealth. Therefore, while I can’t say it was necessarily a realistic feature for this tech billionaire to turn to trucking, it did create some interesting twists and turns to the story. I almost wish though that he had simply been on a cross-country road trip of some kind, as it still would have allowed Piper and Brandon to cross paths while he hid his true identity.

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There’s certainly no hiding the sexual chemistry of Piper and Brandon’s relationship, as these two have trouble keeping their hands off of each other. A constant shadow over their shoulder though is the fire bearing down on their community. Brandon has plans to evacuate on a private plane, and he has every intention of bringing Piper with him. It was easy to assume that the discovery of Brandon’s wealth would strike a crushing blow to their relationship as a reflection of his inability to be completely honest with her. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional maturity we see towards the end of the novel as everything comes to light. While Piper was noticeably upset about Brandon’s secrecy, she can acknowledge that money isn’t a deciding factor in their connection. Instead the bigger wedge which comes between them is the fact that when the fire finally reaches them she doesn’t want to feel forced into choosing Brandon simply because they have to evacuate at the same time. True, their connection is stronger than anything she’s ever felt before, but things have still evolved so quickly in the span of just one week. Piper refuses to let a fire, or a billionaire with access to a private jet, sway her into making another impulsive decision in life that she doesn’t feel fully ready for.

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

Series: Driven by Fire, book 1. I’d love to see what comes next.

Final Impressions: Their meet-cute may have bordered the line of horror film vs. rescuing a damsel in distress, but these two soon develop a red-hot chemistry that is off-the-charts. Things do drag a little bit in the middle as their sexual escapades continue in a variety of unique positions, and they both have internal musings about how long this fling will last. You’ll fall in love with these characters along their journey, and sympathize with the difficult decisions they must make as the dangers of mother nature threaten to tear them apart. Piper realizes that she’s at risk of making another impulsive choice to follow a man she barely knows, and would rather choose him on her own terms, at her own time. Granted, we ultimately see Brandon come running after her in the end rather than the other way around, which was a tad disappointing. However, it was still a sexy and intriguing read!

Smut Level: From somewhat sleazy motel rooms, to kitchen counters and the cab of his semi-truck, these two can’t keep their hands, lips or tongues off of each other.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. FriesenPress. 341 Pages.

APTOPIX Canada Wildfire

 

Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan

By the end of this novel you can’t help but wonder who loves Melanie more: the man or the dragon?

What’s it About? 

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In exchange for a vial of dragon’s blood to save her brother’s life, Melanie Hall offers herself up as a sacrifice to one of the British dragon-shifter clans. Being a sacrifice means signing a contract to live with the dragon-shifters for six months to try to conceive a child. Her assigned dragonman, however, is anything but easy. He’s tall, broody, and alpha to the core. There’s only one problem—he hates humans.

Due to human dragon hunters killing his mother, Tristan MacLeod despises humans. Unfortunately, his clan is in desperate need of offspring to repopulate their numbers and it’s his turn to service a human female. Despite his plans to have sex with her and walk away, his inner dragon has other ideas. The curvy human female tempts his inner beast like no other.

First Impressions

When I first started listening to this audio book, I remember thinking that the description of this agreement to live with a dragon-shifter clan as a “sacrifice” seemed a bit over the top. After all, that term is usually associated with death, and this contract essentially seems to revolve around sex. A vial of life-saving dragon’s blood in exchange for Melanie spending six months with a dragon in an attempt to procreate. However, it’s not long before we discover that most women who enter into this kind of exchange aren’t strong enough to survive the complexities of giving birth to a dragon. More often than not, it results in the woman dying. Lo and behold the sacrificial moniker seems a bit more appropriate!

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The premise of this novel seemingly had everything you would want in a fantastical romance that would result in an exciting and phenomenal read. Human and dragon thrown together. A binding agreement to have a child in exchange for the blood needed to save her brother’s life. Moving to a remote dragon community which is un-trusting of outsiders. Dragon hunters for crying out loud!! Let’s get this party started!!! Unfortunately, after this premise is outlined to us and we’re introduced to all the key players, the story never really gets elevated to it’s full potential.

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It’s Almost Too Easy

Melanie gets pregnant almost immediately, meaning the question of whether or not she’ll be able to fulfill her side of the bargain evaporates instantly. The next feature which we would undoubtedly start to wonder about would be the threat to Melanie’s life in childbirth. However, this never really seems to be an issue at the forefront of our character’s minds, or at least we’re never presented with a building amount of tension as her pregnancy progresses where it appears to be a primary concern. Instead the sole focus is on the interactions between Melanie, Tristan, and his dragon, as well as Melanie figuring out how to integrate into this new community she’s found herself in.

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The animosity between Melanie and the dragon villagers was another feature that I thought could build up some interesting tension, but yet again this is an aspect which never resulted in any kind of direct confrontation. The angst and contention of the novel is focused instead between Melanie and Tristan, but possibly more so between Tristan and his dragon. Upon first meeting, Tristan’s dragon immediately recognizes Melanie as his mate, and the urge to claim her as their own kicks in right away. However, we see that Tristan is constantly fighting against his dragon’s connection to Melanie, and it seems as though his dragon has a strong emotional connection to her than he does throughout the entirety of the book. They obviously have a sexual connection, but if we didn’t see such desperation on the side of his dragon to be near Melanie, I seriously question if Tristan was really all that interested in her.

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Series: Stonefire Dragons, book 1. While this first book wasn’t my favorite, I was intrigued by some of the secondary characters. I could see myself exploring book 2 at some point in the future.

Final Impressions: Simply put, I wanted more from this one. The foundation for a spectacular novel was definitely there, but it wasn’t as action-packed and suspenseful as I would have liked. The most disappointing feature of the book for me was the fact that we never see any direct conflict with the dragon hunters. The only action sequence which does take place with them happens “off camera”, and we only see the aftermath rather than the action described in real time. I will say the inner musings and arguments that Tristan has with his horny dragon were quite humorous, and combining this erotic desperation with the voice of our narrator (who sounded like a stuffy British librarian) lent an unintentional comedic tone to certain aspects of the story. Overall I think too much time was spent on Tristan trying to fight his connection to Melanie, and I was never fully convinced of his commitment her.

Smut Level: Upon first mating, Tristan’s dragon is determined to impregnate Melanie as quickly as possible. Let’s just say they don’t leave the bedroom until it’s mission accomplished.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Mythical Lake Press, LLC. 258 Pages.

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Walk Through Fire by Kristen Ashley

Can you think of any better start to the day than a bad-boy biker romance audio book that’s 17 hours and 45 minutes long? Because I sure can’t.

What’s it About? 

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Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder-a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and made it so he had no choice but to walk away. Twenty years later, Millie’s chance run-in with her old flame sparks a desire she just can’t ignore. And this time, she won’t let him ride off . . .

Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was a beautiful woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when his true love walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous, but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep-and he doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break all over again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man . . .

First Impressions

Almost 18 hours of audio book. That’s over 600 pages in equivalent page length. Did this book need to be that long? No. Did it feel long? Pretty much. The first part of our story involves a constant switching back and forth between Logan and Millie’s idyllic past featuring the start of their relationship, juxtaposed against their tension-filled present which takes place 23 years after Millie walked out on Logan with no warning or explanation. It’s kind of strange to think they’ve lived in the same town all that time without bumping into each other, but then one random stop at a Chipotle’s can change everything. Throughout this entire first half of the book we’re constantly questioning how/why Millie could have abandoned Logan, but then we eventually discover how her leaving was a demonstration of her “walking through fire” for him. She brought pain to herself and him, but she thought it was all so that Logan could live a better life without her.

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When we do eventually discover why she felt the need to throw their relationship by the wayside, I must admit it was a pretty disappointing reveal. She caused so much turmoil for something that could have been less painful if she’d merely opened up to Logan, and admitted the hard time she was going through. Instead, she chose to turn her back on him, and leave him wondering for over two decades what went wrong. Something I did appreciate though was Logan’s reaction to finally discovering her reasoning. Understandably, he’s pissed. Like, super pissed. He even goes to her sister, who knew all along why Millie felt the need to run away, and he gives her a good talking to saying that if she’d merely confided in him he could have resolved things fairly quickly. And yet, he also admits to both himself and her sister that if the roles had been reversed he probably would have made the same decision Millie did. It was such a mature acknowledgment for him to say that while he doesn’t blame Millie for her decision, it doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it.

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The Missing Element

After Logan learns why Millie left him all those years ago, we see how the second half of the book deals with him determined to win her back, and get back to a life of somewhat normalcy. This is something that I feel Kristen Ashley does very well, which is to paint us a picture of the regular, everyday lives of seemingly bad-ass bikers. For example, we see them bicker over what to cook for dinner, and what shows to watch on television. I’m sorry Logan, but I’d have to agree with Millie that Downton Abbey is always the correct choice. Then we see some more of the complexities involved with Logan and Millie coming back together, including learning how they’ve both changed in the years since their separation, and slowly introducing Millie to Logan’s two daughters. This biker might have a tough exterior, but we’re also witness to moments of affection between him, Millie, and his daughters that help ground him.

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As you can see, a lot is going on with this read. Flashbacks to Logan and Millie’s initial love story, scenes in the present reflecting their animosity, a final admission to the root cause of Millie’s abandonment, learning to love again, introductions of Logan’s daughters and ex-wife. And yet, on top of all this there was one thing missing. Those of you who are familiar with my reviews of this series will probably know what I’m going to say. There’s barely any suspense! Once again, we hear mention throughout the entire book of a rival gang to the Chaos motorcycle club, and a villainous leader who seems intent on bringing down our favorite MC. However, we’re always deprived of any kind of momentous confrontation between the two groups, which makes the entire book feel relatively lacking in action. At this point, I can’t help but wonder why there’s even a bother with putting in these brief snippets of suspense in each book when they continually go nowhere? It’s like the whole series is building up to one final battle, but we’re not getting enough incorporation of this side plot for us to be fully invested in its resolution.

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Series: Chaos, book 4. Of all the books in the Chaos series so far, I’d have to say this one was probably my favorite.

Final Impressions: Even though I didn’t agree with Millie’s abandonment of Logan with no explanation, they are both rather enjoyable characters, and you become invested in seeing them find their way back to each other. She also had two adorable-sounding kittens that were my favorite aspect of the book. That being said, it could have been half the length, and this side plot with the rival motorcycle gang that always goes nowhere brought things down for me. Not to mention, you could have played a drinking game with the number of times there was a reference to Millie having to “walk through fire”, or having “walked through fire, or was currently “walking through fire” in regards to Logan. There’d probably be a good chance of alcohol poisoning though. Consider yourself warned.

Smut Level: Take my advice and don’t read this baby in the bathtub like I did. You’ll spontaneously combust from the excessive heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 602 Pages.

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Knights’ Sinner by Bella Jewel

Serenity has finally found a family that she can connect with, and love wholeheartedly. Too bad she’s been sent on a mission to infiltrate their ranks, and ultimately bring them down.

What’s it About? 

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Jackson is always considered the ‘softie’. He’s the first to help people out when they’re in need. He’s President of the Hell’s Knights and he figures it’s about time he shows the world how much of a sinner he can be.

Serenity has a dark past. Secrets haunt her and she has no way of escaping them. Hogan is the only family she knows and life with him is brutal. And it’s about to get worse.
He sends her on a mission.

On a mission to destroy the Hell’s Knights and the Heaven’s Sinners. Can she pretend with a club she doesn’t know? Or will she betray Hogan for the man she’s falling in love with?

First Impressions

Of all the novels in the MC Sinners series, I must say this has been my favorite one so far. I was on the verge of stopping the series altogether after the first two books, but this third novel really brought things together on a bit of a high note for me. Whereas the first two books kept the dramatic and suspenseful elements of the plot relegated to the background, Knights’ Sinner brings it more to the forefront with Serenity’s espionage of going undercover to become a mole inside of the Hell’s Knights and Heaven’s Sinners compound. We see a big focus of her falling in love rather quickly with the MC president, Jackson, but throughout it all there’s the constant fear of everyone discovering her true identity, not to mention the fear that her abusive father will realize she’s starting to side with this enemy biker gang. While it’s not without its flaws, this third book has been the most exciting of the bunch, and had a more even blend of intrigue, romance, and erotic passion.

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Priorities

While Serenity’s undercover mission lent an air of suspense and excitement to the plot, it was also by far the most frustrating aspect of the story. Serenity knows pretty quickly upon arriving at the compound, and meeting Jackson, that she won’t follow her father’s orders of relaying accurate information about the club’s plans and security forces. She cares too much about this family of bikers who took her in when she seemingly had nowhere else to go, and she can’t imagine betraying them. That being said, she pushes aside every opportunity to tell Jackson the truth about how she came to be with them, and that her father is plotting to bring them down. In the beginning it’s understandable why she would be hesitant, but as time goes on it just becomes more and more ridiculous and puzzling as to why she refuses to open up to Jackson about her past, and ask him for help to release her from the clutches of her father.

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At one point Serenity is on the very edge of admitting the truth, but she clams up and instead decides that blurting out how much she’s intrigued by the concept of a threesome involving Jackson and one of his biker brothers would be a better idea. Um…ok. She knows she’s waiting too long, and acknowledges that Jackson will hate her when the truth inevitably comes out, especially after he admits how much he was hurt by an ex who turned out to be someone she wasn’t. And then it happens, the truth comes out, and what she feared would happen…happens. Jackson pushes her away. The biker family no longer trusts her. Just like she knew would happen. And yet Serenity’s response to their shunning her is pure rage and frustration. How dare they judge her! They don’t know the emotional and physical abuse she suffered for years at the hands of her father. She had no choice, yada yada. But…the problem is that she had soooooo many opportunities to come forward and ask for their help! Instead she seemed more interested in getting her three-way on. Priorities girl, get it right.

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Series: MC Sinners, book 3. It looks like there’s just one more half book in this series, but I think I’ve found myself at a good stopping point.

Final Impressions: Overall I really enjoyed the suspense of Serenity’s deception which was woven throughout the romantic story line developing between her and Jackson. That being said, her secretiveness went on for way too long, and diverting attention away from her past to focus instead on a threesome with Jackson just seemed like an odd tactic, albeit a sexy one. There was an exciting build-up of anticipation as you wonder how and if the club will finally succeed in taking down Serenity’s father. In the end, you gotta love he’s one of those villains who likes to pause and describe in long, drawn out detail all of his plotting and scheming. Although it wasn’t a perfect story from start to finish, it was definitely an improvement upon the groundwork which was laid from the first two novels.

Smut Level: Serenity might start off as a virgin in this novel, but by the end she’s had a threesome, explored the painful euphoria of anal sex, and come into her own as a sexy vixen and temptress for Jackson.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 350 Pages.

Handsome Death by Sara Dobie Bauer

“Priority one has always been to keep him safe, but the joke was on me: I’m the most dangerous thing he’s come across.”

What’s it About? 

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I’m not hunting him; I’m protecting him. At least, that’s what I tell myself. In New York City, a beautiful creature like Tristan Clement should not be walking the streets alone, and I’m the perfect vampire to watch his back. But what if keeping him safe isn’t enough anymore? What if I want to touch? And taste? I need him. But I’ve never needed anyone.

In a world where paranormal creatures live amongst us and must follow certain laws, living life as a dangerous loner works for vampire Ethan. Inhabiting his gleaming apartment, wearing his designer suits, jetting around the world as a fanged killer-for-hire, Ethan does it all alone.

That is, until he literally runs into Tristan. Tristan, who is clearly trouble wrapped in skinny jeans and an oversized sweater. Tristan, with his shock of angelic blond curls. Tristan, who plays piano more beautifully than the old masters– and Ethan would know; he saw Beethoven.

Tristan is gorgeous, a little sassy, and irresistible. Also, Ethan is horrified to note, Tristan has no idea how incredibly tempting he is to things that go bump in the night.

Overcome by the urge to keep Tristan safe, Ethan begins to… well, stalk is such a strong word. What starts as an obsession quickly becomes something more, something that Ethan needs. And to his surprise, Tristan seems to need him, too…

This darkly romantic tale delivers steamy passion and a happily ever after. Be advised that Handsome Death includes explicit m/m content, stalking, mentions of past abuse, and graphic violence.

First Impressions

Guy meets guy in a NYC coffee shop. Seems like a rather standard meet cute, no? Well, when one of those guys is a centuries old mercenary vampire, and the other is a young unsuspecting music student, let’s just say it ramps up the intrigue to a mouth-watering level. At first, Ethan finds his draw to this young human completely inexplicable, but the one thing he does feel is an intense desire to protect and safeguard him. Perhaps it’s simply a lustful attraction which will soon fade.

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However, as time passes and their relationship evolves, we see how both of these men help the other learn to live again. Tristan has the ability to make this rugged mercenary laugh, and feel something for the first time in a long time. It’s shockingly charming to witness the sensitive romantic side of this tough vampire slowly emerge before us. As for Ethan’s influence on Tristan, he helps this young man move on from a previously troubled relationship which made him feel weak, useless and ugly. It doesn’t take long after being enveloped in Ethan’s arms to feel both beautiful and desired at the same time.

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Brought Right to the Edge

Edging plays a rather large role in this novel. Not that kind of edging! Although…come to think of it Ethan does have a lot of fun repeatedly teasing Tristan right to the edge of full pleasure before pulling away. But no, when I refer to edging in this instance I mean that we’re always sort of brought to the edge of something going terribly wrong for our characters, but ultimately things resolve themselves before we’re pushed over that edge. There’s the cusp of our characters breaking up, the finality of death, or in some cases being caught by the authorities. However, things always end up working out before they go too wrong…in most instances.

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In a way, this lent a rather refreshing sense of lightness to the plot, but also meant we were constantly waiting for a shoe to drop that never does. For example, I was confident at the start of the book that Ethan’s mercenary past would in some way insert itself into the bubble which he and Tristan had created for themselves. Perhaps an old enemy would come back to bite him (vampire joke totally intentional). And yet, that never happens. The main focus of the story is really centered on Ethan and Tristan figuring out how they fit into each other’s lives, and discovering that you can find love even when you weren’t looking for it.

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

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Series: Stand-alone. I will say we’re presented with a few delightful secondary characters who I would adore to see more from. Tristan’s spunky best friend in particular was so much fun.

Final Impressions: I read this book in one day. Was that because the characters wouldn’t release me from their captivating world, or because I’ve been stuck inside my apartment for the last week due to covid-19 lock down? Definitely a mixture of both. There is one especially suspenseful moment towards the middle of the book which turns everything topsy turvy. Although it was a moment which we could foreshadow, it was still intense in its delivery. I think I would have liked to see some aspect of Ethan’s mercenary past come more to the forefront in his relationship with Tristan, just as a way to heighten the suspense even more. Overall though, an engaging read that highlights the strength and healing nature of true love.

Smut Level: My goodness gracious, what do these two hunks NOT do?! Some of it is intensely erotic, from the aforementioned edging to the use of ropes, and of course a bit of required biting from our vampiric alpha male. They’re openly communicative though when it comes to the rougher side of their sexual relationship, and have a clear go-no-go system in place. Respect!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Carnation Books. 257 Pages.

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