Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

A vicious tornado whisks our heroine through the winds of time to unexpectedly drop her back in 1872. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! Or at least…not in modern day Texas anymore.

What’s it About?

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The past is her future, the future, her past, but can she save an innocent man’s life before history repeats itself? As long as Selena Tillman dreams of her ancestor, Mary, who disappeared without a trace in 1872, she’ll never find peace. As long as she dreams of the half-Native American army scout accused of killing Mary, she’ll never find love. Hoping to end the dreams and learn the truth, Selena goes to Texas where Mary and the scout died and sees more than ghosts. She sees a tornado kill Mary in real time before it jumps to the twenty-first century to pull Selena into its vortex and send her back to the nineteenth century. Selena believes she’s fated to prove Dylan’s innocence and save his life, but Dylan isn’t just the man of her dreams; he’s her destiny.

Fed up with the army, bigotry, and women—especially white women, Captain Dylan Casey dedicates himself to solving the mystery of Mary’s disappearance, proving his innocence, and trying to stop a war between the whites and the Indians. Then Mary’s cousin shows up, claiming a tornado killed Mary. Dylan doesn’t trust Selena, but she’s his only ally in Canyon Creek. Yet despite their common goal, growing mutual attraction, and a Comanche shaman’s prophecy of a white woman who will change his destiny and foretell the fate of the Indian Nation, Dylan refuses to take a chance on another spoiled, white woman—until fate changes his mind.

First Impressions

Yes, we are dealing with a time travel historical romance here. But more than that we are exploring some inherently deep-rooted and devastatingly tragic instances of racism in late nineteenth-century Texas. The supposed superiority of the white man over the “savage” Indian, and the downfall of the great Indian Nation at the greed of the white man. What I love about any Lilly Gayle historical romance is that we always learn about a unique chapter of history, and in most cases they are lessons which I never really had the opportunity to study fully in school. In each instance my interest is spurned to learn more! You can tell a lot of time and effort was spent researching this topic in an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of what it would have been like for a “half-breed” to live at this moment in history, not to mention the obstacles involved by falling in love with a white woman. After finishing this read I must say I’m inspired to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, especially considering it’s just a 15 minute drive from my apartment!

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Traveling the Winds of Time

One of my favorite aspects of any time travel story is discovering the rules of time travel which the author has chosen for their world. Will it be like Outlander, in which the events of the past are firmly set in stone? In these works we usually find the attempts of our characters to change certain events will instead directly cement the circumstances of history. Or will we maybe see something along the lines of Back to the Future where practically everything you do has a direct impact and influence on changing the outcomes of the future? In this novel we see an interesting blend of both.

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After being dropped in 1872 by a wayward tornado, Selena seems stuck in the past with no possibility of traveling back to her own time. She knows the history surrounding the fate of Dylan Casey, who stands accused of murdering her ancestor Mary. However, she’s just seen that the same tornado which carried her through time is responsible for Mary’s death, not Dylan. Can Selena possibly alter the events of history to prevent Dylan’s own murder which she has seen play out in visions since she was 10? Is Dylan fated to die, or is it Selena’s destiny to save his life? You simply never know what the rules of time travel might be in any given romance.

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An Argumentative Romance

Race is an extremely important discussion in this novel, especially in how it relates to Selena and Dylan exploring a romantic relationship. Living in a small Texas town, Dylan experiences hateful glances and racial slurs practically every day. He’s had friends and lovers desert him upon discovery of his mixed heritage. He once thought Mary (Selena’s ancestor) was the woman for him, but in the end the fact he was a “half-breed” proved to be reason enough for her to give up on them. When Selena drops into town she’s unlike any other woman Dylan has ever met. She has no hesitancy about exploring a physical relationship with Dylan, which is something he simply can’t wrap his head around. Why would a white woman risk her reputation pursuing a half-breed like him?

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All in all I’d have to say that my one complaint with this book is how much of Selena and Dylan’s time together is spent arguing. I feel like Selena had a closer connection to Dylan because of the visions she’d experienced of him throughout her life rather than from their interactions with each other. The fact that Dylan is a scout for the army also means that he and Selena spend pretty long periods of time apart from each other. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect between the feelings garnered from Selena’s visions to her actual interactions with the man.

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Selena has literally been dreaming of this man forever, and when she finally has the opportunity to meet him in person he’s…well…a bit surly. She continuously reiterates the fact that his race is of no consequence to her. Selena’s actions also speak towards her dedication, especially when she gives up the luxurious comforts of his parent’s house to instead make a home for them in Dylan’s small ranch house. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Dylan that she’s serious when she says his Indian heritage doesn’t bother her. He insists she could never love a “dirty savage” such as him.

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The Cockiest Cowboy to Have Ever Cocked by Jamila Jasper

Well if that title doesn’t catch your attention…then I don’t know what will!

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This should have been easy.
Hide out from my ex in Omaha while helping an old woman on her ranch.
One problem…
Her son Kurt O’Connor.
I should have known better than to get involved.
He’s tall, a pillar of muscle, icy blue eyes… and cocky as h*ll!
He doesn’t just want my body.
He wants all of me.
I must resist.

First Impressions

I first heard about this book in the immediate aftermath of the #cockygate controversy. For those of you romance readers and writers out there who aren’t familiar with the issue, I’d say it’s definitely worth a quick Google search. I think we can also agree that the concept of trademarking the word “cocky” for use in a romance novel title is rather…cray cray. This novel was initially published under the name Cocky Cowboy, but in the wake of #cockygate it received a well-deserved title upgrade to The Cockiest Cowboy to Have Ever Cocked. I must admit I was pretty stoked to support this cause and author. The novel starts off with all of the elements for a great read, including a strong African-American female lead, a mysterious crime on a remote Nebraska ranch, and even a cocky cowboy or two! Unfortunately I can’t say the story completely came together for me, and I was left feeling a bit underwhelmed when all was said and done. Let’s take a closer look at the details!

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An Impeccable Start

This novel starts off with an intriguing story that pulls you in with its suspense and intrigue. It opens on Nicki, a 45-year-old private detective seeking refuge on a ranch in the wide-open plains of Omaha after fleeing her abusive husband back East. However, she’s not just using this ranch as a stepping stone to get her life back on track. There have been some strange goings-on happening at this ranch in the middle of nowhere, including a howling nightly apparition which is subsequently followed by the slaughter of the ranch’s sheep. The ranch owner allows Nicki to stay on her property in the hopes that she’ll be able to help get to the bottom of this mystery.

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Seeing this big city girl adjust to life on a small ranch definitely sparks your interest, and you can’t help but admire this woman for taking such a huge risk in escaping out from under the controlling thumb of her abusive ex-husband. The fact that she also decides to find pleasure for herself by exploring a sexual relationship with Kurt, the eldest son of the ranch owner, makes you root for her all the more to find happiness. As the story progresses you definitely wonder who might be wreaking havoc on such a seemingly innocent family, but we also start to see some missteps when it comes to the execution of the plot.

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A Lackluster Finish

First of all, I couldn’t help but question Nicki’s prowess as a private detective. Considering she’s there to help solve a mystery, I was surprised to find that asking questions of the ranch owner and other witnesses was seemingly never too high on her priority list. When she did manage to ask them a few questions they were mysteriously cryptic in their responses, and they remained continuously closed off and secretive to her inquiries. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t understand why she would bother putting with with this secretive family when she’s there trying to help them. If it were me and they insisted on staying so close-lipped I would’ve just said, “See ya! Hire Scooby-Doo and the gang if you want help uncovering the true identity of this masked culprit. I’m done!”

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While the mystery of the ranch pulls you in at the start, unfortunately this story just continued to lose momentum as the novel progressed. It was sort of like a puzzle that was missing a few pieces to form a complete picture. The motive behind the ranch haunting was kiiiiiiiind of mentioned at the very end, but I feel like we never uncovered all the reasons why the ranch was a target in the first place. There are many other aspects of the story which sort of drop off and questions which are left unanswered. Even the fate of one of our main characters (who gets hit by a car!) is never fully revealed. This book started with us wondering who was terrorizing the ranch, and while we eventually uncover who that person was, in the end I felt like I had even more questions than I did when the novel commenced.

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Series: I kind of wish this was a series, if only to learn what actually went down in this one.

Should you read it? I reaaaaaaally wanted to like this book. It starts off so strong, but unfortunately all of the various plot points kind of fall apart by the end. If I had read this as a first draft I think it would have had a lot of exciting promise, but as a final product it could have used some more time and attention bringing everything together. There were also a number of spelling errors that were kind of distracting. When I purchased this book it was just $2.99 on Amazon, and considering what it stood for in terms of #cockygate I think it was still money well spent even though I can’t say it’s the best cohesive read.

Smut Level: Nicki and Kurt always seem to start things off up against a wall. This quickly progresses to Nicki on her back with Kurt’s head between her legs. Gotta appreciate the convenience that Kurt’s mom and brother always seem to be off “in town” when these seductive moments take place!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Jamila Jasper Romance. 479 Pages.

The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

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To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

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Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

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Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

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The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

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Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

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Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley

I’ll admit it was kind of cute to see the domestic side of a romance novel, especially when a hard core biker is involved. Shopping for a refrigerator, arguing over who is responsible for doing the laundry. Feels so realistic!

What’s it About?

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Tabitha Allen grew up in the thick of Chaos—the Chaos Motorcycle Club, that is. Her father is Chaos’ leader, and the club has always had her back. But one rider was different from the start. When Tabby was running wild, Shy Cage was there. When tragedy tore her life apart, he helped her piece it back together. And now, Tabby’s thinking about much more than friendship…Tabby is everything Shy’s ever wanted, but everything he thinks he can’t have. She’s beautiful, smart, and as his friend’s daughter, untouchable. Shy never expected more than friendship, so when Tabby indicates she wants more—much morehe feels like the luckiest man alive. But even lucky men can crash and burn…

First Impressions

Shy is the ultimate alpha motorcycle dude with a cave man persona and everything. I’ll admit that my initial reaction to some of his comments made the inner woman in me want to cry out in protest. He’ll never do the laundry? Excuuuuuse me? You think I wanna wash your dirty underwear, I don’t think so! But what this novel does pretty well is that Shy is rather quick to then verbalize why he’s coming off as a seemingly difficult guy. For example, with the laundry we discover there’s actually a sad back story to his laundry aversion revolving around having to live with his uncle and tyrannical aunt following the death of his parents. It seems like in so many romance novels you’ll have some kind of argument like this, and our lead characters will just get all pissy about it and refuse to speak the truth about the matter for days. To Shy’s benefit, he sort of breaks the mold in that he insists Tabby listen to his explanations. True he could still probably tone things down a smidge, but you gotta give the guy some credit for not closing himself off.

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 From Repetition to Time References

I will say I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the writing elements employed here. Firstly, the book was quite repetitive when it came to the wording of a particular scene. Either the same emotion or action would be stated in a slightly different way, or it would just be blatantly repeated. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize I am also 100% guilty of doing this, and I do it often. I do it all the time. I do it in a plethora of different ways. You could even say the number of times I do it is rather numerous. See what I’m doing here? Saying the same thing three-four times over, but it builds my paragraph length and sometimes lets me look up some fun new words in a thesaurus. And even though I know I myself am guilty of this technique, it was kind of irritating to see it utilized so many times throughout a full-length book, which is already pretty long at roughly 400 pages.

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Another feature which left me kind of lost was that each chapter, and even sometimes multiple times throughout a chapter, we’d be introduced with some kind of time progression. 3 weeks later, 2 days later, 6 weeks later. I’m sorry, am I supposed to be keeping track of all this? Because I stopped paying attention about 7 months ago. Towards the beginning I think it was helpful when tracking Tabby’s relationship with another guy, and the length of time which passed after this guy’s untimely death before she and Shy became an item. Other than that, kind of unnecessary.

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One final confusing aspect was that we would have a sudden introduction of a person or event as though we were supposed to know the full back story of what was going on. But of course we don’t, so we then get multiple pages of description and background before finally getting back to the present predicament. Again, if this had happened once or twice, I would get it, but it was a recurring theme which would often make it even harder to understand the timeline of where we were in the story. To be introduced to a character for the first time, then learn about the history of the main character with this new character, then hear about some of the different events from this new character’s past even before meeting the main character which made them the person they are today, to finally getting back to why this new character had to be introduced in this particular scene in the first place. Exhaustion!

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Brushing Aside the Action

For the most part, this book is just an exploration of Tabby’s evolving relationship with Shy, as well as the two of them getting used to each other’s quirks and habits. And bodies!! We have two moments in particular which are pretty drama-filled, but I must say I was disappointed in how they were handled. In both instances, the details are kind of left feeling unfinished. Seeing as the rest of the book isn’t too action-packed, it was kind of frustrating that the few instances where we do have it we never get a full resolution to matters.

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In the first instance Shy is finally allowed to confront his parents’ murderer, and some body-beating goes on, but then we sort of switch gears entirely to him having an honest confrontation with his aunt and uncle. Um, I’m sorry but what happened to the guy you were just mercilessly beating? Did you kill him? Remove an extremity? Leave him to die somewhere?? The second instance was especially frustrating as we are introduced to an intense feud between the club and a rival gang in which Shy is even left slightly injured. I was expecting a final confrontation or battle. Showdown between key members. Something! But again it’s brushed aside and the book basically ends. There’s the implication this will continue on in future novels in the series, but I wanted more! Now!

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Series: Chaos, book 1. This book wasn’t my favorite thing ever, but I gotta say it was probably one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read from Kristen Ashley so far. Don’t have much to go on of course, but still! I could see myself continuing with this one.

Should you read it? As it turns out, I unknowingly broke the cardinal rule of romance novel reading. I didn’t do a thorough enough background check to see if this was part of a series. I simply saw that it was book 1 of the Chaos series and assumed I was good to go. Well, you know what they say when you assume something! Turns out there’s some fine print to that, which states that this is an offshoot of the Dream Man series, and that it recommends you read Motorcycle Man first so you can follow along with some of the events which are referenced. Oops! At times I was kind of lost when they quickly referenced what must have been huge story points from this other novel. The problem is I’ve read a few of the novels from this other series and I wasn’t a huge fan, so I’m not as motivated as I should be to go back and complete that series.

Smut Level: Good Lord it was shocking how some of these chapters started! Normally with Shy’s head between Tabby’s legs. Yowza!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 405 Pages.

Captured Memories by Katherine McIntyre

A second chance at love. Can Liv and Zane overcome their troubled pasts to find love with each other, or will it be too heavy a burden to bear?

What’s it About?

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After the incident that caused Liv Morozov to drop out of college, years later she’s still trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s managed to carve out a career for herself as a photographer, but when it comes to guys? Her issues send them running for the hills, every damn time. Zane Parata has declared himself off-limits for relationships. Between trying to maintain sobriety and the long hours he works as a chef, no one wants to deal with his brand of damage, and he wouldn’t want to burden them in the first place.

When Liv shows up at Cupid’s Café, she never expected to find Zane, her brother’s former best friend who had vanished one day and never returned. The sparks that surged when they were both teens rekindle stronger than ever, and all too fast, Liv and Zane entangle in each other’s lives, breaking their own rules. Except with both struggling with the demons from their past, the love that’s begun to grow is one lapse away from shattering the two of them beyond repair.

First Impressions

I feel like there is one quote from this novel which perfectly encapsulate the power of the love story being told: “I’m never going to be an easy choice.” Here’s why this sentiment, and the tale love presented to us in this book is absolute perfection. Their love is intense, it’s raw, and most importantly, it…is…real. This story shows us how life is full of unexpected challenges, and to be quite frank, it can be an absolute bitch at times. However, while these external forces can sometimes test the relationship of our lead couple, they never break it. This isn’t one of those romance novels where a simple misunderstanding causes an unnecessary amount of drama, and results in our lovers spending time apart. Oh no. These characters fight for each other, and hold the other up if they’re ever at risk of falling down.

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These two have also been through hell and back. They are scarred lead characters who have experienced emotional and physical turmoil in their pasts. But they don’t just love each other in spite of these troubled pasts, they love who the other person is because of how these experiences have shaped them into who they are today. “I’m never going to be an easy choice” shows that their lives might be complicated, they might be thrown a couple of curve balls along the way, but in the end they will always choose the other. I’ve got all the goosebumps here people!

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An Unbreakable Bond

I think the reason I enjoyed this tale of love between Liv and Zane so much is that the novel primarily just focuses on them. Sure, we are introduced to a few supplemental characters along the way, but for the most part we are encapsulated in a little Liv/Zane bubble that you never want to see burst. They are aware pretty early on in the book when they meet again after so many years that a LOT has happened during that time apart. Liv was raped in college, which impacts the physical relationship these two start up pretty quickly. Zane is a recovering alcoholic who still feels the constant pull of the bottle.

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While some would run away from getting romantically involved with another person with such deep-rooted issues, these two refuse to be scared off. Zane does remain convinced for a large portion of the novel that it’s just a matter of time before Liv realizes how messed up he truly is and hightails it out of there, but he’s going to embrace every possible moment he can between now and when that day might come. In addition, he vows to take things at her own pace, refusing to rush her into a physical relationship before she’s ready.

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A Tough Road Ahead

I also loved that this novel demonstrates how past experiences such as theirs won’t simply be forgotten and magically healed forever by the power of love. Even after they build up to the point where Liv is ready to have sex with Zane, she asks him to realize that there might be a moment down the road where she could be triggered to flinch or push away from his touch.

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At the same time, Zane’s reality is that while he might attend AA meetings multiple times a week, and go for long periods of time without drinking, there will be times where the allure of the alcohol could force him to take a step back from socializing. And they both get it!! They understand when others won’t. They realize that life can be a constant struggle for some people, but they’re there to help and support each other. LOOOVE!

A Step Away From Perfection

At this point I think you can tell I really enjoyed this novel, and while I think the love story described is damn near perfection, I must admit there were a few flaws. The first I consider to be the main flaw, and the one I found to be the most perplexing. The impetus for Live and Zane to reconnect after so many years is that they both receive a cryptic invitation to visit Cupid’s Café where, “an admirer looks forward to meeting you”. Zane is humorously intrigued, and decides why the hell not? Liv is convinced she’s being taunted by her former rapist, and goes to confront him. When they both show up and their eyes lock through the crowded café the rest, as they say, is history.

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But that my friends is the flaw. The rest is history. Who the hell sent them these letters?!?! We never find out. There’s no clue or suggestion if it’s one of their friends, a matchmaking café proprietor, or just the cosmos being all funky. I was absolutely shocked that our lead characters never even bother to discuss it with each other. Now, I will say that this is the third book in this Cupid’s Café series, so maybe the one sending invitations is presented in a previous novel? Maybe it will finally be a big reveal when the series comes to a close? I don’t know but give me something!!!!

Waiting for No One

The one other flaw was relatively minor all things considered, and in the end sort of turned into a positive. Our novel opens with Liv on a date from hell, which abruptly ends when she hears the trill of her date’s phone and it immediately reminds her of the night she was raped. When she returns home to find a mystery envelope inviting her to meet someone from her past she’s immediately convinced it can be only one man, her rapist. Her reason for going was decidedly to finally find justice after so many years. Instead, she finds Zane waiting for her.

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Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting for the inevitable scene where Liv and Zane would be confronted with this man from her past. So imagine my surprise when it never comes! No glimpse from across the street, or even a more intense confrontation, nothing! Now, in hindsight I’m actually happy we were never presented with a threatening scene between Liv and her rapist. I think that scenario, combined with Zane confronting his own struggle with alcoholism, would have made the whole plot seem too artificially orchestrated. I guess I just would have preferred that it wasn’t implied at the outset that it could have been a possibility. I sort of felt like I was anticipating something I had no need to worry about for the whole book!

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

Series: Cupid’s Café, book 3. I kind of want to go back and read the first few novels from this series to see if I missed out on our mystery letter writer inviting our lovebirds to Cupid’s Café.

Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read that shows you just how powerful, yet difficult love can be. While I definitely loved both of these characters, I personally found Liv to be truly inspirational. She survived a trying ordeal, and was brave enough to share what happened with Zane even though she thought it would put distance between them. Then when Zane experiences a relapse with his alcoholism she chooses to stand by him and refuses to give up even when Zane tries to convince her that she’d be better off without him. It’s such a refreshing contrast to your typical romance novel drama.

Smut Level: Liv and Zane recognize that after all these years their bodies still crave each other, though this sparked attraction is put slightly on hold after Liv experiences a trigger from her rape. But Zane sticks by her side and is willing to take things slow. Just because it’s slow, don’t think it isn’t delectable!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.03 Kindle Price. After Glows Publishing. 200 Pages.

 

Hardpressed by Meredith Wild

“I don’t know what it was about him pinning me up against hard surfaces, but I fucking loved it”. Amen sister!

What’s it About? hardpressed

Despite Blake Landon’s controlling ways, the young and wealthy hacker finally won the trust of the woman he loves. Internet entrepreneur Erica Hathaway broke down the walls that kept her from opening her heart and her business to Blake. Ready to start this new chapter in her life, Erica is determined not to let anything come between them, even if that means giving Blake back some of the control he craves in and out of the bedroom. But when demons from her past threaten their future, Erica makes a decision that could change their lives forever.

First Impressions

If I had to describe this book in three words or less it would be “frustrating as fuuuuuuuuuck”. Apologies, pardon my language, but what can I say? I’m frustrated!!! This is one of those novels where it seems like all of the drama, unhappiness and mayhem could have just disappeared in a poof if Erica had managed to open her mouth and share what was going on with Blake. Now I know, having the drama end all within the span of a chapter doesn’t make for a very exciting read. But in my mind, that means it doesn’t make for a very decent plot when you can resolve it all so quick and easy if the lead character acted in any way like a normal person would. Maybe add another dimension to it so that I don’t constantly want to pull my hair out and scream out loud, “JUST TELL HIM WHAT’S GOING ON!!!!” The fact I listened to this as an audio book primarily on my walks to and from work meant that I was constantly on the verge of looking like a psycho. Nobody wants that people!

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Feel the Pressure

One of the minor frustrating aspects of this novel revolved around Blake and Erica’s sexual relationship. It’s basically a continuation of what was presented in book one, with them running in circles like a greyhound chasing a mechanized bunny at the race-track. He’s used to non-vanilla type sex, where domination is the name of the game, and he’s the master of his bedroom. However, Blake is hesitant to fully dominate her since she was raped years before. He’s worried he’ll take things too far and they won’t be able to come back from it. Surprisingly, we see that Erica is actually the one pressuring Blake to take their sexual adventures to the next level. He desires total submission and she wants to give him that.

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The problem here is that both are so set on taking things to the extreme. She’s urging him to go all out in the bedroom, and he’s concerned going all out will trigger a panic attack for her. Whatever happened to baby steps people?! Like, you don’t have to go straight from missionary position in unique locations to being blindfolded, handcuffed, and spanked at the same time all in one go. Maybe have a slow and seductive introduction to the d/s lifestyle so that Blake doesn’t have to worry about taking things too far, and Erica can get used to a new side of sex she hasn’t seen before. Slow and steady wins the race folks! You need to learn how to tie the knot before stringing up your lover to the bedpost.

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Squashed Potential

The first quarter or so of this book was pretty dull, as it just dealt with Erica setting up her new business, and navigating her sexual relationship with Blake. And then we get a dramatic plot twist that I must admit I did NOT see coming. There was sooooo much potential here for the book to go in an entirely new direction with some depth and suspense thrown in. Unfortunately, this opportunity was pretty much squandered, as Erica draws together almost every stereotype of being a frustrating lead character. Now, I don’t want to give away this plot twist since it was undoubtedly the most interesting part of the novel. However, I will say that with this twist a character demands Erica break up with Blake, or else there is the implication that physical harm will come to him. So what does she do? She keeps her mouth shut about this external threat to Blake, instead choosing to end things between them.

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If Blake were just your average Joe Schmoe I miiiiight get why she didn’t want to draw him into her drama. Here’s the problem though. Blake is like, a gazillionaire. If Erica had just said, yo this person is threatening us as a couple, any thoughts? He probably could have hired a swarm of bodyguards, private investigators, and a swat team to resolve the matter. But instead Erica has to go and play the martyr, falling on her sword to give up her happiness with Blake to live in misery. Eventually he does find a way to weasel his way back into her panties, and it took a loooooong time for us to finally get there. And when we do? Blake has not only one option to resolve all her drama, but two! Just goes to show that working together as a couple, and opening up to your partner with the truth can make it so much easier to confront a threat than having to do it all on your own.

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Series: Hacker, book 2. This is a pretty meh series so far.

Should you read it? Really the only positive I can give with this one is the early plot twist, but unfortunately it just drags on and on before eventually going nowhere. Erica frustrated me to no end, especially considering how many times she pushed Blake away even though he was begging her to let him in and help. Makes it hard to sympathize with her woes when she’s being so stubborn.

Smut Level: They’re still in the introductory phase of the BDSM lifestyle. Blake enjoys his dirty talk, but you can tell he’s still hesitant to let his hand loose completely.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Hachette Book Group. 312 Pages.

Love Me Only by Hebby Roman

From the elegant ballrooms of Mexico City, to the mosquito-filled swamps of the jungle, this novel takes us on an adventure to discover the wild unknowns in Mexico’s mountains.

What’s it About? 

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A stranger in a strange land, her father murdered, Diana McFarland must protect her father’s secret formula, the only legacy she has. One thing stands in her way–darkly handsome Seguin Torres, a man who wants the formula for himself. For Seguin, the formula is a way to avenge himself against the man who stole his birthright, but convincing Diana to part with it will prove almost as difficult as resisting his attraction to her. Betrayed by his family, Seguin doesn’t believe in love and marriage. As Mexico erupts into civil war, Seguin is honor-bound to protect Diana from his unscrupulous stepfather and the ravages of war. But their flight across the war-torn countryside is fraught with danger, as well as the challenge of their growing passion. Can Seguin get Diana to safety and let her go, or will their love overcome all the dangers and change Seguin’s heart?

First Impression

Arriving in a new city where you don’t really speak the language can be a challenge. Arriving in that city to discover that your father has been murdered, and that his scarred killer is still on the loose with some unsavory stalkerish tendencies? Ummmm yeah where the hell can I book the fastest train outta here? Let’s make it snappy people!! Thankfully for everyone, our heroine proves to be braver than I, as she sticks around in Mexico to try and discover what happened to her father. This is when the devilishly handsome former business partner of her father comes into play. Can she trust this man who seems dedicated to protecting her? Or did he have a hand in killing her father to get at his secret silver mining formula? Such intrigue. This historical drama definitely draws you in from the get-go, as we see Diana navigate through this new world which can be lavish yet harsh at the same time. The fact she’s a woman in a man’s world makes her all the braver. By the end of the novel though, we find ourselves venturing into a completely different and uncharted territory. Quite literally.

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Murder and Mining Mayhem

Looking at this book as a whole, it almost seems to be two separate books thrown into one. In the first half, we see the immediate repercussions and mystery surrounding the murder of Diana’s father, as well as her attempts to stand up for herself and her mother in the face of the dashing Seguin. He’s intent on purchasing her father’s silver mining formula, and after a series of unfortunate circumstances Diana is the only one who knows her father’s formula by memory. I must say I absolutely adored the scenes where we get to see Diana and Seguin go head to head over the formula. They seem like equals in smarts, tenacity, and their simmering sexual attraction doesn’t hurt things too much either.

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A Stroll Through the Mountains

I must say I did prefer the first half of the novel more than the latter half where we see Seguin, Diana, and a small group of friends wade through the unknown dangers of the jungle in an attempt to escape back to America following an outbreak of war in the city. The fact that the murderer is hot on their heels, not to mention the man who orchestrated the whole thing (Seguin’s stepfather) is also in tow makes their journey all the more desperate. Although this is the part of the novel where Diana and Seguin give in to their lustful inhibitions, it’s also where we get a lot of scenes with a lot of walking. And walking. And having sex on a sacrificial altar in an abandoned ancient city. And more walking.

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It was at this point where I even had to think back and ask, wait, how did this story start again? Oh right, father’s murder. While everything does eventually come full circle at the last possible moment of the book, I couldn’t help but feel that as a whole the various story lines at play were a tad disjointed. While I don’t think the book necessarily has to be split into two separate novels completely, I think a few less jungle wandering scenes, and maybe even a distinct marker for Part 1: the City and Part 2: the Wild could have helped things. It may have better prepared the reader for the fact we were switching gears to a vastly different landscape that juxtaposes the comforts and opulence from part one. Just a thought!

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Miss Independent

Another surprising feature of this novel which was divided in two was the romance. We don’t get just one love story, but two! The first is obviously between Seguin and Diana. Both try to hold off on delving deeper into their initial attraction to each other. For Diana, not only had her father just died, but she wonders if Seguin has something to do with it. Kind of understandable why she’d be hesitant to try anything more. When it comes to Seguin, well he’s basically distrustful of all women. Normally when we see this in a romance it’s because of a former failed relationship with a lover. In his case, it instead had to do with his failed relationship with his mother, which they were never able to fully mend before her death. Complicated is an understatement.

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It’s when we transition to the jungle trek that both Seguin and Diana decide they can’t keep their hands off each other anymore. While I’m always a fan of a good ole romp, I must say I preferred their earlier flirtations in the city. Early on in the novel, Diana has spunk, sass, and the cojones to stand up to Seguin. In the latter half though we see Diana become increasingly dependent on Seguin, and even takes to begging him to “love me only”. Not gonna lie, I missed her tenacity and sense of independence.

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Switching Back and Forth

Our second romance is between Diana’s best friend, Sarah, and Seguin’s half-brother, Gilberto. This had more of the feeling of a classic historical romance. They fall quickly for each other after dancing at a ball, and he must prove that he only has eyes for Sarah. Even if it seems every other woman in the city has eyes for him. It’s practically swoon worthy! But here was my problem with it. I can’t say it was entirely necessary. At least, it could have been incorporated more methodically into the story. When the novel starts we are so enraptured with what might develop between Diana and Seguin, but when Diana is forced to bed rest following a rib injury, we suddenly switch gears completely to focusing on Sarah and Gilberto instead. Our other couple essentially disappears from the story completely to the point where I wondered if we’d even see a conclusion to their tale.

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When we do eventually switch focus back to Seguin and Diana’s relationship, then we see our other couple get pushed to the background. It’s almost like they couldn’t completely coexist, though I will say the love story between Sarah and Gilberto does have implications on all of our characters, and the progression of the story. However, I think I almost would have preferred if maybe the focus had instead been more on Diana and Seguin, as well as our half-brothers trying to mend their troubled relationship. Then at the end we could have had an insinuation that Sarah and Gilberto were googly eyes for each other. It may have helped to create a more cohesive story, rather than having two love stories taking place in one book.

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An Enchanting Landscape

There were two aspects of this novel which completely fascinated me. The first dealt with the historical aspect. This is definitely the first romance novel I’ve ever read which has focused on this time period in history, and it definitely caught my interest. The main reason being, I had zero idea what really came to pass during that time in Mexico’s history, so I had no idea how the historical events could possibly impact the rest of the story. It wasn’t like reading a romance set during the Civil War or WWII, where I know the standard start and end dates, as well as the general progression of the battle timeline. In this case though? It was a total learning process, and one that I’d love to research more fully. Personally I blame my high school’s lack of world history courses. I remember there was only one Global History course offered during my entire high school career, and it conflicted with my French class. Sooooo, yeah, I need to brush up on my history of Mexico.

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The other feature of the novel which was described to perfection was the landscape. I could practically taste the champagne of the royal ball, feel the itch of the mosquitoes from the swamp, and feel the exhaustion of climbing through the countryside. It’s easy to get lost in the description of each scene, as you can picture the beauty and harsher aspects of the setting. Hell, when Diana and Seguin come across an abandoned city in the midst of the jungle you can practically feel the cold stone of the sacrificial altar digging into your back when Seguin worships Diana’s body in the physical sense. Oh my, definitely need to fan myself off here a moment.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Should you read it? While I did prefer the first half of the novel, everything does come together for an exciting climax. The historical period of the book was fascinating, and I’m simply intrigued to learn more. Although I’m definitely a fan of romance, I think I would have preferred one less romantic story line here so that more of a focus was on Diana and Seguin. As it stands, there was almost a conflict of sorts in the middle of the book for who the main characters actually are. Replacing that second romance with a focus on Gilberto and Seguin fixing their strained relationship is something I might have preferred to see.

Smut Level: Sarah and Gilberto have a few passionate kisses, and an eventual quick love scene in a thatched hut. Diana and Seguin definitely heat things up a bit, with a descriptive make-out scene in a mining vault, and even a rough coupling on a sacrificial altar. Proving once and for all that even historical romances can have a slightly raunchy side.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 353 Pages.