Ours by Angela Christina Archer

For those of you looking for an emotionally gut-wrenching read that will leave you in a mess of tears, this is the series for you.

What’s it About?

No one knows when it will end or if it will ever end. It seems like the whole world is in fire and nothing is going to put out the flames.

The promise to go on.

Another two years at war and coming into winter with scarcely any rations to be had, Evelyn and Henry along with everyone they know and love deal the pains of starvation. With the birth of their second child approaching, the couple celebrates with apprehension. Not knowing how much longer the war will last, they also live in fear—fear of the Germans and fear of death. Can they survive? Or will the end of the war come a little too late?

The promise to come home.

After swearing off the notion of ever returning home to Guernsey, Amelia continues her education and lands an internship for a up and coming newspaper. With her life finally laid out before her, fate decides to throw her another devastating blow, shattering her world into pieces. Can she overcome what the war has taken from her? And will an unexpected trip back home, a place she never thought she’d go, be exactly what she needs? Or will it only lead her to more heartbreak and loss?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

Every once in a blue moon, I can sympathize with the desire to be in a sad or melancholy mood. It can be hard to explain to people, but sometimes you just wanna listen to a sad song, or watch a depressing move to get the tears flowing. Something like The Notebook, or The Land Before Time that will leave you a gasping mess of tears. However, I can’t say I’ve ever craved that same thing when it comes to a book. Sure, maybe I’ll be mid-read and come across a sad scene that will leave me in tears, and I can appreciate the emotional impact it can lend to the story as a whole. But I can’t say I’ve ever sought out a book or series that I know would be primarily sad like I might with a song or movie, probably because with a book you know you’ll be dealing with it for days, or even weeks. Therefore, whenever I do come across a read that is overwhelmingly sad, it can actually result in it being tricky to want to pick up, and you almost have to force yourself to read it. This was sort of my overall journey with this series. It’s a saga of love, family and friends, but it’s also about how all of that is torn apart by the ravages of war. Ultimately, it can only somewhat be patch-worked back together at the end.

The End is Near

Time has been such an important part of this entire series from the get-go. In the first two books our characters constantly wondered how much time was left in this terrible war: weeks, months, years, or was this their new normal? We as the reader always knew there were years of arduous occupation and turmoil still to come. This third book sort of presents us with the opposite. The bulk of the story takes place in the autumn of 1944, and with every turn of the page I kept whispering under my breath, “Just a few more months, don’t give up now. You can make it!” Some do…and some don’t. And cue the tears. This series then transports us to the end of the war and we see where our characters have ended up following the conclusion of the events form the past six years. We even come full circle back to how the series kicked off, with some of our characters standing on the docks of Guernsey together, which is where they first said goodbye all the way back at the start of book one.

While I could appreciate the poetic beauty of having the series come completely full circle, unfortunately I can’t say I was thrilled with how everything else came together at the end. It’s a bit hard to describe without giving away too many spoilers, but essentially what some of our characters spent the last 2-3 books convincing us of was completely flipped on its head in the last half or so of this final novel. Some may argue that the characters were just trying to convince themselves all this time that something wasn’t true, but it honestly didn’t really feel that way when were in the thick of the story. I guess I couldn’t help but feel that after all of this forward momentum, some of our lead characters ultimately ended up back where they started, and it was such a quick and almost jarring 180 degree turn of events that I wasn’t 100% convinced they ended up where they belonged. Or perhaps they did, but we simply didn’t get enough description to justify this turn.

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 3. This was the final book in the series.

Final Impressions: This was an interesting and unique saga, but consider yourself warned that it is an emotionally devastating read. Reading book one will put you on the path where you need to see the series through to the end. You’ll fall in love with and subsequently mourn a slew of characters along the way. Ultimately I can’t say I was pleased with how the series all came together by the end, but it was certainly a journey to get there which will keep you guessing and crying from start to finish.

Smut Level: Any sexually suggestive scenes all fade to black.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 191 Pages.

Mine by Angela Christina Archer

This historical romance will have you turn to any friends, family or loved ones nearby to gather up into your arms, and hold them tightly for as long as you can.

What’s it About? 

War continues to rage in Europe, with no end in sight, people in the occupied countries are suffering and starving. One of those places is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France. A part of the United Kingdom, the residents of Guernsey are the only British citizens facing occupation by the Deutsches Heer.

The promise of love.

Deep in the middle of the German occupation, life for Evelyn and Henry is nothing but a perilous journey, as though walking a tightrope, between survival and starvation. Through the trials of every day, they also find joy, marriage, and the notion of starting a family. But having children during war and while under German rule can be complicated, and Evelyn must face a few hard choices when it comes to keeping those she loves safe and alive.

The promise of beginning again.

Newly wed, and still working on Halifax Farms as a land girl, Amelia comes face to face with a loss of her own. With her husband off to war and the discovery she’s carrying a child, she follows the tugging feeling to continue her education and dreams of becoming a journalist. When tragedy strikes, not once, but twice, however, Amelia must head down a path she never thought she’d take, and one she doesn’t know if she’s ready for or truly desires.
Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

This was another emotional addition to The Promises Between Us series. In my review of book one I mentioned how nobody was off limits when it came to the travesties of war. This second novel certainly underscores the truth of that reality, but we just have to wait around a bit longer for the tragedies to hit. For so much of the book I was just waiting around in agonized anticipation for the other shoe to drop, and sure enough! We see a domino effect of people being impacted and torn apart by war, and one scene in particular left me a bubbling mess of tears. Here’s to hoping the other folks lounging around my apartment’s pool simply thought I had sunscreen in my eyes.

From Guernsey to Halifax Farms

Once again, the principle pathway of this book presents us with alternating scenes of life for the Ashton sisters as they try to find love in the midst of war. An interesting break with book one is that where Amelia once provided a sense of movement and changing scenery compared to her sister trapped on Guernsey, Amelia instead spends most of this second book in one location. Her travel from Guernsey across the English Channel, and multiple train rides to different places in England has now landed her working as a land girl at a country farm. Most of this read involves long stints regaling us with Amelia’s daily chores on the farm compared to Evelyn’s daily life in occupied Guernsey. The fact both sisters are essentially stuck in one place with such limited opportunities for movement left this sequel feeling somewhat linear in terms of plot.

That is of course until we reach the latter half of the book when developments once again start impacting our characters. These sisters are finally successful in sending word to each other about how their lives have changed so much since they last said farewell years before at the Guernsey port, and how love has brought a small glimmer of happiness to their existence. It’s also the first definitive confirmation for Henry to realize that Amelia moved on with someone else after leaving him, and Amelia discovers that her sister and former beau have fallen in love. I don’t want to spoil what comes of these discoveries, but let’s just say their reactions couldn’t have been more different. We can’t help but question if these two sisters and their husbands will survive this terrible war, and if they do what kind of greeting will they have upon seeing each other again?

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 2. I’m eager to see how everything will come together for the third and final book.

Final Impressions: While this series certainly highlights the fragility of life, it also does a fantastic job of demonstrating why it’s important to take chances to live every day to the fullest. What struck me most was seeing how true this was for our characters, as they had no idea how much longer this war would last. We as the readers certainly have the end date constantly in the forefront of our minds, but our characters don’t know if the war will end in a month, or if German occupation will be their new reality forever. Some choose to give up amidst such uncertainty, but others live by the mantra to seize the day.

Smut Level: These young ladies have become married women, and enjoy moments of passion with their respective husbands. However, we only see a few kisses before the scenes fade to black, and never witness their bedroom antics in full detail.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 269 Pages. 

Yours by Angela Christina Archer

War might tear some friends and families apart, but this read highlights how it can also pull others together.

What’s it About? 

After France surrenders to the Nazis, all eyes turn to the Channel Islands off the coast. Knowing the Germans could invade their quiet home the resident children of Guernsey are evacuated. Among them are Amelia Ashton, and her older sister Evelyn.

The promise to stay safe.

Forced onto the boat by her older sister, seventeen-year-old Amelia Ashton arrives in Weymouth with hundreds of other children. Although she is placed with a kind and loving foster family in Derbyshire, her world is torn apart. With all her communication cut off from her family, and the boys at school joining to fight in the war, Amelia struggles with her own desire to help. On a whim, she lies about her age and boards a train headed to volunteer with the Women’s Land Army. Finding solace in the work of farm life, she reconnects with William, a young man from Derbyshire, and who doesn’t waste any time asking for her hand in marriage. Can Amelia start a new life without looking over her shoulder at what she left behind in Guernsey or will the war change everything?

The promise to survive.

Fearing for her parents’ lives, nineteen-year-old, Evelyn Ashton stays behind, living through the German occupation plaguing her once beautiful home—the island of Guernsey. Living under German rule, the residents find a new meaning of desperation and despair, trying to survive on rations and evade the threats of being sent off to a death camp. After her parents die in a bombing, Evelyn is left alone to fend for herself against her enemy, and when German soldiers take over her house, she seeks refuge in the only family she believes she has left—Henry—the man once interested in her sister. Can they find comfort in each other or will the occupation claim not only their love but also their lives?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

After completing the first few chapters of this book I was surprised to admit how much it reminded me of Game of Thrones. Bare with me for a second. Sure, there might not be any fire-breathing dragons, paranormal elements or gratuitous sex scenes. And while we can probably take a far reach to compare the impending arrival of Nazi forces on this small island to the terrifying Night Walkers traversing a wall, that wasn’t exactly the similarity I had in mind. Rather, outside of our two primary sister main characters, you really shouldn’t try to become emotionally attached to anyone else in this book, as they are all fair game to become a victim of the horrors of war. This read might have romance weaved into the plot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’ll be given a romanticized view of war. We aren’t presented with any scenes of battle on the frontlines between soldiers, but we do see the devastating effects for those back “at home”. Consider yourself warned you might want to have a box of Kleenex nearby when you pick this one up.

It’s a captivating, albeit oftentimes emotionally devastating read, but alas that is merely the reality of war. We must commend the author for successfully capturing the loss, uncertainties and hopes of those left behind. I’ll admit, I sometimes had to take a few breaks in between my stints of reading this one, as it was so reminiscent of the stories my Oma used to share with my sister and I about what it was like growing up in Nazi Germany with her own sister. From bombs landing in their family attic, to a Jewish classmate who stopped showing up to school one day. She even regaled us with the story of how an American soldier crash landed in a plane outside her village, and she was the only one who could speak a few sentences to him in English before German soldiers came and took him away. I’m sure there was plenty my Oma didn’t tell us about what it took to survive the war with her sister, but reading this tale about another pair of sisters trying to survive each day became quite emotional for me, especially as I tried to envision my sister and I in their shoes.

My Oma, Renate, with her sister, Elfriede.

Sisterhood

This might be a tale of romance, war and survival, but it’s also a tale of sisters. Amelia is sent off to England on her own, while Evelyn remains behind on the island of Guernsey as the Nazis invade. While we’re immediately swept up in the emotional roller coaster this read has to portray, one thing I would have liked to see a bit more of was a connection, yet also a distinction, between these two heroines as sisters. Aside from their goals for the future, these two ladies are rather similar in personality and demeanor that it almost felt like either one could have been present in either part of the story. This is where more distinction would have been welcome. As far as connection, the novel opens with Evelyn pushing Amelia onto a boat for the safety of England, and we sort of missed out on any experience of them together as sisters. It seemed like we didn’t get a full glimpse of their sibling dynamic, and maybe a flashback or two could have helped set the scene of what it was like for them to suddenly be separated by the distance of war.

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 1. I’m officially fully invested in seeing what happens to these sisters, and am committed to seeing it through to the end.

Final Impressions: This first novel is definitely setting the scene of our primary characters, including our sisters and their respective beaus whom they unexpectedly found in the midst of unimaginable tragedy. While I was initially hesitant to see Evelyn start to fall for her sister’s former flame, the situation is presented and explained in a way where you can only root for them to survive this war linked arm in arm. Amelia also finds a burgeoning romance where she wasn’t looking for one, and we must simply hold our breath in anticipation to see how the next few years of this war will unfold for the Ashton sisters.

Smut Level: A few breathtaking kisses, but nothing overtly explicit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 323 Pages. 

Her Patriotic Prince by Ayla Asher

I can’t remember the last time I was so sad to see the conclusion of a series!

What’s it About? 

It was only supposed to be one night…

Laura Cunningham is gorgeous, witty and tough as nails…and still single in her late thirties. After dating every man in Manhattan, she’s resigned herself to the fact that true love just might not exist for her. Certainly a bummer for the woman who observed her two best friends fall in love with sexy, strong men who are their soulmates. Adam Gardner is a soldier who’s been committed to the cause his entire life. Nearing forty, he realizes that once his next mission is complete, he wants to settle down and build a home and family.

Laura and Adam meet on a romantic summer evening, knowing their time is limited due to Adam’s impending deployment. Taken by their instant chemistry, they commit to spending one passionate and intimate night together.

Years later, Adam returns to find Laura with a daughter who shares his sky-blue eyes. Determined to be a father to the little girl, and still enamored by the woman he could never forget, he strives to discern the best path forward. Laura is shocked by the appearance of the man who stole her heart so many years ago…and who still possesses it. Can the star-crossed lovers build a life together or will their secrets and fears keep them from achieving happiness?

First Impressions

Alright, confession time. I’ve never been a huge fan of secret baby romances. I always find myself getting upset with the female lead for keeping such a massive, literally life-changing secret from either her one-night stand, or maybe an ex with whom she’s had a falling out. Needless to say I was a little hesitant to pick up this third and final read in the Manhattan Holiday Loves series. While I did think that Laura could have done more to locate some contact info for Adam to send him word about the fact that their one night together resulted in a baby, I have to give it to the author for putting up as many legitimate road blocks to make that as difficult an act as possible. From a phone number washed away by a coffee spill, to friends getting in a life-threatening car accident the morning after, to Adam having to report the next morning for a multi-year international secret ops mission where he wouldn’t have been able to go home or contact Laura on the reg even if he wanted to. So…yeah! A bit more challenging than your standard “she just didn’t want to tell him” secret baby romance.

From Steam to Intimacy

The other truly stand-out feature of this novella, other than the fact it got me to sympathize with a secret baby romance scenario, was the structure of it all. The novella opens with Laura and Adam meeting on a balcony under the starry night sky after having attended neighboring wedding receptions. They both decide rather quickly to fall into bed together. What I assumed would either be a quick sex scene, or perhaps a fade-to-black cut to the morning after, was anything but. Sure, they fall into each other’s arms pretty speedily upon arriving at the hotel room, but we surprisingly see their one night together play out over several chapters. This small detail was ultimately unbelievably critical in establishing a sense of intimacy between these characters, where we legitimately believe they would pine after each other for the next several years throughout Adam’s deployment.

Normally with one-night romances like this I always question “yeah but how could they fall in love so quickly”, or “how much could they really learn about the other person in such a short period of time?” With this novella, that was never once called into question because we essentially see every critical conversation and loving gesture play out during those first chapters. Upon reconnecting after years apart, Laura and Adam discover the chemistry and desire is still clearly evident between them. However, they choose to push this desire aside for a while so Adam can focus on getting to know his daughter, and Laura can focus on sharing her daughter with someone else for the first time ever. Once that’s resolved they do fall back into bed, or rather over the arm of the sofa, together again. This structure of having the moments of physical intimacy forming the book-ends to Laura and Adam forming a family unit together was just brilliant.

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

Series: Manhattan Holiday Loves, book 3. We may have seen the tales of romance play out for each member of this friend family, but I’m secretly hoping we’ll see some additional installments to cover all the other holidays in a calendar year. I mean, maybe they can all have some long-lost relatives show up that they never knew existed. Totally plausible, right?

Final Impressions: Each novella in this series is a pure delight. This final installment might jump into the steamy bedroom quicker than the previous two, but then we are thrown for a loop with a few dry spell chapters inserted in the middle. Towards the end we do get a bit of over-the-top drama concerning Laura’s prissy mother and a misunderstanding around some paperwork, but all in all it was important to show how miscommunication can lead to the most intense of arguments, but only by coming back together with an open mind can they potentially overcome anything together as a couple. This whole series presents us with some crucial takeaways for having a successful relationship, and this third novella is no different.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaang! Adam is the dirtiest talking of the bunch, and presents us with a sex position I can’t say I’ve ever seen in all my years of romance reading. Hats, gloves, shirts, pants and all possible clothing off to you my friend!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 125 Pages. Get the whole series.

The Wages of Sin by Kate A. Knight

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

A Confusing Marriage

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

The Big Reveal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sins of the Flesh by Kate A. Knight

The Sins of the Flesh by Kate A. Knight

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impressions

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

A Small Window Opens

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

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 2.

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

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

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

Home in Your Arms by Charlotte O’Shay

Car trouble in the middle of a rainstorm. Finding shelter in an abandoned garage. A crackling fireplace and only one bed?! Oh yeah, this is definitely my kind of read.

What’s it About? 

After her sweetheart Joe dies in a road accident, twenty-four hours after he returns from Army service, grieving Karla Payne slams the door on love. Five years later, Karla’s tavern business is booming, and she owns her home, but she knows forever love has no part in her future. Headed to interview for his first civilian job, retired career Army 1st Sgt. Zane Blackthorne can’t resist visiting his late buddy’s beloved Vermont hometown. He also can’t resist looking up Joe’s sweetheart, Karla, who is an alluring mix of brains, beauty, and bravery. Loyalty to his brother-in-arms demands Zane fight his attraction to Karla. Besides, even if Karla wants him, she’ll never love him. Can Zane say goodbye to the woman he has no right to call his own? Even if his only true home is in her arms?

First Impressions

Throughout this novel we see a proverbial third wheel which is a constant underlying presence in Karla and Zane’s relationship: Joe. He was the love of Karla’s life, and possibly Zane’s only true friend in the army. Joe tragically died five years ago, not in war, but rather from a hit-and-run accident that took place merely one day after his return from battle. During his time in the army, Joe always regaled Zane with stories of his quirky home-town and his girl. When Zane finds himself passing through this picturesque locale after leaving the army he can’t help but stop to see it for himself, as well as share with Karla how much his friendship with Joe meant to him. This shared connection with Joe and the retelling of his stories were the impetus which brought these two people together, and they soon discover how much they enjoy simply spending time with each other. However, while Joe’s existence and death brought them together, it also unexpectedly keeps them apart.

Not Worthy

As Karla and Zane progress in their relationship by taking things to the next step physically, eventually they have an argument about how to define their relationship. The fight itself did seem somewhat contrived, with Zane seemingly going into the conversation expecting an argument, and peppering Karla with question after question in an accusatory way about how she doesn’t want to put a label on them as a couple. This was definitely true as Karla wanted to stay together with Zane, but was uncomfortable defining them as boyfriend and girlfriend, or perhaps even being on the pathway to something more serious.

After this fight which puts their entire connection in jeopardy, Karla soon realizes that her desire to keep things undefined in her relationship with Zane stemmed from her not wanting to feel disloyal to Joe’s memory. After all, he was her first and only everything, and when he died Karla felt she didn’t deserve to find someone else to replace him. She never could have imagined someone like Zane to come waltzing into her life, and she certainly never expected their connection after just a few weeks could rival that which she experienced for years with Joe. Zane tries his hardest to convince her that it’s not about replacing or forgetting, but rather about opening herself up to the prospect of experiencing even more love in her life.

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

Series: Deerbourne Inn. Just like the previous book in this series, Home in Your Arms was a quick read that I finished in just 3 days. Honestly, it would have been 2 days if I had just insisted on not bingeing another episode of Breaking Bad. I wish we could have seen a few more of the colorful characters of this small town we’ve come to know and love, but I’m really looking forward to continuing with this series!

Final Impressions: This is an enjoyable read with an important message about moving on after tragedy, and how to re-open your heart to love again. I appreciated that these two didn’t immediately fall into bed or lust with each other, especially seeing as how important Joe was to both of them. A quick wam-bam-thank-you-ma’am would have felt like a slap in the face to his memory. Instead we see how Karla and Zane are able to acknowledge at the start how much they enjoy the other’s company, and eventually their relationship naturally develops into something more. Not too fast, not too slow, just right!

Smut Level: Shockingly, there was no hanky panky during the rainstorm fireplace scene mentioned at the start of the review. However, we do get an up-against-the-wall kitchen scene later on which was just as delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 114 Pages. 

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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