Sophia’s Secret by Julie Ryan

Sometimes the most seemingly idyllic of small towns are the ones that hide the most tantalizing secrets.

What’s it About?

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This is the second book in the Greek Island Mystery series. Although each book is intended to be read as a standalone, some of the characters from the first book, ‘Jenna’s Journey’, do make an appearance.

Kat has never understood why she was sent at the age of seven from Greece to live in England with her Aunt Tigi. When she receives an email from her grandmother, the first contact in over twenty years, informing her of her mother’s death, she knows this could be her last chance to find out the truth. Little by little she finds out the shocking facts as her grandmother opens her heart. It seems everyone has a secret to tell, not only her grandmother, as Manoli, her school friend, also harbours a guilty secret. Then there’s a twenty year old mystery to solve as well as a murder and what happened to the missing Church treasure?

First Impressions

Sophia isn’t the only one with a secret on this small Greek Island! There’s a lot going on in this novel, with multiple mysteries and dramatic plot points taking place over several decades. The book itself is divided into four parts, which definitely helped to keep a sense of order to how the story was told. We start off with Kat traveling back to her childhood home after the death of her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was just a little girl. As a matter of fact, she hasn’t seen her father or grandmother since then either, as she was sent off to live in another country with her Aunt when she was only seven. Since then she’s received no word from the rest of her family. Now that she’s back on the island, her grandmother, Sophia, is prepared to reveal the true and troubled history of why Kat was sent away so many years before. This is when we enter part 2 of the novel.

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A Blast to the Past

Little did I know that in order to figure out the events of twenty years ago, we’d actually be traveling back even further in time, going all the way back to when Sophia herself was just a teenager. This time jump definitely holds your interest, as you’re constantly wondering how the story will evolve to ultimately explain the reason why Kat was sent away. However, you also sort of have to force your way through a large chunk of the novel, as it’s a rather depressing read. Through Sophia’s eyes we see her tale of woe, forced marriage, rape, pining for a lost love, jealousy, and even murder. Quite a bit of murder actually. As if that wasn’t enough of a downer, throughout the read we’re constantly getting moments which foreshadow even more doom and gloom to come, such as “little did I know how much worse things were about to get.” At times it felt like I needed a shot of tequila before I could proceed to the next chapter!

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Back to the Future

Sophia’s memories in part 2 take up a rather significant portion of the book, and by the time we’ve made our way back up to the present in part 3, I must admit it took me a while to remember what all was going on and who the key players were. Not only have we just reviewed all of Sophia’s secrets revolving around her forced marriage, forbidden love, and the mystery of her husband’s death, but now we have a lost Church treasure, a missing boy from years ago, a dead Jane Doe, Kat’s husband and step daughter having their own problems, a kidnapping, a dead antiques smuggler, and Kat trying to deal with the new information she’s learned about her parents. Again, there’s a lot going on here!

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Bringing it All Together

On the one hand, it definitely seemed like there was too much going on. Some of these mysterious story lines held more prominence in the overall telling of the book, while others seemed to get just a little bit of attention before being quickly put to rest. I was particularly surprised to find that at the very end of the book we even get a link back to an unsolved mystery from the first book that is finally resolved. That being said, I must say it was truly commendable that the author managed to bring every single mystery full circle by the end of the book.

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No stone is left unturned, and every loose end is tied up perfectly. Quite a feat worth mentioning considering there were so many moving pieces at work here. Personally I do think the book as a whole would have benefited from removing some of the more minor side plot distractions, and instead have the drama surrounding Kat’s relationships with her mother, father and grandmother be the sole focus. It just would have pulled the story together more tightly into one cohesive thread.

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

Series: A Greek Island Mystery, book 2. I did enjoy this sequel better than the first novel in the series! With book one I was kind of disappointed that some elements surrounding the downfall of our main villain were left unresolved. Imagine my surprise to discover that we finally get a resolution to that plot point at the very end of this second book!

Final Impressions: While this mystery certainly kept me guessing, and managed to hold my interest throughout, it was also kind of hard to want to pick it up and read sometimes considering the subject matter. Sophia had a tough life, and it was disheartening to read about her trials and tribulations in such detail. That being said, it was nice to see that she was eventually rewarded for her hardships later in life. As far as the mystery of why Kat was sent away all those years before, it was definitely an interesting and surprising reason, but I can’t say I ever fully understood why all communication was cut off from her until now. A bit more explanation as to why Sophia in particular, as well as Kat’s father, never chose to visit her throughout the years would have been nice.

Smut Level: None really.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.25 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 331 Pages.

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Out Too Far by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

An exciting and humorous conclusion to the Love Overboard series!

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Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up. Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart. When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly, they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR!

First Impressions

It’s always sad to see the end of a series, but this final installment in the Love Overboard trilogy manages to keep you giggling as Rania and Moj navigate their love in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Both characters are dealing with the stresses of life. She’s lying low, trying to keep off the radar so her crazy ex doesn’t find her. As for Moj, he’s keeping busy as a famous music producer, trying to keep his mind off the recent and untimely death of his wife. Neither is looking for love, but once their eyes lock during a crowded music festival, there’s no going back. The connection between them is immediate. While they’re initially hesitant to explore anything physical between them seeing as she’s working on the yacht he’s chartered, it’s not long before fate pushes them to take things to the next level.

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Funnily enough, the moment when they decide to finally give into the desire which has enveloped them since they first met is not the moment I would have guessed would be the most opportune for sexy fun times. Moj and Rania find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island with kidnappers, albeit hilariously incompetent ones, hot on their tail. This is the moment where I’d be freaking out, convinced that starvation and dehydration would soon portend the end of it all. However, Moj and Rania take an entirely different approach, seeing this deserted island as an opportunity to finally get some privacy from all of Moj’s fame. Sure, they need to explore the island for water, food, discover whether or not it actually is deserted, but they first choose to look at the silver lining of the situation. Beautiful beach, just survived an adrenaline inducing escape from kidnappers…seems like the perfect time to get naked, no? Priorities people!

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“There is maybe one chance in hell we’re going to survive this ordeal. I say we make the most of the time we have left…”

The Need to Stand Aside

Something I really loved about this read, and the series as a whole for that matter, was that we were presented with a strong female lead character. Oftentimes throughout the books we find it is the ladies who are stepping up to protect the gents, or help them out of a sticky situation. This holds true in the character of Rania, a strong woman who can take care of herself, and has been trained by the very best to do so. Moj on the other hand, is a man who was determined to take care of his first wife who died from cancer. Caring wholeheartedly for others is part of his very nature, and the concept of stepping aside to let Rania take care of herself is one he’s struggling with. Where his first wife needed him, Rania doesn’t really need him at all. Even though their time together has been brief, it’s not long before Moj can’t imagine what life would be like to have Rania pulled away from him so suddenly.

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By the end of the novel, Moj finally accepts that when it comes to attempted kidnappers and matters of international espionage, his interference would probably cause more harm than good. He succeeds in stepping aside to allow Rania to shine in all her bad-assery. The final scene is quite funny even though it’s the climax of everything coming together, and it’s described in such perfect detail I could practically see it playing out in my head like a movie. Moj still worries for Rania’s safety, that’s something that will never go away completely, but he can learn to let her take care of herself when necessary. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him at all. She needs his presence in her life, she needs his love and support, but she doesn’t need him to treat her as a damsel in distress. If anything, Moj is the one who needs her protection and strength in certain moments. There are many times where they learn to place their full trust in the other person in order to make it out of a sticky situation, and acknowledge that there are some things they can’t do all by themselves. Sometimes they need a shoulder to lean on.

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

Series: Love Overboard, book 3. It’s always fun to see the earlier characters from the series come back in the end, although it was kind of disappointing that the couple from book 2 never made a surprise guest appearance.

Final Impressions: This was a sexy, funny read, and a great conclusion to the series. Some scenes were a bit over the top, and other areas could have been explained more fully, such as Rania’s past with her ex. However, it’s still a fun and silly read that’ll have you giggling along. Aside from the delight of having a strong female lead character, my other favorite part would have to be our would-be kidnappers. At the start you worry about how they might cause trouble for Moj and Rania, but as the story progresses you see they are hilariously inept at being criminals, and I was shocked to find myself liking them more and more with each new scene.

Smut Level: The first time Moj and Rania do the deed it’s on the beach of a deserted island they’ve been stranded on. I can’t imagine how much sand must have gotten into some extremely uncomfortable places.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 211 Pages.

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Jake’s Redemption by Jamie Schulz

In this futuristic world, women are no longer considered the weaker sex, and have come to control society. Yasssss!! They’ve also enslaved all men, and even sell them at Auction as breeders to be used and abused. Dammit ladies, we’re better than this!!! 😦

What’s it About? 

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Chained and enslaved, Jake Nichols is convinced he’ll die alone. In this new order where men are stripped of all power, he endures brutal torture at the hands of his female captor. But when he’s hired out to build a ranch home for an outspoken beauty, his dreams of escape transform into visions of passion.

Monica Avery struggles to fill her heart in a loveless society. With marriage outlawed and romantic partners reduced to pawns, she’s given up hope of finding her soul mate. But watching the rugged rancher hard at work on her shelter awakens deeply buried desires.

As the project comes together, Monica discovers a kindred spirit in the tenderhearted Jake. But despite their growing attraction, he still belongs to a cruel woman who’d rather see him dead than free. Can Monica save Jake, or will their love lead to a tragic tomorrow?

First Impressions

This is definitely a unique world we’ve been thrown into, as it is both futuristic in concept, yet rudimentary in execution. A series of wars and…genetic mutations(?) have resulted in womankind becoming the dominant force in society, with the ability to overpower men with their superior strength that kicks in when threatened. These various wars have depleted the men of this world, and they have since become the slaves and playthings of women. They are objects to be sold at auction, and there seem to be no repercussions or punishment for women who abuse their slaves to the point of death. As a result of these wars, women may have come to the ultimate position of power, but they rule over a land that has seemingly been thrown back in time, with rolling blackouts of electricity, the necessity for horses as a means of transportation, and the fond memory of telephones as a way to communicate with others. It’s a stark juxtaposition of modernity vs. stagnation.

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While the premise of the story was certainly intriguing, I felt like we only scratched the surface of these wars which plagued the entire world. For a series prequel, I would have liked to see more attention focused on the details of these wars, and the fallout which resulted in such a drastic alteration to society as we know it. There were many times throughout the book where I couldn’t help but think, “how did we ever get to this point?!” I almost wonder if a more appropriate use of this prequel would have been to set the story years earlier in the midst of the wars so we could see how everything came together for our women, yet simultaneously fell apart for our men. In a way, I sort of wanted to see a prequel for our prequel!

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From Slave to Partner

Jake is in Hell. He’s the slave of a sadistic, tortuous woman who seems determined to break his will to live. Salvation comes when he is loaned out for a time to a neighboring farm to help with the construction of a ranch house for it’s beautiful owner. Monica is seemingly the opposite of every other woman he’s come across in this world. She treats her slaves with respect, and vows she would never force them to do anything they weren’t comfortable with. The truly heartbreaking feature of this story is that Jake has the hardest time seeing this reprieve for what it is. When he first arrives at Monica’s farm, he’s constantly suspicious of her motives, and wondering when she’ll finally let her true colors shine as a demanding Mistress. He simply can’t trust her, because his hellish owner “tortured all the trust” out of him.

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Although Jake has difficulty trusting Monica in the beginning, he can’t deny his body’s attraction to her, and she too desires him in a way that feels different than all the men who have come before. When Jake rejects her initial advances, she is quick to assume that he’s being overly gruff. However, she eventually realizes that he has suffered immense physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his owner. This torture is deeply embedded in his psyche, to the point where Monica’s intimate touch causes him to experience distressing flashbacks which fully incapacitate him. It is only after many open and honest discussions, not to mention time, that Jake is able to overcome the mental torment of his past abuse and rape that he can learn to enjoy Monica’s affection. The only problem with the fact that Jake and Monica have established a deep emotional connection is that the time is soon approaching when he must go back to the hell he was merely on a break from.

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

Series: Angel Eye Series, prequel. This book definitely pulls you in to the point where you immediately want to pick up the next book.

Final Impressions: In terms of the purpose of a prequel to set the tone and background for the series, I’m not sure it was used to it’s fullest potential, especially when you consider the length. It’s a rather hefty read at 425 pages, and when all was said and done I still felt some confusion about the foundation of this world which has been ravaged by such unconventional wars. The bulk of the story involves Jake and Monica stuck in a cat and mouse game where they seemingly take two steps back for every step forward in their relationship. In addition, there were several key aspects of the plot which were left unfinished so that they can undoubtedly come back into play in the next novel. Ultimately it seemed we were left with more questions than answers, and the flow of the story probably could have benefited from about 50-75 fewer pages.

Smut Level: It takes quite a bit of time before Jake can push his past trauma aside so that he can fully connect with Monica on a physical level. This means that more of the story involved the development of their emotional relationship rather than a physical one.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 425 Pages.

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The Rogue King by Abigail Owen

This is the kind of book that will immediately make you crave the sequel as soon as you reach the last page.

What’s it About? 

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Kasia Amon is a master at hiding. Who—and what—she is makes her a mark for the entire supernatural world. Especially dragon shifters. To them, she’s treasure to be taken and claimed. A golden ticket to their highest throne. But she can’t stop bursting into flames, and there’s a sexy dragon shifter in town hunting for her…

As a rogue dragon, Brand Astarot has spent his life in the dark, shunned by his own kind, concealing his true identity. Only his dangerous reputation ensures his survival. Delivering a phoenix to the feared Blood King will bring him one step closer to the revenge he’s waited centuries to take. No way is he letting the feisty beauty get away.

But when Kasia sparks a white-hot need in him that’s impossible to ignore, Brand begins to form a new plan: claim her for himself…and take back his birthright.

First Impressions

I’ve been a huge fan of the Fire’s Edge series by Ms. Abigail Owen, and I’ve been craving more information about the dragon clan drama we’ve only heard hints of so far. When The Rogue King, which is the first book in the companion Inferno Rising series, landed in my lap I was positively tinkled pink. I’m happy to say this alternating series doesn’t disappoint, and has finally provided insight into the issues which have been playing on the edge of this dragon world up until now. What I love about any Abigail Owen book, and which certainly holds true in this premiere novel, is that there are so many layers at work to the plot beyond mere romance.

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You have Brand fighting to belong to a clan once again after going rogue hundreds of years before. His desire to earn the trust of his fellow dragons has the slightest hint of both desperation and exasperation to it, as he constantly struggles to become fully incorporated into this family/brotherhood. Then there’s the element of family legacy for both Kasia and Brand. She saw her mother die in front of her, and is now the phoenix of legend who can bring unbridled power to whichever dragon she eventually chooses to mate. Brand too witnessed the slaughter of his entire family, and now seeks to earn back his rightful place as king of the Gold Clan. There are battles for power and immortality, friendship, trust, loyalty, and on top of all that you have Brand and Kasia discovering their love for each other. That’s a full package right there!

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Blind Faith

Even the developing romance between Brand and Kasia is a complicated one that contains multiple layers which go deeper than simple infatuation. He has been ordered to bring her back to mate his king, but his king isn’t merely his ruler. This is his one true friend in the world who took him in when no one else would. In the beginning Kasia was his mission, pure and simple. Yet the more time he spends protecting her, and getting close to her, the more Brand can’t deny his feelings for her are growing. However, to act on them would be the ultimate betrayal to the one man he’s considered a brother. The one man who might be able to aide him in his desire for revenge against his family’s killer. Can he really put all of that in jeopardy for a woman?

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As for Kasia, she’s been taught from an early age to run from dragons. Her existence as a phoenix will bring ultimate power and luck to the clan of her future dragon mate. In spite of this power, she’s never wanted to be a pawn in the chess game these dragons have waged for centuries against each other. Kasia is a strong female who is convinced she’s no damsel in distress who needs rescuing. Imagine her annoyance when she’s confronted by this alpha rogue dragon who insists on taking care of her. However, even Kasia has to admit when she’s in need of help, and she quickly realizes the need to place all her blind faith and trust in Brand. She’s willing to meet and possibly even mate his king to endure her own survival. Her growing infatuation for Brand is undeniable, yet she understands that by giving into this desire she might be putting both of their lives at risk. You just have to wonder how long they can both hold out for.

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The Species At War

Dragons, wolves, demons, hell-hounds, vampires, and witches. Oh my! A fascinating feature of this novel is seeing the extent of infighting within the dragon species. They may all be the same in theory, but a key theme is seeing dragons fighting dragons from separate clans. They’re all after power, and they’re willing to take down members of their own species in the pursuit of it. However, we also see the introduction of all these different species which are supposed to be seen as the “other” compared to dragons. Wolves, vampires, etc, who are constantly viewed as a potential enemy. Their distrust of each other is immediate. Be that as it may, in the end we see how some of these different species have to come together in order to survive against a common enemy, and their alliance turns into one of trust and friendship. It’s a rather hopeful outlook that even those who seem so different on the surface might have more in common than they originally suspected.

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

Series: Inferno Rising, book 1. I’ve been waiting so long for the stories of the clan kings, and it’s finally here! I can’t wait to see what comes next, and how these two series will continue to intertwine.

Final Impressions: Some fantastical aspects of the conclusion were a bit over the top for me, and we are ultimately left with some questions unanswered so that they can inevitably be resolved in a future book. This definitely helps to build the drama, but every now and again there were a few too many things going on at once. However, I loved that this also resulted in the plot constantly keeping you on your toes. It definitely was not a predictable read! You never know what’s going to happen next, what new characters we might meet, and what new alliances may be created or broken.

Smut Level: As if this dragon and phoenix weren’t putting out enough fire and flames of their own!! When Kasia and Brand come together they practically set the roof on fire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 400 Pages

Through the Eyes of a Captive by Angela Christina Archer

From the wide open plains of the wagon train, to the secluded village of the Lakota tribe. See how one captive manages to find freedom in the arms of a warrior.

What’s it About? 

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“It is observed that in any great endeavor, it is not enough for a person to depend solely on himself.” ~ Lakota Proverb

They called it a terrible glory and the last great battle for the American West. While the battle of the Little Bighorn was the last stand by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer against the Lakota tribes, to Lily Sinclair it was the last stand between her old life and her new beginning.

After her in-laws squander away the family fortune, Lily and her husband, Alfred, head out west to the mountains of Montana, the only land available to poor people and far away from the debts haunting them. When a band of Cherokee warriors attacks their wagon train along the way, they kill her husband and take her captive, selling her to a Lakota tribe for the price of several horses.

Widowed Lakota warrior Tahatan has vowed never to take another bride after his wife’s death. However, he soon finds himself forced in a marriage with the outspoken, yellow-haired Yankee who challenges every thought in his head. While his attraction for her grows, so do the tormenting demons of his past.

With Custer’s sights set on the hidden gold in the depths of the Black Hills, the Colonel begins his warpath on the tribe villages. Can Lily overcome the demons of her past and defend Tahatan and his people? Or will she betray them all for the actions against her dead husband, killing someone she never believed she would in the process?

First Impressions

Make no mistake, this is an emotionally heavy read. Our novel opens with Lily traveling west with her somewhat surly husband; the open plains seemingly leading to endless possibilities. It doesn’t take long though before this outlook of hope and possibility drastically changes course to one of violence as a band of Indians attacks this train of innocent travelers. We as the reader knew the attack was coming. It’s outlined right there in the synopsis. What I wasn’t expecting was the ruthlessness of the attack. The author certainly doesn’t shirk away from some gruesome details.

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We start off with the violent death of Lily’s husband, who was unexpectedly shot mid-conversation with a slew of arrows, before being stabbed repeatedly and even scalped. As Lily is captured, we see the brutal ends of her fellow travelers. Men, women, and even children whose throats were slit, or innocent bodies were penetrated by arrows. My initial question as a reader was whether or not the vicious details of such an attack were necessary. Then I realized that while the specifics were undoubtedly painful to read, you must also commend the author for not shying away from the stark authenticity of these kinds of attacks. When these two opposing worlds clashed together, violence like this was a reality. It was a harsh reality, but it was reality nonetheless. Why try to sugarcoat it?

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From Captive to Wife

When Lily is bound and captured, she immediately goes into survival mode. Escape doesn’t cross her mind, as she knows it would be futile. She has no choice but to follow her captors. At this point Lily’s entire life has been thrown into disarray. She just witnessed the slaughter of her husband and the wagon train. She’s been taken captive, traded to another tribe, and forced to marry their strongest warrior, Tahatan. Now, if it were me? I’d be curled up in a ball, shaking back and forth, and wracked by uncontrollable sobbing. For Lily, she learns how to adapt to an entirely new way of life, in a new environment, surrounded by people speaking a language she doesn’t understand. She comes to appreciate the beauty and calm of nature more than she ever felt for the bustling city streets she once knew. Her new husband speaks English, and while he initially admits he never had any intention of marrying again after the death of his first wife, the two eventually come to an understanding of friendship. Which soon blossoms into something more.

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“But that’s all I’ve known here–force. Forced to watch Alfred die. Forced to the ground. Forced to have my wrists tied….Then forced into a marriage. What else would I know?”

You might be asking yourself how it’s possible Lily could come to love another man so soon after the tragic death of her husband. The truth is that by marrying Tahatan she now has the opportunity to reflect on her previous marriage to Alfred. As they traveled the wagon train we saw glimpses that not all was well in their marriage. Lily now starts to question if she every truly loved him, or if it was simply the institution of marriage that she was attracted to. Time passes in this Lakota village she’s come to inhabit with her new husband, and she slowly starts to see the harsh mask of this warrior fade away into one of a gentle and caring person. He teaches her the ways and traditions of his people. They learn to trust each other. To confide in each other. And eventually how to love each other. However, as Lily learns to appreciate this new way of life, and this newfound love with her husband, dangerous forces start to encroach upon her newfound serenity. 

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“I missed having a man around me. I missed having conversations. I missed the assurance someone loved and cared for me, and would do so for as long as he lived. I missed the protection of a warm pair of arms…I missed the comfort of a life shared. I missed marriage.”

Tradition vs. Greed

Enter Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his band of soldiers. When the story opened we witnessed a gruesome attack of Cherokee against a wagon train. Now we see the reverse, as government soldiers heedlessly cut down innocent Lakota tribes-people in their villages. Once again, we see the violent slaughter of men, women and children come full circle, and it begs to question what either side is fighting for where death seems to be the only answer. For the Cherokee, the Lakota, and the other tribes, they are defending their homes, their traditions, and their very way of life from the slew of people invading their lands. For Custer and his men? It’s greed. Gold. The loss of innocent lives on either side is unforgivable, but to see the lengths that some men will go to simply for material wealth…it’s a tragedy that brings tears to my eyes even now. To read this fictional romance is one thing, but then to acknowledge that this story is steeped in the harsh truths of history makes these senseless deaths even more poignant.

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For the first times in their lives, both Lily and Tahatan feel whole. Their love is pure, deep, and all-consuming. This becomes particularly evident when the possibility of Tahatan becoming swept up in the ensuing war between tribes and soldiers grows nearer. While Lily feels whole for the first time in her life, she also feels fear unlike anything she’s felt before over the thought of losing someone close to her. When she and Alfred were traveling along the wagon train she knew the dangers and risks of attacks were lurking, but it never crossed her mind what it would be like to lose Alfred; to have to live a life without him. Now that she’s finally confronted with the possibility of losing Tahatan, she is filled with a crippling fear which makes her question if she’d be able to survive if he were to die.

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“And then someone captured me, like a wild animal now in irons. Only, what I didn’t know was that those shackles would lead me to more freedom than I’d ever known or believed I would feel. The freedom of you.”

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

Series: The Wildflower Women Collection, book 3. Each novel in this series guarantees a strong female lead, and superb writing which will transport you through time into the story.

Final Impressions: This is a heavy, and honestly kind of a depressing read, but it’s an important one. It certainly made me want to immediately research the Lakota, as well as the fates of the various tribes following Custer’s last stand. There was one feature towards the end which blended history with fiction a bit too dramatically for my tastes. We’re also presented with a somewhat open-ended ending that will leave you wanting more. Something I especially appreciated though with this read was the constant juxtaposition between an old way of life versus the new. Just as Lily’s previously urban way of life with her first husband disappeared when she was taken captive, so too is the Lakota’s former way of life disappearing as their lands are increasingly threatened by soldiers. The question becomes, will they too be able to adapt as she did, or will they go down fighting to preserve their traditions?

Smut Level: Definitely some passionate moments between Lily and Tahatan, but nothing overly detailed.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 280 Pages.

 

Heaven’s Sinners by Bella Jewel

Ever wonder how our lead male character got the nickname of “Spike”? Easy. He has a line of barbell piercings on his willy wally ding dong, and at either end of each barbell he has attachable spikes. Am I the only one who wonders what kind of outline that would form in his pants? Or what a pain it would be going through airport security?

What’s it About? 

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Contains adult content, recommended for readers over 17. A modern day biker romance.

Spike knows tragedy, he knows that feelings are better left hidden. He refuses to put his heart out there again, it’s a pain he’s not willing to feel a second time around. He’s accepted he’s going to spend forever alone. That’s all he deserves.

But then there’s Ciara, the sister of his deceased wife. She’s beautiful and damned determined to throw herself into his life in hopes they can reform an old friendship, but Spike won’t hear of it, and Ciara refuses to give up.

Who will win the battle of wills?

First Impressions 

Spike is trying with all his might to push Ciara away. They have a troubled past, and he’s convinced the two of them are better off away from each other. There’s just one problem with that. The fact they have such a long history together means that Ciara knows all the tricks and ploys he might use to try and push her away. This allows her to not only stay one step ahead of his attempts to get rid of her, but she knows how to push his own buttons to get an emotional reaction from him. Now, I will say some of their attempts to “one-up” each other get somewhat petty. For example there are several instances where they try to use other people to make the other one jealous, which is a bit too high school drama for my liking.

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However, I must admit I did appreciate that Ciara especially didn’t always choose to wither away when Spike was up to something. It’s often the case in romance novel land that a female lead will run off in a huff of anger if she comes upon the male lead making out in the back of a bar’s storage area with another woman. For Ciara though? Well, after catching Spike’s eye during said make-out session she decides to rile him up a bit by erotically touching and stroking herself. Right when he’s on the edge of coming because of her antics, she leaves the room with a knowing smirk and wink. I simultaneously wanted to roll my eyes at how they resulted to some immature methods to provoke each other, yet also applaud Ciara’s ability to stare him right in the face without backing down. An unexpected dichotomy for sure.

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Past vs. Present; Ciara vs. Spike

The format of this novel was rather unique, in that it constantly switches back and forth from the past to the present. The past particularly focuses on the history of Ciara and Spike’s friendship, his pursuit of Ciara’s sister Cheyenne, and the aftermath of Cheyenne’s death. Their present is more focused on both of them learning how to forgive each other for the misunderstandings of their past, as well as pursuing a new romantic relationship with each other. While it was definitely an interesting format, something felt a bit disjointed in the execution of it. Firstly, the scenes in both the past and the present were constantly flip-flopping between both Ciara and Spike’s points of view. Secondly, the flashbacks to the past didn’t necessarily happen in chronological order, which made it rather difficult to keep track of what happened when. At the start of the novel, all we know is that in the present scenes Ciara and Spike have a definite animosity towards each other, and in the scenes from the past we see how close they used to be in their friendship.

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From that point on the entire novel felt like a build-up to understanding what exactly happened between Ciara and Spike all those years ago, as well as the animosity which developed between them because of his relationship with Cheyenne. While interesting in theory, I found it somewhat difficult to follow along with some of their arguments in the present when we don’t fully understand everything that happened in the past. Whatever happened to end the friendship between Spike and Ciara, and push him into the arms of her sister was obviously the foundation for their current animosity, but because we were left in the dark for soooo long you couldn’t help but feel frustrated at their continual bickering in the present. The true break in their relationship all those years ago never received the amount of attention it deserved, and therefore you just want them to forgive each other and get over it already.

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The Blame Game

Misplaced blame seems to be the name of the game in this novel. Everyone places blame where it doesn’t belong in every argument they have. They’ll blame each other, themselves, Ciara’s deceased sister Cheyenne, etc. The funny thing is that at some point, each of those people were in fact responsible for some kind of misunderstanding or error in the past, but they always blamed them for some other misdeed at the wrong time. This was especially true regarding both Ciara and Spike’s relationships with Cheyenne, including how Spike and Cheyenne ended up marrying each other, as well as the details surrounding her death. We know that Spike only turned towards Cheyenne all those years before out of frustration that Ciara never seemed to notice his attempts to woo her.

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All these years later he’s insistent that he did actually love Cheyenne with all his heart, but it’s kind of difficult for us to understand seeing as we never saw any affectionate moments between them. The only Cheyenne-focused scenes we did see involved Cheyenne being pretty manipulative in her pursuit of Spike, even though she knew her sister was infatuated with him. Spike blames himself for Cheyenne’s death, and Ciara initially blamed Spike as well, but both also admitted that Cheyenne wanted to be there with Spike during some kind of dangerous biker mission. It seemed like the only person they didn’t always involve in the blame game was the man who actually pulled the trigger to kill Cheyenne in the first place! It wasn’t until the very last moment of the book that we got a quick and rather intense focus from Spike on revenge towards Cheyenne’s killer.

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Series: The MC Sinners, book 2.

Final Impressions: This read definitely started strong, as you can’t help but wonder how Spike and Ciara’s strong friendship from so many years ago devolved into pure hatred in the present day. Will they be able to move on from their misunderstandings of the past? The main issue with this book though is in the execution of the story. This constant back and forth from past to present, and the lengthy delay in finding out how their friendship broke down when they were younger goes on for far too long. There was too much focus on their bickering, which resulted in the highly dramatic and suspenseful conclusion to feel rushed.

Smut Level: Spike definitely takes Ciara out of her sexual comfort zone, including going to a sex club where they watch others engage in sexual acts from behind a one-way mirror. Ciara can’t help but feel an initial sense of shame for liking something which seems so perverted. However, he teaches her how to embrace her desires. Hell, I guess when you think about it it’s basically just like watching live-action porn!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 260 Pages

Locke by Harper Sloan

Alas, it’s time to say goodbye to the members of Corps Security. This series has been brimming with alpha male tendencies from start to finish!

What’s it About? 

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Darkness is the only thing I see. Ever since the day my life changed. The day that everything and everyone I held close to me ceased to exist. The day I lost it all and the demons of my past consumed my every waking moment.

I tried to keep others at arm’s length. Tried not to let my darkness taint them. Ruin them. Harm them. And whether I want to admit it or not, as much as I wish I could keep them locked out, they refuse to leave. Refuse to let me suffer alone.

If I hadn’t been so focused on keeping those demons from flying free, I wouldn’t have missed how one perfect angel was able to sneak her way under my skin—refusing to let go. Making me want things I don’t deserve.

She consumes me. Her beauty knows no end. The love she promises tempts me every time she’s near. But that pure heart that makes her MY Emmy is the one thing I’m convinced I’ll destroy if I ever let her close.

I’m a broken man. A broken man with too much darkness in his soul to ever let her light shine upon me. But even that doesn’t stop me from craving her with every single breath in my body.

First Impressions

Emmy and Locke’s relationship has been playing out over the last two novels, so with the opening moments of this final book it sort of feels like we’re coming smack dab into the middle of their tale. In a way we’ve missed the meet cute, the initial attractions, and the fundamental draw of what connected them in the first place. That “thing” that sets each of them apart from any other love interest who has come before. With the start of this book we dive right into the complexities and intricacies of their relationship which has previously been established. You’re almost expected to remember all of the details, with very little recap or summary provided. Because we’ve only seen minor glimpses and insinuations of their attraction in the background scenes of the previous books, it seems we’ve missed out on some of the important first moments of their relationship.

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A Life in Sin

Even if we don’t necessarily know what drew Emmy and Locke together in the first place, an important aspect of their pasts that they both share are some unbelievably heartless family members. Specifically in regards to their mothers. These are women who laugh in the face of a daughter having been raped, or a son who suffered through the losses of war and an adulterous fiancée. While Emmy and Locke have both been heavily influenced by the tragic events of their pasts which are directly tied to the actions of their family, the novel focuses much more attention and depth into Locke’s recovery from his past tragedies. Those which Emmy encountered at the hands of her parents and one of their employees was barely touched upon in comparison. Emmy grew up being groomed by both of her parents to be the head act of their strip club, Sin, and didn’t see any problem or intervention necessary when she was continuously raped by one of their employees.

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Her goal in life was always to escape from this hell she had to live through every day, and ultimately it was Coope who provided the assistance necessary years beforehand to leave that life behind. And yet, after Coope’s death in a previous book, we see that she willingly goes back to that life. She voluntarily goes right back to Sin, into the scheming hands of her parents, and back to the abuse of her rapist. She could have gone anywhere in the world, but Emmy chose to go back there. Unfortunately we never really explore the psychology of this monumental decision, but rather get a brief mention that for some reason she thinks she deserves to be where she is. Eventually Emmy reflects on how much Coope risked to get her out of there all those years ago, and laments the fact she’s right back where she started. However, in the end it is Locke who succeeds in removing her from this abusive environment a second time. She never really takes it upon herself to confront her past directly. Things happen to her or around her, but she never really has the choice to heal from the pains of her past.

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Confronting the Past

As for Locke, we see a full exploration of the hurt caused by his family, his ex-fiancée who left him for his brother, and the aftermath of losing his leg in war. Emmy also makes the astute observation that due to his past with a scheming, backstabbing fiancée he doesn’t believe in love…for himself. He’s actually fully supportive of all his friends who have found love in their lives, and has always been the one to push them into the arms of their forever person. Emmy helps him confront his past slowly, piece by piece, and even helps him find professional help to resolve the areas too deep for her to assist with. The novel concludes with Locke finally facing the demons of his past head on, and letting them know how much better his life is now without them. And yet, we see no final moment of resolution for Emmy. She has no heart-to-heart discussion with her parents, no ultimate face-off to finally stand up on her own two feet. Instead Locke is always the one to solve her problems for her, with Emmy remaining in the background.

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Series: Corps Security, book 6. The final book in the series. 

Final Impressions: Overall a satisfying conclusion to the series, as we see a final overview of each of our couples from the previous books. More time is spent observing the tragedies that both Emmy and Locke suffered through in their respective pasts rather than recapping the details of how their relationship got off the ground in the first place. Ultimately it seems that Locke is provided with more opportunities to directly confront his issues head-on, whereas Emmy never really as the chance to stand-up to her parents who cause her so much pain. We do get a very suspenseful confrontation between Emmy and her rapist, but this wasn’t so much her confronting her past as it was her past coming back to confront her.

Smut Level: Locke is the king of delayed gratification, multiple orgasms, and dirty talk.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 271 Pages.