My African Craving by Audrey Flynn

Erica has gone from hailing cabs and dodging traffic in New York City to dodging fires and poachers in the African safari. Not sure I’d be up to the task honestly!

What’s it About?

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When Erica Knight arrives in Lebombo Game Reserve for her first African safari she has no idea that her life is about to be changed forever. As an executive for a mining company she believes that negotiating the mining rights for the Lebombo Reserve will be a slam-dunk, but she didn’t count on locking horns with the reserve’s enigmatic owner, Jean-Luc de Graaf.

In the heart of a wild African landscape full of beauty and danger, Erica and Jean-Luc both stubborn and passionate find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict. With the Reserve threatened by vicious poachers and runaway fires, they are thrown together unable to contain the scorching attraction between them.

Far away from the rat race of New York Erica feels the stirring of a different drum, ancient and irresistible. But surrendering to the wild would mean she would have to submit to the powerful attraction to Jean-Luc and she isn’t ready to give up control just yet…

First Impression

Full disclosure here folks. The concept of going on an African safari has never really been very high up on my bucket list. I tried to think of why that is, and honestly it was kind of difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. I love animals, and ever since watching the Lion King as a kid my adoration for lions, giraffes, and most other African safari mammals was cemented. Maybe it’s because deep down I like to think of myself as a city girl through and through, so a real-life safari seems a bit too hot and sweaty for my tastes? However, this short novel does a rather fantastic job of demonstrating the almost transcendental experience an African safari can be for some people. I think the fact that our heroine is also a city girl (and one who loves Cabernet Sauvignon on top of it!) made it easier for me to connect with her appreciation for this beautiful landscape brimming with life. The scenes where we see Erica stare straight into the black depths of these big cats’ eyes provides us with just a small glimpse at how special and ethereal that connection with nature is. Maybe I’ll have to move an African safari just a bit higher up on my bucket list after all 😉

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Business or Pleasure?

Erica’s purpose in traveling to Africa isn’t solely to go on safari. She’s actually there in an attempt to establish a mining venture in the heart of this magical Game Reserve. This brings her up close and personal with the dedicated owner, Jean-Luc. These two are seemingly enemies on opposite sides of the table. He insists that eco-tourism and maintaining the beauty of this landscape will bring more stability to the region than a big mining company ever could. Not to mention his insistence that preserving the Reserve is crucial to ensuring the safety of the animals. She on the other hand won’t give up on the argument that big business means lots of money and success for the people of the land. There is one crucial feature though which connects these two, even if it seems like it divides them on the surface.

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Erica and Jean-Luc are fighters. They fight for what they believe in. They fight to protect those they care about. She grew up in the city, while he grew up in the plains of Africa. She worked two jobs to support her family and herself through college. He came from wealth and a family of privilege. So different on the outside, but they’ve both been taught to take care of themselves. Jean-Luc’s father was supportive, yet always taught him to work hard, and that in the bush you have to take care of yourself. You won’t always have someone to come to your rescue. As for Erica, her father abandoned her mother, sister and herself when she was young. While she didn’t have the constant support of a father-figure, his departure was perhaps the greatest life lesson she’d ever received. She learned to take care of her family through her own hard work and dedication. She couldn’t wait around hoping he’d come back. This inner determination makes it hard for either Erica or Jean-Luc to back down on what they’re fighting for, but they both recognize and appreciate that fight in the other.

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Moments of Silence

This novel certainly packs a punch in just 138 short pages. We have the arguments over the mining establishment, the constant threat of poachers to the tranquility of the Reserve, not to mention an approaching bush fire that might just destroy the entire region. And in the midst of it all there’s a budding romance between these supposed enemies. There’s a lot going on, but each subplot really does play an important role to the overall story. The drama involving the mines establishes the initial animosity and distrust between our two lead characters, but the hazards of hunters and flames demonstrate a crucial softer-side to both Erica and Jean-Luc.

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Ironically enough, the most exciting moments for me were not the ones involving a dramatic retreat from a bush fire, or a showdown with poachers. No, instead it was the few scenes where we find Erica and Jean-Luc finding a moment of peace and alone time together. It’s almost like the whole world stands still, and they’re able to connect in their own solitary bubble, even if they both know that they only have limited moments together before that tranquility is interrupted. Whether it be a quiet picnic next to a secluded lake, or a passionate embrace in the shower, Erica and Jean-Luc can find a few precious moments where they don’t just put their differences aside, but their differences practically disappear completely. Hands down, my favorite scenes of the book.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I’d really love to see a continuation where different characters might find their own serenity and romance in the midst of the Lebombo Reserve.

Final Impression: There’s definitely a lot going on in this short novel, and while you can’t really remove any subplot without the overall story feeling slightly broken, I do think adding just a few more chapters could have provided us with more depth to these side dramas. I did sort of guess one part of the big final reveal in regards to the poachers, but honestly I was expecting more sabotage than what we got. Ultimately I’m happy my inkling was incorrect as it would have been pretty heartbreaking, but the actual climax was still slightly predictable. I did enjoy seeing Erica and Jean-Luc find their few moments of tenderness and solitude in the midst of all the difficulties they’re dealing with in life. They’ve both put up walls in an attempt to protect themselves from the hurt of Erica’s eventual return to the US, but as they get through these dangers together their walls start to fall down, and in the end they’re left with each other.

Smut Level: These two slowly explore each other in a shower. But not just any shower. An outdoor shower!!! Definitely upping the details of this sexcapade locale.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Inkspell Publishing LLC. 138 Pages.

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The Boss by Abigail Owen

Finn’s scent is subtly smoky, with additional undertones of Bourbon and Coke. My God I think I’ve died and gone to dragon shifter Heaven!

What’s it About?

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Finn Conleth leads his team of enforcer dragon shifters with an iron fist and a cold heart. Every dragon seeks his destined mate, but the process to turn the woman he once thought was his killed her and devastated him. He will never risk his heart again. His team is his family now. When his body eventually gives out, he’ll leave, living his last days alone.

Delaney Hamilton moved across the country to escape the freak fires that plague her. But when another suspicious fire erupts and rapidly escalates around her, her hopes for a new life go up in smoke. She has no choice but to turn to the mysterious men who come to her aid.

Finn knows the fire is dragon-caused, which puts Delaney’s problems directly in his jurisdiction. No matter how her wounded grey eyes call to every part of him, he refuses to risk her life in the mating process. Until another dragon threatens to claim Delaney for his own, and Finn has to sacrifice everything to keep her alive…

First Impression

Our story here takes place concurrently with the events from the prequel, The Mate, and it was quite fun to see how the two story lines wove together into one cohesive drama. In our short story prequel, we got just a small taste of the intricacies of the dragon world, with the primary focus instead being on the official mating process between a dragon and his mate. In this book we finally get the fuller description that I was hoping for in regards to the details of the different dragon clans. We also get more detail about the importance and difficulties involved in hiding their presence from humans, so I was pretty thrilled to find this novel answer some of my logistical questions from the prequel.

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I really did enjoy the short prequel involving Finn’s brother Fallon discovering his mate, Maddie, but there was one component of this premiere novel which I think gave it a slight edge over the first one, and that would be the introduction of the Enforcers. We meet such a lovable team of characters, each with their own unique personality, and I for one can’t wait to get to know them more throughout the rest of the series. I have a feeling though that I might get slightly heartbroken, as you really do fall in love a bit with each of them, yet we know that there is one enforcer among them who is an informant for a former teammate gone rogue. There are some members of the group that we get to know better than others, but through it all you can sense that even though these dragons all come from different clans they have formed their own little family.

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When Mating Goes Wrong

Finn has spent the last few hundred years mourning the death of his supposed mate, Phoebe. The book opens with the moment the two tried to mate, but rather than it resulting in a successful link we instead see how Phoebe burned to ash in his very arms. She had looked upon him with such trust and love which quickly turned to the most brutal agony. Needless to say, Finn has had a rather difficult time getting Phoebe out of his head, and it’s easy to understand why they say that choosing a wrong mate doesn’t just result in the death of the female. A part of the male dies as well. He hears her screams every time he considers sleeping with another woman, or any time he thinks about finding his true mate. In spite of his immediate connection with Delaney, it will undoubtedly take some time before he can look into her eyes without his mind picturing the frightful way Phoebe burst into flame.

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His previous mating experience resulted in intense mental anguish, and a change in his personality. As he spends more time with Delaney though, Finn’s surly demeanor changes to one of possessiveness and desire. It’s something he tries to quell with all his might because when he sees the potential path it might lead him down with Delaney he once again just sees Phoebe burning. While I understand why his mind would be switched off to the idea of going through the mating process again, I must say it was kind of surprising how looooong it took for Finn to realize that Delaney was his mate. True, he lost a part of himself when Phoebe died, and he’s worried about the possibility of choosing wrong once again. However, surely he must realize that this connection he feels with Delaney, this pull between the two of them, is so much stronger, so much different than whatever it was he felt with Phoebe?

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Clan Drama Infighting

I do wish we had progressed just a bit further along with the drama of the coup d’etat involving Finn’s blue dragon clan, but we pretty much end at the same point that we concluded with in the prequel. It sort of feels like we’re moving up a mountainside, and just when we think we see a crest in view where maybe we’ll move along further, instead there’s more hill in front of us. I really wanted to see our characters connect directly with their new king who staged the coup, but that story still sort of remains in the background. At one point we even see an emissary of the king arrive, and it seemed like he would request Finn and Delaney travel to his hideout to meet him, but instead they remain behind to conclude the drama of Delaney’s stalker. The novel doesn’t necessarily end on a cliffhanger, but it definitely ends on a moment which will peak your interest to immediately want to dive right into the next book. The fact that I can’t has me itchy with anticipation!

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The ending implies that Finn, Delaney, and the rest of their dragon team aren’t necessarily out of the woods of danger. We also have quite a few plot questions left unanswered. We know that there’s an informant in the middle of Finn’s team. While I definitely have my suspicion of who our informant might be, we never receive a big reveal aha moment. Our story also ends with the implication that there’s someone else out there spying on the characters we’ve come to love throughout this book. Most importantly though, we never really figure out why Delaney is so different as a dragon mate. Normally, when a dragon mate is located, breathing dragon fire on the back of her neck produces a faint outline of which clan her mate will belong to. However, Delaney has no such mark, which is why Finn was adamant for so long that she was just a human. While we eventually see her emit other signs of being a dragon mate, we never discover why she never had the tell-tale mark on the back of her neck. Curious-er and curious-er. We’ll just have to see what answers, and maybe even further mysteries we’ll encounter going forward!

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be continuing on with this series. I also have a feeling I’ll want to make a T-shirt of all the cover art from the series because…well my God just look at it for crying out loud!

Final Impression: While I wasn’t expecting it to take so long for Finn to entertain the idea of Delaney being his mate, I must say the depiction of his inner struggle over whether or not to complete the mating process with Delaney perfectly captured his turmoil. He doesn’t want to risk the possibility of Delaney suffering the most excruciating kind of pain to burn and die in a pile of ash, but at the same time he doesn’t know if he can survive the rest of his life without her. We want to believe that the two are destined to be together, but we also can’t help but hold our breath as they consider whether or not to take that risk together in each other’s arms.

Smut Level: Well well, we have a little dirty talker on our hands. Since the death of Phoebe, Finn has certainly kept himself at arm’s length from other women, but that doesn’t mean the man has lost his touch! As for Delaney, she gets off on the idea of the rest of the enforcer team watching on as she and Finn make some flames in between the sheets. Finn is definitely too possessive to ever see that fantasy come true, but he’s more than willing to create the picture in her mind to bring them to the ultimate pleasure. You naughty little fire starter you!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 286 Pages.

The Mate by Abigail Owen

Finding a mate as a dragon shifter isn’t easy, and if you just happen to pick the wrong one you might die in the process. Jeez…and I thought my dating life had its complications. Maybe they just need some kind of app to bring them together. Dragonsonly.com, unlock the fiery passion within, and hopefully you won’t burn to ash.

What’s it About?

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Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it.

To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.

First Impression

I’d have to say this short prequel certainly does it’s job. First of all, it’s a fantastically quick, yet exciting read. I was able to finish it in one sitting during the time it takes to fly from DC to Columbia, South Carolina. I know because, well…I did it. We’re provided with a brief, and interesting introduction into this world of dragon shifters and enforcers. It doesn’t get too bogged down with unnecessary details, but instead lays the groundwork of what, why, how, and who wants to kill who. Whom? The simmering passion between Maddie and Fallon is palpable to the point where you’ll want to start fanning yourself to relieve some of the heat. A sexy and possessive dragon shifter who loves to tease, use sexual innuendo, has scorching blue dragon eyes when he gets riled up, and likes to refer to our female lead as “luv”? Seriously, somebody crank up the air conditioner in here, because these fiery dragons are setting my Kindle on fire!

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From the Mate to the Boss

This prequel also does a great job of piquing your interest for what will come in the next book, The Boss, which just so happens to come out on Monday! We are briefly introduced to Fallon’s troubled brother, Finn, who is the main focus of the next book. We are provided with a glimpse into Finn’s tragic back-story in which he tried to mate with a woman who wasn’t actually his mate. Turns out when you do that the woman goes poof into ashes. That’ll certainly put a damper on your evening. Although our time with Finn is brief in this novel, we can already tell he’s wise, endearing, and slightly broken. Gotta love a troubled male lead! I just can’t wait to find out what might be in store for Finn, and hopefully learn even more about this tragic event which has so greatly impacted his outlook on life.

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However, I have a pretty good feeling we’ll see him find his true mate after all. Something I’m assuming we’ll see more of, or at least I’m sincerely hoping, is more of an in-depth description and explanation of the dragon world dynamics. We are introduced to a fair number of key players in this novel, including a few kings with names I certainly can’t pronounce correctly, a variety of clans, families, blue dragons, red dragons, etc. I can’t say I fully understand how everything fits together, especially the dragon and human interaction, but I also don’t think we necessarily need to know all of that detail at this point. Again, I imagine this prequel is really laying the foundation for the next piece in the series where hopefully we’ll dig into things a little deeper.

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A Missing Meet Cute

Now, an important thing to keep in mind with this read is that while it’s definitely an entertaining prequel, it’s not necessarily a stereotypical one. I feel like in most instances when we have a prequel we are either presented with an introduction to how our lead couple met or will meet in the premiere novel, or we see just one side of the couple present their story. That doesn’t really happen here. As a matter of fact, we sort of get the opposite in that we basically walk into the middle of Maddie and Fallon’s relationship. We never really witness their initial meet cute first-hand, and the details of the first few months they spent together before eventually going separate ways is discussed sort of piecemeal.

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Apparently they investigated some arson cases together, and had already developed a cute rapport and physical interest. But our opening scene presents them to us months after they’ve split because Fallon thought she was a human that he could never claim. It’s almost like we’re missing the prequel to our prequel! Do I feel like we need a whole separate book showing us how Maddie and Fallon first met and what exactly happened during their time together before splitting? No. Do we need an extra 100 pages of set up to provide a more chronological view of their relationship from the start? Not really. A prologue may have been nice though. Something to establish right off the bat why their meeting in this castle is so profound.

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Breaking the Prequel Mold

Another way this differs from your typical prequel is that from what I understand of the synopsis of the next book, Maddie and Fallon really won’t be the main focus. Instead Fallon’s brother is. I imagine we’ll see mention of Fallon and Maddie somewhere in The Boss, but for the most part it appears as though that is a full Finn focus. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m excited as hell to read Finn’s story. Normally with a short prequel like this though, it’s meant to provide us with a brief introduction to what the main focus of the next book will be.

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In a way, it almost seems like your standard series progression would be a prequel showing how Maddie and Fallon first met, fell for each other, but then split because they didn’t truly understand who or what the other was. The premier novel would then be what we saw here, where Maddie and Fallon meet months later to pick up where they left off and go through the mate selection process. Then maybe we’d see a sequel with Finn as the lead. I’m not saying it’s required to follow this progression, and honestly it’s pretty refreshing to mix things up a bit! However, I think one initial scene which either showed Maddie and Fallon meeting, or splitting would have helped to create a fully comprehensive story arch.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 0.5. This prequel has definitely sparked my interest to see what might happen next for our blue dragon clan, and thankfully we don’t have long to wait! The Boss releases Monday, September 24, and hopefully I’ll have a review up and ready to go.

Final Impression: This novel might be short, but I think what draws you in and holds you tight is how we witness the progression of Fallon’s desire for Maddie. When he first arrives at this luxurious castle to meet a potential mate, he brushes it off as an impossibility. But then when he sets his sights on Maddie, and discovers it’s the “human” he fell for months before, his jaw hits the floor. We see an almost alpha desire and need for possession take hold of him. As we move along, and the possibility of Maddie choosing someone else as her mate comes to the forefront, we see Fallon’s initial desire turn to desperation. He knows with every fiber of his being that he and Maddie belong together. This teasing, confident man is suddenly overcome by the need to mate with this woman, and he’s even willing to go so far as to get down on his knees and beg for it to come about. To see this mating process surrounded by a growing tension of clan disputes and questions of loyalty, not to mention a final dragon battle, provides us with a delightful mix of lust, romance and action.

Smut Level: In order for two dragons to complete the mating process, the male dragon must fill the female with his fire. I’m sorry…but if that’s not a hint, hint, wink, wink moment then I don’t know what is.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Entangled: Amara. 114. Pages.

Extravaganza Conclusion: This is the final review this week as part of my marathon post extravaganza! Thanks everyone for playing along 🙂

 

Between the Shadows by Casi McLean

I think I can definitively say this was my favorite book of the whole series. It’s like everything finally clicks into place, and the story which has been building for the past three novels comes full circle.

What’s it About?

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She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold.

An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnapping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?

First Impressions

Alright, so let’s get this party started! Our novel once again focuses on the mysterious happenings around the fantastical Lake Lanier in the hills of North Georgia. Near Dahlonega. Well I’ll be a son of a b*tch if I’m not sitting in a hotel room in that very city typing out this review. Small…world! Here’s to work travel bringing you to the edge of the fantasy realm. Now I just need to be sure and avoid any and all lakes. Oh…my…goodness. My drive later this afternoon literally has me going right by Lake Lanier!!! Alright everyone, if you don’t hear from me by the end of the day tomorrow, let’s just assume that I’ve been sucked into a time portal which has thrust me back in time.

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When Past and Future Meet Present

Based on the synopsis you sort of get the sense that Kenzi and James would be the main leads of the novel, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! In my mind, this story revolves around York and Izzy, and they were an undoubtedly intriguing duo with a unique allure that sets them apart from any of the other characters we’ve seen so far throughout the entire series. York is from the future. Izzy is from the past. And yet we see them connect in what we know as the present. It was such a smart way of storytelling that distinguishes it from practically any other time travel romance. And my goodness have I read a few of those. They may meet in the present, and feel an undeniable link to each other, but both can sense that the present is not where they belong.

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Discovering she’s in 2018 rather than the 1800s induces no fear for Izzy, and instead she attempts to see the entire episode as an adventure. She’s definitely braver than myself, lemme tell ya! York is set on saving this woman from whatever fate befell her in the past. She knows she was attacked by a black-bearded man in an abandoned stone cellar in the wilderness of North Georgia at the end of the Civil War. Since her blackout she’s been stuck in the area around Lake Lanier, and can’t move beyond it’s perimeter. When York and his dog come along, she’s shocked that this man can hear her, touch her, feel her. For York, he too is surprised at the immediate connection with this woman from the past, and also by the fact that he feels they’ve met before in his future. That’s all it takes for him to become convinced their destinies are linked, and that he was meant to travel back in time to save her.

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Kenzi and Tess Enter the Mix

York is set and determined to risk his life to save Izzy from her sad, wandering fate. He can’t do it alone though, and relies heavily on Kenzi’s help. She knows how to activate Tess, her grandmother’s time travel device which can help them pinpoint a destination in time by channeling the fantastical energy surrounding Lake Lanier. Not only that, Kenzi also has medical training, which just might be the most useful time travel knowledge to have. Although the synopsis sort of sets Kenzi up as the main focus of the story, in my opinion she took on more of a supporting role.

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The importance of her character was undeniable, as well as her romantic link with a soldier from the past, James. However, I just didn’t feel the same connection with them  as I did with York and Izzy as a lead couple. Kenzi and James’ attraction came across as a bit more surface level, whereas with York and Izzy I felt their fear, their sadness, their desire for each other so much more. There was depth to their connection that was the beating pulse of the whole story. Again, this isn’t to say I didn’t like this other story with James and Kenzi, but it wasn’t the shining feature for me.

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A Time Travel Balance

What made this novel stand out for me when compared to the others in the series is that we see a perfect balance of time eras. We start things off in the present. Izzy is from the Civil War era and somehow infiltrates the solitude of York’s existence after he traveled back in time from the future. York then decides to travel back to Izzy’s time with Kenzi in the hopes that they can save her from whatever tragic fate apparently trapped her to wander the shores of Lake Lanier for centuries. And then we see the ideal culmination of events where Kenzi returns to the future with a companion in tow, while York remains in the past in an attempt to save Izzy. It’s a beautiful story arch of going from the present to the past, and then having the final scenes alternate back and forth between the two. Almost like a song or dance where we have two separate performances which finally blend into a cohesive duet. It made sense, it flowed, and you constantly questioned when and where our characters might end up.

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Fate, Fantasy, and Science

It may have taken me the entire series to finally comprehend, but I’ve ultimately come to the realization that this tale can’t be explained by just science or fantasy alone. Rather, it’s a melding of the two. We have the mysterious time travel element of Lake Lanier which really can’t be explained. This fantastical element can also influence some of our characters to have premonitions of future events, as well as communicate with people in the past. However, the power of the Lake can be harnessed and focused with scientific precision into Tess, which thereby becomes the entrance to the time travel portal. The mystery of Lake Lanier is sprinkled with magic, yet also built upon with science. You sort of need to allow your mind to open up to these possibilities, and realize that it’s not a case of just one or the other. The melding of these two characteristics is so much clearer in this final book that I finally feel like I understand how it all works.

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

Series: Lake Lanier Mysteries, book 3. A great end to the series in my opinion. Definitely my favorite of the three, but I think it’s imperative you read these in order. Book 1 especially lays the groundwork for all of the time travel elements going forward.

Final Impression: We’re presented with a nice conclusion that combines fate, fantasy, and science. York and Izzy were the standout characters for me, as well as his dog, Prince. Kenzi was sort of the tool to bring them all together, but I couldn’t really connect with her story as much. While interesting, it was definitely overshadowed by the connection of the other two characters, and the suspense of everything they’re dealing with to save Izzy. Everything from the previous books finally clicked into place for me. There’s no question left unanswered, or a set up for some other breakaway story. It’s a touching conclusion to a mysterious series.

Smut Level: We see a number of chin raises, open mouthed kisses, neck nuzzles, and a few mentions here and there of burning loins and rigid members. But no final climactic burst of ecstasy!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 320 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet. Regency, Historical, LGBT

Within the Skin by Zara West

She’s hidden her true identity from everyone for years. Dressing like a man on the outside, on the inside she’s a princess longing for her prince.

What’s it About?

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Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar.

Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy.

Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.

First Impression

First things first, I must say I really appreciated the synopsis that we’re presented with at the start of the novel. One of my main complaints from book two was that we were thrust right back into the story from book one without much of  recap. We’re dealing with a story which spans over the entire series, even though we focus on a different lead couple every time. Everything weaves together, and it’s crucial to know the dynamics of the characters and the intricacies of what has come before. We get a nice little summary at the start of this book which goes over most of the main themes and events from the last novel, which made it much easier to hit the ground running and jump right in with El Toro, aka Alba, and Pharaoh, aka Fur Tree. Man, I really need to up my nickname game. Totally slacking.

Believing in Fairy Tales

You know, this might very well be my favorite book in the series so far. The main reason being I was entranced by the complexity of Alba’s identity as El Toro. She’s worn the facade of being a boy for years to survive on the streets. To help her brother survive. And yet underneath the baggy clothes is a talented artist and young girl who once loved fairy tales and princesses. Her El Toro persona might be as the King of the group, but on the inside hides Alba, a little girl who once dreamed of being a princess. To have two identities within the same person, and witnessing her attempt to try and break free from her El Toro persona for the first time in years was a deeply emotional journey that I loved to travel along with her.

The Juxtaposition of Desire

Another fascinating aspect of this tale was the juxtaposition of El Toro and Pharaoh’s desire and need for each other. She’s secretly craved him for years, but has had to hide her identity behind the notion of brotherly camaraderie. When she finally gets her hands on him, it’s fulfilling a dream she’s wanted to come true for years. For Pharaoh, it’s seemingly love at first sight when he spots this beautiful “stranger”. An inexplicable draw when he first catches a glimpse of her as a woman. His desire is immediate, but if anything he tries to stay away because of his assumption that she must belong to his best friend, El Toro, not knowing that they are one and the same. When he finally gets his hands on her, it’s a sense of the forbidden, yet there’s also a link which was undoubtedly born of their friendship which he isn’t even aware of at this point. You can’t help but wonder what will happen when he undoubtedly discovers that the woman he’s lusting after is actually his best friend.

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Jumping from Building to Building

Overall this novel feels very fast-paced. Everyone is always on their feet, chasing around the city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. In addition, we’re constantly wondering how, or even if, they’ll ever escape from our villain Kiro’s clutches. You also lose count of the number of times El Toro’s brother, Hanger, escapes from Kiro only to be snatched up again pages later. But throughout all the running, chasing and threats of evil there are just a handful of moments where time stands still, and that is when Toro and Pharaoh come together in each other’s arms. They explore each other as thoroughly as possible, and make the other see the stars.

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What’s Missing?

Throughout the whole novel I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing, but I could never quite place my finger on it. Only when we get to the final climactic scene where Pharaoh is chasing after El Toro and Kiro did it come to me. I thought, “Oh maybe now he’ll finally find her and they can just have a hug already!” That’s when I realized, these two spend a vast majority of the novel separated from each other. They’re both sort of off doing their own things in the beginning. She’s trying to make it in the art world, and he’s becoming ensnared in a criminal enterprise against his will. Eventually both are dedicated to finding out what happened to Hanger and rescuing him from Kiro’s clutches, but it’s pretty rare to actually find them in a scene together. It does make those few scenes where they come together all the more precious, but I think one or two additional scenes towards the beginning with the two of them interacting, whether for her as El Toro or Alba, would have helped with the balance of the novel.

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

Series: The Skin Quartet, book 3. As I mentioned, this might be my favorite book of the series so far. El Toro and Pharaoh were such complicated, yet captivating characters. Be sure to read these books in order though so that you know who all the key players are.

Final Impressions: You really do wonder how they’ll ever manage to get out of this mess with Kiro. I felt like for a good portion of the book I was holding my breath, waiting for a calm in the midst of all the suspense. Those few peaceful moments are also the handful of scenes where we see El Toro and Pharaoh come together in the physical sense, but it doesn’t take long before the pressures of their world start to impede on their small bubble of serenity.

Smut Level: El Toro has been too busy disguising herself as a man, and protecting her brother on the streets to ever get physically intimate with a man herself. She’s desired Pharaoh for years, and when they finally come together she refuses to lay back and let him do all the work. She takes an active role in getting her hands allllll over him. You get some girlfriend!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 245 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: Between the Shadows by Casi McLean. Time Travel, Fantasy.

 

Review Madness Starts Monday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Release Extravaganza!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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