Until Harmony by Aurora Rose Reynolds

This series is all about that BOOM, and this installment just goes to show that if you try to push the BOOM aside, it will come back full force for the ultimate impact. 

What’s it About? 

Harmony Mayson isn’t the kind of girl to take unnecessary risk, but after meeting Harlen MacCabe, she starts to wonder if maybe she should be. The more time she spends with the wild and free biker, the more she starts to crave the freedom he gives her…. And even more, she starts to crave him. 

Harlen lives his life on his own terms. After losing both his parents at an early age to a robbery gone bad, he knows how precious life is, and he’s determined to get as much out of it as he can. When he runs into the beautiful Harmony and finds out she’s moving to town, he knows it’s time to take his shot. 

She thinks he only wants to be friends, but she couldn’t be more wrong. What Harmony and Harlen don’t know is that their time might be cut short. Revenge is in the air, and someone won’t stop until a debt is settled.

First Impressions

For avid readers of the entire Until series, if you’ve made it this far to the sixth book of Until Her/Until Him, believe me when I say you’re going to love it just as much as all the others which have come before. And if you haven’t read any of these books before…then what the heck is wrong with you?! Get on it already. This book presents us with everything we know and love about the series: a sexy and growl-y alpha male, a strong and tenacious female, lovable side characters (both new and beloved old friends), and of course, the BOOM that brings our two love birds together. What I loved so much about this installment was that Harmony and Harlen sort of try to suppress the immediate connection which has brought them together in the first place. 

Our novel opens with a chance meeting in a hospital parking lot after Harmony secures a job as a nurse there, and while Harlen would like nothing more than to throw her on the back of his bike to go celebrate, they both recognize the hesitation that Harmony feels about throwing all caution to the wind. After all, she’s no risk taker, so the idea of giving into her feelings for this seemingly bad-boy biker causes her to pause, an action that Harlen can see clear as day. While she declines his invitation for a joy ride, no matter how much she might want to say yes, this isn’t the end for our main characters. Harlen respects the boundaries of this initial rejection, but he refuses to let this be the end of their story. Throughout the next few chapters we see Harlen slowly try to reignite a connection with Harmony, but he’s almost too slow for his own good as it results in Harmony thinking he just wants to be friends. The more time they spend together as “buddies”, the more our risk-averse heroine contemplates the ultimate risk of laying all of her feelings out on the table. And once she does? Well, there’s no going back after that BOOM. 

The Happily Ever After

I was personally delighted by the subsequent romance which played out between our two lead characters, especially when we consider that Harmony was sort of the one to initiate it by finally acting on her desires for Harlen with a passionate kiss. Sure, she immediately tries to avoid him afterwards from embarrassment at the thought that maybe he didn’t want to be anything more than friends, but he’s more than willing to come after her to prove otherwise. I guess in a way it was a mutual overtaking of desire. The rest of their story is relatively drama free and even-paced as they easily fall into a relationship with each other. Harmony is willing to stand up to her overprotective father, Nico, to convince him that Harlen is the man of her dreams, just as Harlen won’t back down to convince Nico he’ll do anything to protect his beloved daughter. Harlen does indeed epitomize the characteristics of an alpha male, but I also appreciated that Harmony wasn’t afraid to poke the bear every once in a while. 

He demands a kiss before she leaves for work, or else he’ll have fun punishing her later? Well, she cheekily saunters out the door sans kiss to see just what he has in mind, and my goodness does she enjoy her “punishment”. Nothing like being held up against the wall for some sexy fun times, and yet in their post-passion haze we see Harlen put down his alpha wall to openly acknowledge how he does need that kiss from her every morning to make it through his day until he can see her again. And that’s one of the aspects I love about this series. Our alpha males clearly have a sensitive side to them, and we never doubt that the love they feel for their ladies goes deeper than merely a sexual component. There’s heart beneath it all. 

Series: Until Her/Until Him, book 6. It was so much fun diving back into this world. We get a brief introduction towards the end of this read of who the main characters will be for book 7, and I am more than ready to get started!

Final Impressions: This is the perfect kind of beach read. Funny, sexy, heartfelt, with just a smidge of drama to keep things interesting. The primary focus of the read truly is on the evolving relationship between Harlen and Harmony from their BOOM to friends to lovers, but delicately interwoven throughout the novel is an underlying sense of conflict involving a handsy doctor at Harmony’s work. The author does a fantastic job of simultaneously keeping this drama primarily reserved for the background, yet also slowly elevating it throughout the progression of the novel before it ultimately breaks through for a final, suspenseful climax. Be sure to add this one to your TBR pile. 

Smut Level: Harmony might express a bit of timidity when Harlen first expresses an interest in her, but once they finally end up in each other’s arms all sense of hesitancy is thrown right out of the bedroom. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 239 Pages.

Deceitfully Yours by Bethany Bazile

Jude was just supposed to be another mark, but it doesn’t long before Kylie finds herself breaking the number one rule of con artists: falling in love with her target.

What’s it About?

Jude Baxter knows instantly that he wants Kylie in his bed. What he didn’t realize is that she’s everything he’s been looking for. When lust turns into love, Jude puts everything on the line to make Kylie his.

Kylie Weber manipulates situations to get what she needs from men, but Jude knocks her off her game. Jude is unexpected and exciting. Kylie soon finds herself erotically entangled in Jude chains and rope, but worst of all she’s gotten her heart entangled in this very dynamic man.

Will the secret she keeps from him cost her everything she never knew she needed?

Quick Review

I’ll be the first to admit that BDSM romances typically aren’t my favorite, but nevertheless I like to try them out every once in a while to mix things up. Therefore, I was a bit surprised that this one managed to hold my interest essentially from start to finish, primarily due to the fact that this wasn’t simply another introduction into the world of whips and spanking, though that was still certainly a prominent feature in the sexual relationship between Kylie and Jude. Beneath the sexual layers of our lead couple we’re also presented with an intriguing con of deception. We know pretty much from the start of the novel that Kylie has her sights set on Jude for some kind of ploy, but as the novel evolves we are privy to the dark details behind Kylie’s motivations in that she is merely working at the behest of a criminal who proves to be the penultimate puppet master, constantly pulling the strings of this vulnerable woman to meet his every whim.

While this side plot successfully added a layer of suspense to the overall story, the short length of this novel at just 241 pages resulted in a lack of depth to what could have been a truly engaging story arch. Instead, we can’t help but feel left wanting when it comes to the relationship which develops between our lead characters, as well as the drama involving Kylie’s con and dubious employer. We’re never provided with enough dialogue or attention to become fully invested in what Kylie’s employer was after, the reintroduction of someone from Kylie’s past, or why our couple became so enamored with each other so quickly considering Jude was always suspect of Kylie’s ulterior motives. The entire novel builds to a climactic twist of a reveal, but unfortunately it was one that seemed fairly obvious from the get-go, not to mention the utter disappointment in discovering that Kylie was aware of this twist all along. I won’t spoil it for the rest of you, but let’s just say things would have been significantly more intriguing if Kylie was just as surprised by the big reveal as the rest of us were also supposed to be. In spite of Kylie’s cryptic warnings to Jude that something from her past would threaten their relationship, but to always remember how much she loved him, Jude is quick to throw her to the side when the going gets tough.

Series: This premier book was supposed to be followed by a sequel featuring friends of Kylie and Jude, but I’m not sure if it was ever released.

Final Impressions: Throughout the entire read we know it’s simply a matter of time before Jude discovers that Kylie’s initial pursuit of him was due to nefarious plotting, and that this inevitable reveal would threaten the very foundation of their relationship. We keep hoping that Kylie will open up to Jude about how she’s been trapped into conning him by the machinations of her scheming employer, but alas, she chooses to keep this crucial detail to herself until it’s far too late. At one point I was willing to push aside this somewhat aggravating trope when I thought it meant that Kylie was refusing to reveal her secrets to Jude so that she could stand up to the villain all her own without needing to rely on Jude to solve her problems for her. Unfortunately, not only do we see that Jude is needed to ultimately bring our heinous wretch to justice, but he then brings Kylie’s initial deceit into their BDSM practices as a way to “punish” her. Even though Kylie always enjoys the dominant ministrations which Jude subjects her to, I couldn’t help but feel this straddled the line of mental manipulation to a point that went beyond their typical forays of pain and pleasure.

Smut Level: Goodness gracious, golly gee, this one is certainly a doozy when it comes to delightfully excessive dirty talk and deliciously explicit sex scenes. At first I thought we were only introduced to a few BDSM moments at the start of their relationship, before things transitioned back to rather vanilla scenes of lovemaking, but the author manages to bring things back full throttle by the end back to d/s play.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 241 Pages.

Undeceived: Pride & Prejudice in the Spy Game by Karen M. Cox

When you’re reading Price and Prejudice and think to yourself, “this book is good and all, but you know what would make it even better? Some Cold War-era espionage”. Well then, this retelling of the classic British romance just might be right up your alley!

What’s it About? 

“…if I endeavor to undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me?” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 40)

Elizabeth Bennet, a rookie counterintelligence officer, lands an intriguing first assignment – investigating the CIA’s legendary William Darcy, who is suspected of being a double agent. Darcy’s charmed existence seems at an end as he fights for his career and struggles against his love for the young woman he doesn’t know is watching his every move. Elizabeth’s confidence dissolves as nothing is like she planned – and the more she discovers about Darcy, the more she finds herself in an ever-tightening web of danger.

Unexpected twists abound in this suspenseful Cold War-era romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic tale.

Quick Review

Similar to a modern version of a classic fairy tale, I’ll dive right into a Pride and Prejudice retelling as soon as I can get my hands on it! That being said, I would probably categorize this version as “loosely inspired” by the story we all know and love, rather than a retelling of it per se. There were certain inspirations from the original that were unmistakable, from the cantankerous dolts of Wickham and Collins, to the unrequited initial declaration of love by our prideful Darcy, and finally the animosity turned affection of our leading lady Elizabeth. In certain scenes we even see how sticking so close to the original source material in this updated tale of espionage essentially resulted in some unfortunate spoilers of the spy game at play.

After all, when you have the lecherous character of Wickham insisting that Darcy must be a double agent, it’s not too difficult to gauge that his insistence and motives would be less than honorable. On the whole though, there were some hallmark traits of the 1800s classic which were noticeably absent, to the point where you almost question why there needed to be a link to Pride and Prejudice at all. Gone were the familial dynamics involving Elizabeth’s many sisters and hilariously embarrassing mother, while other crucial supporting characters were oftentimes relegated to secondary side plots that barely received mention. I almost think this story would have benefited more if it didn’t try to put a Pride and Prejudice label on it, but rather stood on its own two feet as an enemies-to-lovers romance set in the confusing world of Cold-War spy craft.    

Series: Stand-Alone. 

Final Impressions: It took some time before the plot really pulled me in to the point where I had a vested interest in seeing how everything would play out. A large part of this had to do with the fact that while we see Elizabeth and Darcy engage in a few different spy missions, we’re never really privy to the details or end-goal of each mission. We just know that Darcy is the leading spy of the day, and Elizabeth serves as his translator. We never really learn what they’re after, or hoping to achieve, with each mission. Linking this spy novel to Pride and Prejudice meant that we were constantly dealing with this odd juxtaposition of not being surprised when certain plot points were revealed, but then also being surprised to see some character development twists that were a shocking departure from the original. Again, this read may have had more of an impact if it were a stand-alone book that didn’t try to affiliate itself with P&P. 

Smut Level: This was one departure from the original that I was all on board for! While Elizabeth and Darcy initially tip-toe around their attraction for each other, once their mutual adoration becomes known they have no reservations about physically exploring their desires. And on a hot and sweaty Caribbean island no less!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Adalia Street Press. 334 Pages. 

Celestial Desire by Abbie Zanders

This is the kind of contemporary romance novel that makes me ponder if I should start a bucket list, just so a hunky and caring man can come along to help me cross each item off my list. 

What’s it About? 

Dance with reckless abandon.

Pet a snake.

Get a tattoo.

Have wild, hot sex with a gorgeous stranger.

Recently divorced from her abusive ex, Celeste Harrison is creating a new life for herself, and hot ex-Marine Zane Fagan is perfect for crossing at least one item off her bucket list.

Celeste isn’t Zane’s usual type, but there’s something about her that keeps him coming back for more. In addition to being sweet and incredibly sexy, she’s smart, funny, and when he’s with her, the demons that haunt him are quiet.

It’s all fun and games until her ex tracks her down, and Zane is forced to make a decision that will change both of their lives forever.

First Impressions

As readers of my blog here will undoubtedly know by now, I read a ton of romance novels. And yet, I must say I think this particular short read presented me with something I’ve never come across before in Romancelandia, which would be that Chapter 1 begins mid meet-cute. In fact, it’s almost the tail-end of the meet cute, with the first few sentences involving our male lead, Zane, asking out the intriguing female lead, Celeste, pool-side. I was so thrown by being dropped right into the thick of one of the most crucial features of any romance novel, that by the end of the first chapter I actually flipped back to the very beginning of this e-book in my Kindle to ensure I didn’t miss a crucial prologue. Alas, that was not to be the case, and this isn’t the last time that the author chooses to skim or skip over other important moments. The next prominent occurrence was during Zane and Celeste’s first sexual foray. Their flirtations and foreplay are described in vivid detail, but when they finally come together in the literal sense we get a “fade-to-the-next-morning” approach. 

Normally I wouldn’t have much issue with glossing over the good stuff, but what made this so confusing was the fact that practically every other sex scene in the book is elaborately described from start to finish. As a result, it made the lack of full detail in their first interaction that much more noticeable and disappointing considering the potential emotion such a scene could have contained to further connect the characters, and link us to them too. Finally, there’s another instance towards the end of the book following an action-packed scene that takes place at a hospital, and apparently there is an intense conversation between Zane and Celeste about the future of their relationship, but we aren’t witness to it firsthand at all. We don’t know what exactly was discussed, or even that the exchange occurred until several chapters later. Looking back at these critical romance novel moments (the meet-cute, the first sex scene, the confession), the fact we lost out on any emotional depth which could have been gleamed from those conversations and physical connections was quite unfortunate. 

The Past Comes Back with a Vengeance

While I can’t agree with all of the literary mechanics employed throughout this read, something it did do very well was shine a light on the horrors of domestic abuse, and the constant fear with which its survivors face. Celeste has been trying to distance herself from her ex-husband ever since he was locked away in prison for beating her. Even though she has a restraining order against him, she knows that he’ll come after her as soon as he’s released, and it’s something that Zane starts to fear more with every day he spends with this enchanting woman. While several of the details surrounding her ex’s release were hard to believe, we too are overcome by fear with what this man represents, and we can only keep our fingers crossed that Zane can protect her when this blast from her past comes knocking. Everything builds to an exciting confrontation scene that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think this is the ultimate endeavor which would solidify Zane and Celeste’s connection, it just might prove to be the breaking point of their relationship. 

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: Overall this contemporary romance felt rather disjointed. From the glossing over of critical emotional scenes, to alternating between almost rom-com level bucket list resolutions to intense descriptions of Zane and Celeste’s tragic pasts, we were missing cohesion to the read as a whole. Clocking in at just 184 pages this book definitely could have benefited from those scenes being more fleshed out, and there was plenty of room to make it a reality. This was unfortunate as I really did enjoy the personalities of our lead characters, and the foundation was here for something truly special. 

Smut Level: Even though their first sexual encounter was a fade-to-black moment, there’s plenty of other descriptive scenes to keep you (and our lead characters 😉 ) coming back for more. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 184 Pages

The Cryptographer by Alice Wallis-Eton

Love and espionage in the midst of war. Could there be any more perfect combination? How about if we throw in an adorable canine sidekick, along with some burly Scottish Dragoons?

What’s it About?

Everybody has a secret, but some are harder to decipher…

England, 1813. Aster Tanner is alone in the world and keeps a roof over her head by working the one asset she has – her mind. She needs her job; she does not need a Scotsman underfoot, making her heart flutter with heated glances and impertinent questions.

Iain McIntyre, Captain in the Second Dragoons, has a confidential assignment: find a list rumoured to name traitors working against England. He is looking for anything unusual — like a woman working as a secretary. He tells himself his fascination with the lass is because she holds a man’s position, and nothing to do with his rising desire to know the sharp mind hidden behind her darkened glasses.

When Aster is targeted by those intent on recovering the list, she must decide who to trust. She has seven encrypted names. But whose? Meanwhile, Iain is on the trail of a double agent. Time is running out, and secrets must be decoded before lives and hearts are sacrificed.

First Impressions

This was a surprisingly intriguing read that successfully held my interest with a slew of engaging characters, not to mention a few twist and turns that even I didn’t see coming. Unlike the cover art might have you believe, this regency romance isn’t just another classic tale of highbred lord and lady falling in love. Instead, we have two main characters who wouldn’t typically be featured in primary roles, which was one of the first aspects of this novel that drew me in. Aster is a lowly, yet deceptively intelligent, secretary who must work in order to survive. She’s without family, and the only companion she has in life is her beloved pooch, Dougal. In essence, Aster is our regency girl-next-door. She’s never been to a ball, doesn’t know how to ride a horse, and has never been able to afford an elegant item of excess such as a parasol. She lives and works day-to-day, never expecting much more out of life than what she currently has.

Then along comes a Scottish military captain who throws her world upside down. Iain is a second son who has been brushed to the sidelines for most of his life. Although he comes from a family of means, the fact he was born second in line means that he’s had to work his whole life, as there was no great inheritance coming his way. This also resulted in high class women virtually ignoring him considering they wouldn’t marry into the wealth and prestige of his family’s title. When a secret mission brings Iain face-to-face with this intriguing female secretary working alongside an infamous cryptographer, the Scotsman finds himself entranced by Aster’s very presence, and she quickly starts to become the primary focus of his attention rather than the mystery at hand.

Who Can You Trust?

The fact that these two were fully embroiled in the world of espionage, secret codes and puzzles lent a mystifying air to their entire relationship. Even though we as the audience knew they were both honest patriots, Aster and Iain spend the first half of the novel juxtaposing their obvious attraction to one another against the question of whether or not the other is a spy for the enemy. Neither of them is used to receiving much attention, she as a working woman and he as a second son, so when interest and consideration is unexpectedly thrust upon them they immediately start to think of potential ulterior motives. We only hope that these two can ultimately recognize the shared attraction simmering between them, and that if they push aside their suspicious musings they can form an unbreakable partnership which will prove tenacious in the face of a common enemy.

And this brings us to another unique feature of this novel that I wouldn’t have expected from a regency romance, which was the descriptive focus on loneliness which has pervaded so much of their lives up until this point, more so especially with Aster. She lives in a world without family, her work is rather solitary in nature, and she lives in a boarding house where she finds it difficult to connect with the other patrons. Sometimes the only conversation she has in a given day is with her dog. On the other hand, Iain is part of a group of soldiers who are like brothers to him, and yet the vast majority of his youth was spent being ignored in the shadow of his brother, the heir. When Iain and Aster meet they are immediately taken with each other’s company, but they also fear that a future together might be outside the realm of possibility. The thought of going back to the lonely lives they once led is a sad comparison to the bright light that each has brought into the other’s world. When they eventually spend one passion-filled night together in a remote seaside cabin, a happily ever after seems so close, but will all of their prior insecurities continue to push this chance at happiness just out of reach?

Off-Balance

On the whole I did thoroughly enjoy this read, as there was an air of mystery and suspense which held my interest, and a slew of twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting from start to finish. That being said, some of these same unexpected developments ultimately hindered the flow of the story in a way which could have been avoided. Firstly, there were some vast stretches of the story in between our moments of suspense that felt rather lethargic in comparison. Aster and Iain probably spend more of the story thinking about each other, and contemplating their feelings than they actually do interacting with each other. The bulk of the cryptography decoding story line, as well as Aster’s influential role in it, was reserved for the latter half of the novel in a way that we weren’t even fully privy to her intellectual capabilities until rather late in the game. I wish there had been more focus on that part of the plot rather than the constant wondering by Iain and Aster if the other was looking for a lifetime commitment, or if one night was all there would be between them.

Again, while I enjoyed the fact we see a woman of Aster’s background featured in such a crucial way, I wanted her acumen to be more fully integrated throughout the rest of the story. Another feature of this novel which threw things into a bit of disarray was that we were witness to some rather violent and gruesome acts of murder and even torture that I definitely wasn’t expecting. That’s not to say a regency romance can’t have those darker elements featured, but instead their use was so sporadic and off-tone compared to the rest of the story, that you couldn’t help but feel they came completely out of left field. There either needed to be a lighter touch to those moments of violence, or the rest of the book should have had a darker emphasis woven throughout so that those individual scenes didn’t seem so off-balance.

Series: Second Sons, book 1. Iain’s fellow Second Dragoon comrades were such engaging characters that they really helped build a sense of family amongst this group of second sons. I’m eager to continue on with this series to see what romance is in store for each of them.

Final Impressions: This is a read that held my interest, and kept me guessing how everything was going to come together in the end. Unfortunately we don’t really get to see how the big picture does come together, but rather just a few of the tiny pieces to the larger puzzle. Though not a cliffhanger ending by any sorts, it was a bit disappointing to discover that we’ll need to keep going with this series before any kind of final conclusion will occur. Thankfully the slew of characters presented in this first novel were thoroughly entertaining, and I do want to see how things progress in each of their future books. I really enjoyed Iain and Aster as lead characters, especially with Aster as a somewhat unconventional female protagonist, but at times their uncertainties over the other’s affections seemed misplaced and unwarranted. Finally, there were many clever plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat, and even prompted me to put hand to chest with a gasp of worry at one point. However, some of the twists were unnecessarily macabre in description, while others (though interesting as a twist) contradicted the back stories for some characters which the author had previously presented to us as truths. A bit of editing and restructuring would have benefitted the overall flow of the work.

Smut Level: At one point Aster’s desire for Iain in his absence is so great that she decides to take matters into her own hands, if you catch my drift. We also get a few descriptive moments of one night Iain and Aster spent together, though nothing that will leave you too flushed. I was upset that we never saw one fantasy come to fruition that both of our characters envisioned, which was to spend time in a rather unique cliffside bathtub together.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $25.54 Paperback (I purchased the Kindle version of this years ago for much less, but it doesn’t seem available in e-format anymore). CreateSpace Independent Publishing. 256 Pages.

Rubble by Skye McNeil

Sexy fun times with an alpha male biker on top of a bakery display? This might be a new fantasy I didn’t realize I needed! 

What’s it About? 

She’s sworn off relationships. He has no desire to fall at all. They can only fight their attraction for so long.

Jupiter Quinn is on the run from an abusive relationship. Finding shelter in Macha MC, her goal is to keep her head down until the divorce is finalized. What Jupiter doesn’t expect is to fall for the club’s toughest man who also happens to be a former MMA fighter.

Rubble Hardy is Macha’s sergeant at arms and enforcer for the club. He doesn’t date. Never has and never will. Women are trouble and he’s not about to let down his guard. But when Jupiter Quinn walks through the club doors, his heart shifts, and the powerful desire to protect her only outweighs his feelings.

When Jupiter’s past collides with her newfound future, she’s forced to either flee or face the danger.

Can Rubble keep her safe, or will they tap out?

First Impressions

I hadn’t read the first two novels in this series before taking a peek at this third book, so I wasn’t quite sure what cast of characters or motley motorcycle crew we might be dealing with here. However, it quickly became apparent that this is the kind of MC you love to love. They might appear tough and rough on the outside, but it doesn’t take long for their moral principles to shine through. From a deeply admirable respect for their women, to a sincere devotion to community service and protection, it’s no surprise that when Jupiter finds herself on the run from her psychotically controlling ex she feels nothing but comfort and safety within the walls of this Colorado club.

I did reach a point fairly early on with this read where past events and characters were referenced from the first two books in the series, so I decided to read over the synopses of those novels to get a quick overview of what drama befell the club before this third installment. This is a tactic I highly recommend if you find yourself in a similar position, as it really helped close a few gaps so I could confidently proceed with the rest of the story. Every once in a while we see a reference to a previous betrayal by one of the club’s brothers, and while I did feel slightly out of the loop with that particular story line, overall it wasn’t difficult to piece together the overall picture, and I was left with Jupiter and Rubble’s tale of romance, suspense, super sensual sexy fun times, and even some baking thrown in as well! Talk about a tried and true recipe to win me over!

Homemade peppermint mocha cookies and cheesecake cookie bites!

When the Past Catches Up with You

Pretty much from the moment Jupiter walks into the compound of the Macha motorcycle club, there is a mutual fascination and infatuation between her and the MC Sergeant at Arms, Rubble. He might be hesitant to allow another woman with a troubled history to once again infiltrate their walls, especially considering all the hassle (not to mention bullets) the ladies from the first two books brought into their close knit community. However, one look at Jupiter’s soft and bashful demeanor, and his alpha male need to protect comes surging to the forefront. When he learns the details of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex, who is encroaching closer upon her exact location every day, Rubble can’t help but see red at the prospect of anyone harming this woman who has come to mean so much to him in such a short amount of time.

I absolutely love me an alpha male protector, but also appreciated that this read simultaneously focuses on the growth of Jupiter as she finds the strength and courage within herself to finally stand up and face her past head on. It’s not entirely a tale of damsel in distress, though at one point it was kind of headed that way with Rubble assembling his Macha brothers as knights in shining armor to ride in and save the day by confronting Jupiter’s ex on their own. In the end though we see that it was because of her evolving relationship with Rubble that Jupiter was able to finally find something she wanted to fight for. His strength became her strength, and she ultimately decided that her love for Rubble and this newfound family was something she wasn’t afraid to stand up for.

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

Series: Macha MC, book 3. If this book is anything to go by I’d say this is a passion-filled and suspenseful series that is worth giving a try! If you don’t start from the beginning, just be sure to read the synopses of any previous books so you’re all caught up before cracking this one open.

Final Impressions: This was an entertaining romance with a good blend of different themes. We have a woman on the run, a tough motorcycle club that is guided by their fealty to the community and respect for their women. The build of drama with Jupiter’s approaching ex was a slow burn that lent itself well to the progression of the plot, even if the sexual chemistry between Jupiter and Rubble was more of a blasting inferno than a slow burn. Throw in some baked goods, a dramatic shootout and a toothachingly sweet ending and you’ve got yourself a keeper. There’s nothing better than when bad-ass bikers have a soft side amidst their uber protective ways.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaang. There’s enough explosive chemistry between these two to melt the iciest of snow-capped mountains. It might be the middle of winter, but you’ll need some ice water to cool yourself off with this read!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 257 Pages. 

The Cursed King by Abigail Owen

The battle of the dragon clans has been building to this final moment. When the smoke and ashes clear, we can’t help but wonder who will emerge victorious to rule over them all. Let the battle commence!

What’s it About?

He will burn. She will rise.

Airk Azdajah, the rightful King of the White Clan, spent half a millennium being tortured by the false High King Pytheios. The only reason he’s alive is a curse— the man to kill Airk will be consumed in his own fire. Which is why Pytheios kept Airk alive, barely, unable to shift in his prison cage, driving the creature half of him into madness. Airk escaped, but he’ll never be truly free. What good is a king who can never let his feral dragon loose, never fly, and never lead his people? He’s better off dead.

Angelika Amon is the last unmated phoenix. The problem? She has no powers. Zip. Zilch. Angelika hates being dormant, especially now that her three sisters are blissfully mated to powerful dragon shifter kings and are very much part of the fight to take down the rotting king Pytheios, their parents’ killer. What good is a useless runt of a phoenix in a battle to save the dragon kingdom?

Desperate to find some way to help, she offers herself to Airk as a mate — just for political leverage. But a dormant phoenix is no damn use to him just like a dragon who can’t shift is no use to her. Until Pytheios sets his sights on Angelika for himself…

First Impressions

I think a very real part of me is still in disbelief that this incredible series is finally over. We have been enveloped in this story of dragon shifters, phoenixes, kings vs. king and good against evil for not only four books in this Inferno Rising series, but also an additional five primary works in the companion Fire’s Edge series. It’s definitely possible I’ll be going through an intense period of withdrawal over the next few months. However, I’m also thrilled that we could close out this series with two leading characters who once again manage to capture our hearts in the midst of perhaps more crushing adversity than any other dragon or phoenix has experienced so far in either series. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was still possible at this point! Every novel has presented us with two destined mates who somehow face debilitating challenges head-on, all in the hopes of saving their clans from the centuries of manipulative rule at the hands of a mad-king drunk from power. We’ve always seen two strong lead characters who are stronger together as a pair than apart, and while that is also true in many ways of Angelika and Airk, this is really the first time that we’ve examined a couple who are seen by both themselves and others as a liability.

They are determined to join in the fight against King Pytheios, but before they can do that they must first prove their worth to those who constantly try to push them to observe from the sidelines. Angelika might be a phoenix like her powerful sisters, but unlike them any power she may have been willed by her dying mother lies dormant within her. Instead, her primary strength involves convincing other dragons to join in their fight against evil. Airk on the other hand has almost too much power within him. After centuries of imprisonment by King Pytheios, and his dragon trapped within his mind with no ability to fly free, this beast has become a feral creature within him rather than a seamless part of him. To release his dragon now would run the risk of never being able to rein him back in again. Something Airk fears even more though than his dragon overtaking his very existence is the possibility of his creature harming Angelika in the process through her determination to have them mated. He can try to fight their connection as much as he wants, but if this series has taught us anything, it’s that two destined mates with this amount of scorching natural chemistry will never be able to stay apart for long.

The Culmination of Kings and Queens

Even though I didn’t want to see this series come to an end, I must say it was one of the more perfect examples of how to bring a long-running series to a close. We saw all of the key players from the previous novels, the companion series, and even a surprise appearance from those in another series by this author that I didn’t even realize was going to play a role in the events of this final book! The beauty of how all of our characters came together in this ultimate battle wasn’t just that we see how willing they were to support each other, or that we were granted one final opportunity to be in their presence before having to say goodbye. Instead, it highlights that no one character, or even one couple from this series, would have been able to face King Pytheios alone. It literally takes every single one of them joining together as an ultimate source of power to even stand a chance in the face of such evil.

Another feature of this series which is highlighted particularly well in this last book is the political struggle for power over the dragon clans. Up until this point, we’ve always known that King Pytheios is the premier representation of evil, unwilling to give up his reign. We are also privy to the extremes he’s gone to up to now in order to not only assume power, but to keep it. He betrayed his rulers, his people, and even his family to stay on the throne. And while part of this can be explained away as someone consumed with power, this final book reveals how much he believed his actions were in fact for the betterment of dragons everywhere. In a way, he too thought he was on the side of right, battling against those who were trying to take their society backwards to the way things used to be living under the rule of phoenixes rather than dragons. It finally provides a window into why King Pytheios fought with such ferocity. It wasn’t simply that he didn’t want to give up power, it’s that he also believed in what he was fighting for, however misguided and based in misconceptions he may have been in the end.

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

Series: Inferno Rising, book 4. I may have secretly wished this series could last forever, but I’m also happy with how everything finally came together for a satisfying conclusion. If anything, it makes me even more excited to see what Abigail Owen will have in store for us next!

Final Impressions: There are two critical details to keep in mind before starting this read, which can also apply to any final book in your favorite series. 1) Treasure each and every turn of the page that you get to spend with these characters for the last time. I can only keep my fingers crossed that maybe one day in the future we’ll see a light-hearted follow up novella which details what our characters are up to following the concluding events in this book. 2) Seeing as this is the final novel, all bets are off. You never know which characters might survive or ultimately fall to the forces of evil. It adds a thrilling level of suspense as you constantly wonder how or if our heroes will succeed. While the progression of some events were a bit tricky to follow along with logistically, overall this was a breathtaking and electrifying climax to the series.

Smut Level: Airk may be a virgin seeing as he’s spent centuries trapped alone in an isolated mountain prison, but that doesn’t mean he’s uneducated in the ways of pleasure. When a secret friend brings him a copy of the Kama Sutra, his years of study benefits Angelika in every way possible.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 419 Pages.

My Only One by Charlotte O’Shay

When Esme literally stumbles back into Shane’s life after years apart, he realizes two things: he can protect her from the danger that is after her, and he finally has the chance to admit how important she’s always been to him.

What’s it About?

Esme:
We grew up in side-by-side New York City tenements. Shane was my first friend, my first crush, and when he enlisted, my unforgettable heartbreak. When fate brings us back together after ten years, I’m in a world of danger. But I’m not a kid anymore and I know what I want. Shane and I have a second chance at forever and there’s no way I’ll lose him again.

Shane:
Brilliant, beautiful, bound for success, Esme was the girl next door and a temptation I had to resist. I was too old for her, but I couldn’t forget her. When we meet again after ten long years, she’s caught in the crosshairs of a deadly drug kingpin. But I wear a badge now. Nothing will stop me from protecting the woman who claimed me—heart and soul—so long ago. I’ll keep Esme safe or die trying.

Time’s running out for Esme to pay her father’s debt to the cartel.

First Impressions

Our novel beings with us being dropped smack dab in the middle of the drama, as Esme runs through the city streets to escape the clutches of an evil drug lord to whom her father has promised her in order to pay off his crippling debts. While she was initially open to the idea of marrying a stranger to help her family, it only took a moment of being in this man’s presence to realize he had no intention of marrying her, and he merely viewed her as a possession he could acquire and play with whenever he felt like it. It’s as she’s running through the dark city streets, feet and knees cracked and bleeding from her ordeal, that she re-encounters the one man she never expected to see again in her life, and the one man who has always represented safety. Shane and Esme were close childhood friends who always desired more, but when tragedy struck both of their respective families, they completely lost touch until this moment of reconnection. Shane is now a law enforcement officer, and when he hears of Esme’s predicament he vows to protect the one woman who got away. As they lay low in his apartment, all of the distance which the last few years of separation have created melts away, and both are aware this unfortunate incident has led them to find each other again.

Tons to Unravel

First things first with this read: love the premise. However, there was a loooot of back story for us to catch up on, and I feel we received an information overload that was a bit scattered in it’s delivery. To open on Esme running through the streets and having to pause to learn about not only who she’s running from, but then pause longer to get the history of her mother’s illness which drove her father to seek funds from a drug kingpin, and then transition to her running into Shane, and then having to learn their whole backstory…it just felt like I was being pulled into too many directions right from the get-go. With this book currently at a mere 111 pages, I almost think it could have benefitted from an additional 50-100 pages to clearly lay out the characters and their connection to each other.

I certainly appreciated diving right into the drama, but I wonder if a better flow would have been gained for example if we had opened on Esme getting ready for her meeting with the stranger her father has promised her to, and then she could slowly start to realize something is wrong with the situation before ultimately dashing off into the night. It would have allowed for a slow, delectable build of tension at the beginning, which would have mirrored itself beautifully with the formidable dramatic sequence we are presented with at the conclusion of the story.

Like a Movie

The absolute standout feature of this read was the final sequence as Esme is convinced to wear a wire in an eventual sting operation with our evil drug lord. The author does a phenomenal job of teasing out the drama, and slowly building up our anxiety level as we see a seemingly well-laid plan gradually deteriorate before our very eyes. The fact Shane can only listen in from the background and frantically try to catch up with and rescue the love of his life from the clutches of a mad man amped up the feeling of you about to fall off the edge of your seat. Another feature of this climactic scene that I absolutely adored was how it was practically Scorsese-esque in how it played out in one long, drawn-out sequence with almost no moment for a break to catch our breath. The near perfection of this dramatic build is another reason I wish we could have seen something similar in parallel at the front-end of our read, as it would have created such a marvelous balance to the read as a whole.

*A copy of this read was provided for an honest reivew*

Series: Fortunato Family, book 1. Shane comes from a large family who we have the good fortune to meet at one point in the story, and I’m certainly intrigued to see how the stories of his siblings will play out in future novels.

Final Impressions: Overall this was an exciting read, primarily due to the thrilling concluding scene. The opening felt a bit scattered which left me feeling like I had to re-read certain sections to clearly understand how all of the pieces and characters of the story fit together. Something else I would have appreciated was some more explanation as to how Esme and Shane so completely lost touch with each other considering how closely integrated she was into his family’s life. While they were both clearly going through their own struggles in life, they also seemed to be deeply invested in each other, so falling out of touch so abruptly was rather confusing. I was given an ARC of this read, so there were a few typos in the copy I received.

Smut Level: Esme may have been a virgin at the start of the novel when she and Shane reconnected, but that doesn’t mean she’s shy about sex. She knows what she wants (him), and she goes for it!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Evelyn P. McCabe Publisher. 111 Pages.

The Traitor by Abigail Owen

This is the story we’ve all been waiting for! We finally get to explore Rune Abaddon up close and personal, and lemme tell ya, you won’t be disappointed!

What’s it About?

Decades ago, rogue dragon shifter Rune Abaddon took a stand against the decaying, corrupt systems governing their people. He now uses his bad-ass reputation to protect the innocent as it all comes crashing down. But he’s pushed the limits one too many times. His hideout is destroyed, his few allies are scattered and hiding, and the Alliance has placed a dead-or-alive bounty on his head, making him the most wanted dragon in the western hemisphere.

And then the most enticing woman he’s ever met barges into his mountain, demanding an audience.

Hadyn Reece’s future was ripped away long ago. The man fated to be her mate was murdered alongside her parents before Hadyn was old enough to be turned, leaving her to be raised and trained by her dead mate’s parents in the dragon shifter world. Now, the Alliance has come for the only family she has left. It’s a good thing she was raised by dragons, because the only one who can help her save them is a traitor she’d be smart to fear.

Especially when his dragon decides she’s theirs.

First Impressions

I’m in no way exaggerating when I say I have been waiting for Rune’s story with bated breath ever since we were first introduced to his character in book one of this dragon series. After five books in this Fire’s Edge series, and three books in the equally stellar Inferno Rising companion series, the wait is finally over. I’ll never forget seeing when Rune was officially announced on my Twitter feed as the protagonist of this sixth book, and literally squealing in delight upon the reveal, followed closely by a little shimmy dance of delight. This rogue dragon has lingered in the backdrop throughout most of the series, but has slowly been emerging from the background as a key player in this war of dragons. He was initially presented to us as a traitor to his fellow Huracan team of dragon enforcers, an enemy of the high king, stealing female dragon mates from their potential partners. However, as the series progressed it was revealed that this supposed traitor wasn’t stealing mates, he was saving them.

Saving them from certain death at the hands of greedy rulers who cared more about taking mates for themselves rather than finding their true mates. I mean, can you think of a more delicious hero than a rough and gruff dragon with a hidden soft spot, willing to risk having himself labeled as a traitor in order to do what is right? Pardon me whilst I swoon! If I had one mild critique of this part of the story, it’s that I wish we had dug just a bit deeper to hear more from Rune directly what that moment was like years before when he realized that in order to save these helpless women he would need to take measures that would result in his dragon brothers looking upon him with disdain rather than trust. We do get a few moments where Hadyn acknowledges she can’t imagine how devastating that must have been for Rune, or we get a brief glimpse of sadness from this strong man, but it still felt like we only scratched the surface of where we could have gone.

The Rules are Changing

The thing I love most about this series is that it still has the ability to surprise, shock and awe. Each book does have the tendency to follow a standard trajectory of a surly dragon who meets a woman that kicks off his protective alpha tendencies, followed by some sexy fun times, and concluding with an epic battle between our protagonists and enemy dragon forces. However, there are always a multitude of twists and turns mixed in which manage to throw everything you thought you knew about this amazing world completely out the window. This tracks with the progression of the series as a whole, as our characters are starting to realize that the rules of their species and existence are in a state of change.

What once had clearly designated lines of black and white have now blurred into varying shades of gray that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what unexpected development might occur next. This series also has the uncanny ability to tug at the heartstrings, and while most of the books have brought tears to my eyes at some point in the plot, this particular read had the distinction of making me reach for the tissues twice! What can I say? The emotional connection that this author manages to create between our featured couples always latches on hard to your heart, and when something tries to tear them apart we can’t help but feel that heartache ourselves. It is far and above more impactful than the delectable physical connection we also see established between our leads.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 6. Gimme more…gimme everything.

Final Impressions: I wanted it, it was given, it met and even exceeded my expectations. Rune and Hadyn are definitely a standout couple of the series, as both weren’t afraid to lay all their cards out on the table in front of the other. Whether it was admitting how frustrated the other person made them, how much they craved each other, or ultimately how completely devoted they were to each other. Hadyn especially was one of my favorite heroines of the series so far, as she never cowered in the intimidating presence of her surly dragon shifter, and wasn’t afraid to push him to help her when it mattered most. Putting the romantic part of the storyline to the side, the climactic battle scene at the end was so fast-paced and action-packed that I had to force myself to stop trying to skim ahead to the bottom of the page to see what would happen. Always a good sign of a great suspenseful moment in my opinion!

Smut Level: There is a scene on a boat…quickly followed by a scene in the back of a demon’s taxi cab that will leave you looking for a spray bottle of water to cool yourself off.

Get it on Amazon: Click here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara.

Hunting Season by Kate Rudolph

As if being a doctor didn’t present its own challenges, Stasia also has to deal with almost being kidnapped for not the first time in her life, as well as discovering her sexy bodyguard is a werewolf. And I thought I was having a stressful week.

What’s it About?

This werewolf will protect his mate.

Owen has one job: keep Stasia from being abducted. Easier said than done when his fiercely independent client tries to fire him the moment they meet. His werewolf senses howl to life and he’s certain of one thing: Stasia is his.

She’s sick of cocky men.

When her wealthy father hires a bodyguard, Stasia says no. Not exactly a smart move after someone tried to nab her off the street. But she doesn’t need a babysitter. Especially not a cheerfully overbearing bodyguard who makes her heart pound and her fantasies run wild.

When Stasia is yanked out of her glittering world and into Owen’s she’ll need to grapple with an impossible new reality that includes werewolves, silver bullets, and fated mates.

Is she ready to embrace her new world? Or will she run back to a universe of glittering high rises and leave her destiny behind?

First Impressions

A rather distinctive feature of this fantasy romance is that while our hero Owen and his fellow bodyguard teammates are werewolves, they were only recently changed into these lycan beasts through some mysterious ceremony. They weren’t werewolves by birth, or by being bitten. Not only that, but after the conclusion of the ceremony, their captors disappeared, leaving them no information as to the expectations or rules of this world they’ve now been brought into. It’s not like they can easily pick up a handbook in the local library to learn what their new lives will entail that might be different than myth or pop culture might lead them to believe. Everything was a question mark for them to discover on their own as time passed rather than having it all clearly outlined for them, which definitely made this werewolf story different than any other I’ve come across recently. I did have a good giggle at one point though when Owen was commiserating the fact there wasn’t much source material out there for them to reference beyond Teen Wolf, and I thought, “Oh sweetie, have a walk down the romance novel section of any bookstore and you’ll have plenty of options to consider.”

Right, Werewolves!

Even though I enjoyed the fact our lycan characters were still learning what it meant to be a werewolf, unfortunately I don’t think this storyline was incorporated as fully into the overall plot as it could have been. I actually found myself continually having to remind myself throughout the first half of the book that this wasn’t just a standard bodyguard/client romance. Other than Owen feeling uber possessive towards Stasia in a way that has him wanting to refer to her as his “mate”, there really weren’t many paranormal elements built into a good portion of the story. Once the werewolf storyline does eventually present itself front and center, sadly this is when my disappointment with the book came full throttle.

Upon discovering that the man she’s been sleeping with is a werewolf, and one of his teammates has bitten her, but none of them know if she’ll be fine, die, or turn into a werewolf herself, Stasia seems…perfectly fine with these revelations and subsequent uncertainties. No real moments of panic at any point. I don’t know if this was supposed to reflect the strength of her character, or that her trust in Owen surpasses any possible concern, but even for a werewolf romance it felt somewhat unbelievable that she would have so little reaction upon this discovery. Especially when we consider she’s known Owen for about a week. I almost wish this was a world in which everyone knew about the existence of werewolves, and she just had to deal with the realization that her new bodyguard was one of them. It would have made her apparent lack of shock more plausible. The only real freak-out she has in the book is when someone suggests she and Owen might marry soon. Werewolves and mates she could deal with, but not with the concept of being a bride? Mkayyy?

Series: Guarded by the Shifter, book 1. I’m debating on whether or not to continue with this one.

Final Impressions: The vast majority of this book is build-up, with very little progression or resolution to Owen’s werewolf storyline. Even when it comes to Stasia’s multiple kidnapping attempts throughout the book, one of which was quite violent, we never really learn who was behind it or why, just that it had something to do with her father’s business dealings. The most frustrating aspect though was the lack of forward momentum in the werewolf origin story. When Owen recognizes very early on that one of the members of Stasia’s security team was present at the ceremony that turned him and his teammates into werewolves, he sits on this info without telling them until almost the last scene of the book. We don’t even get one scene involving Owen confronting or speaking to this man. It was such a disappointment that the story never really progresses towards any kind of tangible revelation, and instead we’re left with the impression more will be revealed in future novels.

Smut Level: Owen might view Stasia as his, but she’s not afraid to stand up and claim him as her own. While the steamy scenes were quite detailed and enjoyable, I do think after a while there was too much focus on them rather than moving the plot forward where it really required attention.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Celestial Heart Press. 274 Pages.