Dirty English by Ilsa Madden-Mills

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impressions 

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

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The Sentimental Fighter

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

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

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Needless Repetition

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

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

Coming Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All I Want by J. Daniels

This is a slightly bizarre romance in that you’re almost rooting for our lead couple to not end up together.

What’s it About?

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Luke Evans is a heartbreaker.
I didn’t want to give mine to him. Not when he kept me out.
He gave me enough, just enough to make me fall in love with him. I say this to convince myself. But I know the truth.
I would’ve fallen in love with him at a distance.
Handing my heart over to Luke was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I was naive when I wished for more, when I hoped he wanted the same things I did.
I try to hate him. I try to forget him.
But it’s not that easy.
Love is a ruthless bitch, and I’m her latest victim.
~*~
Tessa Kelly is a man-eater.
When she sets her sights on you, she doesn’t just consume your heart, she goes for your soul.
What we had was perfect, real, and all I would ever want.
But she destroyed it.
She destroyed us.
I try to hate her. I try to forget her.
But it’s not that easy.
Love is for people who have hope, and I have none.

First Impressions

Tessa and Luke have a bit of a topsy-turvy relationship. They dated for a brief period of three months before Tessa broke it off for two primary reasons that unfortunately she never really bothered to tell Luke about directly. 1) Luke never opened up with her about anything personal. During all of the time they spent together he would always change the subject whenever she asked him anything personal about his own life, especially when asked about his parents. The most personal thing she ever learned about him in three months was probably the fact that he had a slight obsession with raw cookie dough. And that’s not even because he told her outright. It was just an easy observation. 2) Tessa had a false pregnancy scare, and when she tried to feel out whether or not Luke ever wanted a wife and family he answered with a firm and resounding “no”. Who would have thought that the one time he admitted something personal about himself it would signal the end of their relationship? Now, I’ll admit it was pretty shitty of her to end their relationship so abruptly, with no explanation to Luke as to why she was ending things. However, that doesn’t change the fact that they had a rather toxic relationship in many other respects.

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An Attempt to Move On

In the opening scene of this book we learn it’s been almost a year since Tessa broke off her relationship with Luke, and since then they’ve been awkwardly trying to avoid each other. Whenever they do happen to find themselves in close proximity, they snap at each other before eventually blowing things out of proportion into a massive argument. Tessa has finally decided she’s had enough wallowing over her failed relationship with Luke, and that it’s time to move on. Watch out online dating, here comes Tessa! Poor girl. Little does she how many weirdos and creeps are waiting out there to connect with her. Now, while it seems like Tessa isn’t fully over her break up with Luke, she realizes that the best way to move on is to start interacting with other men. Not to mention they might be able to help her scratch the horny itch that has been plaguing her since things ended with Luke.

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Granted, having an adult conversation with Luke about why their relationship wasn’t working for her, and that it was time to move on probably would have helped her in getting over him more fully. However, online dating seemed like an easier option. As for Luke, he has been cursing Tessa’s name ever since she ended things between them. Sure, he still desires her body, but he’ll admit to anyone willing to listen that she’s a man-eater, and that he hates her. So the fact that Tessa’s decision to start dating again sparked a jealous rage within Luke that made him want to get her back underneath him in bed didn’t really scream romance to me, but rather it sort of screamed immaturity. Especially because, again, he doesn’t choose to have a conversation with her about how seeing her flirt with other men makes him realize he still desires her. Instead he gets all territorial on her whenever she brings another man into their friend group. He might as well have just lifted his leg and peed all around her.

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Wait, Seriously? 

Another aspect of their relationship which didn’t sit right with me was that their bickering over their past, and Tessa’s new foray into the dating world, would oftentimes lead to angry sex. Sometimes angry sex can be sexy, but with this read it left a bad taste in my mouth. There is one scene in particular where Luke and Tessa are about to have sex again for the first time since they broke up the previous year. They both seem pissed off about their continued desire for each other, but Luke seems determined to stake his claim, while Tessa seems like she just wants to have some mind-blowing orgasms before they both go their separate ways again. Right before they do the deed, Tessa realizes that Luke isn’t wearing a condom.

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Seeing that she had a pregnancy scare last year, not to mention the fact that it’s a PERFECTLY REASONABLE REQUEST, she asks Luke to grab a condom before they go further. Luke throws a bit of a hissy fit, asking why he needs to wear one if they’ve done it before without one, and she knows how much he doesn’t like the feel of wearing a condom while having sex. Tessa stands firm and asks that he wear one, and his childish response is that if she wants him to wear one so bad she can go grab it herself and put it on for him. Ummm…what…the…fiddleberries?!?! I’m sorry, that’s just a ridiculous and demeaning demand. The fact that Tessa went and did his bidding sort of made it impossible for me to fully support either of these characters going forward. I mean, good for her for not giving into his bullying and proceeding without a condom, but you can’t help but feel that these two should probably just call a spade a spade, and move on.

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Overcoming the Past

Luke has certainly had a troubled upbringing. His father is an alcoholic who went off the deep-end following the death of Luke’s mother. At the age of 15 Luke not only lost his mother, but in a way he also lost his father to the bottle. When Tessa first came into his life last year, it was the first time in years that he felt a sense of hope for the future, and her mere presence calmed him in a way he’d never felt before. Here’s the problem. He NEVER shared that with Tessa. I understand that they weren’t dating for very long, simply a matter of three months, and that’s pretty early to look back on the darkness from his childhood. Here’s my problem though. Tessa may not have explained to him back then why she was ending things, but in the span of this book she clearly states on multiple occasions that his inability to share certain personal details of his life with her is the primary reason why a relationship didn’t work between them back then, and won’t work now. Luke seems determined to have Tessa back in his life, and yet he still seems completely unwilling to open up with her about anything. Honestly, this was one of the main reasons why I felt they simply didn’t belong with each other.

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Tessa made it clear what she needed from him in a relationship, and he refused to give that to her. At one point Luke actually does share with Tessa the details of how his mother died when he was young. Tessa is fully present to comfort him in any way possible, but when she starts to ask about his dad he completely closes up and decides to move out of town without telling her that he’s going, or where he’s going. Dude! A bit dramatic are we? He refuses to answer any of her phone calls, and tells all his friends not to tell her his whereabouts. Again, this isn’t how adults deal with drama! Sit down and have an honest conversation already!! When Luke finally does come back into town we see that Tessa is the one apologizing to him for “pushing him” too hard, and we never really see him say he’s sorry for leaving her with no explanation. She says she’s fine with going back to the perfect relationship they used to have the year before, and I couldn’t help but feel like she was giving up some of her convictions to be with him. We never really see Luke open up fully with Tessa, and he even declares that if his father should fall off the wagon again he’s going to keep her out of it. Tessa basically says oh hell no, and they move on, but it seems like Tessa is giving up an awful lot to keep Luke happy, when he hasn’t really made any significant compromises to be with her.

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Series: Alabama Summer, Book 2. While book one in this series wasn’t my favorite book ever, I have to say I liked the relationship of those characters much better than the one we see presented here between Luke and Tessa.

Final Impressions: I’m not gonna lie, this book did hold my attention pretty steadily from start to finish. However, it wasn’t so much because I was rooting for Luke and Tessa to succeed in getting back together, but rather because I was genuinely wondering if this book would end with them going their separate ways. Compromise seems like a standard feature to most relationships, but when it comes to these two it appears as though Tessa was willing to compromise her own beliefs to win over Luke’s affection, whereas he was much more closed off to the prospect of change. He’s determined to make Tessa his again, and knows what it will take to make that happen, yet he stubbornly refuses to open up to her. I feel like we as the audience end up knowing more about Luke and his past demons than he ever confesses to Tessa.

Smut Level: There’s quite a big of angry sex in this book. Tessa and Luke are determined to hate each other, but they also can’t deny the underlying frissons of lust which keep drawing them back to each other.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. JD Publishing, LLC. 318 Pages.

Crash Into Me by K.M. Scott

This novel teaches us a very important lesson. If you’re about to sign a 6 month contract to work for a mysterious billionaire, make sure you read the thing in full!

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What would you give up for everything? Tristan Stone was powerful, commanding, sex incarnate. And he wore it all so well. From the moment his mesmerizing gaze met mine, I had no choice but surrender to everything he was. His power. His decadence. His passion. He was all I never knew I needed. He wanted to possess me, and I wanted to be his everything. All I had to do was accept what he offered. But everything has a price. The world he gave me fulfilled my wildest dreams, but would that be enough when the past crashed into the present?

First Impressions

This novel definitely has an intriguing start. Nina is a young artist, putting in some grunt work at a small art gallery in the big city. She’s paying her dues in the hopes that sooner or later she’ll make the connections necessary to open her own gallery or become a professional curator. One night a handsome billionaire approaches her after a gallery showing, and it appears he’s willing to offer her everything she’s ever hoped for. There’s a hint of secrecy around his intentions, and we know that he’s not telling the whole story when it comes to his pursuit of her skills. When Tristan offers her a 6 month contract to select art for his high-end hotels, as well as an impressive salary on top of it, Nina can’t refuse this supposedly amazing opportunity. Only after putting pen to paper does she discover there were some aspects of that contract she glossed over a bit too quickly, such as the fact that she must spend the entire six months living with Tristan in his country home. It makes us wonder what else Tristan might have sneaked into that massive contract of his.

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An Interesting Start 

While we are definitely presented with an intriguing premise of how these two characters came together, I must say things do fall flat rather quickly after that contract is signed. It doesn’t take long for Tristan and Nina to begin a sexual relationship, declare their love for each other, and vow to spend the rest of their lives together. I was surprised that Nina was so quick to push aside the mystery surrounding why Tristan singled her out in the beginning. Instead she focuses more attention on trying to hold his interest as a lover, constantly worried that eventually he’ll come to realize she’s not quite at the same level as he is in terms of sophistication or financial security.

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Throughout the whole thing I kept thinking, ummm there’s probably something else you need to be worried about here. Nina was never really one to go back and question what Tristan’s motives were in pursuing her to begin with. In my opinion, the basic reason for his pursuit was rather evident, as it’s hinted at multiple times throughout the book before being pushed aside to instead focus on their developing relationship. Eventually this feature does come back into play at the very end of the novel, and it does reintroduce that element of intrigue and surprise from the beginning, but it took a bit too long for the story to get back on track and come around full circle. The fact that the signs were rather clear to us as the readers, but Nina chose to ignore or push aside those signs to instead put all of her attention on keeping Tristan in her life was rather frustrating.

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The Deadline Looms

There are two rather fascinating aspects of Tristan and Nina’s relationship which remain prevalent from start to finish. The first revolves around time. The contract that Nina signed is for six months. Practically from the moment she writes her name on the dotted line she immediately starts to question what will happen when those six months are up. It’s a looming deadline, and we really have no idea what it might portend. They both want their relationship to succeed, but they’re both fearful to be too open in admitting that to each other. For Nina, she’s drawn in by Tristan’s charismatic and protective nature. She wants their relationship to succeed, but fears that if she appears too eager, or pries too much into why he sought her out in the first place, it will break whatever it is they’re building together. Perhaps there’s a limit of six months because Tristan intends to toss her out at the end of it. Eventually we see that the opposite is true.

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If anything, Tristan fears the end of those 6 months even more than Nina. He wants her forever, but doesn’t want to scare her away with his devotion, which is why he suggested six months to begin with. He didn’t want her to feel too overwhelmed. So far everyone he’s ever loved throughout his life has left him, and his greatest fear is that Nina will leave him as well. This six month timeline also adds another interesting element to their relationship in that they are both trying to cram in as much of a relationship as they can within those six months. Everything is sped up, and it’s not long before they’re both stating how much they love each other. However, with this escalation to their relationship, we simultaneously realize that it doesn’t allow them to develop a level of trust which is truly necessary for success. They have a mutual jealousy whenever someone of the opposite sex seems to get too close to the other, even if it’s a completely innocent situation in which resentment really wasn’t necessary. In my opinion their intense jealousy didn’t really signify the depth of their admiration for each other, but instead highlighted the infancy and rush of their relationship.

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He’s Got Money Honey

In addition to time, money was also a very important aspect of Tristan and Nina’s relationship. While Nina wasn’t necessarily broke at the start of the novel, Tristan’s offer of a position with a generous salary was definitely something she couldn’t pass up. In a way, we see that money was sort of the underlying linchpin which signaled the start to their relationship. It’s also an aspect which causes Nina to look upon Tristan more favorably in certain situations. If Nina or one of her friends is ever in a bind, Tristan’s instinct is to resolve the matter in some way that requires money. While it would have been easy for Nina to assume that Tristan could only throw money at a problem to make it go away, instead she viewed it as his attempt to take care of her and her loved ones.

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As Nina does more work for Tristan in his hotels, she also starts to realize that more money is being put in her bank account than what they initially agreed upon. When considered in combination with the quickly approaching end to her six month contract, she assumes that he must be trying to placate her financially so that when the six months are up she has no reason to complain. As it turns out, Tristan’s motives were much more heartfelt. He was actually trying to demonstrate that he thinks she’s worth more than the amount which had been set out in her initial contract. Money is all that Tristan has ever had to give anyone that’s meant anything to him, and it’s what he constantly falls back on as a solution. His vulnerability, and almost adolescent response to the prospect of Nina leaving him behind was incredibly captivating. It made me want to learn even more about him. In the epilogue of the novel we finally switch to Tristan’s point of view, and honestly it was probably the strongest point of the book!

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Series: Heart of Stone, book 1. The epilogue of the novel definitely provides a set up for the continuation of Tristan and Nina’s story in the next book. While this first novel had some hits and misses, the ending was intriguing enough that my interest is peaked to continue on with the series. I hope going forward we’ll get to see some of the second book told from Tristan’s point of view, as it was such a strong feature of the epilogue of this novel.

Final Impressions: We definitely see a strong start and finish to the story, but it fell sort of flat after the signing of the contract. Nina was so concerned that Tristan would tire of her and throw her by the wayside that it resulted in her keeping quiet about why Tristan specifically sought her out in the beginning to work for him. It was a frustrating oversight, and when it is reintroduced at the end of the novel, by that point you sort of want to say, well…duh! All in all I think the story could have been pushed one step further.

Smut Level: Tristan and Nina’s sexual relationship sort of straddled the line between over-the-top, and your pretty standard romance novel sexual scenario. We get a bit of dirty talk, some bubble bath time, going down on each other. You know, the usual. But at one point near the start of the novel Tristan brings another couple back to his country home to have sex as he and Nina watch on from behind a one-way glass viewing room so she can paint what their coupling makes them feel. It just felt sort of out of place when we look at their other sexual scenes, and again provided the sense that things either should have been pushed one step further, or the scene should have been eliminated entirely.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Copper Key Media, LLC. 326 Pages

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Confess by Colleen Hoover

I don’t know how I feel about books that start off with a rather depressing opening scene. Maybe it’s because I tend to start new books either right before bed, or I begin new audio books during my walk to work. They simply don’t bode well for a good night’s sleep or a pleasant start to my day!

What’s it About? 

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At age twenty-one, Auburn Reed has already lost everything important to her. In her fight to rebuild her shattered life, she has her goals in sight and there is no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping a major secret from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it. To save their relationship, all Owen needs to do is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.

First Impressions

There’s nothing to pull your attention into a novel quite like two teens in love being separated as the one is lying on his death bed, and the other is being forced to return to her home because everyone views their love as a passing teen obsession that will quickly disappear. A tear-filled scene as Auburn and Adam hope to spend just a few more moments in each other’s arms before they say their final goodbye. Forever. My god does anybody have a freakin’ box of tissues around?! Flash toward 5 years and we see one half of our former teenage couple, Auburn, still living a life filled with sadness and the unfortunate influence of Adam’s mother and brother. There’s an aspect of the story I don’t want to give away, but let’s just say she’s constantly desperate to stay in their good graces, and will give up certain freedoms in her life in order to please them.

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Auburn has been mourning Adam since his death, but one day as she walks through Dallas everything changes. She comes across a one-of-a-kind art gallery in need of an assistant for the next show taking place that same evening, and the artist, Owen, just happens to be a dashing and charismatic young man who makes Auburn feel something for the first time since Adam’s death. Their connection is immediate, and as the evening progresses neither really wants their time together to end. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the unique nature of Owen’s artwork. The inspiration for his pieces are people’s confessions which he receives anonymously through a slot by his front door. He manages to bring beauty to some rather dark and personal confessions, and while we don’t see any images on the page we can picture them clearly in our minds. Even though Owen makes a living by painting other people’s confessions, he simultaneously acknowledges that some things are worth keeping secret. Including the fact that he somehow already knows who Auburn is.

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A Lack of Confessing

The irony of the title can’t be lost on us. Here is a guy who makes his living based on others providing him with the most intimate of private and anonymous confessions. Yet when it comes to the interactions between Auburn and Owen, both are pretty adamant about keeping the important details of their life a secret from the other. Owen is perhaps keeping a few more whoppers than Auburn is, such as why he missed his first official date with Auburn after the night of the art gallery show. Oh…and the fact that he somehow already knows her from something which happened in their past. At first it seems kind of silly that they are both so close-lipped about such critical details of their lives, and the few times where they seem poised to confess the secrets they’ve been keeping, they are of course interrupted in some way from letting the truth come out.

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However, when you actually think about the fact that they’ve only known each other for a period of two days, it makes a bit more sense why they wouldn’t have been so forthcoming with the most intimate and emotion-packed details of their lives. Sure, their connection is immediate, and they feel a sense of intimacy for each other that they’ve never felt with another person before. That doesn’t mean they’re willing to let down all their walls in such a short period of time. As for us as the reader, I must admit that some of the secrets they were keeping were pretty evident, including some of the repercussions of Auburn’s former relationship with Adam, as well as why Owen missed his first date with Auburn. The one secret that remains a big question mark throughout the majority of the story is how exactly Owen recognizes Auburn, yet as far as she knows this is the first time they ever met.

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Not to be Taken Seriously

Everyone has always belittled Auburn’s relationships with the men in her life. When it came to Adam, others saw their teenage love as something which would be fleeting, and in the long run a small blip in her life. How could two sixteen-year-olds possibly know what true love is? The fact that Adam’s time on this Earth was limited also implied to those witnessing their love story that they were feeling more for each other than they would have had it just been a typical tale of romance between two teens. Nobody could understand how strong their connection was, and they chose to dismiss it for what it was. It sort of makes you question how old someone must be in order for their feelings of love to be taking seriously.

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When it comes to her feelings for Owen, everyone just looks at who they think he is on the outside. A problematic young man who they think is bad news. They don’t try to get to know who he really is, or understand the troubling details of his relationship with his father, as well as the tragic details surrounding his past. In a way, by keeping the details of his past, not to mention the more complicated details of his present, a secret from Auburn she is able to get to know the real him. At one point Owen is on the brink of confessing everything to Auburn, but she asks that he keep everything to himself so that her view of him isn’t tainted by the outside factors of his life that he might not be able to control.

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Unfortunately, some of the secrets which Owen’s been keeping do eventually come to light. Even though those secrets don’t change how Auburn feels about Owen, they both realize that those details can still prevent them from finding happiness with each other because for the people in Auburn’s life those secrets are unforgivable acts. They present a black mark on Owen’s character. Auburn’s ability to look past them are not seen as a positive, but rather is viewed as a slight when it comes to her choices in life. In turn, these secrets of Owen’s result in even more secrets, as Auburn must keep her true feelings for Owen hidden from those who hold such power over her life. If they were ever to discover that Auburn still holds a flame for Owen, and has been seeing him without their knowledge, the repercussions could be disastrous for Auburn to ever find a glimmer of independence.

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From Start to Finish

The true beauty of this book is how everything comes full circle. It takes a while for us to get there, but eventually we get a flashback to the moment which explains how Owen knows Auburn. It’s a moment we almost didn’t get, as Owen muses how he would never confess to Auburn the truth of how he knows her, since it was actually Adam’s confession to tell. I almost thought the book was going to end on that note, and I was on the verge of a “oh HELL no” expletive. However, our book ends with a flashback for us as the audience to witness, even if Auburn will never know the truth. Which I can’t say I fully agree with, but what do I know?

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As we could all probably guess at this point, Owen’s memory of Auburn has to do with the time she was visiting Adam in the hospital when they were all teens. What I wasn’t expecting though was the symmetry of seeing the book open and close with the same scene, with Auburn saying goodbye for the last time to Adam in the hospital before he dies as their families insist she return back home. At the start we saw the scene play out from Auburn’s point of view, but shockingly at the end we see it from Owen’s. It’s a heart-breakingly beautiful scene, and all the more poignant seeing everything that Owen and Auburn have suffered through separately and together since this first moment. To see how it was the impetus for Owen’s artwork, as well as the inspiration for the confessions tied to his pieces, well it freakin’ brought me to tears. Ugly tears. I’m talking quivering chin-lip action with gasping breaths here.

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Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: Owen and Auburn’s relationship is a struggle, and when you think about the book as a whole it’s surprising to realize they’ve only spent a grand total of 7 days together in each other’s company. The rest is spent separated from each other by the drama of their lives, but they’re still constantly thinking about each other during that time apart. Our story comes to a climactic and strong finish as we see Auburn finally stand up for herself, and the flashback scene of Owen and Auburn from 5 years prior provided an emotionally charged ending. I do think the story dragged a bit too long in the beginning, as it attempted to build suspense and mystery surrounding Auburn and Owen’s respective secrets. Unfortunately, because these secrets were fairly predictable it seemed like an unnecessary way to draw out the tale. I think I would have preferred a few more scenes of Auburn and Owen together rather than seeing them lament over the time they were separated.

Smut Level: Nothing too steamy all things considered. Love scenes are filled more with an emotional connection than passionate desire

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Atria Books. 321 Pages

Hearts Abroad by Skye McNeil

This might just be the crème de la crème of nanny gigs. Not only does Londyn get to spend the summer having fun with two precocious girls in a beautiful Colorado mountain town, but she also gets to flirt with their sexy father. Oh, did I mention he has a British accent? Again, best nanny job ever.

What’s it About?

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Taking a break from screenwriting in New York City, Londyn Bellerose takes a nannying job in Colorado to get away from the hubbub. A summer to live without regrets is all she wants. While her boss is British, gorgeous, and a millionaire, he has no clue how to have fun. Determined to mend the relationship between father and daughters, Londyn doesn’t expect to fall for the museum curator.

Londyn is American and everything Callum Archer swore to never fall for again. With her carefree spirit and energetic smile, she’s perfect to nanny Callum’s two daughters. The problem is she’s also perfect for him. She’s sassy, musical, and tends to speak her mind more than she means to. When old history and new dreams threaten her happily ever after, will Londyn and Callum’s love survive?

First Impressions

Londyn needs to get away from New York City. As a struggling playwright she’s tired of encountering nothing but rejection, not to mention the lack of a love-life. What better way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city than to escape to…Iowa. Yeah, that lasts for about a week before Londyn realizes she needs to once again get away, this time from her aunt who just so happens to have a more active love life than Londyn. Lucky for her, she finds a job posting for a nanny to two adorable young girls in Colorado. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Until she meets their sexy father of course. Callum is clearly a loving father, but is often traveling for work, hence the necessity for a nanny. There’s a clear attraction between Callum and Londyn, and both can acknowledge the benefit of having a summer romance fling that has a definite end date. Let off some steam, and all of that. However, they also can’t ignore some definite red flags when it comes to crossing the line of professionalism. In addition, Londyn’s carefree attitude and struggling career choice reminds Callum a bit too much of his ex, who left him and their daughters behind to pursue a modeling career. Will Callum and Londyn give in to the temptation which continuously draws them together, or will their reservations keep them from experiencing what might possibly be the greatest love they’ve ever known?

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Delayed Gratification

It’s almost a cliche when you think about it, the nanny and the single father. However, I must say I sincerely appreciated that Callum and Londyn didn’t rush into anything physical too soon. If anything, they take things pretty slowly considering they’re clearly attracted to each other. Even when Callum decides he wants to see where things might go with Londyn in terms of a relationship, he doesn’t immediately push her up against a wall to ravish her. Not this British gentleman! Instead he’s determined to woo her. Things start off with some flirty suggestions, soft touches, and the briefest of kisses.

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When Londyn returns his affections, again they don’t rush into bed together. They get to know each other, even going so far as to share the details of their past relationships and heartbreaks. I was shocked that towards the 3/4 point of the novel they even confess their love to each other, and yet they still haven’t had sex. It’s honestly quite refreshing to see them focus on developing an emotional connection first, especially when you consider they both acknowledge their time together is limited. You’d think they’d be spending as much time beneath the sheets as possible before their time together ends, but they realize sharing the little moments together, watching a movie with the girls, or simply holding each other in bed, is romance enough. Pardon me whilst I sigh from the sweet and beautiful love story taking place on the page.

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One Minor Reality Check

While I adamantly love the premise we’re presented with by having a carefree nanny fall in love with a rather uptight Brit, I do sort of have to question the reality of the situation. After all, we are dealing with a wealthy family here, and a strict grandmother who seems to be the epitome of British prim and proper in charge of the nanny hiring process. The fact they would hire a nanny for just two brief summer months rather than having one come on full time year-round seemed a bit out of the ordinary for this group. Plus the fact they were fine with Londyn coming on when she didn’t have like, a PhD in early childhood development was kind of odd. An out-of-work playwright just seems like a rather unlikely choice, especially when Londyn seems determined to abandon the structured summer of piano lessons and French tutoring which was initially planned out for the girls, and instead just have a summer filled with fun and play. Umm…how exactly did she get past the first interview?

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An Absent Yet Loving Father

Aside from the sweet romance developing between Callum and Londyn, I must say my absolute favorite feature of this novel was the portrayal of work-life balance, and how Londyn wasn’t afraid to stand up to Callum when he was putting his work above his daughters. Londyn lost both of her parents at a young age, and she’s never stopped missing them. She can’t but feel heartbroken every time she sees Callum depart for yet another work trip, and willingly leave his adorable daughters behind. This is his time to be with them, to see them grow up, and yet Callum spends more time on the road than he does playing with his girls. It’s an absence that Londyn is extremely passionate about resolving, and you have to admire that she essentially puts her job on the line every time she points out that he’s missing out on time with his children.

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What makes this read special though is that Callum isn’t some grumpy ole curmudgeon who doesn’t want to spend time with his kids. When he actually is present in the same time zone as his daughters, it’s evident to everyone that he’s a dedicated and loving father. He’s trying to care for them the only way he knows how, which for Callum translates into working as tirelessly as possible to provide for them. The fact he’s such a loving father makes his numerous absences all the more painful for his daughters, and this is what Londyn draws his attention to. She expends her energy trying to bring this family closer together, rather than complaining that he’s spending so much time away from her specifically. It really demonstrates the selfless nature that is Londyn. As the summer progresses, and Callum makes more of an effort to spend time at home with his daughters, we see how Londyn starts to become a part of their family unit as well. Again, time for me to sigh.

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

Series: Atlas, book 1. I’ll continue with this series for sure.

Final Impressions: This is an adorably sweet read. The connection between Callum and Londyn is immediately palpable, and I admired the fact that the author didn’t make the story solely about them. Callum’s daughters are featured perfectly, where they’re obviously an important feature of the story, yet there’s still some time after hours for Callum and Londyn to spend quality time together. Throughout the second-half of the novel, I was constantly wondering when the other shoe would drop. Surely something is going to put a damper on the growing connection between our lovebirds, especially after they admit to loving each other and wanting to give a long-term relationship a chance. Will Callum’s ex come back into the picture? Will one of Londyn’s plays get picked up by a Broadway big-wig? Turns out, both! Slightly predictable in that regard, but overall still an enjoyable read.

Smut Level: We have to wait quite a while before we get it, but once we do…hot damn! This sexy Brit might be prim and proper for work, but in the bedroom he’s not afraid to let his tie loose.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 344 Pages.

Gage by Tess Oliver

A down-on-her-luck singer who decides to make a go of running her grandfather’s Montana restaurant, even though she has no experience in the food industry. Somewhere in the world Gordon Ramsay is having a panic attack.

What’s it About?

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After nearly losing his friend in a logging accident, Gage Barringer is convinced now more than ever that he needs to find a different job. But his side business of breaking colts at the small Montana ranch he inherited from his grandfather doesn’t earn him enough money. He has his mind set on running The Raven’s Nest, a popular bar and restaurant near his ranch. The original owner has died and Gage is waiting for it to be put up for sale. But there is a five-foot-four, brown eyed, obstacle in his way, an obstacle with lips made for sin and a voice made for breaking hearts. And Summer Donovan is one road block Gage Barringer won’t be able to find a way around.

First Impressions

A small ranch town in Montana. A local logger with muscles and swagger. A young city-woman attempting to start life anew. A restaurant caught between them as a source for animosity even as they battle their growing attraction for each other? Count…me…in! Just one teeny tiny little problem here though. The synopsis description about Gage being convinced he needs to get out of the logging business, and that he’ll seemingly do anything to gain control of the restaurant that could prove to be his ticket out of a life-threatening job? Pretty misleading. Gage’s interest in the Raven’s Nest seemingly lasts for about 5 minutes as a passing fancy; one which he quickly abandons as soon as Summer comes to town.

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I was kind of looking forward to this restaurant business being a source of tension between the two, especially seeing as it implies that Gage was desperate to remove himself from such a dangerous job as a logger. In the end, we see that Gage really doesn’t put up a fight at all to claim the restaurant, and even turns down an offer from Summer to become part owner of the place. Really makes you wonder if he had gone through with purchasing the Raven’s Nest at the start of the novel how long his interest would have remained. Overall the lust-filled flirtations between Gage and Summer were certainly entertaining, but the story could have benefited from an added layer of depth if this claim to the restaurant had remained as a source of tension throughout more of the plot.

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Breaking in a Wild Stallion

Summer and Gage may have had a rough introduction to each other at the start of the novel, but it doesn’t take long before their open flirtations turn into something more. An interesting dilemma that they both face though is a hesitancy to voice how much they actually care about the other, as both are afraid the other might flee. In regards to Summer’s possible flight, it’s a bit of a more obvious source for concern. Gage fears that this city girl he’s come to care for won’t be able to handle the difficult travails of a Montana winter, not to mention the complications of running her grandfather’s restaurant which has become a staple of this small mountain town. With the lure of a possible recording contract waiting for her back in California, Gage believes it’s just a matter of time before Summer runs back to California before he’s even had a chance to win her heart.

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As for Gage, this small town is his home. It always has been, and always will be, so there’s no potential risk of him fleeing in terms of physical distance. However, Summer worries that based on his many past dalliances with other women she won’t be able to maintain his interest for long. She can admit to herself that she’s falling hard for this man, but she’s worried he might walk away from her just as she’s starting to lose her heart to him. How could a bachelor so seemingly set in his non-commitment lifestyle change everything for her? Both Gage and Summer are worried to put their true feelings on the line, as they assume it won’t be long before the other loses interest and turns a blind eye on their newfound relationship

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Cut Out the Drama

Summer has come to this small Montana town in an attempt to leave behind all the drama from her life in L.A. On the cusp of receiving a major record contract, she was devastated to learn that the record company was only interested in signing her rather than the other members of her band. On top of it, a certain media mogul was more interested in getting in her panties than promoting her vocal abilities. As if that weren’t bad enough, she discovered that her boyfriend (and band-mate) was cheating on her with her supposed best friend. Summer was desperate to get away from it all, including her overbearing mother who was only interested in the potential profits her daughter’s burgeoning music career could bring her.

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When Summer arrives in Montana, she’s desperate to ignore all of the negative forces that are trying to impede on her newfound happiness. You have to admire the fact she’s leaving behind all she knew to break out on her own, as well as cut out the drama of all the people who tried to use her for their own selfish personal gains. The only minor problem with this though is that it left most of the book a bit lacking in drama and excitement, since she was essentially choosing to ignore it all. Summer was determined to not answer any imposing phone calls from her mother, her agent, her ex-boyfriend, and even her mother’s lawyer. Sure, this does eventually come to a boiling point at the very end of the novel, but for the bulk of it we mainly focus on Summer and Gage getting close in the physical sense. A bit more incorporation throughout of Summer’s familial issues back in California, as well as Gage’s supposed dislike of his logging job would have helped lend a bit of struggle to the story.

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Series: The Barringer Brothers, book 1. Technically this is the first book in this series, but it does reference some people and events from the Rainshadow series involving Gage’s brother. You can definitely get by without having read it, as the events from that novel don’t really play into the overall plot of this one. However, just be forewarned that a few times here and there it was tricky to know what people/events the characters were referencing.

Final Impression: An ok read for the beach, or a mountain cabin escape. Summer’s determination to make her life in Montana a success no matter what was both admirable, yet also ignorant at times. Although I agree that Summer’s mother was a sad excuse for a parental figure, I do wish we’d had a bit more insight into their relationship, and maybe one or two additional scenes of them directly confronting each other. As for Gage, he’s definitely passionate about Summer, but we needed to see more passion in regards to what he was doing with his life. He’s clearly not interested in being a logger long-term, even though he’s still involved with it at the end of the novel, and we get just a brief glimpse of his interest in breaking in horses at his ranch. More focus on his endeavors there would have given us more of an idea of what this mountain man truly cares about in life.

Smut Level: Gage isn’t aware of his own brute strength apparently. At the start of the novel he’s getting down and dirty with a woman in the bathroom of Summer’s restaurant, and the two of them manage to break the sink from the wall.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sugartree Press. 284 Pages.

Temptation by Ivy Smoak

Full disclosure. I’ve never been a huge fan when a review begins with the warning, “prepare yourself for a rant”. It always makes me roll my eyes a bit in annoyance, wondering how someone couldn’t possibly find at least one redeeming quality. Well…I hate to say it, but…prepare yourself for a rant.

What’s it About? 

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When Penny Taylor runs into a handsome stranger in a coffee shop, she believes her luck has finally changed. After having her confidence unwound by her ex, she falls hard for a true gentleman. But once she realizes that her crush is her communications professor, her world is turned upside down.

Haunted by dreams of the alluring Professor Hunter, Penny can’t seem to dismiss her fantasies and the temptation to have him grows deeper. Will the excitement, danger, and mystery surrounding Professor Hunter bring her to her knees?

First Impressions

Here’s the thing with this book that made it rather difficult to sympathize or even root for our lead characters to succeed. They were both playing the game, and they both knew they were playing it. You’re telling me this professor really put his number in a student’s phone with the innocent intention of having her call him whenever she ever needed a “ride”? I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s more than willing to give her a “ride”, just not one in his car. Actually…now that I think about it, they do get rather hot and heavy at one point in his automobile.

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Or how about when Penny discloses her obvious forbidden attraction to him during her speeches in class, but veils it in a way where the other students don’t know she’s talking about their professor even though he’s clearly aware of her flirtations? Another indicator that this relationship felt more like a game rather than actual love was that throughout Penny’s personal musings, as well as during her physical encounters with James she constantly referred to him as “Professor Hunter”. The fact she rarely referenced him by his first name made it feel like she was more enthralled with the idea of him as her teacher rather than as a legitimate source of romance. They both were playing the game to get close to the other, intrigued by the inappropriateness of a relationship between them, and poking each other with a proverbial stick to get a lust-filled reaction out of the other. Any excuse of, “oh we couldn’t fight our love” is a bit of BS in my opinion.

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The Married Professor

The contrived drama surrounding James’ previous marriage was beyond infuriating. After one night of lovemaking Penny is utterly wrecked when she discovers a wedding band hidden away in James’ bedroom nightstand. Rather than confront him directly, she flees in distress and chooses to ignore his repeated texts and phone calls asking if she’s alright. If it were up to Penny, she probably would have ignored him forever, but ultimately decides she wants to apologize to him. Not for running away without an explanation, oh no! She wants to apologize for tempting him away from his wife. Good…God! Even if he was actually cheating on his wife, you shouldn’t be the one to apologize!!

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As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, when Penny does ultimately confront him after class it’s merely to walk up and tauntingly say “I knowwwww”, and “I know your secret” without actually stating what it is she thinks she knows. When James stares back at her with utter confusion she berates him for the fact he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and once again runs from him without just going, “Yo, I found your wedding ring, explain yourself”. I couldn’t help but imagine what my response would be if someone I was dating walked up and menacingly said “I know your secret”. There’s just…so much to choose from :).  James is obviously annoyed and hurt, so he starts snapping at students in class, to which Penny’s reaction is that the only time she’s ever seen him angry like that was when it was directed at her in private. For the love of God there are so many things wrong with this scenario I can’t take it!!!

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The Friend-Zone

Another rather disturbing feature of this entire breakdown in communication is that Penny runs right into the arms of a “friend” of hers, Tyler, who she knows is smitten like a kitten when it comes to her. Now, don’t get me wrong, Tyler is far from perfect. He has trouble understanding the meaning of the word “no”, and in spite of Penny’s repeated declarations that she just wants to be friends with him, he’s pretty unrelenting in his pursuit of something more. But it’s still troubling that Penny uses Tyler as a way of trying to get over Professor Hunter, and to make him jealous. Again, she’s playing a game with the emotions of these two men, and it brings her immaturity to the forefront.

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At one point she even admits to herself that the main reason she decided to get together with Tyler even though she still had feelings for Professor Hunter was because she wanted to have a “back-up” in case things with Professor Hunter fell through for good. It’s pretty evident that she never really considered Tyler a serious dating option, and he was basically an epitome of “rebound” and “payback”. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy, even though his constant pursuit of Penny and behavior towards her at the beginning of the book was inappropriate to the n’th degree and rather grating on the nerves. Again, it’s quite a challenge to like any of the characters in this tale.

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A Difference in Age

Another key feature of my dislike for these characters was the entire drama revolving around Penny’s age. James mistakes her age because she was taking his class that is usually full of seniors when in reality she’s just a sophomore. Ok, first of all, sophomore, senior, doesn’t matter. She’s a student, you shouldn’t be touching her thong, or laying her out on your desk until after graduation at the earliest. Second, you…are…a…teacher. Her student information is literally at your fingertips, don’t tell me you didn’t take the time to look it up. Third, Penny is a pot calling the kettle black. She’s so quick to judge James for his faults, and berate him for not being open and honest with her about the details of his marriage, and yet she keeps her true age a secret from him throughout the entirety of the book. Don’t get me wrong, James’ propensity for secrecy is certainly well deserved criticism, but you can’t deny the hypocrisy of her keeping such a big secret herself.

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My Sarcastic Bright Side

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you were headed to your college professor’s office after class one day to ask him a question about something that happened in class, and you opened his office door to find him naked and 69’ing with one of your classmates on his desk. Wouldn’t that be…shocking?! While that doesn’t exactly happen in this novel in terms of the untimely discovery, we do get to witness a professor 69’ing with a student from his class on his work desk. It’s undoubtedly a rather heinous breach of ethics, but you gotta give it to them. That is one hell of an impressive balancing act. And to keep trucking along as the wood of the desk digs into your back, or knees, not to mention the possibility of an errant pencil getting stuck in a rather unsavory orifice? I’m simultaneously judging, yet also carrying out an appreciative golf clap.

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Series: The Hunted, book 1. Unfortunately I don’t really see myself continuing on with this series.

Final Impression: All in all, it’s hard to find anyone to root for in this novel. Any time something bad happened, or if there was a misunderstanding in terms of lack of communication, my gut response always seemed to be “well, you’re getting what you deserve”. Penny’s lack of maturity, and James’ demands for privacy in multiple aspects of his relationship with Penny didn’t result in them being the most like-able of characters. Lastly, because of their lack of communication when it came to age, marriage, etc. it’s clear that the basic foundation of their relationship, the glue keeping them together, revolves entirely around sex. Yet another reason I found it difficult to have an emotional connection to these characters.

Smut Level: My goodness, the easier question might be where did these two not have sex? We’ve got some up against a tree, in the ocean, and a classic elevator locale. The most outlandish though would have to be when she secretly sucked him off from under his desk while he was talking to a colleague in his office.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 353 Pages.