Bishop by Sawyer Bennett

You can’t help but wonder how star hockey player, Bishop Scott, doesn’t leave a trail of melted ice behind him considering the intense sexual heat he emits wherever he goes.

What’s it About?

Bishop Scott, co-captain. Not too shabby, huh? It’s all part of my fresh start with the NHL’s latest expansion team, and that means new teammates, a new coach, a new city, and a big new contract. Basically, I cannot f***ing wait to show my old squad what they’re missing.

But first, I decide to check out the town before the grind begins. Turns out Arizona chicks are totally smokin’, and I’m fortunate enough to meet one who’s looking for the same thing I am: a night of anonymous, unforgettable, no-strings-attached sex.

Fast forward to the Vengeance arena. It’s the last place I expect to see her again—let alone in her own office. Then bells go off and I finally realize who this girl is: Brooke Perron. My new coach’s daughter. All of a sudden, we’re picking up right where we left off, which means our hands are all over each other. That’s when her dad—my boss—walks in. And before I can get a word out, Brooke’s introducing me as her fiancé.

Sure, she just saved my ass. So why do I get the feeling Brooke’s going to turn my world upside down? Maybe it’s because this fake relationship feels way too real. . . .

First Impressions

If you’re a romance reader like myself who hates having to wait around a long time for sexy fun times to appear in your read, then this is definitely the book for you! Not only do our lead characters jump into the sack almost immediately, but their sexual chemistry is off the charts to a point where you don’t have to wait long at all before they’re tugging each other’s clothes off again. While their relationship started off as a one-night stand which evolved into casual sex buddies, there always remains a level of mutual respect and friendship between them which can’t help but ultimately transition into a partnership chock full of emotion. This was definitely a couple it was easy to fall in love with, and one that you were quickly rooting for to succeed.

Nothing Fake About it

I love a fake relationship as much as the next person, and a fake engagement trope is just the icing on the cake. After Bishop and Brook’s one-night stand, they can’t stop thinking about each other, and both are shocked the next day upon the realization that Bishop is a player for the hockey organization that Brooke now works for. Their surprise quickly transforms to desire, and it’s while they’re locked in an intimate embrace in Brooke’s office that her father walks in, who just so happens to be Bishop’s coach. Quick on her feet, Brooke blurts out that they are engaged so that her father won’t try to get Bishop kicked off the team. Even though I immediately broke out into a wide grin upon Brooke’s declaration, I can’t say the fake engagement aspect of the story was entirely necessary to the plot.

It’s something that Brooke and Bishop almost immediately walk back on, from “oh we’re engaged!”, to “oh we’re almost engaged!”, to “oh we might be a while away from an engagement!”. I almost think it would have been better to simply start off with the fake relationship aspect, and only after some insistent prodding from the dad would a ring have been involved. However, as it stands Bishop and Brooke really only have one awkward dinner with her dad following his walking in on them, and then he kind of disappears from the story entirely. You almost forget that he was the initial impetus for their deception, and I think I would have appreciated a few more scenes involving Bishop having to face off with Brooke’s father.

Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 1. I’ll definitely be continuing with this series. We are introduced to a slew of Bishop’s teammates that I can’t wait to get to know better.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a steamy and fun read that you’ll want to bring along on your next beach vacation. I do think we were missing a critical integration of Brooke’s father into the story line, and instead we see a focus on an old acquaintance of Brooke who comes to wreak a bit of havoc on the sultry bubble that Brooke and Bishop have created for themselves. Thankfully, she never became a point of misunderstanding between Brooke and Bishop, which was a prevalent fear of mine throughout the latter half of the book. However, it was nice that, for the most part, our lead characters could remain logical in the midst of this other character’s craziness.

Smut Level: You’ll need to keep a few ice cubes nearby to cool yourself off with the scenes involving these two. We’ve got dirty talk and all manner of sexual exploration going on here.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Loveswept Publishing. 221 Pages.

Stumped by Pamela Q. Fernandes

A review of their past will make these two contemplate if a future together is possible.

What’s it About?

Love behind the wickets.

English vice-Captain Claude de Lussan is the poster boy for English cricket. He’s smart, handsome, rich and a damn fine cricketer. And Delilah Taylor loves him to bits. Her whole existence revolves around him so much so, she polishes his autographed ball from his first century every weekend as it sits in her cabinet. Except, Claude de Lussan doesn’t love her back.

Following a heady summer, she finds herself suddenly married and divorced from the cricketer only to find him return to her world years later. Can they resolve old hurts and bury the past to rebuild a future together? Can they overcome family resentment, old flames and misunderstandings to accept that they what they had was and still is special?

First Impressions

Alright, confession time. I have never in my life watched a cricket match. Game? Competition? After reading this book I understand wickets are involved…whatever they are…Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, typical American! Well, if it helps at all, it’s not like I’m only into football or baseball, I just don’t care for sports in general. Probably because watching people enduring so much physical activity reminds me how I should probably work out more 🙂 All that being said, do you need to understand all the rules of cricket to understand or follow along with the plot of this novel? No, not really. Every chapter is entitled after a cricket phrase, and our two lead characters do bond over Claude’s expertise in the game. However, I do think it would have added an extra layer of appreciation to understand how the cricket chapter titles maybe corresponded to the content of that chapter, but alas I just had to go with the flow. I will say though I am very intrigued now to watch a cricket match after completing this read!

Plenty of Angst

If I had to describe our lead characters in one word it would be the following: flawed. In a way, it made them more relatable and “human” to see they were subject to making some of the same mistakes, and even jumping to rash conclusions, like we are all capable of doing. The flip side of this though was that it was also kind of difficult to fall in love with our leads for a decent portion of the novel. It wasn’t even until the final scene of the book where I was somewhat convinced that it would be a good idea for Claude and Delilah to make another attempt at a relationship together. Pretty much from day one, Claude was always head over heels in love with Delilah’s friend, Grace, in a way that reminded me of Romeo’s infatuation with Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet. Essentially, you know he’s smitten, but you have absolutely no idea of what he sees in her beyond good looks. Even though he completely adored Grace, her blasé attitude toward him slowly made him turn to Delilah as a second choice.

Claude constantly straddled a line between the two women throughout the whole book. It seemed as though he didn’t really care for Delilah at all as a person until he eventually loses her. He keeps going back to Grace even as she was dating his brother, and when she ultimately reveals herself to be the ultimate duplicitous villainess, Claude is still willing to consider a future with her. At one point in the story Claude and Delilah were really starting to build a strong foundation together, and yet he was more willing to believe Grace’s word over Delilah’s, even though Grace has never really give him any reason to trust her. There was one scene in particular where we witness Grace’s ability to get inside Claude’s head, and it results in him spouting the most heinous vitriol towards Delilah that he no longer seemed relatable as a character, just downright mean. It was during moments like this that I couldn’t help but wonder if Delilah would have been better off without him. We eventually see Claude turn a corner, and realize that he lost something truly special by letting Delilah get away. However, this turnabout sort of came too little, too late in the game for my opinion of him to flip entirely.

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

Series: To Love a Sportsman, book 2. I hadn’t read book one in this series, but had no trouble diving right into this second novel.

Final Impressions: Aside from disliking one half of our lead couple through some critical scenes, another aspect of this read that I had a bit of trouble adapting to was the flashback format. While it was interesting to see scenes of Delilah and Claude divorced in the present juxtaposed against flashbacks to how they met, married and what led to their split, it was also tricky to follow along at times. As the novel progressed, and the timelines got closer together involving their somewhat constant arguing as Claude continued to waffle between Grace and Delilah, it became harder to distinguish between when we were in the past versus the present.

Smut Level: Nothing too descriptive, though there are a few moments of passion. However, seeing as these passionate scenes occurred between Delilah and Claude when he was still technically involved with Grace, it was kind of hard to become fully invested in these sensual moments.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. TouchPoint Press. 137 Pages.

Nothing but Trouble by Amy Andrews

CC has never let her employer’s quarterback fame influence her view of him. But put that man on a farm, throw a cowboy hat on him, and all bets are off!

What’s it About? 

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For five years, Cecilia Morgan’s entire existence has revolved around playing personal assistant to self-centered former NFL quarterback Wade Carter. But just when she finally gives her notice, his father’s health fails, and Wade whisks her back to his hometown. CC will stay for his dad—for now—even if that means ignoring how sexy her boss is starting to look in his Wranglers.

To say CC’s notice is a bombshell is an insult to bombs. Wade can’t imagine his life without his “left tackle.” She’s the only person who can tell him “no” and strangely, it’s his favorite quality. He’ll do anything to keep her from leaving, even if it means playing dirty and dragging her back to Credence, Colorado, with him.

But now they’re living under the same roof, getting involved in small-town politics, and bickering like an old married couple. Suddenly, five years of fighting is starting to feel a whole lot like foreplay. What’s a quarterback to do when he realizes he might be falling for his “left tackle”? Throw a Hail Mary she’ll never see coming, of course.

First Impressions

CC has been working as personal assistant to former NFL quarterback, Wade, for almost six years, and we’re meant to believe she’s at her wits end in his employ. She’s seemingly just biding her time to finish out her contract before she can yell out “I quit!”, pack up her things, and move to California. That’s the plan. But her plan is thrown off kilter when Wade drags her to his small hometown community of Credence, Colorado to help out on his family farm following his father’s stay in hospital. This is when CC starts to view him in a new light, and finds herself having a few too many erotic dreams of her employer, which she begrudgingly labels as “farmer porn”. Overall a fantastic premise, but there were a few missteps in execution.

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The Un-bossy Farm Boy

CC makes it sound as though working for Wade the last five and a half years has been an absolute nightmare. However, we never really see him act the tyrant he’s supposedly meant to be. Sure, there are some unique quirks to working for this famous retired quarterback, like ensuring he’s constantly well-stocked in Nerds candies, and interceding phone calls from the women he dumps. This is all in addition to her regular PA responsibilities, so it’s not all ridiculous requests. There aren’t really enough moments of him being this supposedly uber-annoying employer for us to truly commiserate with her frustration and desperation to get out of his life forever. This then sort of transitions into the second aspect of the book that I found confusing, which was that after so many years under his employ, CC is suddenly starting to fantasize about being…under Wade in an entirely different sense.

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The reasoning for this is explained away as suddenly seeing him in a different, homey environment. Again, I think if we’d seen a few more glimpses of him being a hard-ass boss in the beginning, and then witnessing a total transformation to him having a softer side after going back home, then the evolution of her feelings for him would have made more sense. Instead we almost see the opposite happen, where Wade becomes more of a complainer after returning home as his mother and the town council strategize ways to entice single women to move to their small dying town. I was left wondering why, after over five years of an apparently unbearable working relationship, CC abruptly started to view Wade in such a different light. I think we can more fully understand Wade’s change of demeanor, as he’s suddenly presented with the prospect of a life without her. But can the change for CC really just be attributed to an erotic dream featuring Wade as the male lead?

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An Absentee Relationship

Aside from the confusion surrounding the transformation of their relationship from employer/employee to something more, I was extremely surprised to see how much of the book CC and Wade actually spent apart from each other. In a way, I appreciated that CC was constantly reminding us they’d worked together for almost six years. Otherwise I would have questioned how well they actually knew each other considering how little time they spend in each other’s company. The bulk of the book involves them contemplating their evolving emotions, and when they do eventually come together in the physical sense I must say I wasn’t thrilled with how it unfolded.

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I was hoping for some kind of passionate confession about their feelings, or maybe Wade would finally admit that he needs CC for more than his Nerds fix. Instead we see that following the untimely death of CC’s estranged father she ingests about half a bottle of tequila, and spends most of the night vomiting as Wade comforts her. They pass out in each other’s arms, and upon waking the next morning things get kind of steamy. After five years I think I was hoping for a more climactic scene full of emotion, rather than one steeped in alcohol.

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Series: Credence, Colorado; book 1. While I wasn’t thrilled with this first book, I was definitely a fan of the town of Credence, as well as some of the supporting characters. I actually had more of an emotional connection to the love story which involved Wade’s brother rather than the one involving Wade. Maybe I’ll see what book 2 has in store.

Final Impressions: I think we needed more of a glimpse into CC and Wade’s working relationship before the move to Credence. It was kind of difficult to fully stand behind the transition of their feelings when we didn’t get the entire picture of their interactions beforehand. It seemed as though the basis was going to be that CC finally saw Wade in a different environment which made her start to see him in a different way, but this wasn’t fully executed. The big issue here was that the characters spent so much of their time in Credence apart from each other, that it was difficult to understand how they could begin to develop a more romantic relationship.

Smut Level: Only two scenes of an erotic nature, and nothing too descriptive to make you blush.

Get it on AmazonClick Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Dreamscape Media, Entangled: Amara. 362 Pages.

Hot as Puck by Lili Valente

What could be better than a sexy, funny, caring hockey player with six-pack abs? How about one who also likes to crochet?

What’s it About? 

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The NHL’s biggest bad boy is about to fall for the virgin next door…

I am the world’s biggest dating failure. We’re talking my last date went home with our waitress kind of failure. But I have an ace in the back pocket of my mom jeans–my sexy-as-sin best friend, NHL superstar forward, Justin Cruise. Justin owes me favors dating back to seventh grade, long before he became a hotshot with a world famous…stick. So in return for my undying platonic loyalty, all I want is an easy-peasy crash course on how to be a sex goddess. How hard can it be?

***

I have never been so hard in my life. The things I want to do to my sweet, kindergarten-teaching, mitten-crocheting best friend Libby Collins are ten different kinds of wrong. Maybe twenty. But I’m a firm believer in teaching by example, and by the end of our first lesson, we’ve graduated to a hands on approach to her education: my hands all over her, her hands all over me, and her hot mouth melting beneath mine as I prove to her there isn’t a damned thing wrong with the way she kisses. Give me a month, and I’ll transform Libby from wall flower to wall banger, and ensure she’s confident enough to seduce any guy she wants. Problem is… the only guy I want her seducing is me.

First Impressions

Alright ladies and gentlemen, I think we can all agree that the cover pic of this read deserves honorable mention. Not to mention the play on words we have happening with the title Hot as Puck, as well as the name of the entire series Bad Motherpuckers. Cue delighted golf clap. Now, plot-wise we’re essentially dealing with a friends-to-lovers romance, which is one of my favorite themes of all times. With any novel dealing with friends who choose to elevate their relationship into something more sexual, we always question what will be the turning point in their dynamic? When will one or both of them start to look at the other as something more than a friend? When it comes to this read, almost immediately after breaking up with his girlfriend, Justin notices Libby walk into the room wearing a tight black tank top. And his pants get just a smidge tighter. Sooooo, I guess you can say wardrobe choice was the deciding factor here!

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Lesson One: Find Your Pleasure

While the impetus for Justin seeing Libby in a new light was inspired by her clothing, for Libby she turns to Justin for some instruction. She has a huge crush on somebody she works with, and she wants her long-time friend to teach her a thing or two on how to please a man. Yet another theme that’s usually one of my favorites in Romancelandia. With this situation however it wasn’t quite the sexucation I was expecting. I assumed it would be more about the logistics and techniques of how she might be able to give her crush the ultimate pleasure by using Justin as her instructor in all things sex.

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However, once Justin and Libby start spending some couch/bed time together, it turns out the giving and receiving of pleasure comes pretty naturally for both of them. Libby didn’t really need an education in the mechanics of sex after all, but rather in how to build up her own self confidence. This is what Justin is able to teach her. That she is a beautiful, desirable woman that any man would be lucky to have. A past break-up is what made Libby question her sensuality, but it doesn’t take long following a roll in the sheets with Justin for her confidence to start shining through.

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Series: Bad Motherpuckers, book 1. Again, gotta love the series title here, and I can see myself continuing with it.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read that definitely brought a stupid grin to my face many times when I listened to it as an audiobook. I’d say that Libby and Justin develop more of a friends with benefits situation than the sexucation I was really hoping for, but it’s still fun to see their relationship evolve. While both are initially surprised to find how much pleasure they can bring each other, eventually they realize it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Smut Level: Justin and and Libby bond over something more than just sex, and that would be their love of crochet. But who says you can’t bring the two delights together? Hence Justin’s wearing of a cock puppet…which is basically an adult sock puppet…on a certain part of his anatomy…

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self Taught Ninja Publishing. 330 Pages.

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Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

Who knew palindromes could be such a sexy turn-on?

What’s it About? 

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You’d think a billion dollars, a professional hockey team and a six-bedroom mansion on the Promenade would satisfy a guy. You’d be wrong. For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.

When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together. Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?

First Impressions

I must say I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved this book! I went in with low-to-no expectations, yet practically every time I listened to a little snippet of it before work I’d find myself with a smile almost permanently plastered on my face. It’s simply the epitome of the perfect beach read. Fun, romantic, silly, light-hearted, and you can really just relax and enjoy it as the sun shines and the waves crash along the sandy beach. Nate and Rebecca have been co-workers for years, but more importantly they’ve developed a beloved friendship on top of their professional relationship. It’s only when Rebecca sustains an injury which literally throws her off-balance that we see she and Nate develop a level of closeness they’ve never experienced before.

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What’s Standing in the Way? 

It’s only when Rebecca gets a concussion following a little slip on the ice that Nate starts to realize how much his beautiful employee means to him. We don’t just have a friends-to-lovers romance going on, but also the complexities of an office romance mixed in there as well. I was quite surprised, and happily so, that Nate’s immense wealth (simply the fact that he had money) was never really a point of contention between them. Sure, sometimes he used his money in a way to support Rebecca without consulting her ahead of time, and the ensuing arguments caused some pointed grumbling. However, we see other factors were significantly more influential in causing Nate and Rebecca to hesitate in pursuing the romantic relationship they both desired.

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First, there’s the fact that they’re also in an employer/employee dynamic. While they’ve had a friendly relationship throughout the years, they’ve always maintained a level of professionalism in the work place, and it’s a line they’re not quite willing to risk crossing. A second hurdle that Rebecca personally had to jump over was her own sense of intellectual inferiority when compared to Nate. He didn’t just happen upon his wealth, but rather he earned it by putting his smarts to good use in the tech industry. His level of genius intimidates her, and often makes her feel as though he deserves better. It’s only through a multitude of flashbacks depicting the progression of their relationship, and through their current interactions of Nate caring for Rebecca that we see how comfortable and at ease these two can be with each other. In a way, this proves to be more important than the sexual chemistry they both share.

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Series: Brooklyn, book 1. I’m gonna continue on with this series.

Final Impressions: This is such a fun read, and the perfect book to bring along on your next beach vacation. Personally, I would recommend listening to this one as an audio book, primarily for the AI character, Bingsley, who proves to be a source of comedic relief with his uptight British accent in the midst of this modern New York City burrough. Nate and Rebecca are two delightful characters who you can’t help but love, and their connection feels so real it’ll put a smile on your face.

Smut Level: These two get surprisingly creative with a rubber pool float.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Rennie Road Books. 298 Pages.

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Sweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell

A dash of MMA mixed with a pinch of a fake marriage is the perfect recipe for the sweetest of romances.

What’s it About? 

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Sophie Caldwell might not like asking for help, but help is what she needs if she’s going to save her family business from her uncle. Her grandma left one rule for Sophie if she wants to gain sole ownership before she’s thirty–get married. Yeah, fat chance of that happening since she hasn’t had a boyfriend in years, and now she can’t get her uncle off her ass.

British-born MMA fighter Xander James has never lost a fight, and he’s not about to start now. He’s on the brink of a comeback that could make him a UFC champion, but his landlord wants to take away his last chance by shutting down his gym. Hell, no. Fortunately, his landlord’s niece has a problem of her own. Time for a proposal she can’t refuse.

First Impressions

Of all the novels in the Fighting for Love series, this fourth installment has definitely been my favorite. It’s not just because I have an affinity for accents, and our male lead happens to have a delightful British lilt. It’s also not because our female lead owns a bakery, and I have a penchant for baking pies and cakes of my own. Although…those things certainly didn’t hurt! No, the reason this book was a cut above the rest was because Xander and Sophie had a natural and easygoing chemistry that felt completely legitimate and all-consuming.

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In order to save her bakery and his gym, the two enter into a fake marriage which must last for at least six months so that her dubious uncle doesn’t lay claim to the city block where their properties are located. What starts off as a temporary marriage of convenience quickly turns into one full of emotion. The fact Xander and Sophie also happen to have off-the-charts sexual attraction certainly helped. While it’s never clearly explained why they didn’t pursue a relationship prior to the need for a temporary marriage considering their longtime flirtatious friendship, you can’t help but be captivated by their intimate connection. We root for their marriage to last beyond the six-month timeline, even though we know there’s someone who will do anything to tear them apart.

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The Family Connection

Sophie’s uncle is our villain who is trying his damnedest to prove that Xander and Sophie’s relationship is a sham. He has his sights set on selling this city block to a developer for a rather large sum of money, but Xander and Sophie are the only holdouts unwilling to play ball. For Xander, the current location of his gym is a matter of convenience, and with him training for an important upcoming MMA fight, the last thing he has time for is to go searching for a new property. As for Sophie, she took over her bakery from her grandmother, and giving it up is something she could never imagine, as it would be like losing a piece of her family. While Xander and Sophie’s relationship smoothly progresses, we know it’s just a matter of time before her uncle weasels his way into the situation to spoil things.

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Sophie’s grandmother and uncle prove to be very important supporting characters to her relationship with Xander. The scenes involving her grandmother were particularly poignant and deeply moving. It’s in these moments that we see a soft and caring side to Xander’s tough fighter’s exterior, and it clearly demonstrates to Sophie that he’s a genuinely good guy worth loving. As for her uncle, it was rather predictable how his meddling would present a hurdle for Sophie and Xander to jump over, but there was another aspect to his presence that I wish could have been tweaked. Essentially, the only primary interactions we see involving Sophie’s uncle involve him dealing with Xander. I think it really could have added an additional layer of struggle if we’d seen at least one more scene where Sophie had confronted her uncle directly. Perhaps a heart-to-heart where he admits his motivations for wanting to sell his mother’s bakery, and Sophie simultaneously acknowledging why it’s so hard for her to let it go. They are family after all, and it was somewhat disappointing for all of his interactions to be limited to dealing with Xander rather than Sophie.

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Series: Fighting For Love, book 4. My favorite book of the series!

Final Impressions: This was such a fun read. Xander and Sophie’s connection felt so real, not only in terms of their affection, but also their sexual chemistry and ability to bicker and tease like an actual couple. Sure, the ending was fairly cheesy and predictable, but the journey to get there was delightful. I loved every scene where we saw Xander and Sophie interacting with her grandmother, as it lent an emotional depth to the story that I wasn’t expecting. I think I would have preferred a bit more confrontation between Sophie and her uncle, although it was great to see Xander stand up for her in the face of this intimidating family member.

Smut Level: When you have a bakery owner as one of your main characters, you just know frosting is gonna come into play with sexy fun times.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Brazen. 260 Pages.

Trying to Score by Toni Aleo

I’m starting to notice some shared features of the books in this series. 1) they’re about 200 pages too long, and 2) the female leads are extremely frustrating.

What’s it About? 

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Fallon Parker’s dream has always been to turn her family’s wine company into a runaway success and eventually start a cellar of her own. Since graduating from college, she has worked relentlessly to make that dream a reality, especially after taking a chance on love–and losing. By the time Fallon becomes an official sponsor of the Nashville Assassins, she feels like all her hard work is finally paying off. And then the man who broke her heart skates back into her life.

On the ice, Lucas Brooks is the NHL’s leading scorer–at least when he’s not in the box. Off the ice, he’s a mess, with all his anger and misery bottled up inside. He threw away the most important person in his life and has regretted it ever since. But when Lucas returns to Nashville in a trade, he’s determined to convince Fallon that he’s a changed man. The attraction is still there. The tension is electrifying. But the odds are stacked against them–especially after Lucas finds out that Fallon has been keeping a devastating secret.

First Impressions

This novel definitely left me with some conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I can’t help but commend the author for succeeding in making me sympathize with our male lead Lucas, who cheated on Fallon years ago when they first dated. Cheating is a big no-no, and often a death knell for my opinion of any character. However, we’re able to see how troubled Lucas was back then as he turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with his father’s death. While this was certainly no excuse for his cheating, it demonstrated how tumultuous his head space was back then. More importantly though, we see how much Lucas has struggled and grown as a person in the seven years since, and succeeded in moving past his depression and addiction to become a whole new man. One who is ready to fight to win back the love of his life, Fallon.

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And this is where the conflict comes in. Fallon is definitely one of the most frustrating female lead characters I’ve encountered in a long time. Following the discovery of Lucas in bed with her best friend, Fallon ran away as fast as her legs could carry her, and vowed to cut Lucas out of her life entirely. Girl, I feel ya! You do you. Her misstep though was that she soon discovered she was pregnant with Lucas’s child, and yet she chose to keep it a secret from him. It’s only when Lucas is ultimately traded to the hockey team in Fallon’s home town that their lives are thrown together once again, and Lucas discovers the shocking truth that he’s a father to a son he never knew existed. Fallon may have had every right to cut Lucas out of her life, but not their son’s.

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Where Past Meets Present

Now I know what you’re probably thinking. If Lucas was douche enough to cheat on Fallon, how was she supposed to know how he might treat their child. As it turns out, pretty easily! Throughout the first part of the novel, we see a constant interweaving of their present situation with flashbacks from the development of their past relationship. We see it all, from the night they first met to the moment when everything fell apart. We also see some of their more intimate conversations of what they wanted out of life, and how much they loved each other. It’s during these flashback scenes that we learn how much they both wanted children, Lucas especially.

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Fallon fully acknowledges that Lucas was always very open about how much he wanted children, and admits that if their relationship hadn’t fallen apart years ago they’d probably have a few children by now. That makes it almost impossible to sympathize with her decision to keep Lucas in the dark for so long about the fact that they have a child. Yes, he cheated on her like an ass hat. Inexcusable. But he should have known about his kid. Especially when we learn how crushed he was after the death of his father when he was just a teenager, and his vow that no child should grow up without a father. She not only robbed Lucas of the chance to see his son grow up, she also denied their child the opportunity to get to know his dad.

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Letting Him Back In

Eventually Lucas discovers that he has a son named Aiden, who is just about as adorable of a character that you can get. They’re both so excited to get to know each other, and Lucas’s love for Aiden is clear as day. However, Fallon seems determined to be annoyed or angered by everything Lucas does when it comes to his interactions with her son. Even the simple act of giving Aiden a nickname fills Fallon with unnecessary rage and annoyance. While most would see it as a cute way for father and son to bond, she sees it as Lucas interfering in everything she’s built and developed with her son, including his very name. Mkay chill out a little bit, it’s not like he took him to get a legal name change or anything, it’s a nickname for crying out loud.

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When it comes to Lucas, he is absolutely determined to not only get to know his son, but also to win back Fallon so they can finally have their happily ever after. I couldn’t help but question…whyyyyyy her?? Fallon never told him he was a father, and kept their son from him for over seven years. On top of it all, once the two reunite Fallon is as standoffish and close-minded as ever when it comes to allowing Lucas back into her life. She pushes him away at every turn, is rather demeaning in her comments towards him, and yet Lucas keeps coming back for more. Dude, there are other fish in the sea you know! Even when they do start dating again, and Lucas opens up about all the pain and addiction from his past, it’s clear that Fallon is still holding back from placing her full trust in him. She’s seen how much he cares for their son, that he wants nothing more than for them to all be a family, but it’s almost like she’s just waiting around for him to make some kind of mistake that she can use as an excuse to end things between them.

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Series: The Assassins Series, book 2. While the story lines for books one and two were definitely distinct, they were still similar in being too long and having female leads who were beyond frustrating. I’m thinking I’ll give one more book in this series a try. If we see yet another heroine who gets on my nerves I might have to call it quits.

Final Impressions: Aiden and Lucas were far and away the two bright lights of this story, with Fallon being the dark stain of the group. I almost wish we could have just seen a story which focused on the two of them learning how to be father and son, and simply eliminated the romantic component between Lucas and Fallon. While we can certainly understand Fallon’s initial distrust of Lucas considering his past misdeeds, the fact she kept Aiden’s existence a secret for so long was inexcusable, and her inability to see how much Lucas has matured and grown as a person over the past 7 years was beyond frustrating. I couldn’t help but feel that Lucas could have done better.

Smut Level: Fallon seemingly does everything in her power to push Lucas away, so it’s understandable that it takes a while before they do the deed. When they finally do, Lucas is determined to show that their connection is as strong as ever, and he won’t let her get away so easily a second time.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Loveswept Publishing. 578 Pages.

Playing for Keeps by Ashlie Knapp

A man with six-pack abs who loves watching the Food Network and cooking Bobby Flay recipes? Oh yeah, I can get behind that!

What’s it About?

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To her friends and family, Aria Cook is a sassy, foul-mouthed, not-a-care-in-the-world woman. She dances for the Oklahoma City Thunder and tends bar at her father’s trendy downtown bar, A Shot of Whiskey. What her friends and family don’t know, however, is Aria’s running from a past she can’t escape no matter how hard she tries.

Trevin Anderson is a love ’em and leave ’em kind of guy. He knows most women only want the fame associated with dating an NBA athlete. He doesn’t get attached. He has a job he loves, a sister and mother he adores and friends who have his back. He doesn’t need anything else.

After a failed first date, Trevin can’t walk away. Maybe it’s the thrill of the chase; perhaps it’s something more. She calls him her stalker. He calls her his girlfriend. Which one will be right in the end?

First Impressions

Aria and Trevin both put on an air of something they’re not. Her more-so than him, but essentially they’re both hiding the sensitive side of their nature from the rest of the world. He has the reputation as the ultimate man whore of the Thunder basketball team, always with a different woman on his arm, and never making promises about forever. However, when it comes to his time with Aria he becomes 100% dedicated to her. He’s not afraid to be sweet and affectionate with her, whether it’s renting out an entire animal park to give her an amazing experience with the animals, or constantly asking if he can change his relationship status on Facebook so everyone knows they’re dating.

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Trevin is smitten like a kitten, and he doesn’t care who knows it. As for Aria, she puts on a front of being a sassy, carefree chica who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and doesn’t let anything phase her. In reality, she’s experienced an intense trauma in her past that she keeps hidden from those closest to her. She doesn’t want others to know her weakness, so she’s essentially overcompensating in an attempt to show strength. Most people accept her facade as truth, but Trevin is the only one who recognizes she’s putting on a mask, and he’s determined to dig deeper than anyone else in an attempt to uncover who the real Aria is. She’s terrified her past will cause him to leave, no matter how much he declares he’s in it for the long haul. You can’t help but fall in love with his determination in the face of her hesitancy.

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“She put on a brave, smartass and carefree facade, but the closer he’d gotten to her the more he’d seen her vulnerability.”

A Long Wait

The development of Trevin and Aria’s relationship is a comedic delight to watch, while also interspersed with moments of emotional connection between the two of them. Throughout it all, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop that will ultimately test the foundation of their relationship. It’s an inevitability we know is bound to happen! Most of the book involves Trevin convincing Aria to let down her guard, and to trust in them as a couple. Once she finally does, and admits how much she loves him, things are almost going too well for them. Especially after they meet each other’s parents and aren’t fully scared off. We constantly wonder what will cause their perfect bubble to pop.

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Will Aria get scared off by his intimate affections and desire to take their relationship to the next level? Will Trevin’s man-whore reputation come back to bite him in the bum? We’re waiting, and waiting….and waiting. It’s not until about the last 10% of the book that we finally witness the drama that threatens to break up their relationship, and I must say I did not see it coming! Definitely a surprise, although it took a bit too long for us to finally get to this climactic moment, and then it was resolved fairly quickly. It was an interesting twist for sure, but it probably could have been fleshed out more fully to take the conclusion to a whole other level.

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

Series: Playing, book 3. This was probably my favorite book in the series, if not a close tie with book one.

Final Impressions: This was a fantastic addition to the series. Overall it was a funny and cute read with some adorably likable characters. From Tristan’s mother who fully encourages him and Aria to have sex even if she’s staying just down the hall, to the whole cast of female characters from the previous two books. Aria and Tristan both had depth to their personalities that they didn’t always choose to share with others, yet as their love for each other grows they let their shields drop to reveal the softer side hiding just below the surface. The final drama at the end did seem a bit rushed, and could have been incorporated more fully into Aria and Tristan’s story, but nevertheless it was a fun read.

Smut Level: Some intimate make-out sessions, touches and caresses, but normally the sex scenes themselves were ones which faded to black before we witnessed anything too sensual.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 280 Pages.

Dominic by L.A. Casey

Pet names can be an adorable feature of any relationship. Honey bunny. Sweetie pie. Snuggle muffin. The list goes on and on. The pet name that Dominic quickly developed for Bronagh was “pretty girl”. Throughout the development of their relationship though he also threw out several references to her being a slut, bitch, and fat ass. Soooooo…yeah. There’s that.

What’s it About?

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After a car accident killed her parents when she was a child, Bronagh Murphy chose to box herself off from people in an effort to keep herself from future hurt. If she doesn’t befriend people, talk to them or acknowledge them in any way they leave her alone just like she wants.

When Dominic Slater enters her life, ignoring him is all she has to do to get his attention. Dominic is used to attention, and when he and his brothers move to Dublin, Ireland for family business, he gets nothing but attention. Attention from everyone except the beautiful brunette with a sharp tongue.

Dominic wants Bronagh and the only way he can get to her, is by dragging her from the boxed off corner she has herself trapped in the only way he knows how…by force. Dominic wants her, and what Dominic wants, Dominic gets.

First Impressions

Alright, let’s kick things off right away by saying that this is an unhealthy relationship filled with both verbal and physical abuse. It’s a high school romance, meaning that it’s full of some pretty eye rolling moments of high school-level petty drama, but we have the added bonus of an underground fighting component built in. The fact this is a new adult romance in a high school setting prompted me many times to hope that no adolescent teen boys decided to pick up this book for a quick perusal. Or any teen girls for that matter.

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It basically highlights that a girl can tell you in as many ways possible that she wants you to leave her alone, from screaming that she hates you, to literally crying and pleading for you to leave her alone, throwing things at you, even slapping you as hard as she can because of your teasing words, and vowing that she’s not interested in you. But! Don’t worry. You keep at it young man. If you persist long enough, weasel your way in slyly enough, and essentially beat to a pulp and threaten death upon any other guy who shows an interest in her, you’ll succeed in winning her over. Honestly, it was a fairly uncomfortable read and progression of a relationship. I kept hoping that at some point in the book these two would realize they’re just not meant for each other and go their separate ways.

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Where No Means Maybe

The entire first half of this novel shows us how Bronagh detests Dominic’s presence in her life with every fiber of her being. She adamantly articulates how she hates and loathes him. They exchange verbal insults, with him calling her a bitch and slut, to her calling him a faggot and an arsehole. She tries to get him out of her mind by going on a date with someone else, which causes him to crash their outing and beat her date to a pulp. While Dominic never physically hurts her (on purpose), Bronagh slaps him on multiple occasions when he says something particularly insulting, and even throws objects at him to the point where they break. And yet, underneath it all we see glimpses of lust and desire between them.

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Sure, he might call her a bitch in one scene, but then he’ll stake his claim by calling her his woman in another. It was such a whiplash of emotion I couldn’t help but wonder “wait…are we supposed to think this is an awwwwww cute moment?” Now, sure, I have reviewed several romances here before where I commend the verbal sparring matches between a couple that eventually result in a passionate kiss or sexual escapade. Those delightful moments when you can tell two people try to push each other away, but are then reduced to two burning forces of need where they have no choice but to end an argument by pushing each other up against a wall and tearing their clothes off. However, this book takes those verbal arguments to the extreme, where it doesn’t seem like foreplay or flirtation anymore, but rather actual animosity.

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Ripping Her Out of the Shell

Bronagh has always kept herself closed off from letting people in. This hearkens back to the death of her parents when she was just a little girl. It made her understand the fragility of life, and that at any point people can be ripped away from you. The only person she’s ever connected with and openly trusts is her sister. But when Dominic comes onto the scene, things change. After so many years of being quiet and reserved, Dominic has managed to spark an emotional reaction from her, and it results in Bronagh finally starting to open up to people. Even her sister recognizes this change, and uses it as a reason to push Dominic and Bronagh together. Here’s the problem with that logic though. The emotional reaction he sparks within her is essentially hatred.

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Yes, she’s finally interacting with someone, but her primary interactions with Dominic involve shouting, taunting, and even some physical slaps and punches from Bronagh.
Once they get all that initial violent and hate-filled…foreplay?….out of the way what’s left is physical yearning and lust. It was kind of worrying to me with one scene in particular where Bronagh allows Dominic to get her off in a public space (even though she told him to stop a few times), and while she internally admits that it was an action that was out of character for her, she equated it as a demonstration of how much she must trust him. That…isn’t trust. That’s just someone who is really convincing at seduction, and instead highlights how lust can be confused with emotional connection. I understand how some would see it as a positive thing that someone has finally managed to get Bronagh to come out of her shell, but it just didn’t seem like the most healthy way to do it. It’s basically like Dominic came along and was determined to crack open that shell under any means necessary, and he wanted to rip her out of it so he could keep her all for himself.

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Series: Slater Brothers, book 1. While the romance depicted in this first book wasn’t my favorite, I won’t be giving up on this series quite yet. There are a number of interesting Slater brothers who will be the focus of future books, and I must say I’m intrigued by some of them.

Final Impressions: The first half or so of this book is all about the dynamic between Bronagh and Dominic, and how they toy with both their dislike yet attraction for each other. Personally I think it pushed the whole idea of foreplay bickering a bit too far, and was indicative of an unhealthy relationship.

Smut Level: Technically they only have sex once, but they do plenty of other experimental things in the interim!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.51 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 343 Pages

Hard by Eve Jagger

Cassie will do anything she can to make sure she doesn’t lose her home to pay off her brother’s debts. Even if it means she has to spend every day working for an intimidating, sexy bastard.

What’s it About?

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Strong. Arrogant. Hard. Ryder Cole is the King of Atlanta’s nightlife — and the one man who can erase my past. I’m running from secrets that could destroy me and there’s no room in my life for someone like him: too damn cocky, and sexy as hell. I should keep my distance, but smart goes out the window the minute he looks my way. And when he puts his hands on me…? A girl could forget her own name. But what happens when the past catches up with me, and all the things I’m hiding from tear our lives apart again? I can’t keep running forever, and Ryder always wins. He’s not the kind of guy to let me go gently, Ryder will give it to me hard.

First Impression

Cassie has just moved back to the United States after leaving an abusive relationship behind in England. She’s looking to escape from the drama in her life, but instead she walks into even more drama than what she was expecting. She’s fast asleep one night when she’s jerked awake by a devilishly handsome and muscled man named Ryder who is looking for her brother, Jamie. As well as the $10,000 Jamie owes him. When Cassie discovers her brother put their house up as collateral, she finds she has no choice but to start working off her brother’s debt by managing the account books for Ryder’s business. Her goal in working for this man is to untangle both herself and her brother from Ryder, but as Cassie spends more time in his world she finds herself ensnared by his passionate stare and sexual magnetism.

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All in all, I kind of wish Cassie and Ryder had met differently. Not necessarily in regards to her brother owing Ryder a debt. That part was definitely an interesting impetus for them coming together! I just wish their first meeting hadn’t involved Ryder and his thugs kicking her door in one night looking for Jamie and his 10k. Even if Ryder did mistakenly assume he was walking in on Jamie that night instead of Cassie. I guess I found it a bit hard to believe that after being shaken awake in the middle of the night by a muscle bulging, tatted stranger, she’d be able to fall for him so quickly. I feel like I’d be shaking from shock for the better part of a year after such a rude awakening. But I treasure my sleep, so anyone who interrupts it immediately rises to the top of my enemy list. Has anyone seen my list by the way?

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She Gives as Good as She Gets

I absolutely loved the verbal chess match which plays out between these two. You never know who will put forward the most sass, and have the foresight to checkmate with just the right hint of sexual innuendo. Sometimes there is no clear winner. Ryder isn’t afraid to take what he wants when it comes to Cassie, which I understand sounds a bit…forceful, but believe me when I say Cassie is fully prepared, and desires to take everything Ryder is putting out there. What I love even more than the delightful physical element to their relationship though is when we get to see a softer side to Ryder’s character. He initially comes across as such a hard-ass bastard. The title of the book and series alone says it all!

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We are presented with this muscled, tatted, badass who is all intimidating businessman on the outside, but there’s more to this man. There’s a scene where Ryder explains to Cassie how he first got into fighting, and we discover that in spite of his tough exterior, at the heart of this man is someone who is willing to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. He looks out for others, and cares deeply for the people in his life. It was probably my favorite scene in the whole book. While Ryder lets his shield down a bit by letting Cassie take a glimpse into his past, unfortunately we see that Cassie isn’t necessarily as forthcoming with her own past.

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Keeping Secrets, or Withholding Details

Cassie chooses to keep the abusive aspect of her previous relationship from Ryder. Let’s face it, we all know that just means it will eventually come to light anyway, and Ryder will undoubtedly be very pissed that she kept it from him. And sure enough, it happens. Now, this ultimate reveal evoked some interesting reactions for me. Normally when we come across something like this in a romance novel, I get frustrated with the lead character for keeping such a large secret from their love interest. However, in this instance I can’t say I really fault Cassie for not revealing this aspect of her life to Ryder. She just met this man. Their relationship up to this point has been primarily physical, and they haven’t really defined their relationship. It’s definitely implied they’re exclusive, but they haven’t even been out on a date yet.

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Ok, yes, ideally she would have told Ryder she was still married. But this past with her ex, Sebastian, was one that was both mentally and physically abusive. I think even Cassie is trying to sort it all out for herself. She’s taken such a big risk by leaving Sebastian behind in England, only to arrive back home to find her brother owes a massive debt. Cassie is not even at the point where she’s admitted the truth of this broken relationship to her own family, let alone to some dude she just met that she’s sleeping with. So, in this regard, I get why she didn’t divulge the details to Ryder. Yes, he opened up about his past, how he defended a helpless classmate from the hands of a bully, as well as the deatils about his cheating ex. But in my opinion it’s a bit different than the emotional torment which Cassie has been suffering with for the last two years all by herself.

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Sebastian Comes To Town

That…being…said. Once the truth of her marriage does come to light, and we are presented with a scene where Ryder, Sebastian and Cassie are all in a mini face-off circle, I do kind of judge Cassie for not shouting out the truth of the matter at the top of her lungs. When Sebastian introduces himself to Ryder as Cassie’s husband, and that she’ll be going back with him to England, I don’t understand why she didn’t interject, “um, f*ck that! This dick hole beat me, and I’m not going anywhere with him.” Instead, she tries to persuade Ryder to leave him be, and insists that Sebastian is just leaving. Come on girl, stand up for yourself!

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I am happy to say though that my frustration didn’t last too long. Rather than let Ryder sulk, Cassie doesn’t hesitate in going after him. She still kind of tries to keep the darker  details of their relationship a secret, but eventually Ryder gets the truth out of her. Even better though is that when we build-up to the eventual final climactic finish where Cassie needs to confront Sebastian, my girl does not disappoint! We have an exciting finish where we finally see Cassie stand up to her abusive ex. The theme of giving back as good as she gets comes to light in her final confrontation with him too.

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Series: Sexy Bastard, book 1. I loved the introduction of all of Ryder’s business partners, as well as the female friends in their lives. I’m excited to see what comes next, as each character really has a personality all their own.

Final Impression: There was actually more depth and plot to this story than I was expecting. The details of Cassie’s past with Sebastian were dark and full of turmoil, but also added an element of suspense and anticipation to the plot. In addition, I enjoyed the scenes where we were able to see Ryder be more vulnerable with Cassie, and open up about his own past. Unfortunately I also feel that the story didn’t 100% come full circle for me in regards to Cassie’s brother, Jamie, and the debt he owed to Ryder. I would have liked to see more scenes between Cassie and Jamie especially, but for the majority of the novel Jamie is really reserved to the background. When he does finally reemerge, it’s to quickly hand over a bag of cash paying off his debt. Seeing as this debt was the impetus for the whole book, I felt that it’s resolution was thrown together a bit too quickly.

Smut Level: Holy crap. I can’t remember the last time I read a romance novel where a male lead was so eager to get his head between a woman’s legs.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Eve Jagger Books. 260 Pages.