Locke by Harper Sloan

Alas, it’s time to say goodbye to the members of Corps Security. This series has been brimming with alpha male tendencies from start to finish!

What’s it About? 

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Darkness is the only thing I see. Ever since the day my life changed. The day that everything and everyone I held close to me ceased to exist. The day I lost it all and the demons of my past consumed my every waking moment.

I tried to keep others at arm’s length. Tried not to let my darkness taint them. Ruin them. Harm them. And whether I want to admit it or not, as much as I wish I could keep them locked out, they refuse to leave. Refuse to let me suffer alone.

If I hadn’t been so focused on keeping those demons from flying free, I wouldn’t have missed how one perfect angel was able to sneak her way under my skin—refusing to let go. Making me want things I don’t deserve.

She consumes me. Her beauty knows no end. The love she promises tempts me every time she’s near. But that pure heart that makes her MY Emmy is the one thing I’m convinced I’ll destroy if I ever let her close.

I’m a broken man. A broken man with too much darkness in his soul to ever let her light shine upon me. But even that doesn’t stop me from craving her with every single breath in my body.

First Impressions

Emmy and Locke’s relationship has been playing out over the last two novels, so with the opening moments of this final book it sort of feels like we’re coming smack dab into the middle of their tale. In a way we’ve missed the meet cute, the initial attractions, and the fundamental draw of what connected them in the first place. That “thing” that sets each of them apart from any other love interest who has come before. With the start of this book we dive right into the complexities and intricacies of their relationship which has previously been established. You’re almost expected to remember all of the details, with very little recap or summary provided. Because we’ve only seen minor glimpses and insinuations of their attraction in the background scenes of the previous books, it seems we’ve missed out on some of the important first moments of their relationship.

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A Life in Sin

Even if we don’t necessarily know what drew Emmy and Locke together in the first place, an important aspect of their pasts that they both share are some unbelievably heartless family members. Specifically in regards to their mothers. These are women who laugh in the face of a daughter having been raped, or a son who suffered through the losses of war and an adulterous fiancée. While Emmy and Locke have both been heavily influenced by the tragic events of their pasts which are directly tied to the actions of their family, the novel focuses much more attention and depth into Locke’s recovery from his past tragedies. Those which Emmy encountered at the hands of her parents and one of their employees was barely touched upon in comparison. Emmy grew up being groomed by both of her parents to be the head act of their strip club, Sin, and didn’t see any problem or intervention necessary when she was continuously raped by one of their employees.

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Her goal in life was always to escape from this hell she had to live through every day, and ultimately it was Coope who provided the assistance necessary years beforehand to leave that life behind. And yet, after Coope’s death in a previous book, we see that she willingly goes back to that life. She voluntarily goes right back to Sin, into the scheming hands of her parents, and back to the abuse of her rapist. She could have gone anywhere in the world, but Emmy chose to go back there. Unfortunately we never really explore the psychology of this monumental decision, but rather get a brief mention that for some reason she thinks she deserves to be where she is. Eventually Emmy reflects on how much Coope risked to get her out of there all those years ago, and laments the fact she’s right back where she started. However, in the end it is Locke who succeeds in removing her from this abusive environment a second time. She never really takes it upon herself to confront her past directly. Things happen to her or around her, but she never really has the choice to heal from the pains of her past.

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Confronting the Past

As for Locke, we see a full exploration of the hurt caused by his family, his ex-fiancée who left him for his brother, and the aftermath of losing his leg in war. Emmy also makes the astute observation that due to his past with a scheming, backstabbing fiancée he doesn’t believe in love…for himself. He’s actually fully supportive of all his friends who have found love in their lives, and has always been the one to push them into the arms of their forever person. Emmy helps him confront his past slowly, piece by piece, and even helps him find professional help to resolve the areas too deep for her to assist with. The novel concludes with Locke finally facing the demons of his past head on, and letting them know how much better his life is now without them. And yet, we see no final moment of resolution for Emmy. She has no heart-to-heart discussion with her parents, no ultimate face-off to finally stand up on her own two feet. Instead Locke is always the one to solve her problems for her, with Emmy remaining in the background.

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Series: Corps Security, book 6. The final book in the series. 

Final Impressions: Overall a satisfying conclusion to the series, as we see a final overview of each of our couples from the previous books. More time is spent observing the tragedies that both Emmy and Locke suffered through in their respective pasts rather than recapping the details of how their relationship got off the ground in the first place. Ultimately it seems that Locke is provided with more opportunities to directly confront his issues head-on, whereas Emmy never really as the chance to stand-up to her parents who cause her so much pain. We do get a very suspenseful confrontation between Emmy and her rapist, but this wasn’t so much her confronting her past as it was her past coming back to confront her.

Smut Level: Locke is the king of delayed gratification, multiple orgasms, and dirty talk.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 271 Pages.

Their No-Strings Affair by Charlotte O’Shay

Just when you think life is throwing you nothing but curve balls, it might just throw a sexy Italian former SEAL turned security expert in your line of sight. Over and over and over again.

What’s it About? 

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Honey packs everything she owns and heads to NYC to jumpstart her art career. Her cheating boyfriend is history, and she finally acknowledges the truth of her mother’s mantra: Careers are forever and happily ever after isn’t in their DNA.

All she needs is a job and a place to live. What she doesn’t need is a taciturn, sexy, ballbuster but she’s woman enough to know the difference between need and want. Isn’t she?

Jake’s childhood was marred by tragedy and his future hijacked to a promise born of guilt. His failure drove him to a career as a SEAL and a security expert.

But it’s not enough. Now he’ll give up his freedom in reparation for the life he lost. Honey may be the last sweet stop on the road to a joyless future. If it’s what they both want, where’s the harm in a no-strings affair?

First Impressions

There are meet-cutes, and then there are meet-cuuuuuuuutes! There’s nothing better than a romantic meet-cute that puts a smirk on your face and makes your toes curl. The beauty of this novel is we essentially get three distinct meet-cute moments rolled into one relationship, and each scenario is just as smirk inducing as the next. Honey and Jake’s first meeting concludes rather quickly, but Jake can’t deny a moment of attraction to the little spitfire who wasn’t afraid to stand up and push back against his intimidating stature. As it would turn out, fate had more in store for these two. They’re drawn together rather serendipitously two more times, and it’s delightful how after each of these meetings they assume they’ll never see the other again. You can’t help but love the subsequent moments of shock, mixed with delight, when they reconnect again and again. Eventually they both determine enough is enough, and they decide to give into this attraction simmering between them. However, even though their affair might not have any strings attached, it does have a time limit.

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The Looming Deadline

We’ve all come across romances where the lead couple mutually decides to engage a no-strings-attached sexual relationship. No expectations, no heavy emotions, just sex. Aaaaand we all know that those never work out in romance novel land. An additional feature to this trope though that provides a bit of a twist to what we’re used to is the fact that Honey and Jake’s time together has an ending. They’re not just planning on jumping into bed with each other until things get boring between the sheets. Nope, they designate a time period together of one month. At the end of that month they’ll both go their separate ways. Honey will have an all important and time consuming internship beginning when that month is over, and Jake will be moving to Italy. This looming deadline results in both Honey and Jake wanting to take full advantage of all the time they have together.

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Now, a very small and cynical part of me wondered if the time limit to their relationship may have resulted in their emotional connection being put into hyper-drive. I even questioned if things may have eventually fizzled out between them had they not had this looming one month deadline hanging over their heads. However, something that squandered these musings was the fact that Jake and Honey truly did seem to have a connection that went beyond the physical. It wasn’t just sex. For either of them. This was particularly evident during a scene when they cooked dinner together, as they realize they’re both opening up to each other in a way they’ve never done with another person before. It seems like such a simple activity, making dinner, and yet it highlighted a level of intimacy to their relationship where they were both happy to simply be in each other’s presence, chatting, cooking away, and with their clothes on no less.

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“The rest of his life would be divided into the time before he met her and the time since.”

The Mothers

An intense and burning attraction isn’t the only thing that Jake and Honey share. They both have a rather complicated history with their respective mothers that helped shape who they are today. For Honey, her mother was always a wanderer; a woman caught up in her career who traveled from place to place with her daughter in tow. When Honey was just a teenager her mother married another man, and had twin boys. Not one to be tied down, it wasn’t long before Honey’s mom was off chasing another story, and her presence in her children’s lives was few and far between. Honey could have gone on the road with her mom, but even at a young age she knew she wanted to settle in one place, and ultimately the bulk of the care for her half-brothers fell on Honey’s shoulders. The lack of her mother’s presence in her life meant Honey didn’t always have a nurturing woman’s perspective to lean on when it came to relationships or friendships. It might not have resulted in the most stable childhood home environment, but the love for her brothers made her the caring and quirky woman that Jake couldn’t help but fall in love with.

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Honey’s relationship with her mother was no picnic, but it was a damn feast aplenty compared to the relationship that Jake had with his own mother. For years Jake has been plagued with nightmares wherein he relives the death of his brother when they were both young teenagers. Jake blames himself for his brother’s death, something which he became increasingly convinced of when his mother openly blamed him for the death as well. Cesco was the golden child that his mother preferred, and she always viewed Jake as a “spare”. Following Cesco’s death, she not only laid an enormous amount of guilt upon Jake’s shoulders, but she pressured him throughout the years to pick up the life that Cesco would have led by marrying into a wealthy Italian family to carry on their impeccable lineage.

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To see how this strong former SEAL could crumble under the weight of so much misplaced guilt was heartbreaking. He’s obviously hesitant to share too much of his past with Honey, especially seeing as it has an immediate impact on their time together. He’ll be moving to Italy at the end of the month to marry whoever his mother has deemed worthy for him. The fact he’s willing to give up the rest of his life in the hopes that fulfilling this familial obligation will make the nightmares featuring his brother go away was a straight punch to my emotional hand-basket! I did appreciate that while Honey does offer him some solace and comfort, it is ultimately Jake who must find the strength within himself to stand up to his mother to live his own life, and not the one she hoped Cesco would lead one day.

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New York, New York

I am a city girl through and through, but I will be the first to admit that New York City is not my favorite town. There are big cities, and then there’s New York. It’s a whole other level of huge that simply isn’t for me. Something that Charlotte O’Shay managed to do with this novel was turn New York City into a primary character. Throughout the novel we see the city come alive to act as both friend and foe to our lead couple. It succeeds in drawing them together, yet also acts as a barrier which can separate them. I appreciated that at the start of the book we do see a darker side to the city, and how it can prove to be an imposing obstacle to a newcomer like Honey. It’s not as though things are all sunny and perfect like in a Friends apartment scene.

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And yet, we also see that in spite of it’s size, Honey and Jake succeed in surreptitiously finding each other numerous times in such a huge city throughout the span of the book. It would seem that fate doesn’t see the Big Apple as such an imposing force. One of my favorite scenes in particular was when Jake chose to share a special tradition from his childhood with Honey. They’re able to connect over a unique feature of the city, and it’s a special moment that makes it seem as though Jake and Honey have been able to find a small corner of intimacy just for themselves in the midst of the hustle and bustle of NYC. Now, is the representation of what can happen in New York 100% accurate? Probably not. Unless of course you know of another sexy security expert willing to rent out a floor of his fully-furnished and renovated townhouse for a reasonable price that I just didn’t know about 🙂

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

Series: City of Dreams, book 3. It was so much fun to see a few glimpses here and there of the characters from the first two novels.

Final Impressions: Based on how the story began with our characters coming together so many times in some rather comedic circumstances, I initially assumed this was going to be a rather light-hearted tale. I should have known that this series has a tendency to pack in some emotional punches, and this third novel proves no exception. Jake’s complicated relationship with his mother was especially intriguing, and you can’t help but hold your breath in anticipation at their eventual confrontation. I do wish Honey could have had a similar heart-to-heart moment with her own mother, but at the end of the day this story is about Honey and Jake. A key feature to the success of their relationship wasn’t just sexual compatibility, even though they have that in spades, but rather the natural ease with which they could simply be with each other. In these moments Jake didn’t have to worry about living up to his mother’s expectations, and Honey didn’t have the added burden of looking after her brothers or supporting herself in the city. They could simply forget all their worries and enjoy being themselves with each other. But yes, sexual compatibility was definitely a plus!

Smut Level: When you have a scene involving a man giving a tour of his newly renovated kitchen to a potential love interest, you can practically guarantee one thing with absolute certainty. At some point or another…we’re gonna have some kitchen counter sex!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 234 Pages.

Cooper by Harper Sloan

I say alpha you say male. Alpha…Male! Alpha…Male! When you consider how much testosterone and possessiveness is running through this team of former Marines, you can’t help but wonder if they just sit around exchanging masculine grunts instead of having an actual conversation.

What’s it About? 

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Do you take me seriously? Because I don’t. I use my jokes and easygoing personality to hide the pain I’ve felt since he took his last breath. I’m adrift without my partner in crime, my best friend…my brother. I can taste the vengeance just within my grasp. Until she barges into my life. Promising me happiness and a peace I’ve been craving for years. She is the sun to my darkness, the happy to my despair. But she holds secrets. Just like I do. She holds hers close, where I just pray mine don’t rock the walls we’re trying to build. Now I’m stuck at a crossroads between my desire for revenge and my craving for her and the life we could have together—and I have no idea which road I should travel. All I know with crystal clear certainty is that the past has the power to destroy it all.

First Impressions

A brother. A teammate. A friend. We’ve come to know this group of Corps Security alpha men very well. Their camaraderie is palpable, and for the last few books we feel like we’ve also become a part of their team. To lose a member of that team at the end of the last book, perhaps the most fun loving and carefree of the bunch, shocked us just as much as it shocked the characters. Surely we can’t lose one of the core? It seems impossible, especially seeing as he put his life in the path of a bullet to save another. A selfless end for a selfless man. This book opens in the aftermath as the team picks up the pieces following Coop’s death. Asher is still reeling from the loss of his brother and best friend. Chelcie is going through her own torment over the fact that after her one-night stand with Coop she never got the chance to tell him she was pregnant with his child. Now she needs to figure out how to tell Asher that she’s going to have his late brother’s baby. The intense sexual tension between Chelcie and Asher definitely isn’t going to make this inevitable conversation any easier or less awkward.

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Looking to the Past

Throughout the novel we see a sprinkling of flashbacks which feature Asher growing up with his brother from the time they were young boys to adulthood. In a way, this book is just as much about Asher and Coop as it is about Asher and Chelcie. We see their humble beginnings in an abusive and neglectful home environment, and see how they grew up into two very strong and protective men. It’s revealed to us how Coop never intended to have a family, primarily because of the negative impact his mother had on his outlook towards women. However, it also becomes clear that Coop would have shown his baby with Chelcie nothing but love. He would have vowed to be there as a caring parent in a way neither of the Cooper boys ever had growing up. These flashback scenes were probably the most emotional and revealing moments of the entire novel. In a funny way though I sort of cringed every time a chapter would start with a flashback moment between these two brothers, because I just knew it was gonna be tugging at my heart strings. They simultaneously became both my favorite scenes, yet also the ones I dreaded the most.

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The Light Amidst the Darkness

Asher spent his whole life up until this point protecting his younger brother, and yet in the end he couldn’t protect him in his hour of need. His dark spiral following Coop’s death is clearly understandable, and Chelcie becomes the light that pulled him out of the darkness following the death of his other half. I do wish we could have seen more direct scenes of Chelcie and Asher connecting during this emotional time. We hear about it in snippets after the fact, and more about how she stood by him to try and locate Coop’s killer. However, all we really see at the start of this book is how Asher buried himself in endless bottles of booze and warm bodies to try and smother his grief. We only see scenes highlighting how he lashes out and insults Chelcie in his drunken stupors. It’s actually one of his teammates who succeeds in snapping him out of this dark spiral to try and find something worth living for. That’s when we see Asher latch onto the image of Chelcie as his guiding light. It doesn’t seem like she so much had an immediate hand in influencing him, but rather her mere presence in his life helped him maintain his sobriety.

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Uncle Asher? 

It’s a rather odd family situation we have going on here when you think about it. Nothing quite like feeling possessive and desirous of the woman your late brother knocked up. However, this sexual chemistry between Asher and Chelcie has been boiling for a while, and he was especially determined to make her his even before he found out she was pregnant. Once the truth does come out, the question becomes how will Asher be a part of Chelcie and the baby’s lives? Uncle and boyfriend? Uncle and husband? Uncle and daddy? No matter what way you look at it, he’s going to be involved. After all, Chelcie is his sunshine, and they are each other’s person. That being said, I can’t help but wonder what the situation would have been like if Coop hadn’t died at the end of the previous book. Would Asher and Chelcie still have ended up together, with an odd co-parenting situation going on with Coop on the side? It’s hard to imagine a situation where our uber alpha Asher would have stepped back on the sidelines to observe his brother and the love of his life raising a baby together. Just an interesting thing to consider.

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Series: Corps Security, book 4. I think of all the books in this series so far, I’m looking forward to the next book the most.

Final Impressions: This was a short read, and one that definitely packed an emotional punch. The loss of one of the Corps Security team is a hard pill to swallow, and you just hope that Coop will walk around the corner back into their lives at any moment, but sadly that’s not the case. You also can’t deny that the familial situation we see presented here is rather bizarre. Asher is as alpha male as they come, and he’s always felt a possessive connection over Chelcie. The fact that she’s pregnant with his deceased brother’s baby doesn’t deter him in the least. He’s initially peeved over the fact she kept it from him for so long, but after an initial hissy fit he’s as devoted as can be. The novel definitely ends with an interesting twist I wasn’t expecting in terms of suspense, so there’s that surprise element to look forward to as well.

Smut Level: Pregnancy hormones, woot wooooot! Asher is similar to the other alpha males in this series. They’re fluent in dirty dirty dirty talk. Consider yourself warned.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 279 Pages.

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The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery

A man who enjoys reading romance novels? Yeah I might just have to battle it out with the female lead to get my hands on this perfect male specimen.

What’s it About?

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In this modern-retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” Savannah Carmichael, betrayed by an unreliable source, returns to her hometown of Danvers, Virginia with her once-promising journalism career in ruins. Given the opportunity to get back in the game by writing a patriotic human interest piece, Savannah turns her attention to the town hermit, Asher Lee, a wounded veteran who returned to Danvers eight years ago, and hasn’t been seen since.

After an IED explosion in Afghanistan took Asher’s hand and disfigured half of his face, he’s lived a quiet life on the outskirts of Danvers where the locals respect his privacy…that is, until Savannah Carmichael comes calling in a borrowed sundress with a plate of homemade brownies. When Asher agrees to be interviewed by Savannah, he starts feeling things for the beautiful reporter that he hasn’t felt in years.

Misfits in small-town Danvers, Savannah and Asher create a bond right away, touching each other’s hearts in ways neither thought possible. When a terrible mistake threatens to drive them apart, they’ll have to decide if the love they found in one another’s arms is strong enough to fight for their hard-won happily ever after.

First Impression

At first I was kind of like, oh it’s cute how this story kind of matches your classic Beauty and the Beast tale. After all, we have a scarred and slightly surly male lead who is a bit of a hermit living alone in his big house. One day our hidden hero finds his solitude interrupted by a curious female who is willing to look beneath his outward appearance to uncover the beauty hiding within him. When I found out he not only has a huge library, but also a housekeeper named Mrs. Potts I realized, oh this isn’t really supposed to be a subtle comparison! Hell, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we eventually met a gardener named Cogsworth. Alas, that doesn’t happen, but I would have been all for it.

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Southern Hospitality? 

I must say I was kind of surprised how quick the townsfolk were to turn their backs on this wounded war vet upon his return from battle. I understand it helped tie into the connection with the actual Beauty and the Beast story to have him presented as a recluse on the outskirts of society. It also sounds like his personality soured a bit after being wounded, so he might not have been the most pleasant company. However, to hear some of the hateful comments which were said by some of Savannah’s friends and family was downright shocking. To give him a nickname of the hermit, avoid pretty much any and all contact with him, and to even deter her from spending time with him because of his scars?

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Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire

This man almost died trying to save the life of his fallen comrades, and rather than provide him with a warm homecoming you’re gonna express open shock at his return and start mocking him? I could get how some would be initially surprised at his obvious scars and missing limbs, but they practically treat him as a leper to be avoided at all costs. I just had a hard time believing that an entire town could be so cold to one of their own who was a hero in battle. Especially considering this book takes place in the South, where Southern hospitality is practically a way of life! I feel like even if Asher had tried to hide from the rest of the world he would have had people like my Aunt banging on his door every other day with baked goods whether he liked it or not.

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Details Matter

They always say the devil is in the details, and there were a few missteps here and there which were somewhat questionable. Firstly, Savannah and her potential new editor never really focus on the ethical ramifications of a reporter getting romantically involved with her subject. Maybe it’s because technically she’s not actually employed by this newspaper, and it’s more of a trial audition piece? Still though, probably not the best sign of professionalism upon looking for a possible job to swap spit numerous times with the focus of her article.

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The fact the editor actually encourages their little romance seemed also slightly unbelievable, but heck what do I know? It’s the lifestyle section. Maybe they’re a bit more loose on the do’s and dont’s. But considering she was fired from her last job because of a bad source who just happened to be the guy she was dating means she doesn’t have the best track record when her personal and professional lives start to mingle. Lastly, it’s called Johns Hopkins people! Not John Hopkins!! Ok, I realize this is barely worth a mention, but as an employee of said establishment, it was like nails on a chalkboard.

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Keeping Secrets

Their relationship might be fairly new, but it doesn’t take long before Savannah and Asher are both keeping big secrets from each other. He’s not sharing his inquiries into reconstructive surgery to improve his face and limbs. She’s not telling him about the approach to her article being about their growing friendship and love. While you really want to push both to open up, I can understand his reasoning a lot better than hers. Asher doesn’t want it to be true, but he logically sees the short term reality of their relationship. If Savannah’s article is a success she’ll move to Phoenix, and that’ll be it, so what’s the point of putting false hope behind the idea of a forever? He’s not going to leave Danvers, and he doesn’t want to have to ask her to give up her dreams of a career. I think he also fears that if he mentions it to her and she latches onto the idea of him improving himself, then it means she’s only sticking with him because of the possibility he’ll look better on the outside. That in essence would show that who he is now is lacking. It’s really an interesting observation of his mental state and reasoning.

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Now, if we look at her reasons for silence about the approach to her article? Girl what are you thinking?? What, you think he’s just not gonna read it once it’s published and realize that you included some of the most private details of your relationship with a wide audience? Savannah basically admits to herself that her motive is to ask for forgiveness later rather than permission beforehand. Mkay…we’ll see how that works out for ya.

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Turns out, very very badly. As expected. Asher really rips her a new one, and you can’t completely fault him for it. She went against his trust and privacy. What I really loved about this big blow-up scene was that Asher gave her every opportunity to explain her reasoning once the truth came to light. I was wondering if we’d get an instance where he refused to listen to reason, but instead he calmly asks her to explain her motives. The problem is, her reasoning suuucks. It always did. She was desperate to salvage her career, and when the editor demanded something more steamy and romantic in her article about Asher, she caved to that pressure. In spite of countless opportunities to explain the true spin of her article to Asher, she chose to keep silent. She assumed their love was strong enough that he’d automatically forgive her indiscretion and misuse of his trust. Well, you know what happens when you assume, don’t you? It almost makes you question which of them is the beauty and which is the beast.

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Series: A Modern Fairytale, book 1. I’ll probably continue with this series.

Final Impressions: Goodness gracious do I want Asher for myself. This man is so damn near perfect I can’t even stand it. Sure he may have been a bit surly in the beginning, but he was quick to open up and let his true beauty shine. Savannah is a bit more hit or miss. Her love for Asher is undeniably true, but she let her ambition for success cloud her judgement when it came to him. We all knew it would be just a matter of time before the truth blew up in her face, and when it does man oh man is it a humdinger. In the end you can’t deny these two ultimately brought out the best in each other. She gives him the hope and desire to live again, while he helps her see what true love feels like.

Smut Level: Asher might only have one hand, but my God does he know how to use it.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle Version. Self-Published. 290 Pages

Beck by Harper Sloan

For any of you with a positive childhood association with pop rocks, let’s just say this novel takes a rather R-rated spin on the beloved candy.

What’s it About?

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I’ve always been good at wearing masks. Not letting anyone see the real me. I’m content being the happy-go-lucky best friend. The strong willed boss. The independent woman who doesn’t need a man. But the truth is I’m just as broken as the rest of you. I’m terrified that all it will take is one person to make all my carefully constructed walls crumble into fine dust. So I guard my heart with everything I have. Determined to never let anyone get close enough to hurt me again. All is perfect until HE walks into my life. No… he doesn’t just walk. He struts his good-looking, sex-oozing self right into my space and demands that I see HIM. Making me want what I know I can’t have. So I did the only thing I know how to do. I run. But he just won’t let me go.

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The second I see her, I know she will be mine. I see past the gorgeous smiles and heart-stopping laughter. I see HER. She doesn’t want me to know her secrets or the past that haunts her, but I make it my mission to find out. To make her mine. She can run all she wants, but it will never be far enough to stop me from coming after her. She’s it for me and she knows it. She’s just too scared to admit it.

First Impressions

It’s important to note right off the bat that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, then you should set this book down right now and walk away slowly. This book is categorized as a “inter-connected standalone”, which I guess makes sense since we deal with a new couple in every book, but there are some pretty crucial back stories and dramatic events that unfolded in books one and two which have an immediate impact on our couple for this third book. If you were to skip out on these first two books I have a feeling you’d find yourself pretty lost when it comes to this one. That being said…I have read books one and two and even I found myself a bit confused and lost at times.

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Back to the Beginning

When this novel starts off we actually do a mini travel through time back to when Dee and Beck first met in the first novel in this series, Axel. After a few scenes involving their first foray into a physical relationship, we then jump ahead to “present day” which finds us picking up where book 2 left off. Here’s my problem with this approach. The jump back to their first meeting was pretty unnecessary. We’ve seen this all play out before, but now we just see it from Dee and Beck’s point of view, and honestly I feel like it didn’t add a whole lot of insight into their relationship. But here’s the real problem. A LOT of stuff happened between their first meeting and the present day situation that actually was important, and it was basically glossed over. Was it cute to read about how they both desired each other upon first meeting? Yeah, sure. But did it actually say anything that would help me better understand the dynamic of their relationship today. No, not really.

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Something which would have been much more enlightening and crucial to get insight on was how Beck helped Dee cope with PTSD after seeing her best friend get shot, how she spiraled into a deep depression, how he had to pull her back from the brink of committing suicide, how he helped her find a professional to speak to about all that she’s suffered through in life. Instead, we just get a brief mention that these events took place throughout the past two years. This is why I couldn’t help but feel lost at times throughout the book. Why didn’t we focus more on those important moments in their relationship? Did I miss something here? I feel like those moments would be so telling as to why Beck consistently stays by Dee’s side even though she closes herself off from the prospect of engaging in a long-term relationship with him. It would show why he keeps coming back to her, and indeed why she keeps coming back to him for help. I couldn’t help but feel let down that we didn’t see more focus on those first instances where things started to spiral out of control for her. Instead we see what comes after, where she’ll have some setbacks here and there, but not so much the impetus for how it all began.

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Those You Least Suspect

Something that I think this novel did extremely well was to focus on the impact that depression can have on relationships and friendships with others. Beck is really the only person who knows the depth to Dee’s struggle with depression. He’s apparently been there for every low moment. Even though Dee eventually pushes him away due to her general distrust of men because of her ass-hat father’s behavior, the two always manage to find each other again for a very complicated on-again off-again relationship. This is something their respective friend-groups simply don’t understand, and even mock at times. Their constant back and forth seems somewhat childish and too “high-school” drama for them. But here’s the thing. None of them know the truth about Dee’s depression. She wears a mask of happiness and enacts a bubbly persona to keep them off her scent.

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It’s such a sad glimpse at how far someone will go to keep all of their depression inside and hidden away from those closest to them. Eventually though, both Dee and Beck come to admit the truth behind Dee’s depression these last few years to their immediate friends. Beck gets especially snippy at one of Dee’s best friends, and the focus of book 2 in the series, Cage. He definitely loses his cool by insisting that if Cage were a true friend, and not so swept up with focusing on his own life, he would have been able to see the reality of what was lying underneath Dee’s mask. It’s an interesting conversation for sure about finding a balance between love and friendship. Was Cage so focused on his own love life that he missed the signs of his best friend falling so deep into despair that she felt the need to end her life? Is it fair to ask Cage to put aside the dramas and issues of his own life to focus on Dee, especially seeing as she is so adept at putting this mask into place? These are questions that really don’t have answers, but the debate which is waged in this novel opens up both sides of the argument in a very intriguing way.

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Series: Corps Security, book 3. I feel like I keep saying this when it comes to this series, but while this book definitely wasn’t my favorite, I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

Should You Read It? Overall, not my favorite book. The first half or so is kind of slow, repetitive, and didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have liked. BUT! And this is a big freakin’ but. The second-half of this book is phenomenal. The suspense and action really kick in, and there is a shockingly emotional twist which takes place towards the end that left me in tears. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it results in these tough-as-nails military men breaking down to the point where they don’t try to hide their own tears from flowing. It also sets everything in place for the next novel that I am really looking forward to reading.

Smut Level: Whenever these two have sex, I’d say 9 times out of 10 they end up on the floor. It doesn’t matter where they start their exploits: the bed, the kitchen counter, the kitchen table, eventually they’ll roll their way in a screaming and panting mess to the floor. They usually manage to break a few things in the process too!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 238 Pages.

Shooter by Dahlia West

This book definitely proved one of life’s most common sayings: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

What’s it About? 

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Chris “Shooter” Sullivan has returned to his home town of Rapid City, South Dakota to pick up the pieces of his life shattered by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He only wants to focus on holding what’s left of his old unit together, running his garage where he builds custom bikes and cars, and pretending that his murdered father’s motorcycle gang doesn’t exist. Hayley Turner is a young woman with her own traumatic past. Fresh off the bus from Nowhere, USA, all she wants is a job and a place to live, until it’s time for her to leave again. She doesn’t want to make friends, or enemies, least of all the ex-Army Ranger who obviously doesn’t like her. She bristles under his watchful eye. He’s even got her convinced she’s bad news. But circumstances force two people who don’t need anyone to need each other more and more. The more Chris gets to know Hayley, the harder it is to stay detached. And the more Hayley gets to know Chris, the more she realizes she’s been alone for so long she might never recover from it.

First Impressions

I seriously wanted this book to have a recipe section!! Consider this a friendly warning, don’t read this book on an empty stomach. You’ll definitely want some appetizers or cookies on hand to ensure you don’t salivate whilst reading it. We’ve got descriptions of succulent ribs, decadent chocolate cake, flaming baked Alaska and sweet peach cobbler.

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Upon first meeting, Chris is understandably wary of Hayley. She’s new to town, and he can easily tell she’s hiding details about herself and her troubled past. Hayley isn’t necessarily looking for friends when she arrives in Rapid City, but she doesn’t want Chris and his Army buddies to be suspicious of her either. So let the cooking begin! I will say after a while it did seem a bit over the top, what with Chris and his boys playing poker as Hayley is cooking away in the kitchen. Or this pack of alpha males working on bikes and Hayley bringing them all some home cooked lunches as they refer to her as “honey” or “darlin'”. It was nice at first, but after a while it became almost too Donna Reed for me.

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A Slowly Built Inferno

I really did enjoy the development of a friendship between Hayley and Chris, as well as with his other Army buddies. Having a friendship first means it does take a while before they enter into a sexual relationship. You definitely have to wait until after the half-way point before you get any juicy details. However, I think I preferred this scenario to them rushing into anything too quickly, especially considering Hayley’s own traumatic past. This is the first relationship Hayley has been in since going on the run five years ago.

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She’s kept her past a secret from everyone, including Chris, and we as the readers don’t discover what happened until the rest of the characters do pretty late into the story. At first, Hayley and Chris are strictly friends, but eventually they realize it’s time to take things to the next level. She’s hesitant considering how long she’s been on the run, but Chris convinces her he’ll protect her from any evil, and it’s finally time to stop running and take a chance. They start things off slowly with some kissing, rubbing, zero penetration whatsoever. But it doesn’t take long before he’s going full on dirty talk and demanding she sit on his face. Ohhh boy!

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The Life of a Biker

For the most part I liked Chris. He’s nice to Hayley, doesn’t push her to do anything before she’s ready, vows to protect her from her past, and even gets her a kitten for crying out loud! Something I didn’t appreciate though was when we ultimately discover he’s got a strained relationship with a neighboring biker gang, and that all of Hayley’s actions now reflect on him. If she makes a supposed mistake he could be the one to pay for it. Probably would have been something o share with her when you were convincing her to take a chance on you there buddy!! Then there’s a dramatic plot point with this motorcycle gang that didn’t really come full circle, and sort of fell flat for me.

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Series: Burnout, book 1. I did really enjoy the introduction of each of Chris’s Army Ranger buddies, and am excited to see each one’s eventual story.

Should you read it? It’s a sweet romance that has a strong foundation of friendship. There’s an intense climax at the end where Hayley’s past comes back to interfere with her present. I do think it could have been shortened slightly so that we not only get to the lovemaking earlier on, but also the drama of her past. Perhaps one less scene involving a mouthwatering culinary creation would have been conducive to the overall story.

Smut Level: Daaaaaamn. You have to wait about 60% until anything physical happens, but Chris has got a mouth on him, and he’s more than willing to show Hayley everything she’s been missing out on the last few years.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 472 Pages.

Sweet Sacrifice by L.D. Rose

YES!!!! God is female b*tches!!!!!!! Ahem, pardon me. Some slight excitement there. Moving on.

What’s it About? 

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Former Navy SEAL Sebastian “Bash” Lockard died in Afghanistan after leaping on a grenade to save his comrades. Little did he know his act of heroism would grant him a ticket into Heaven’s elite army as one of the few and powerful Archangels. Struggling with his new existence, Bash still retains his human memories, leaving behind a wife he loves with all of his heart. Although he’s forbidden to see her, he can’t resist her lure, or the mortal desires he harbors for her.

As a young widow and nurse, Irene Lockard still mourns her husband two years after his untimely death. His absence is everywhere, and when her best friend weds, she hits an emotional rock bottom. As if summoned from the skies above, Sebastian appears before her, and they share an unforgettable night. But when he once again vanishes, she wonders if she’s truly gone made with grief. The only way Sebastian can remain with Irene is if he makes the ultimate sacrifice. But will she overcome her fear of losing him again to another war?

First Impressions

This is an enchanting read that draws you in with the emotional drama of the characters. These two go beyond “till death do us part”, and have a love that is stronger than and expands beyond death. Consider yourself warned, this read will tug at your heart strings, and can be a bit too hard to bear at times. We open to see Irene stuck in a dark depression years after her husband sacrificed himself to save his SEAL brothers. The fact I just happened to be reading this book over Veteran’s Day made the whole situation even more poignant and emotional for me. Totally unplanned, by the way. Irene is wandering through life in a fog, on the brink of giving up entirely when something incredible happens. Perhaps her husband isn’t actually gone forever after all.

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An Archangel Warrior

Due to his cunning bravery as a mortal, Sebastian has been recruited in death to be an Archangel, spending the rest of eternity fighting demons and pure evil. Something that I enjoyed about this novel thematically was that while it contained religious components, and spent quite a lot of time discussing angels and the afterlife, it never really felt overly religious to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with novels which do tend to sway more towards the religious side of faith of course, but I think the way this novel was structured means that it can be enjoyed by a wider audience. You also don’t really need a heavy religious background to understand the story.

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However, the one aspect that I wish had been developed just a bit more was the evil side of things. I know…that sounds weird, but hear me out. While our novel opens with Sebastian and his fellow Archangels pursuing a demon, we never get a whole lot of description surrounding this demon, his motives, or end game. I guess I would have liked if there had been more of an obvious villain with a backstory. That being said, I can also appreciate the fact that the main point of the story is meant to highlight the relationship between Sebastian and Irene rather than it being a monster fighting book per se. Not to mention the fact that Sebastian’s Archangel teammates have been combating evil since the beginning of time means that this demon was probably just one more drop in the bucket for them. Still though, I think maybe just a bit more focus on the dark side of the afterlife would have been interesting.

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A Painting of the Afterlife

Something this novel does phenomenally well was the description of Sebastian’s new world, as well as his journey getting there through death and Purgatory. In addition, the scenes involving Irene’s encounters with the Soul Mate Tree are painted so clearly, and even creepily at times to the point where I felt like I could succinctly picture everything in my mind’s eye. In my opinion, this skill is always what distinguishes whether or not I like a particular fantasy novel. This is a different world we are dealing with here that is so different from our own, and yet it almost felt like I was there. Well done!

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Everlasting Love

Again, the main focus of this book is on Sebastian and Irene reuniting after two years of him being dead. It’s emotional, yet I feel like there was one missed opportunity to truly tug on the heartstrings. You see, we get quite a few scenes of Sebastian internally reminiscing about the moment leading up to his death, his last thought and vision of his beloved wife, his struggles through Purgatory, and his eventual salvation at the hands of the Archangel Michael. On the flip side, we also see Irene think back on her pain and depression over the last two years, and the darkness which has seemingly enveloped her soul.

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However, after these two finally reunite (and get the bulk of their delicious sexual musings out of the way!) we get one scene in which they bare their souls to each other about everything that’s transpired over the last few years, and unfortunately it is sort of glossed over. We basically get a sentence of how “Sebastian told her everything and she cried”. Aaaaand then we move along. Darn! If we as the audience could have held off on learning some of those dark details until they could share them with each other for the first time? And they shared some of those particulars about how lost they felt? How the last vision he saw before dying was her face? Phew I definitely would have been reaching for the tissues!

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

Series: The Soul Mate Tree, book 9. Although this was the 9th book in the series it could have easily been the first. I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on anything, yet I’m now also curious about what the other novels have focused on.

Should you read it? An emotionally gripping read. Maybe not the best beach read, but I think a mountain cabin would be perfection. We see how desolate and bleak the future seems for these two when the other isn’t in it. And then when they do ultimately reunite it’s passion filled, and also has a feeling of desperation to it. They both want to make the most of this moment in case it truly is the last they have together. I wasn’t sure where this book was heading, but I will say the ending had me on the edge of my seat, and was rather poetic.

Smut Level: Dude! He literally tears the dress from her body! Such a delightful scene to read in a packed Tim Horton’s in Vancouver. Held my Kindle rather close to the chest if you catch my drift. Overall though, some amazingly steamy and descriptive scenes.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Soul Mate Publishing, LLC. 153 Pages.