Seventeen Days by Linda Griffin

What do you do when the man you’ve just started developing a romantic connection with is suspected of a grisly murder? Do you cut your losses, or do you stand by your man?

What’s it About? 

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Divorcee Jenna Scott moves to a quiet California fishing village during the first Gulf War to make a new life in a house inherited from her grandfather. Her next-door neighbor recommends widowed handyman Rick Alvarez to fix her leaky roof. Jenna is intimidated by his good looks and annoyed by his self-assurance, but disarmed by his affection for his young son. She is still hurting from her ex-husband’s betrayal and resists the attraction between them.

Rick has lived in the village for only three years and is still an outsider, friendly but not sharing his past with anyone. When an attractive vacationer is murdered, local gossip says he is the killer, and rumors spread about his wife’s death as well. Jenna is determined not to believe the gossip, but will she ever be able to trust Rick with her wounded heart?

First Impressions

Surprisingly, the main focus of this novel wasn’t so much about the murder which happened in this sleepy coastal town, but rather the fallout of it. While we see the closeness that can develop between neighbors in a small town, we are also witness to the darker side of town gossip that can overtake a community shocked by tragedy. It was definitely an interesting focus highlighting the prejudice which can be placed towards the supposed “outsiders” in such a close knit community. While it was a fascinating and rather sad glimpse at the dangers of wildfire rumors, I do wish we had focused a bit more on the mystery of the murder. I was expecting it to be more front and center, but instead it’s sort of pushed to the side as an unfortunate incident that we’ll figure out the solution to just when it happens to come about. It’s not like Jenna and Rick team up to find the actual killer in order to clear his name or anything. They just kind of sit by as observers to the drama which unfolds around them.

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17 Days of Love and War

The Seventeen Days title of this romance was certainly clever, as it not only tracks the burgeoning romance between Rick and Jenna, but also tracks the first few tumultuous days of the Gulf War. At the start of every chapter we get a count to what day of the war it is, as well as a brief news announcement to how the war is progressing. Now, I must say I was slightly confused as to why the novel was set during that particular time period. It didn’t really play a big enough of a role to truly feel relevant, which made it come across as a rather unnecessary detail. It’s not like either of our lead characters had a military connection, or really any of the characters in the book for that matter. One character expressed an interest in joining up, but again it simply wasn’t a big enough part of the story to really tie everything together. It’s just this event that’s referenced as going on in the background of their lives.

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I realize this is going to sound slightly weird in hindsight considering the title was in reference to two different things, but you kind of forget about it as the novel progresses. Only at the very end when Jenna makes a reference to it having been 17 days since she first met Rick was I like, ohhhhh, riiiiight. A different approach which could have been an interesting twist would have been to have a 17 day countdown rather than counting up. It would have helped build suspense in reference to the murder story line especially, wondering what might happen when we get to that final day countdown of day 0. And then once it was all over we could have a final chapter entitled day 1, which could symbolize the true beginning of Rick and Jenna starting out on an official relationship with each other once the drama of the novel had concluded. Just a thought!

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Missed Connection

When all was said and done I feel like we missed a bit of an emotional connection with our lead characters. Rick always remains a bit of a quiet, surly dude who only shows minor glimpses of sensitivity when interacting with his son, and some romantic sentiments towards the end with Jenna. I mean, it’s kind of understandable he’d be in a sour mood with his entire town suspecting him of multiple murders and everything. However, the conversations where Rick and Jenna get to know each other are almost too reminiscent of an interview with rapid fire questions where they want to know as many details about each other in as short amount of time as possible. A few more scenes shining a light on the softer, emotional side of Rick’s personality would have been great.

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As for Jenna, she was also a bit of a strange duck. Half the time I couldn’t tell if she wanted to go off on a tirade against Rick for having the gall to show up to work on her house when she wasn’t ready for him, or if she wanted to push him up against a wall to ravish him. It was a weird back and forth that continues throughout the story where she’ll ask a very point blank question as though she’s accusing him of something, but then brush it off with a kiss. And then the most bizarre aspect of all is when she does decide to take the next step in their relationship. To quote Rick, “You didn’t like me at all until you thought I killed her.” Seems kind of…bizarre, no? However the more I thought about it the more I read into what I’m hoping is a more romantic way of looking at the situation.

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Since meeting Rick, Jenna hasn’t really known what to make of him, but he’s constantly on her mind. And then the unthinkable happens, a gruesome murder in their small town, and Rick is the primary suspect among the town gossips. This is when Jenna is forced to decide whether or not she can place her trust in this man she barely knows. She has no reason to trust him, especially considering everyone around her is convinced of his guilt. And yet, her gut is telling her he’s someone she can trust. I can see the romance there. Right? The only hiccup here is that even after they sleep together it seems like she does still contemplate whether or not he’s guilty. Hmmm, maybe the threat of danger is something she finds titillating?

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I think Rick’s son, Danny, was my favorite character of the book, and I wish he’d been featured a bit more prominently. Overall I think we may have had one too many story lines going on here. From the burgeoning romance between Jenna and Rick, to the murder of a visiting tourist, to the Gulf War starting. We needed to either drop the war aspect and have the murder featured more prominently to build suspense, or we should have had more of a military focus on the war, with soldiers going off to war or something. Lastly, a few more revealing emotional moments between our lead characters could have helped us warm up to their characters earlier on.

Smut Level: Rick and Jenna go for a few roles in the bedroom, but the scenes are pretty clean.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 132 Pages.

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Alpha Dragon Awakes by TJ Shaw

Find out if Amari and Jaxon will both survive when her dragon tries to make an appearance.

What’s it About?

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Part three and the exciting conclusion to the epic fantasy romance serial trilogy, Rogue Dragon Rising, marking the beginning of the Outside the Veil series. With no memories to guide her, Amari Hawke seeks to discover the identity of the animal trapped inside her. Days away from Trinity, when her beast will appear for the first time, she must learn to communicate with her animal or she’ll turn rogue from an unsuccessful shift.

Both Jaxon Blackthorn and his stubborn dragon have succumbed to Amari’s charms even though her animal designation is unknown. Determined to use the power of his beast, Jaxon faces the impossible challenge of saving Amari while protecting her from rogue shifters determined to capture her. Can the strength of their love achieve what has never been attempted in the shifter realm, a successful transition of Amari’s animal and acceptance of her true heritage?

First Impression

The entire series has been building towards this climactic finale, and it’s basically everything we’ve been waiting for! Trinity moon, the arrival of Amari’s parents to bring her back to the Veil, her memories coming back full force, the big reveal of her dragon designation and even the dreaded transformation to her inner beast. Yessssss!! This is everything I wanted to see, and it all comes crashing together for one suspenseful conclusion that will have you holding your breath for so much of the book in anticipation. When Amari’s father comes to take her back to the Veil we see how dependent Jaxon, as well as his entire cadre have become towards her. Their vulnerability at the prospect of her departure is so moving and heartbreaking you wanna gather them all up in one big dragon family hug. Mind the claws, fellas.

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The Secret Dragon

After all this waiting we finally get an explanation as to why Amari’s parents chose to hide her dragon identity from her. Apparently, Amari sustained an injury when she was just a toddler and she expended all of her energy to save her dragon instead of herself, which would have resulted in her death. Her parents realized that she never would have survived her transition phase during the Trinity Moon awakening, as all of her energy would have been spent to see her dragon safeguarded through the process. As a result, they constructed mental barriers to keep her dragon chained within her mind. Only by staying within the confines of the Veil would the effects of the Trinity Moon be diminished, allowing her to survive maturity into adulthood. Jaxon adamantly declares he can guide her through transition, but everyone around him insists it’s never been done before, and the risk to both of them is too great. So what will Amari decide? Will she remain outside the Veil with her mate, and risk both of them dying when her dragon emerges, or will she return to the safety of the Veil by leaving Jaxon behind? Her decision will shock you.

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A Mysterious Mastermind

There was one aspect of this book which prevented it from achieving damn near perfection status, and that has to do with our villain. We finally get a glimpse of the madman who has been seeking out Amari since the start of the series. Personally I felt this introduction should have come earlier on in the second book. We learn about how he ordered his henchmen to lure Amari and her sister out of the safety of the Veil in order to kidnap them. His experiments on shifters are demented, as we know from the fact he was responsible for the years of torture to one of Jaxon’s cadre members, Slade. I couldn’t help but wonder how everything would come together with this villain and our heroes. Would he ultimately succeed in capturing Amari? Will Jaxon rush to her rescue? Will Slade find his way back to seek vengeance on the madman who tortured him for years on end, and rescue the other innocents still under his control??? So much suspense and so many questions!!!

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Whelp, turns out those questions will go unanswered, as just when our villain’s dastardly plans are starting to come to the forefront, he fades once again into the background. We never see a final confrontation between him and Amari, Jaxon or Slade. Instead the focus shifts back to Amari’s transition, and we never see him mentioned again for the rest of the book. This is the conclusion of the series, how do we not get a conclusion to the villain?? Maybe this will come back if we get a spinoff series featuring Slade as the main focus? And btw, I would totally read that in a heartbeat. But here’s the problem. This whole series started because this villain lured her out from the safety of the Veil, which in turn made Amari meet Jaxon, discover her dragon, etc., etc. To not bring the story back full circle to the driving force of how the story started left the series feeling unfinished. I wanted more!!

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

Series: Outside the Veil, Part 3. I gotta say, this might just be my favorite book in the entire series. Although…dang the first book was pretty good too, but this one is such a delightful climax to everything that’s been building throughout the last two novels. I do hope we get some kind of spinoff series, maybe with cadre member, Slade, as the focus. He is such a troubled and mysterious character with a complicated history, I’m desperate to learn more.

Final Impression: While this novel might be a fantasy with dragons, shifters and Eldian magic, one thing that feels unbelievably true is the love and connection between Amari and Jaxon. There is one scene in particular where Jaxon simply wants to hold Amari in his arms in the hopes of spending just a few more moments with her, and I gotta say it touches the heartstrings! This book answered so many questions that were presented in the previous two books, and yet also had some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I will say I was disappointed that we didn’t get to learn more about the mastermind behind Amari’s kidnapping back in book 1. It was the one thing that prevented the series from forming a completely full circle, but it came pretty damn close!

Smut Level: Hot damn, things definitely come to a head in this one. Not only are we presented with a few sex scenes in this book involving Jaxon and Amari in the waking hours (considering their first sexploration was during a dream-state), we even see Jaxon and Amari come together at the same time as Jaxon and Amari’s dragons come together. I’m not sure if technically that counts as a foursome, but it was intense either way!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing LLC. 200 Pages.

 

Chroma Crossing Chronicles: Blood Moon: Part 1 by S. Yurvati

The plot of this book is one I would categorize as “outside-of-the-box”. It’s unpredictable, and refuses to play by the rules.

What’s it About?

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Hunky pheromone-laden-man meets pretty accident-prone female—it should have been a love story with a happy ever after ending.
However, when the bored deities choose Candy and Thorne for an amusing game, the gods/goddesses put forth sets of circumstances that can tear the couple apart and wound them deep within their human souls.
City girl, Candy wanted to become a successful artist and maybe someday find a man who would make her feel loved and valued, a feeling she’d never known while growing up. However, with a name like ‘Candy Cane’, males never failed to remind her with a wink and snicker, how it sounded like she was a ‘professional’. And ‘professional’ held so many connotations, none of which she had in mind regarding relationships with men.
With her father’s sudden demise, Candy finds she’s inherited funds and a carriage house in beautiful historic Savannah. Not only can she now afford to go to SCAD, her future as an artist looks promising. Unfortunately her step-mom (and her disturbing son Todd) resides in the main house. When Candy gets her first commission for a life-sized portrait of a beautiful woman from a rather unsettling man, she soon questions what had seemed coincidental.
Candy is a modest female who has always found solace in her artwork, whereas her widowed step-mom, Cherry Ann, considers physical pleasure and money as her measures of worth. And as Candy pursues her art, Cherry Ann pursues a new lover who expands her world of sexual gratifications far beyond past parameters. Cherry Ann finds her new risqué sex life to be addictive and doesn’t recognize the danger of the man she’s invited into her life.
After surviving a couple of ‘accidents’, Candy realizes someone apparently wishes her harm. When she’s chased (by the one thing she fears most) Candy accidently, or so it seems, crosses into a new dimension, land or whatever. She finds herself in an unknown wilderness without resources, let alone a map, or GPS, plus she left her cell phone at home—again. Looking around she sees a curious terrain that is void of color, thus leaving the landscape looking like an old sepia photograph, hardly the Savannah spring day she’d left behind.
The artist in her wants to understand how primary colors could disappear to leave a land so colorless . . . so entirely beige-ish. How could such a phenomenal occurrence come about? A land without modern conveniences—almost as though she’d stepped into a time past, yet that wasn’t quite accurate either.
As Candy literally stumbles through the wild terrain, an intriguing hunter comes upon her. His presence makes her girlie parts beg to become ill behaved, and before she knows it, her hormones are arguing with her strict moral compass.

First Impression

I think we can all agree, that is one long and complicated synopsis. It’s really hard to determine based on the summary what exactly the novel is about, and I couldn’t help but feel as though this then transferred into the progression of the plot. It took a lot longer than expected for the story to actually get going. At the very beginning we get a glimpse of a god and two goddesses gathering together to wreak some havoc on two unsuspecting souls from different worlds as a twisted form of entertainment. We are then quickly introduced to our first character who is to be involved in this game of the gods, Candy.

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Unfortunately we don’t meet her counterpart, Thorne, until the book is pretty much over. In addition, after that initial set up scene we never hear from our scheming deities again, which was rather disappointing. I was hoping we’d see them come in and out throughout the book to provide commentary on how they thought their game was progressing. The fact that many of the chapters are told from the points of view of different characters, from our lead heroine Candy, to her best friend Liam, our villain Mark, Candy’s step mother Cherry Ann, Candy’s new kitten (the best POV in my opinion), and a couple of dead pirates in a cemetery, all contributed to the flow of the novel feeling rather choppy.

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Creating a Villain

The creation of a perfect villain is a tricky business. It’s almost a science, like baking a cake. You don’t want to overdo it, but you also don’t want it to fall flat. When it came to our villain, Mark, the scales tipped a bit too evil for my tastes. We get descriptions of rape, abuse, murder, and some sexual tastes that were rather sickening to read about. I definitely crossed my legs a time or two in discomfort for the abuse being reflected on the page, not to mention the fact that the sounds of a woman’s screams really get him off. Eek! I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with our villain, but I feel like sometimes we can be presented with a bad guy you love to hate. This one was so revolting I came to cringe any time we had a chapter told from his point of view. Entering that guy’s mind was less than pleasant.

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If you attempt this book here is my piece of advice, read the author’s note first. She goes into detail about how these characters are meant to be imperfect. Some crazy, others self-centered, and those who are completely deranged. While reading it I can’t say I was a fan of having so many flawed characters featured front and center, and sometimes with such disturbingly graphic detail. The author’s note definitely helps put things in perspective, as she mentions that at times you should sort of want to put the book down to take a break from some of the darker aspects of the book. While I can definitely appreciate that sentiment, I still think it could have been toned down juuuust a bit. If I put the book down there’s got to be something in there that makes me want to pick it up again. I do like to read in my spare time after all, and usually before bed. Don’t really wanna be risking nightmares here folks. You start messing with my sleep and I will not be a happy camper in the morning!

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Off-Balance

In my very humble opinion I felt as though the balance of the story was off. There were definitely some interesting pieces to it, but I felt as though certain aspects were highlighted more than they should have been, which lent a feeling of the plot dragging in some areas. For example, the character balance. Candy is our lead. She has been through a lot of turmoil throughout her life, and she is one tough cookie. However, at times I felt as though she sort of fell to the wayside as the main focus. Towards one point of the book there was so much focus on our villainous Mark developing a rather dark and demented sexual relationship with Candy’s step-mother, Cherry Ann.

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It just went on a bit too long for me, not only because it was kind of disturbing to read about, but I couldn’t really figure out how it fit in with the rest of the story. It’s possible their bizarre relationship will come back to play a bigger role in a future book, but if the point of the lengthy, multiple chapters told from Cherry Ann and Mark’s points of view was to highlight how depraved they were…yeah that was rather evident pretty early on. While it was nice to have some different chapters here and there every once in a while highlighting some of the supplemental characters, I definitely think it could have been cut back a bit to really push Candy to the forefront as our strong and admirable lead.

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The biggest imbalance for me though was the focus of the plot. It starts strong, with this interesting and cryptic meeting between a Sun God, Earth Goddess and Moon Goddess deciding to have some fun by bringing together two people from two different worlds. After this initial introduction to the game of the gods, we never actually see them reappear as part of our plot, which was kind of disappointing. It seems like we could have replaced a few chapters focusing on Cherry Ann, Mark, and even Candy’s best friend Liam, or her lover Joe, to see a few more moments of commentary from our deities.

What really shocked me though was that the meeting of our two characters from different worlds didn’t even happen until after the 80% point of the book. Throughout so much of the book I just keep thinking, where is this story going, and how does it relate back to that opening scene with our deities? We finally get to it near the very end of our book, and this is when the story truly came alive for me. If anything I feel like we should have seen this climactic meeting of our characters at about the 30% mark, so that the primary focus of the book could have been on Candy adapting to this new world she’s been thrown into, and the stranger who helps her find her way in this unexpected land so different from her own.

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

Series: Chroma Crossing Chronicles, Book 1. At about the halfway point I really did start to question if I’d want to continue on with this series. It’s a dark read at times, and I really couldn’t tell where our story was going. However, once we get to those final scenes where Candy’s world is turned upside down, this is where everything came together for me. I have a feeling that what I wanted to be a focus of this book is instead going to be a focus of book 2, and considering the somewhat cliffhanger ending to this first book I am intrigued to continue on with this series.

Final Impression: While I feel like there were some flaws as to the execution of our story, from the grammar to the pace and flow of the plot, it did start and end on a high note. I wish we had jumped into the journey of Candy traveling to this foreign world earlier on in the book, as this helps tie us back to the initial conversation between the god and goddesses at the opening scene of the book. The middle portion of the novel definitely takes a darker turn as we focus on the somewhat sadistic tastes of our villain. I’ll admit it crossed over too far into the disturbing realm for me where it was a challenge to keep going with the story. Hopefully we’ll leave some of the more demented aspects of our villain’s personality and history behind as an introduction in this novel, and instead have more of a primary focus on Candy connecting with this bizarre world she’s fallen into.

Smut Level: We get some detailed sex scenes, but unfortunately where you don’t really want to see them. For example, there’s a build-up to Candy exploring a relationship with  a guy named Joe. Just when they start to get passionate we switch to focus on the crazy sexual antics of her step mother, who even gets gang banged at one point. Not really the best chapter to end on before going to sleep one night. When we see Candy’s roommate Liam getting all nervously prepped for a date with a handsome guy from school we hope to see some romance, but instead switch to finding Candy’s step brother jacking off in her bedroom. Can’t we just get one nice sex scene? Please?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 379 Pages.

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Portal to the Land of Chroma

 

My African Craving by Audrey Flynn

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impression

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

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Business or Pleasure?

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

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

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Moments of Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Boss by Abigail Owen

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impression

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

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

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When Mating Goes Wrong

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

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

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Clan Drama Infighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mate by Abigail Owen

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impression

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

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From the Mate to the Boss

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

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

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A Missing Meet Cute

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

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

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Breaking the Prequel Mold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Between the Shadows by Casi McLean

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impressions

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

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When Past and Future Meet Present

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

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

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Kenzi and Tess Enter the Mix

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

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

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A Time Travel Balance

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

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Fate, Fantasy, and Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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