Solid Soul by Brenda Jackson

This contemporary romance novel succeeds in making the seemingly most mundane location appear to be the epitome of passionate intimacy, and that my friends would be the darkened tunnel of your neighborhood car wash. Sign me up for an unexpected foray into pleasureland. 

What’s it About? 

In the real world there was no way flower shop owner Kylie Hagan would ever meet up with millionaire Chance Steele. But the world of single parents and teenage hormones brought them together the first time — and a simmering passion they both tried to deny wouldn’t keep them apart for long.

Chance made her think of hot, sultry Southern nights. Kylie had him imagining satin sheets and soul-stirring kisses. But in the cold light of day, they had to resist each other. There was no way they’d let uncontrollable desire ignite their carefully protected hearts.

But some things they couldn’t ignore.

First Impressions

This was a fun matchmaking romance with a few unexpected emotional observations on how certain perceived mistakes of the past can have a lasting impact on the futures of those involved. Our novel opens on two frustrated teenage best friends who are tired of their overbearing, single parents obsessing over every aspect of their lives. Perhaps if their parents could focus on something else, or someone else for that matter, Marcus and Tiffany would be able to enjoy a bit more teenage freedom. Cue a delightful fake relationship story line involving an impassioned plea of true love and the possibility of matching tattoos. However, while this classic romance novel trope typically involves the instigators of the ruse falling in love, we instead see how it is utilized to make their parents rediscover what it means to open their hearts to someone else, and fall in love all over again with someone new. 

Kylie and Chance don’t get off to the best start, as notes exchanged between their plotting teenagers to skip school make both of these devoted parents think the child of the other is up to no good in leading their precious baby astray. Nothing quite like a meet cute involving a surly demand to keep the other’s teenager away from their own! It doesn’t take long though for these two adept business people to starting devising plans for how to manage the situation, which of course leads to them spending an increasing amount of personal alone time together. As Marcus and Tiffany start to see their plan working with flying colors, they try to conceive of additional activities which would require all of them to spend more time together interacting as a foursome, and dare they say it, even as a family. What started off as animosity quickly transitioned to understanding, respect, desire, and the murmurings of love. Who would have thought that the premise for bringing these two together would ultimately prove to be the thing that holds them back from making the final step into something permanent, as Kylie especially is hesitant to pursue something with the father of her daughter’s boyfriend! Will Chance be able to convince her that what they’ve come to feel for each other can’t be pushed aside? 

Mistakes” of the Past

We soon see that this isn’t just a case of two helicopter parents not being able to trust their children, but rather they fear their kids might repeat the same “mistakes” they did. Kylie herself got pregnant at 16, the same age her daughter is now. In spite of the fact she has single-handedly raised her daughter into an intelligent young woman, all while building a successful flower shop business for herself, Kylie has simultaneously experienced 16 years of stigma and negative perception by her parents. The last thing she wants is for her daughter to experience the same tormented guilt, or for the actions of her daughter to give the impression that she is an unfit mother who can’t keep her child in line. This intense desire to give off the impression of the responsible mother is also why Kylie finds it so difficult to open herself fully to Chance. At one point in the story she finally agrees to explore her sexual desires for this man, and it was both exciting and sad to see how many firsts she was finally able to have with Chance. For so many years she has had to needlessly carry this false narrative of being an unruly and lewd teenager, and yet we see that Chance takes her on her first date, is the first man to give her a pleasurable sexual experience, and is indeed the first man she’s ever truly fallen in love with. 

Unfortunately, the idea of pursuing anything long term with Chance while her daughter it still living under the same roof as her fills Kylie with a debilitating fear of once again being labeled as a thoughtless and perhaps even selfish woman. I could understand and appreciate Kylie’s apprehension of falling for her daughter’s boyfriend’s father. Even though we as the audience know this teenage romance is a sham, Kylie is under the impression her daughter is madly in love with young Marcus. If Kylie and Chance were to take the next step in their relationship and marry one day, let’s just say things could get rather awkward around the breakfast table with step-siblings in love. Nevertheless, while some might eventually get exasperated by Kylie’s insistence on not exploring love for herself until her daughter is off to college, it was also an interesting psychological glimpse at how the vitriol of Kylie’s parents against her choices all these years has prevented her from ever opening herself up to a man again. However, a charismatic and confidently sexy single father is about to change all that. 

Chance also had a child and married young. Whereas Kylie was abandoned by her teenage love to raise her daughter all her own, Chance made the decision to honor his commitment to his girlfriend. Now a widower, Chance is devoted to his successful business, his many brothers, and his son. The last thing he has time for is to fall in love. One of my favorite aspects of this book, aside from the good-natured meddling of two resourceful teenagers, was the comparison of Kylie and Chance’s teenage experiences of love, and how their respective journeys into adulthood impact how they view their developing relationship. Kylie’s pregnancy not only cost her the support of the boy she thought she loved, but also that of her parents. She had to fight for everything to succeed in life, and while we commend her for this obvious strength, we can also witness the underlying fear that pervades her life worrying that all she’s gained in life could come crashing down. Allowing a man into her life is a risk she doesn’t think is worth taking. Chance on the other hand followed through on marrying the love of his life, and was always surrounded by the love of his wife and family. Just like Kylie, he was also able to build a successful business for himself, but when his wife passed away he was plunged into a grief that made him wary of opening his heart to another person ever again. Their pasts shared certain similarities, and while their individual journeys couldn’t have been more different, they still found success in business and raising two respectful and intelligent children. If they can put as much energy and devotion into each other, just maybe they can make this thing work between them after all. 

Series: Forged of Steele, book 1. We are provided with a few glimpses at Chance’s many brothers, and I for one can’t wait to get to know each and every one of them better. 

Final Impressions: This was a fun read that still managed to have some serious aspects melded into it. Marcus and Tiffany certainly give their parents a run for their money at the start, and as things progress we see them increasingly take a back seat to allow Kylie and Chance the opportunity to explore each other more fully. When their plan starts to backfire they make one last attempt to make their parents realize that they’re meant to be together, which certainly added to the fun shenanigans of the read as a whole, though I probably would have preferred if Chance had initiated this big gesture on his own rather than relying on the kids to do so. Speaking of Chance, his sensuality and natural sexual magnetism will immediately draw you in, and you’ll find it difficult to escape the clutches of his powerful allure…not that you’d want to escape. While I could see some readers becoming increasingly frustrated with Kylie’s repeated attempts to push him away, I think it’s important to remember the difficult journey she’s traversed for the last sixteen years, and how it plays a critical role in the fear she still holds onto to this day.

Smut Level: As previously mentioned, Kylie is able to experience many “firsts” with Chance. This not only includes going on her first ever official date, but also kitchen sex, shower sex, hot tub sex, and the delightfully sticky use of caramel sauce. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Harlequin Special Releases. 212 Pages. 

Untouched Heroes Vol 1: A Men’s Health Charity Anthology

What’s better than an anthology featuring romantic tales of virginal male heroes finding their happily ever after? How about the fact that all proceeds go to Movember! Help join the cause of raising awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

What’s it About?

Sweet and sexy, funny and fierce, Untouched Heroes brings together eighteen new and established voices in two books. One heck of a Manthology. Turning the Virgin Trope on its head, these sassy, steamy novellas include tales of pure, divine rods and men going to great lengths just to lose that V Card. Get ready to giggle, gasp, and cry as you carouse this one-of-a-kind collection. Best of all, it’s for a great cause – All proceeds from these anthologies will go to Movember, raising awareness about men’s health issues such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide.

Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner: Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Authors included in Volume 1 are: Daphne Elliot; Klaudia Miel; Rebecca Hefner; Kate Seger; Linda Marie Pankow; Thomas Van Boening; Michaela Cole; Trissy Lee; Christopher Stanfield

Authors included in Volume 2 are: Mary Morano; Natalie Parker & Lizzie Stanley; Paula Dombrowiak; CJ Ferrell; JLynn Autumn; Brandi Lane; Linda Marie Pankow; Shauna Jared; Reese Jett

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a secret novella for the Etherya’s Earth series that was going to be featured in an anthology which would benefit Movember I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. Even though I only had enough time to read Ms. Rebecca Hefner’s work before the release date, I wanted to be sure and get a review up in time so that as many of my readers as possible could take advantage of this opportunity to support such an amazing cause. For those of you who are also a fan of the Etherya’s Earth paranormal series, you won’t want to miss this beautiful short story, Immortal Beginnings. While it doesn’t feature any of the primary characters from the series we’ve come to know and love, you’ll quickly become enamored with the romance between deamon Dragos and vampyre Raina. You’ll have no problem finishing this novella in one sitting, and yet there is so much story to unpack between these two characters. Fangs down, of all the short stories featured in the Etherya’ Earth series so far, this was undoubtedly my favorite. I can only hope we’ll get a glimpse of this couple again in a future full-length novel.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, this novella does feature a virginal male hero which I was fully on board for, but beyond this amazing trope of a more experienced female lead guiding her man in the ways of pleasure, we were also presented with two complex characters who are trying to find their way in a new world unlike anything they’ve known before. Etherya’s Earth has been plagued by war for centuries, but its inhabitants are finally living in a time of peace, when vampyres, deamons and slayers can coexist rather than fight against each other. This is the setting upon which our novella opens, as deamon Dragos is trying to live a “normal” life away from the world of deamon caves and constant fighting which he’s only known up until this point. As for Raina, she is now a single mother trying to adapt to life following the death of her “bonded” in the final battle against the evil deamon Crimeous. These two unlikely neighbors are able to push aside their troubled pasts to find happiness and pleasure with each other in the present, and the promising hope of something even more permanent going forward.

Upon first reading this novella, I was so worried we’d ultimately discover that Dragos was responsible for killing Raina’s husband in battle, but thankfully we focus instead on what it means for these two to explore a relationship together at this particular point in their lives. For Dragos, he has only known the horrors of war. At one point in the story, Raina offers to bring him salve for a burn on his arm, and he reveals that it is the first time he’s been voluntarily touched by another in all of his centuries on this Earth. The glimpses of vulnerability we witness for this weathered soldier are almost enough to bring a tear to your eye, as you realize that beneath the tough exterior lies a man who simply craves the soft touch of another. He has craved Raina since she first moved in next door, and when she finally offers herself to him, he can’t help but fall hard and fast for this loving woman and caring mother.

For Raina, she initially worries that Dragos will feel more for her than she could ever reciprocate, especially considering she’s the one to touch and physically please him for the first time ever. Even though a letter from her belated husband clearly states he hopes she can move on to find happiness with another during her immortal life, she can’t help but keep a part of herself back from Dragos in a foolhardy attempt to prevent herself from falling for this deamon. Dragos is willing to accept any part of her she’s willing to give, but can Raina acknowledge that there’s room in her heart for both Dragos and her former bonded? That giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband, but rather she’s allowing herself the opportunity to move on and make new memories that can co-exist with rather than take over those of the man she loved before. Again, there’s definitely a lot of emotional baggage to unpack in such a short novella!

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 4.5. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here for posterity: I will read anything and everything this author ever releases.

Final Impressions: Loved it, adored it, consider myself officially smitten. It’s not simply the tale of a male losing his v-card, but also an observation of how two people can put aside their traumatic pasts, and convince themselves they are worthy of love. How it’s possible to open up one’s heart again after having found and lost true love before. We not only fall in love with Dragos and Raina, but also Raina’s two adorable sons, Galen and Ekon. There is so much to love about this novella, and I’m excited to see what else this anthology has in store!

Smut Level: The first time this series presented us with a deamon falling for a vampyre we were privy to the most alpha of males who was well-versed in the ways of pleasure. This time around, Dragos might not have the experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quick study in the ways of pleasure, or dirty talk for that matter. As a former soldier, he is more than capable of following all the sultry orders that Raina has to give in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tarina Anthologies. 668 Pages.

Passions Fulfilled by Ayla Asher

In this small-town romance, two people with complicated pasts must realize that only they are concerned with what they personally perceive as faults. To each other, they are perfect.

What’s it About?

What if your soul mate had been right in front of you the whole time?

Justine Lancaster made every possible mistake in her disastrous marriage. After finally leaving her abusive ex-husband, she forges ahead, creating a new life with her daughter. Although she craves companionship, she wonders if she has the foundation to try dating after her traumatic past.

Police officer Gary Lincoln fell in love with Justine somewhere between the end of his divorce and the first time he showed up on her doorstep with a deep need to protect her from her husband. After silently loving her for years, he continues to watch over Justine and her daughter, knowing they deserve happiness…and understanding a woman as special as Justine deserves more than he can give.

As their friendship grows, Justine observes the desire simmering in Gary’s deep brown eyes and wonders why he holds back. Determined to find out, she discovers the secret Gary has been keeping and sets out to prove she’ll stop at nothing until both their passions are fulfilled.

First Impressions

This is another homerun in the Ardor Creek series that is chock-full of lovable characters encountering real-life issues. I adore how this author isn’t afraid to present us with the somewhat unglamorous, yet truly realistic aspects, of building a life together with someone new. Or, in the case of Justine and Gary, someone you’ve known and secretly pined over for years. These two have just officially closed the doors on their previous marriages, Justine to an abusive ex and Gary to one who had trouble showing patience following an injury he sustained while on duty. Both are willing to admit to themselves how perfect and special they find the other, but they refuse to act on anything at first due to how imperfect they find themselves. Justine believes Gary deserves someone better than a woman with the responsibilities of a single mom who was arrested for stabbing her husband when he dared to lay an abusive finger on their daughter. Gary is convinced that after finally being free of her ass-hat ex, Justine should find someone who doesn’t experience issues performing in the bedroom like he does after having been shot in the thigh years ago.

We all know it’s simply a matter of time before both of these kind-hearted and loving characters openly acknowledge they’d like to take their relationship to the next level, and I for one was pleased as peaches that Justine was ultimately the first to reach her breaking point. I wondered if after spending so many years in an abusive relationship she would be hesitant to move on and find happiness with someone new. However, we find the opposite to be true in that it seems the more time and distance she gets from her ex, the more she comes out of her shell and returns to the outgoing and assertive woman she’s always been. She reaches a point where she realizes she wants Gary in her life, she’s not afraid to vocalize that desire, and she’s willing to put in the effort of understanding and working around Gary’s injury that his ex was never willing to do. You can’t help but admire this mamma bear who knows and goes for what she wants!

One Caress at a Time

Gary’s injury plays a pivotal role in this read, as well as his embarrassment and trust issues in vocalizing how his gunshot wound has impacted his ability to sometimes achieve and maintain an erection during sex. This injury also resulted in a lower sperm count should he ever wish to have children one day. Every book in the Ardor Creek series deals with topics that are oftentimes ignored in romance novels, or pushed aside seeing as they can be uncomfortable issues to put front and center, whether it be substance abuse, physical abuse, bullying, death, or even erectile dysfunction. While these topics might not be “sexy” at first glance, I must say that the ability of these characters to openly discuss and confront these issues together as partners provides an intimacy to their relationship which is truly breathtaking.

There are some books that you pick up because of the fun of the drama, almost removing yourself from reality. When it comes to the Ardor Creek series though, I continually find myself returning to this series because of the comfort I will inevitably find there of two mature adults who approach the realities of life in meaningful and relatable ways. Even when there are disagreements or arguments, they are presented in a way where it feels like we could either see ourselves in their shoes, or we know of friends whose personalities resonate with these characters. I will admit, there were a few times throughout this read where I thought, my goodness these two are almost too understanding and complimentary of each other. But then I had to remind myself, oh yeah, not everything has to be over-the-top dramatic in order for the characters to move forward beyond the difficulties they might face as their relationship grows.

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

Series: Ardor Creek, book 5. Just when I thought this series couldn’t get any better, we are introduced to two new characters that you just know will forge out on an interesting journey together in a future book.

Final Impressions: A series that approaches real-life issues in a compassionate manner, with comedy and sexy fun times thrown into the mix, presented by characters you’d want to have a drink with? Yeah, you can officially sign me up every time. The central role that Gary’s injury played to the plot was fascinating, from not only the physical impact it held over his sexual relationship with Justine, but also the mental repercussions Gary must face as it creates trust issues which threaten to break down the relationship he has finally built with the true love of his life. Justine and Gary were two characters you love to love, in spite of their rather complicated pasts. From Justine’s strength and tenacity as a mother and artist, to Gary’s unstoppable devotion and protective nature towards Justine and her daughter, you gotta love ’em.

Smut Level: Lemme tell ya, for a book focused on a character with performance issues…my word do these two manage to carry out some erotically sensual scenes together! We escalate things from kissing to licking, nibbling, thrusting, throw on a bit of warming lube, and once Gary’s police handcuffs got involved I was officially on fire!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 210 Pages.

Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins

A delightful African-American western historical romance practically filled to bursting with witty banter between our two leads. It will leave a permanent smile on your face for sure!

What’s it About?

Award-winning romance author Beverly Jenkins offers up another high-stakes historical romance that is sure to make you swoon.

With Destiny’s Embrace, Jenkins brings readers back to the American West, where Logan Yates, a self-important ranch owner, must confront his feelings for his beautiful, free spirited housekeeper, Mariah Cooper. While they bicker incessantly, their sexual tension is palpable, and only rises when Mariah’s former lover arrives on the scene. Will she accept Logan’s heart?

Set in 19th-century California, Destiny’s Embrace features unforgettable characters and a satisfying mix of adventure and passion from nation’s premier writer of African-American historical romance.

First Impressions

This was my first foray with a Beverly Jenkins novel, and it was such a fun journey from start to finish! In my mind, this was a most wonderful display of a historical romance, as it sparks your interest to want to explore this time period in even more detail, whether it be through a trip to the local library or a museum. From the streets of Philadelphia to the wide-open ranches of California, we are introduced to such a diverse range of settings and characters that it left me wanting to research as much information as I can find about the experiences and convergence of the indigenous peoples of California, African-American and Hispanic communities of the era. It seemed like at every turn our eyes were opened to another fascinating window of history that we don’t always see as the primary focus of western historical romances. Again, I always see this as the sign of a good historical read, when it lights a fire under you to want to go beyond the pages of the story, and dive deep into the pages of history.

Lying in Wait

Fleeing the physical and mental abuse of her mother, Mariah Cooper sets out across the country to take up a housekeeping position under the employ of a surly bachelor. While I can’t say this romance can be categorized as an enemies-to-lovers story per se considering the short amount of time our two leads have known each other, it’s certainly a tale of stubborn-employer-employee-to-lovers. And honestly, this just might be one of my new official favorite tropes! Both of these characters are strong-willed, strong-headed, and not afraid to admit how much the other drives them absolutely up the wall. However, underneath the stubbornness is a sexual chemistry lying in wait, threatening to break free at any moment. They both try to avoid and ignore it, but it doesn’t take long at all before they’re giving into their desires for each other, even if they lie to themselves that it will only be the one time.

Watching the Clouds

The playful banter between Mariah and Logan had me giggling like a school girl more than I care to admit, and their physical connection had me grinning and blushing in delight. However, something I loved even more was witnessing the growth of these two characters as they spent more time together. One of the most poignant moments in the entire read for me was when Mariah and Logan took a moment from their busy and hectic lives to simply lie back and stare up at the shapes they could distinguish in the clouds. It was a momentous occurrence for Mariah, as we realize she’s never had an opportunity to just be a kid with no worries who could stare up and daydream at the sky.

She was always living under the oppressive thumb of her mother who refused to allow her to engage in such frivolities. Only by striking out on her own is she finally free to act…freely. And Logan is the one to hold her hand and show her how. The mere fact this rough and tumble rancher would take the time to engage in a childhood pastime with his housekeeper shows the kind of influence she’s had on him to simply live in the moment and enjoy life. To take a break from the stresses and responsibilities of ranch life to lie in the grass with someone who is coming to mean a great deal to him. In my opinion, this was the most beautiful and intimate scene of the whole read.

Series: Destiny, book 1. I had a brief moment of panic in the epilogue when we are introduced to a woman giving birth to a baby who she declares she intends to inform the father about. I was so worried we had a cliffhanger on our hands that it was Logan’s, and this would throw a major wrench in the happiness of our couple, but reading the synopsis of the next book reveals that it’s thankfully not the case! We are introduced to so many fun and lovable characters in this first read, I might just have to see what comes next for Logan’s brother.

Final Impressions: It wouldn’t really be fair to categorize this as a slow-read, more that it feels like we have been provided the chance of sitting in to witness the daily lives and evolving love story of our characters. I remember at one point when I was mid-read, I picked up my Kindle one day to say to myself, “ok, let’s see what Mariah and Logan are up to today.” They might be fictional characters living in another era, but they almost feel like friends or neighbors by the end. It’s a funny, sweet read, and witnessing the journey of Mariah transition from a mere child living under her mother’s rule to blossom into a headstrong woman who stands up for what she wants was truly a sight to behold!

Smut Level: This read introduced me to my new favorite form of foreplay: aiding someone up and down from a carriage by grasping their waist and holding them close through the entire action. Phew, mercy me!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. Avon Books. 389 Pages.

Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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It’s Almost Too Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We Still Live by Sara Dobie Bauer

A small college town still reeling from unexpected tragedy. It might seem like the unlikeliest of places for romance to blossom, but you can’t always control where love will find you.

What’s it About?

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Running from a scandal that ruined his life, Isaac Twain accepts a teaching position at Hambden University where, three months prior, Professor John Conlon stopped a campus nightmare by stepping in front of an active shooter.

When John and Isaac become faculty advisors for the school’s literary magazine, their professional relationship evolves. Despite the strict code of conduct forbidding faculty fraternization, they delve into a secret affair—until Simon arrives.

Isaac’s violent ex threatens not only their careers, but also John’s life. His PTSD triggered, John must come to terms with that bloody day on College Green while Isaac must accept the heartbreak his secrets have wrought.

First Impressions

This is an emotionally heavy read! It’s not just that we’re dealing with a community that is still trying to heal after a school shooting, or a teacher going through the motions of PTSD following his confrontation with the shooter. Nor is it just because of a forbidden love between two male teachers whose jobs are at risk should their amorous activities be discovered. And it’s not only the fact that one of those teachers isn’t openly out as gay, and is attempting to avoid a rather stalkerish ex following the fallout of his 10 year marriage to a woman. It’s the fact that we’re dealing will all of these dramatic story lines at the same time that truly packs an emotional punch.

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I’ll admit, every time I picked up my Kindle to have a go at this read I had to have a light-hearted Christmas movie on in the background so that I didn’t dissolve into a mess of tears with every page. I realize it might seem at the surface like that’s too much drama to be dealing with in one book, but I was surprised to find that it never felt as though any one story line was unnecessary. Everything fit together so perfectly, and while it was indeed a difficult read to approach at times, every element fit succinctly into how these two men found love together amidst every obstacle which was thrown in their path.

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Just Try and Fight It

The romance which developed between Isaac and John was beautiful. It’s the only word I can think of to describe it, yet it also fails to highlight just how special their relationship came to be throughout the story. Upon first meeting, neither of them had romance on the brain. They were both just trying to live from one day to the next following the shit storms which had enveloped their lives over the past year. Isaac even internally admits to himself that John is far from his type. However, their acquaintance quickly turns to friendship, and from friendship it eventually escalates into something more. The strict no-fraternization policy at their university was initially a deterrent to them pursuing anything intimate, but one day they both have to admit to themselves that they can’t fight their connection any more.

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After the trauma of the past year, it’s as though they both acknowledge that it’s better to risk their jobs than to deny themselves a moment of happiness. A moment to truly live. True, their physical chemistry is incredibly strong, and it’s by far one of the steamiest and more realistically passionate reads I’ve come across from this author to date. However, I appreciated that what brings and keeps these two men together isn’t just sex. Rather, they manage to bring out the best in each other, and help to hold each other up when the events surrounding them seem determined to pull them down. When the world seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket, they both recognize that the other man is reason enough to still live.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I would give anything to see even a short novella of what these two men are up to a few years down the line.

Final Impressions: Consider yourself warned that you’ll want a happy Disney movie on hand for whenever you read this one. It succeeded in bringing me to tears a time or two, as you become emotionally invested in the lives of our characters. It’s a compelling and oftentimes difficult discussion of what it means to be a hero, how you can continue on when giving up seems so much easier, and how at the end of the day love can be so much stronger than pain. I will say I was surprised with the ending of this read, as it almost felt like we reached a conclusion mid-chapter. While it’s a happy ending, it’s not necessarily a perfect one that is tied up with a big red bow. At first I was almost disappointed, but then I realized that it was a truer reflection of the reality of life. We have good days and bad, and while the love between these two men helps them heal, it’s not as though it’s a magic wand that can make all the trauma of the past disappear entirely. They might not be able to completely forget the pain, but by holding on to each other it makes it easier to keep on living.

Smut Level: Kitchen island, boxer briefs, and a decent amount of honey. Enough said 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 233 Pages.

Setting Sail!

December has finally arrived, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for another family cruise vacation! We are setting sail this week for the beautiful sunshine of the Caribbean. See ya later 40 degree weather! Can’t say I’ll miss you at all.

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I’ve got my Kindle full of romantic beach reads, and I can’t begin to express how much I’m looking forward to getting my tan-on whilst reading the day away. Sure, the endless buffets of delicious food and desserts are also pretty awesome, but I’m most excited about getting away from the stresses of life. Nothing quite like getting off the grid, and telling work that you will literally be unreachable for a whole glorious week in international waters.

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From Costa Maya to Cozumel, not to mention the delicious rum of Belize, here’s to a week of fun, sunshine, and time with family. I imagine I’ll have finished quite a few books by the time the week is out. See you all in a week!

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Review Madness Starts Monday!

Hey everyone, don’t forget that starting Monday I’ll be switching up my regular posting schedule due to the plethora of new releases coming out next week. I’ll be featuring five novels from five different authors. A new review every day of the week! There’s a little something for everyone, so be sure to check out the schedule outlined below to find out which novels you might be interested in. Prepare yourself for the madness!!

Monday, September 17: Rogue Dragon Rising by TJ Shaw40921417
Genre: Fantasy, Gothic
Synopsis: Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her. Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy. As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 194 Pages.

Tuesday, September 18: Within the Skin by Zara WestWithin the Skin
Genre: Suspense, Multicultural & Interracial
Synopsis: Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar. Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy. Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. 342 Pages.

Wednesday, September 19: Between the Shadows by Casi McLeanBetween the Shadows
Genre: Time Travel, Fantasy
Synopsis: She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold. An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnaping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 320 Pages.

Thursday, September 20: A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss BennetA Sinner Without a Saint
Genre: Regency, Historical, LGBT
Synopsis: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process. But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 287 Pages.

Friday, September 21: The Mate by Abigail OwenThe Mate
Genre: Paranormal
Synopsis: Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it. To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. FREE!! 114 Pages.

 

 

Literary Book Gift Ideas

Well ladies and gents, it’s official. I am one year older. Happy birthday to meeee. As I like to tell people, I am now in my late, late mid-twenties. Also known as…29. I decided to celebrate the final year of my twenties by purchasing a few literary book themed gifts for myself. I told myself I’d just get one, but hell I’m gonna be 30 next year! I figured I deserved two. I also found there were just too many fun options to choose from. Limiting myself to one purchase was damn near impossible.

I thought I’d share with you all my b-day purchases in case you’re looking for future gift ideas for either yourself, or a loved one. I for one always feel like I’m looking for unique gift ideas for my friends and family, whether it be for birthdays or holidays, and then have a brain fart when it actually comes time to get them something. I love how this Literary Book Gifts site gives you a full bounty of different book titles to choose from. And the absolute best part? You can use “romance4thebeach20” for 20% off any purchase. No minimum amount required, and you can use it as many times as you want! Consider it a party favor for celebrating my b-day along with me!

So the site is literarybookgifts.com, and I feel like it’s a great source for all of you classic book lovers out there. You can choose from Women’s Book T-Shirts, Tote Bags, and Men’s/Unisex Book T-Shirts. Tank tops, short sleeve, hoodies, you name it, you got it. Personally, I loved the designs, as they’re truly reminiscent of cover art found on classic literary works which might be housed in a decadent library. There’s a wide variety of colors to choose from, but no matter which one you choose, the design really stands out front and center. While you can filter between women’s shirts, totes and men’s/unisex shirts, one feature I wish was built in was the ability to filter by short sleeve, tank top or hoodie. Not the end of the world, but you just have to search a bit more for the shirt type you might be interested in.

The Secret Garden

Now I don’t know about all of you, but personally I’m usually wary of purchasing clothing online. I always worry the fit won’t be exactly right, and I’ll either drown in it, or it’ll be an unexpected crop top. I appreciated that for the women’s shirt options it clearly states that the fit does tend to run on the small size. I’m usually a medium, and decided to go for a large. Definitely a good decision, as it is a rather form-fitting t-shirt. I will say though, considering I also celebrated my birthday with shrimp risotto in a lobster cream sauce, dark chocolate mousse cake for dessert, and about 4 glasses of Amaretto…there’s probably a good reason why it wasn’t very loose. After having it on for a few hours though, it really does seem to mold perfectly to your body.

Tote Bags

I must say, I debated long and hard about which shirt I wanted to go for, and in the end it was an epic battle between the Pride and Prejudice option and the Jane Austen one. In the end, I decided I had to go for Jane Austen, and I might just have to make this my official blog writing t-shirt. I’m actually writing in it right now! It’s cute, comfy, the white design just pops against the dark blue background, and is perfect for either lounging around on a rainy Sunday indoors or going out in public to a coffee shop. But don’t you worry Pride and Prejudice t-shirt, I’ve got my eye on you for a future purchase. If you’re looking for a looser fitting shirt that could be a sleep shirt or workout shirt I’d say it’s probably a good idea to go for the unisex shirt option. If you want one that will show off your womanly figure? Go for the women’s.

And now, for one of my greatest weaknesses in life. Tote bags. My goodness do I have an addiction to tote bags. When I first visited this site I knew I had to get a tote bag, and do you know what I appreciated more than anything else? The measurements for the handles are provided!! Not just the handle height, but the width as well. I can’t tell you how many times I get excited to order a tote bag online, but then receive it and find out I can only hold the handles rather than put them up my arm and over my shoulder. This site gives you the measurements for everything you could ever have a question about, whether it’s handle height, sleeve length, shirt width, etc.

Measurements

Something else I have an inexplicably ridiculous addiction to are typewriters. Don’t ask me why, but there is something about the feel of the keys as you push down on them, not to mention the audible sound of the clicking keys that just…does it for me. Yeah, I’m weird, I know. When I saw the typewriter design I just knew it was going in my cart, but another stressful decision was whether to get it in on a t-shirt or tote bag. In the end, I thought it’d be fun to get it on a tote, and use it as my bag to carry my laptop to a coffee shop for blog writing. It is my modern typewriter after all 🙂 After receiving it I immediately fell in love. This tote is sturdy, yet also has a smooth black inner lining which will be perfect for carrying around a laptop, or for any of you who have the tendency to spill something in the bottom of your bag. Now, my one complaint would have to be that the tote bags are only offered in the color they’re displayed in. To be honest I wish I could have chosen a different color for the typewriter tote bag, for example the red one that you can get in the t-shirt style.

While I haven’t purchased one of the hoodies yet, they look like the kind I’d enjoy, where there’s a bit of a V-neck to it. I hate when hoodies feel like they’re strangling you, and the V-neck usually avoids that. Going forward I’ll probably just give the url of this site to my family members and say, “Coordinate amongst yourselves as for who is getting what, I’ll take pretty much everything”.

Ulysses.PNGOne important thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t Amazon Prime. You probably won’t receive your purchase in a two-day window. Therefore, if you’re looking for a fun gift idea for someone, just be sure to allow about a week for delivery. So enjoy exploring the site! I certainly did. Pick out something fun for yourself, you deserve it! Or find a unique gift idea for the book lovers in your life. Just remember to use the “romance4thebeach20” promo code to get your 20% off at check out.

B-day Presents

New Release Extravaganza!

Who would have guessed it, but apparently mid-September is the perfect storm of new releases! I have five different authors who have requested for me to review five different works which all release next week. Now, I could do the logical thing, and panic!!!! Five books?! 1,257 pages?!?! Next week?? GAAAAHHH!! Mkay, panic moment over. The other thing I could do is try to make something fun out of it. So that’s what I’m gonna try to do! Still with a bit of panic mixed in there though of course.

I must say that is a glorious mix of cover-art right there. Rather than stick to my typical schedule of posting 2-3 reviews a week, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit with these upcoming new releases, and turn them into a review post extravaganza!!! That’s right. Five books. Five days. A new review each day. I’m currently just a little bit over half-way done. Three books down. Two to go. Let’s doooo this!!!

I must say, while it’s a daunting task, I’m pretty excited for the line up of releases we have here. There’s a little something for everyone! We’ll have dragons, multicultural suspense, time travel, historical LGBT, and more dragons. Oh my! And of course, they all have a bit of romance thrown in there as well. Below I’ve outlined the post schedule for next week so you can get a sneak peek of what to expect, as well as a pre-order link on Amazon for each novel. Be sure to tune back in next Monday, September 17, when the extravaganza will officially commence! Wish me luck!!

Monday, September 17: Rogue Dragon Rising by TJ Shaw40921417
Genre: Fantasy, Gothic
Synopsis: Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her. Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy. As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 194 Pages.

Tuesday, September 18: Within the Skin by Zara WestWithin the Skin
Genre: Suspense, Multicultural & Interracial
Synopsis: Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar. Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy. Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. 342 Pages.

Wednesday, September 19: Between the Shadows by Casi McLeanBetween the Shadows
Genre: Time Travel, Fantasy
Synopsis: She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold. An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnaping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 320 Pages.

Thursday, September 20: A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss BennetA Sinner Without a Saint
Genre: Regency, Historical, LGBT
Synopsis: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process. But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 287 Pages.

Friday, September 21: The Mate by Abigail OwenThe Mate
Genre: Paranormal
Synopsis: Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it. To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. FREE!! 114 Pages.

Looks like we’re gonna start and end with some dragons! Better get ready for some burning passion!!