Secret Baby, Second Chance by Jane Godman

Note to self: if at any point it feels like I’m the lead in a romance novel, don’t choose that as a time to go rock climbing. It just has bad idea written all over it.

What’s it About?

She’s alive! Vincente Delaney has finally found his girlfriend, Beth Wade, who disappeared a year and a half ago, alive. But he’s shocked to discover someone with her: their child, a little girl he never knew about! Once upon a time, lone wolf Vincente never expected forever with Beth, but now he must put everything on the line to protect her and their family.

Beth was forced to leave Vincente to protect everything she held dear. But now the threat to her loved ones’ lives has reared its ugly head again. As danger approaches, she and Vincente must delve into her past to cast out the darkness jeopardizing their future.

First Impressions

Vincente hasn’t seen Beth in almost two years. Their relationship had always been filled with heated passion back then, and could best be described as an on-again/off-again tumultuous roller coaster ride. Nothing quite like loud arguments interspersed with sexy make-up sessions against a wall. When she left town two years ago, Vincente initially wrote it off as her having another heated reaction to their relationship. However, when a serial killer made his way through their small town whose victims closely resembled Beth, Vincente started to fear the worst for his long-lost beloved. It’s only after the killer was stopped at the end of the last book that Beth’s hidden location has now been discovered. Vincente is not only pleasantly surprised to discover Beth is still alive, but overwhelmingly shocked to realize she has a baby daughter in tow. The timing of everything means she left town all those months back pregnant with his child. Yeah, get yourselves ready for another one of those heated arguments!!

The Suspense of Confrontation

Hands-down, the best part of this novel was when Vincente discovered Beth’s secret location, and the confrontation which ensued over the fact that she hid the identity of their daughter from him for all this time. This is when we see the most heated and intense moments between them, where you can’t tell if Vincente will yell in frustration, storm out in anger, or shove Beth up against a wall to demonstrate that his feelings for her never went away. Or heck, maybe a nice dose of all three scenarios is in order. This is also when we find out that these characters are don’t with serial killers, as Beth admits the reason she left all those months ago was because she and the members of her rock climbing group are being threatened and picked off one by one by an unknown enemy. When the killer also uncovers Beth’s secret location, Vincente has no choice but to bring her and their child back home with him to protect them.

From Lonely Bachelor to Playful Father

Once Beth and Vincente go back to their hometown, this is when things almost progress too smoothly as far as their relationship is concerned. Vincente, who has always been the consummate bachelor, quickly transitions into the ideal dad, and he and Beth fall back into their passionate ways in no time. As members of Beth’s former rock climbing group continue to be killed, and our two leads even have a confrontation or two with the villain, we constantly wonder who the killer is and why they’re so intent on this vendetta of revenge. There’s a few curveballs and false clues thrown into the mix to keep you guessing from start to finish. I will say the ultimate reveal of the killer and their motivations, as well as the fact another member of the climbing team was suspicious of this killer for quite some time was slightly disappointing. It seemed as though the identity of the killer could have been discovered and revealed years beforehand, and without the need for additional deaths. Still, it was an intriguing and entertaining ride, with a few suspenseful scenes at the top of steep cliffs to keep you on the edge of your seat!

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

Series: Sons of Stillwater, book 3. I didn’t read books 1 or 2 in this series, but could still follow along fairly easily with the events of this book. Sure, it may have been more enjoyable to reconnect with former characters from the previous two novels, but it was still fun to meet these characters for the first time.

Final Impressions: This was a suspenseful and passionate read. Overall I think the first half was more engaging than the latter half, but it’s still entertaining on the whole. I would have liked to see more of the hot and cold dynamic between Beth and Vincente sustained into the second half, but could also understand the need to push this aside to focus attention on the murder at hand.

Smut Level: Passion and sexual chemistry was always something that Beth and Vincente had in spades. Two years apart has changed a lot of things, but certainly not that important detail!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Harlequin Romantic Suspense. 288 Pages.

Try as I Smite by Abigail Owen

Try as I Smite by Abigail Owen

We have all the mages, angels, demons, windigos and Charles Dickens Christmas Carol references you could ever possibly want for some holiday spirit. Now, whether that holiday is Halloween or Christmas is anyone’s guess!

What’s it About? 

Alasdair Blakesley is the head of the Covens Syndicate. He shouldn’t need to look beyond the witches and warlocks he governs, or his own abilities, to solve any problem. But a demon infestation means he can’t trust anyone who may be possessed. The last person he wants to ask for help is also the only person who can fix this, so he sucks up his pride and storms into her office.

And she turns him down cold.

As the owner of Brimstone Inc., Delilah’s passion is helping others with their supernatural problems. But Alasdair is the last man Delilah wants to tangle with. The infuriating man sees too much and demands even more. And did she mention the way he sets her body on fire? Not that it matters—demons are the only things with which she cannot interfere. Too bad a higher power steps in and sends them both on a crash course of each others’ pasts, presents, and futures. How is a Christmas Carol nightmare supposed to solve his demon problem without breaking the rules she’s bound by?

First Impressions

As far as I’m concerned, Alasdair and Delilah are the king and queen of penetrating stares, smirking grins, and the ubiquitous eyebrow lift. From the first moment we witness these two in a room together, or office to be precise, we can’t wait for the eventual moment when they’ll rip each other’s clothes off to devour one another. Now granted, Alasdair is currently encountering a bit of a demon problem in which his fellow mages are being possessed by their enemies in a hellish attempt at demonic world domination, but…ya know…his sexual chemistry with Delilah is still forefront in our minds. Priorities!

A Demonic Christmas for the Ages

When Alasdair comes to Delilah for help with ridding his people of demons, she surprisingly refuses to assist him herself. This shocks Alasdair considering she’s known throughout the supernatural world for helping those in need. While he is rightly pissed off at her initial refusal, and assumes it stems from her personal dislike of dealing with him, we can tell there’s a secret reasoning behind Delilah’s rebuff. She doesn’t leave him out in the wintry cold completely though, and instead sends him to another woman for help…her mother. Rather than solve his problem for him, Delilah’s mother proceeds to send both Alasdair and Delilah through a Dickens-like Christmas Carol journey, observing scenes from their past, present, and future.

These scenes are supposedly the key to Alasdair’s solution, but as he spends more time trapped with Delilah through all of these emotional moments in time, he can’t help but feel increasingly linked with her as each vision passes. They become connected in a way that is special and all-consuming, and even though he needs to get back to his people, Alasdair also doesn’t want this time with Delilah to end. A gripping need starts to envelop them, and before long they’re more entranced with each other than the scenes playing out before them. Hands down my favorite point in the entire book was when they’ve been transported to a new scene, and Alasdair essentially declares he doesn’t care what lesson this particular glimpse is supposed to teach him, and instead he proceeds to ravish and taste Delilah all over while pushing her up against a wall. Makes things a bit more interesting than your typical Christmas Carol rendition, doesn’t it?

Being Consumed with Possession

My regular readers will have undoubtedly seen me utter the phrase many times throughout the years that considering how many books I read it really does take a lot for a story to surprise me. I can usually guess at some point where the plot is going to lead. However, I must say this battle against possessive demons truly had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation from start to finish. I never really knew where the story wanted to take me, and there were a few twists and turns along the way that I didn’t see coming. Something I did appreciate throughout the read was the emphasis on Alasdair and Delilah discovering that they were always stronger together than they could ever be apart from each other. It wasn’t about him rescuing her as a damsel in distress, or her opening his eyes to a woman’s worth, but rather that their connection as a unit was everything worth fighting for.

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

Series: Brimstone INC, book 4. This is a great series full of fantastical characters. You don’t necessarily need to read all the books which came before, but you might as well!

Final Impressions: This is a quick and engaging read that you won’t want to put down! In a way it sort of reminded me of a Nightmare Before Christmas in that it’s really a fun batch of entertainment for either Halloween or Christmas. You no longer need to choose one over the other! This read allows you to have your cake and eat it too. Or lick the frosting off of Alasdair if at all possible.

Smut Level: Alasdair is so taken with Delilah he can’t help but take her up against a wall during one of their Christmas Carol-esque visions. If that’s not passion I don’t know what is!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 123 Pages

Dangerous Currents by Kathryn Knight

Imagine traveling halfway across the world to escape the stresses of a former life. You’re experiencing some intense jetlag, so you decide to go for a calming walk with your dog along the beach, only to quickly discover the body of a dead woman along the way. Not exactly my idea of a relaxing beach getaway!

What’s it About?

When a costly mistake ends Malorie Montgomery’s career, she returns to Cape Cod in search of a fresh start. But her plans for a new—and quiet—life are quickly derailed when she makes a grisly discovery in the woods, and her screams bring the one person from her past she’d hoped to avoid. Dean Slater, the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart in high school, now lives in the beachfront community that was supposed to be her haven…and he’s just as hot as he was six years ago.

With his rough background, Dean always knew he wasn’t good enough for the kind, intelligent beauty who claimed his heart, but somehow he’d believed their love was strong enough to survive anything—until the tragic night she turned her back on him when he needed her trust the most. Despite their painful history, Dean can’t resist the instinct to protect her, especially when it becomes apparent there’s a killer in their town.

Their former chemistry soon reignites, but Malorie has long accepted that her dark family secret has destined her to a life alone. And when she uncovers evidence that makes her the killer’s target, a deadly confrontation threatens to destroy any possibility of a second chance.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a second chance romance opportunity between two people from opposite sides of the track, Malorie and Dean. They fell in love senior year of high school, but their relationship deteriorated on prom night due to unfortunate misunderstandings on both their parts. Malorie was promptly whisked away to another continent for school, and it’s only now, five years later, that she returns to Cape Cod and crosses paths once again with her former flame. As if reuniting with the love of your life after so many years apart wasn’t awkward enough, Malorie and Dean’s reunion takes place after she stumbles across a dead body, and Dean came running to investigate her screams. As the murder investigation proceeds, there is some initial angst and animosity between them, but it doesn’t take long before Malorie and Dean find themselves falling back in love with each other.

From Second Chances to Murder, and Everything in Between

There were a lot of different story-lines happening in this book, each one just as gripping and entertaining as the next. There’s the slow reveal of what Malorie and Dean got wrong all those years ago, each of them starting out on a new business opportunity, opening themselves up again to the possibility of love, Malorie admitting for the first time some of the frightening battles her family has experienced with mental illness, and on top of it all the discovery at the start of the book of a murdered rape victim. Again, there’s a lot happening here!

While I did find each component thoroughly entertaining, there may have been a bit too much happening all at once. If I had to choose one story-line which probably could have been left out, or maybe incorporated more fully into the story, I’d probably have to go with the murder plot. It was definitely an exciting start to the book, and provided us with an unbelievably dramatic ending, but there was a good portion of the novel where it felt like this plot point was pushed to the side to focus instead on Malorie and Dean’s reconnection. That’s not to say it wasn’t a well constructed piece of drama! There were so many curveballs thrown in to make you suspect multiple characters of being responsible for the string of murders plaguing this small New England town. Overall though, I found myself forgetting several times throughout the read that these murders had taken place.

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

Series: Stand-alone. Considering how much was going on with this read, I almost wonder if it would have presented well as a duet series!

Final Impressions: This was an intense read that will have you wondering from start to finish who dunnit, though it was somewhat busy with all of the different stories going on. The author did employ a great use of flashbacks to reveal what happened all those years ago between Malorie and Dean, as well as the complicated relationship between Malorie and her mother. We could seamlessly flow from present, to the past and back again in a way that felt natural, as though the characters were thinking back on everything all at that very moment. In my opinion the most unexpectedly moving story was Malorie revealing the complications of her mother’s paranoid schizophrenia, and how this struggle has impacted Malorie’s outlook on the choices she can make in her own life. It was a very emotionally revealing conversation between her and Dean that I wasn’t expecting!

Smut Level: They may have been separated for the last 5 years, but their love never went anywhere. Needless to say, they have a lot of lost time to make up for! We get to see some make out scenes up against a door, in the rain, and sex scenes filled with all the passionate intensity and urgency you could hope for.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Wicked Whale Publishing. 282 Pages.

A Timeline Restored by Rebecca Hefner

A Timeline Restored by Rebecca Hefner

Alas, the series had to come to an end at some point. We all hold our breath in collective anticipation, wondering if this group of friends will finally succeed in breaking the time loop cycle they’re stuck in to save the world.

What’s it About? 

The thrilling conclusion to the trilogy…Eli Hernandez spent decades cultivating an image of fear and domination as the nefarious leader of the New Establishment. Yet, deep inside, he still clutches onto the barest hope that his irredeemable soul has vestiges of virtue. Alora Castillo lost everything one fateful day long ago as Eli looked on, unable to stop the carnage. Resolved to detest him, she must forge ahead when they are thrust together as unlikely allies. As the ragtag team of time travelers strives to reconnect with their leader, dark forces hide behind the scenes, manipulating fate as the cycle carries on. Determined to succeed and prevent the past, the team battles the evil regime, unwilling to accept failure. But accepting the yearnings of the heart requires forgiveness—a concept Alora dismissed long ago, no matter how fervently she secretly longs for Eli’s embrace. Will the team save the world and prevent President Randolph from detonating the apocalypse? Read the electrifying finale now!

First Impressions

Each and every couple in this series was just as delightful and entertaining as the last, and these two just might be my favorite of the group. There was so much angst, passion and heated history between them that you couldn’t help but root for them to acknowledge how much love and adoration was lying just beneath the surface. In any given scene you couldn’t really tell if they would fight, scream, shove the other up against the wall to tear their clothes off, or a combination of all of the above. There’s a complicated past which exists between Eli and Alora which was constantly pulling them together, yet pushing them apart at the same time.

An Unforgivable Past

The history of Eli and Alora is fraught with tension, pain and distrust. Years ago, Eli’s father killed Alora’s entire family, and while he couldn’t find a way to save them all, Eli was able to convince his father to spare Alora’s life. Throughout the years they’ve been enemies, constantly fighting against each other. However, only recently have they discovered they’re actually allies, as Eli has secretly been finding ways to support their rebel cause and mission to bring down the New Establishment which is set on world domination. When Alora is captured by these enemy forces, Eli once again has to use his cunning to think of a way to rescue her. What better solution than to suggest a marriage of convenience? Loooove it!

While Eli is constantly demonstrating his will to protect Alora, there is still an underlying distrust she feels towards this man. After all, she’ll constantly associate him with that terrible day when her family was gunned down in front of her. They always say “actions speak louder than words”, and Eli’s actions certainly express an unbreakable devotion to Alora, but she still finds it difficult to accept his help towards her and her friends. When he eventually declares his love for Alora she sees it as the ultimate challenge to forgive and forget a past which has influenced her entire trajectory in life. It’s easy for us to berate Alora’s decision to constantly push Eli away, especially when we consider how many times he’s risked his own life to protect her. I lost count of the moments when I wanted to exclaim, “oh just forgive him already!” However, it’s also crucial for us to remember that tragic moment from their shared past which makes us understand why it is so difficult for her to pull Eli into her arms.

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

Series: Prevent the Past, book 3. Something I loved about this entire series was that in addition to being presented with an engaging couple, we’re always exposed to a strong and admirable female lead. This final book in the series was no exception to that delightful feature!

Final Impressions: Eli and Alora were certainly a captivating couple of characters, but just as entertaining was the family we’ve followed throughout this entire series. They’re not necessarily a family bound by blood, though some are unknowingly connected in that way. Rather, they’re a family of their own choosing. They’ve fallen in step with each other, and are honored to fight and die by each other. It was such a beautiful and honest form of familial devotion. We are constantly kept guessing as to how this team will succeed in saving the world, and if it’s even possible to break out of the time cycle loop in which they constantly fail in their ultimate goal. It’s a fun guessing game right up to the very end. The final aspect of this novel which I enjoyed was the fact that while Eli was the first to say he loved Alora, and constantly tried to fight for her affection, in the end we see that she must now fight for him. The fate of their relationship didn’t just lie in one or the other, but instead they each had to step up to the plate.

Smut Level: Eli and Alora have a chemistry which is off-the-charts explosive.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 218 Pages. 

A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

This series follows a team of time travelers who travel to 2035 to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Considering how this year is going…maybe they should have set 2020 as their destination!

What’s it About? 

Thrust into a world they barely comprehend, two time travelers are forced to survive with only each other as allies.Claire Finch, the kind, bubbly scientist, has sacrificed her hidden dreams for the cause: to prevent the apocalypse and save the world.Cyrus Montgomery, a tough, stoic soldier weary from the battle scars of war and barren dystopia.Together, they traverse the unfamiliar circumstances, both fighting and denying their mutual attraction.But destiny can be manipulated by unseen forces, and as they navigate the uncharted timeline, they discover a united strength they never possessed apart…and learn that true love ultimately prevails if the warnings of the past are heeded with caution and diligence.

First Impressions

The first novel in this series focused on a team of scientists and other heroes who were determined to finish building a time travel device, and go back to 2035 to prevent the moment in history when everything went wrong. At the end of that first novel we saw some team members successfully travel back in time, but ultimately discover they were stuck in an endless loop of traveling back only to continuously fail in their pursuit, so that everything could start back up again from the beginning. This second novel opens with two members of the team who overshot the 2035 destination, and instead find themselves in 2002 separated from the rest of their team.

I’ll admit, I was a bit wary to discover this installment finds our lead characters separated from the rest of the team, as the family dynamic between all of the characters was one of the standout features of the first novel. Would Claire and Cyrus be able to provide enough of that chemistry to replace the connection we saw from the group? While I did miss some of that friendship we glimpsed throughout the team, believe me when I say that Claire and Cyrus have enough playful banter between them to keep you entertained, not to mention their solitude pushes the plot forward in other meaningful ways.

A Shining Light

My initial apprehension over the missing crew members quickly turned to pleasant surprise at the discovery that their absence would allow Claire to come into the spotlight and shine all her own. It seems as though even Claire was surprised to find that she’s a bad-ass in her own right. While she definitely appreciates having Cyrus there with her in this strange time to help guard over her, Claire never fully falls back on him to protect or rescue her from trouble. Living in this other timeline away from the group makes her realize an inner strength she never knew she had. She also has the chance to reflect on what she really wants out of life.

Even though they were shocked to find themselves essentially stuck in a time so distant and different than their own, Claire now acknowledges that she wants to stay in this timeline. She and Cyrus can help research and set the groundwork needed to help their team in the future, but there will no longer be this sole driving motivation of needing to save the world resting on their shoulders. They finally have the chance to live a life of their own choosing, not to mention be surrounded by enough bountiful food to have french toast for breakfast, lunch, or dinner whenever they feel like it.

Standing Right in Front of Her

Rather than being solely focused on time travel and saving the world, living in this other timeline also allows Claire to admit what she wants in life more than anything else. Cyrus. She’s loved him for years, and has always sensed an underlying attraction from him as well. Only when they now have the opportunity to spend time alone with each other does Claire discover just how much Cyrus has been pushing his feelings for her to the side. He continuously tries to push her away, declaring that she deserves someone better who is also closer to her in age.

Claire doesn’t know when or why Cyrus convinced himself that he wasn’t good enough for her, or that she wasn’t strong enough to go after what she wants. And she wants him. A life together with him. Claire refuses to let Cyrus push her aside, and it was unbelievably refreshing to see this woman find the strength within herself to no longer be relegated to a corner. She’s not afraid to fight for him, or show him all the reasons they belong together.

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

Series: Prevent the Past, book 2. I can’t wait to see where this series goes, especially in regards to whether or not our team can break the loop they’re all stuck in to succeed in saving the world.

Final Impressions: This second novel definitely starts and ends with a bang, but throughout much of the book we see Cyrus and Claire play more of an observatory role in relation to the dramatic events leading to the apocalypse. I’ve always considered romance novels as an escape from the harsh realities of the world, and while the connection between our two lead characters provided that pivotal escape at times, this series also demonstrates how far political aspirations and beliefs can plunge the world into absolute chaos. All things considered, it was a tad depressing at times to witness the realism lying within this futuristic plot. Nevertheless, you’ll fall in love with Cyrus and Claire, and hope that somehow this team will succeed in finding a way to prevent the past.

Smut Level: Cyrus’s broken ankle might have him limping around town on crutches, but it certainly doesn’t slow him down in the bedroom! We see a few dominant tendencies emerge from Cyrus, but nothing that goes too over the top. Their chemistry is simply delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 176 Pages

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s one more parting image of the wonderfully gorgeous Idris Elba for your viewing pleasure. The smile, the sprinkling of salt and pepper through the beard, sighhhhhh!!!

Djimon Hounsou was also considered for a considerably long time.

If You Dare by Barbara Meyers

A leopard can’t change his spots. A tiger can’t change his stripes. Can Doug Winston change to prove himself a good father, a loving partner, and an overall decent human being?

What’s it About?

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Can he go from arrogant ass to Father of the Year? Doug Winston looks into his newborn daughter’s eyes and vows to become the kind of man and father worthy of her. But he first must navigate the mess he’s made of his life. Doug’s wife has left him. His baby mama dies and to avenge her death her sister, Josie, wants to prove him unfit and attain custody. The teenage son he raised despises him, the father he worships disowns him, and a child Doug never knew he’d fathered arrives on his doorstep.

As Doug embarks on his quest to live authentically, to make amends where he can and build relationships with his children and with Josie, he discovers that the father for whom he was never good enough is part of a vast criminal network.
Just as Doug and Josie cross the line from hate to love, and Doug has cobbled together the family he always wanted, can he bring the man he once idolized to justice in order to protect them all?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, I was quite skeptical to dive into this read. After all, Doug Winston was essentially the villain of the first book in this series. So far he’s shown himself to be nothing more than a cheating husband, a lousy father, and a ruthless politician. Now we’re supposed to give him a chance as our male lead? I went in wondering if I could ever be convinced at his ability to change, but the author of this series completely blew me away in coming to appreciate and love Doug as our main character. The novel opens with him at the absolute lowest possible breaking point in his life. Doug’s actions in book one have left him completely alone, save for a baby daughter who has been unexpectedly dropped into his arms. His initial cockiness has melted away, leaving him emotionally shattered to a point where he literally has no other choice but to change. Doug’s ultimate transformation was both believable and heartfelt in its telling.

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Third Chances

At the end of the first book in the series we saw how Doug blew his second chance with the love of his life. He’s determined to make things work between them, but ultimately he’s left without the option of a third chance at love after she unexpectedly dies following the birth of their daughter. Doug is left feeling completely gutted and alone at her death, but sees his daughter, Trinity, as his last chance to put his life in order. It doesn’t take long though before the cousin of his deceased lifetime love comes tearing her way into town, determined to get custody of his daughter.

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Josie knows all about the history between Doug and his cousin. How he broke her heart repeatedly over the years, and she’s convinced he’ll be as awful a father as he was a companion to her cousin. However, their mutual love for Trinity brings them together, and Doug surprises Josie just as much as he surprised us with his ability to change, and their tense relationship soon demonstrates the thin line between hate and love. While I found the development of their relationship to be fantastically gripping, I also found myself even more enthralled by Doug’s personal growth as a person and a father. His efforts to finally make amends for all of his previous mistakes, admitting his errors and vowing to do better as a father was the most compelling part of the tale for me. The developing romance between him and Josie was great, but ultimately eclipsed by the love he felt for his children.

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

Series: Red Bud, Iowa; book 2. I never thought it possible considering who our male lead was for this second book, but hands down this read pulled me in even more than book 1.

Final Impressions: While Doug was our main character, I really enjoyed seeing different chapters of the book being told from the points of view of our various other characters, including Josie, Doug’s son Miles, and his long-lost daughter Liv. There’s also some drama and suspense mixed in with his father that was surprisingly intriguing. The evolution of Josie and Doug’s relationship from hatred to trust and companionship was thoroughly entertaining, but ultimately there probably could have been a tad more focus on how it finally evolved into one of love. Overall though, an emotionally gripping read.

Smut Level: As a massage therapist, Josie knows all of the pressure points and pleasure points needed for an entertaining evening.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sandalstring Productions. 241 Pages.

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Shot Through the Heart by Andrea Downing

This is definitely a meet-cute for the record books. After all, how often does a female lead meet the man of her dreams by having to pull glass shards out of his finely-toned bum?

What’s it About? 

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Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family’s Wyoming ranch, only to find there’s still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.

Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.

When the two meet, it’s an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what’s right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

First Impressions

These two definitely have chemistry that is off the charts! Even though neither was actively looking for love, once they find each other they discover it’s darn near impossible to stop thinking about the other. Something that I truly appreciated about this read was that while their attraction and connection was practically immediate, we’re really taken on a journey for Sydney and Shiloh to accept the other into their lives. Sydney especially has the most difficulty in acknowledging her feelings for this gunslinger.

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After all, she’s a doctor dedicated to saving lives, whereas he’s seemingly an expert at ending them. How can she align herself with such a man when their very morals are so out of sync? Shiloh also finds himself on a journey of acceptance when it comes to Sydney, ultimately coming to understand and appreciate the fact that she’s a female doctor. Considering the time period our novel is set in, men accepting women into the medical profession was less than standard, and Shiloh has his initial hesitancies upon first meeting this beautiful newcomer. However, he quickly comes to admire and commend her intelligence, as well as her dedication to saving others. He’s the first to admit that he wants this woman in his life forever, but he’ll have to exercise patience for her to realize the same.

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From One Part to the Next

The most compelling aspect of this read, other than the chemistry of our two lead characters, was the format. We’re presented with a story of love, revenge, and suspense, and what initially seems like the climax of the entire book is actually just the end of Part 1, falling at the halfway point of the overall story. There was so much more to come! The first part of the book really focused on Shiloh and Sydney coming together. Part 2 features Sydney figuring out her place in life and acknowledging that what is most important to her was vastly different than what she ever could have conceived. The third and final part features Shiloh’s ultimate revenge in seeking out his sister’s killer.

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Each section of the novel was just as intriguing and engaging as the one which came before it. The only disappointing feature of the format was the fact that for the two latter sections we see how Shiloh and Sydney spend most of the time separated from each other in a physical sense. Their connection was so strong in part 1, and while we get to see a few explosive instances of it in parts 2 and 3, the fact they were so far apart meant we noticed their lack of proximity even more fully. Throughout so much of the last half of the book I was craving their eventual reunion with every turn of the page.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: The characters in this historical western romance were an absolute treat, even though by the end you just wanted to push them both into a room and lock the door so they could resolve their differences once and for all. Beyond the characters you also have to appreciate the descriptive scenes of the wilds of Wyoming and Colorado. The land practically became another character, and it was easy to envision the scenes laid out before us any time we closed our eyes.

Smut Level: The flirtations between Shiloh and Sydney will keep you blushing, and this read is all about the build-up to their eventual physical connection.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 241. Pages

The Blood King by Abigail Owen

After fully investing yourself in this world, you’ll start to look at every rustle of the trees, every movement of the clouds, every shimmer of the water and wonder…will there be dragons?

What’s it About? 

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Ruthless dragon king Ladon Ormarr must keep his throne at all costs. And now, with war on the horizon, he’ll need a miracle. Luckily, the fates have dropped Skylar Amon right into his lap. Except he may have met his match.

The feisty Amon sister has no fear—of him or any other dragon shifter—is brash, doesn’t stick to protocols, and regularly offends his warriors and advisers. Skylar also has no intention of sticking around. She doesn’t believe in the whole destined mates thing and believes all dragon kings to be dangerous. But if it means taking out the High King who murdered her parents, she’ll put up with Ladon…temporarily.

But the fates have other plans. And when Skylar disappears in the middle of a battle, Ladon will burn down the world to find her.

First Impressions

I have been waiting so long for us to finally meet Ladon Ormarr, the infamous leader of the Blue dragon clan. Let me just say that after multiple books of waiting to witness him in his full glory, I was not disappointed! He possibly represents the most intriguing collection of juxtapositions we’ve come across from a male lead in this series so far, as well as in comparison to the companion Fire’s Edge series. A just, yet ruthless leader who never wanted to lead, but stood up for his people when it mattered most. An alpha-male to the extreme who is constantly overprotective of his mate, yet manages to push aside his possessive instincts by encouraging Skylar to follow her gut in battle. It’s the perfect blend of a warrior with a soft side, a caring lover who desires his woman, and a leader who is willing to give it all up for the woman he loves. Le sigh.

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From Enemies to Mates

A distinctly unique feature of this installment in the series is that Skylar and Ladon agree to mate fairly quickly after meeting. Normally, the mating scene between our male and female lead is one of the final climactic features of the book, as we wait with baited breath wondering if their bond will form successfully, or if one of them will die in a fiery mishap. In this instance though, the fact that Skylar is a rare phoenix means it’s less important that they be true, destined mates. The more important consideration for their mating is that Skylar willingly choose Ladon as her mate, an action which she is more open to after witnessing his nature as a leader. You can’t deny though the smoldering connection which exists between them, and it’s something which makes their mating process a bit easier to swallow.

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The fact that Skylar had to choose Ladon as her mate presents us with another aspect of this entire series which I’ve truly appreciated, which is that we’re constantly presented with female characters who are tough-as-nails, and know how to make decisions for themselves. They’re not afraid to run head first into battle, and aren’t willing to sit in the shadows as the action takes place around them. Rarely do they play the damsel in distress, but rather can get themselves out of many a nasty scrape, or can work as a team with their mate to solve the most pressing of problems. Our novel might begin with Skylar as a hard-headed and independent lady with plenty of spunk, but her bond with Ladon has a way of breaking down the highest of walls which she’s erected around herself. By the end these two are a connected force to be reckoned with…and Skylar still has plenty of sass to throw in Ladon’s direction!

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

Series: Inferno Rising, book 2. Once again we have a compelling read where I can’t wait to see what comes next. This installment further lays the groundwork for the progression of the series, and introduces us to the rest of the phoenix sisters who will undoubtedly prove to be formidable heroines going forward.

Final Impressions: I definitely recommend reading this series in order, and in conjunction with the Fire’s Edge series, as it helps to understand the world of characters and politics which have been presented to us thus far. We witness additional mayhem and brutality at the hands of our villain, and I’m excited to see how all of these heroines and heroes might join together in the fight for justice. More to come, and I’ll await with anticipation!

Smut Level: Ladon might initially see Skylar as the solution to his political fights, but he quickly realizes she’s also the answer to his deepest desires.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 416 Pages.

Dangerous in a Kilt by Anna Durand

“Be my American fling.” Give me a man in a kilt, and a line like that? I certainly wouldn’t need any more convincing!

What’s it About? 

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Four weeks. No strings. One hot mess.

Good-girl Erica Teague is out on bail, charged with a crime her ex-lover committed. A lifetime of sticking to the rules has left her broke, burned, and facing a trial and certain conviction, thanks to the evidence planted by her trust-funder ex. Desperate to experience one wild night of sizzling sex before her freedom is torn away from her, Erica heads to a notorious night club in search of a one-night stand — where a case of mistaken identity lands her in the arms of a hot Scot with a secret past.

The passion igniting between them is explosive, but Lachlan MacTaggart wants nothing to do with relationships or commitment. When he offers Erica one month of sex and companionship with no strings, she can’t resist succumbing to her electric lust for the Scotsman. Soon, though, Erica’s ex begins harassing her and Lachlan’s haunted past catches up with him. When their hot fling gets personal, the last thing either of them wanted may become the one thing that frees their imprisoned hearts.

First Impressions

This is one of those books that actively likes to keep you in the dark regarding the most important aspects of our characters lives. Plot-wise it’s definitely an attempt to build suspense, but in this case it also lends itself to the nature of Erica and Lachlan’s newfound relationship. They’re both at a bit of a crossroads in life, and the last thing they need is more drama. When they realize they can’t avoid their chemistry any longer, they decide a casual fling lacking any kind of real emotion is just what they need as a distraction. Erica doesn’t share any details with him about how she’s recently been framed by her ex-boyfriend for embezzlement, and might soon be seeing the inside of a jail cell. As for Lachlan, the details of his breakup with his ex-wife are kept from us as well as from Erica. No matter how hard these two try to keep things drama free and casual, they can’t help themselves from falling deeply for each other. Call it fate, destiny, or a fantastically sexy Scotsman in a kilt, you simply can’t turn your back on true love when it’s staring you in the face.

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A Non-Moving Plot

The characters in this book definitely shone through as a bright light, especially seeing as there wasn’t a whole lot of momentum in regards to the plot. Erica and Lachlan expend so much effort to avoid sharing any personal details about their lives that they essentially have no option but to resort to sex. In addition to this physical connection though, it was nice to see how they were still able to build a foundation to their relationship beyond the bedroom. It was an easy-going, cutesy link that was simply fun to watch. However, their insistence on keeping things light, and pushing aside the complicated aspects of their lives, meant that there wasn’t much to push the plot forward.

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As mentioned before, Erica has been framed for embezzlement by a former boyfriend, and this plot-line serves to be the main aspect of suspense for the entire read. The ex who framed her keeps snooping around, and we as the audience just know he’s up to no good. It’s obvious he’s not completely finished in his attempt to set her up, and Erica and Lachlan catch him several times trying to force his way into her home. Shockingly though, he always manages to take his way out of them calling the cops. The entire book is one long build-up to the moment where we know Erica will finally have to admit the truth to her Scottish fling. After so much anticipation I was rather disappointed at how quickly and anti-climactically everything comes together at the end. We don’t even get a fun-filled courtroom drama scene where justice can reign supreme. Instead there’s a couple of sentences describing the outcome of this embezzlement scheme, and it’s done. When all was said and done I was left wanting more!

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Series: Hot Scots, book 1. I’m definitely intrigued enough to continue on with this series.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fun, cutesy read, but I think there could have been a better balance between Erica and Lachlan’s care-free relationship and the drama going on in Erica’s life. I did fall in like with both characters, especially Lachlan, and fully intend on continuing on with this series to see more from his relatives who like to don kilts of their own.

Smut Level: We always wonder what the man has on under his kilt. This romance let’s you find out first-hand 🙂

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Jacobsville Books. 224 Pages.

Walk Through Fire by Kristen Ashley

Can you think of any better start to the day than a bad-boy biker romance audio book that’s 17 hours and 45 minutes long? Because I sure can’t.

What’s it About? 

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Millie Cross knows what it’s like to burn for someone. She was young and wild and he was fierce and even wilder-a Chaos biker who made her heart pound. They fell in love at first sight and life was good, until she learned she couldn’t be the woman he needed and made it so he had no choice but to walk away. Twenty years later, Millie’s chance run-in with her old flame sparks a desire she just can’t ignore. And this time, she won’t let him ride off . . .

Bad boy Logan “High” Judd has seen his share of troubles with the law. Yet it was a beautiful woman who broke him. After ending a loveless marriage, High is shocked when his true love walks back into his life. Millie is still gorgeous, but she’s just a ghost of her former self. High’s intrigued at the change, but her betrayal cut him deep-and he doesn’t want to get burned again. As High sinks into meting out vengeance for Millie’s betrayal, he’ll break all over again when he realizes just how Millie walked through fire for her man . . .

First Impressions

Almost 18 hours of audio book. That’s over 600 pages in equivalent page length. Did this book need to be that long? No. Did it feel long? Pretty much. The first part of our story involves a constant switching back and forth between Logan and Millie’s idyllic past featuring the start of their relationship, juxtaposed against their tension-filled present which takes place 23 years after Millie walked out on Logan with no warning or explanation. It’s kind of strange to think they’ve lived in the same town all that time without bumping into each other, but then one random stop at a Chipotle’s can change everything. Throughout this entire first half of the book we’re constantly questioning how/why Millie could have abandoned Logan, but then we eventually discover how her leaving was a demonstration of her “walking through fire” for him. She brought pain to herself and him, but she thought it was all so that Logan could live a better life without her.

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When we do eventually discover why she felt the need to throw their relationship by the wayside, I must admit it was a pretty disappointing reveal. She caused so much turmoil for something that could have been less painful if she’d merely opened up to Logan, and admitted the hard time she was going through. Instead, she chose to turn her back on him, and leave him wondering for over two decades what went wrong. Something I did appreciate though was Logan’s reaction to finally discovering her reasoning. Understandably, he’s pissed. Like, super pissed. He even goes to her sister, who knew all along why Millie felt the need to run away, and he gives her a good talking to saying that if she’d merely confided in him he could have resolved things fairly quickly. And yet, he also admits to both himself and her sister that if the roles had been reversed he probably would have made the same decision Millie did. It was such a mature acknowledgment for him to say that while he doesn’t blame Millie for her decision, it doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it.

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The Missing Element

After Logan learns why Millie left him all those years ago, we see how the second half of the book deals with him determined to win her back, and get back to a life of somewhat normalcy. This is something that I feel Kristen Ashley does very well, which is to paint us a picture of the regular, everyday lives of seemingly bad-ass bikers. For example, we see them bicker over what to cook for dinner, and what shows to watch on television. I’m sorry Logan, but I’d have to agree with Millie that Downton Abbey is always the correct choice. Then we see some more of the complexities involved with Logan and Millie coming back together, including learning how they’ve both changed in the years since their separation, and slowly introducing Millie to Logan’s two daughters. This biker might have a tough exterior, but we’re also witness to moments of affection between him, Millie, and his daughters that help ground him.

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As you can see, a lot is going on with this read. Flashbacks to Logan and Millie’s initial love story, scenes in the present reflecting their animosity, a final admission to the root cause of Millie’s abandonment, learning to love again, introductions of Logan’s daughters and ex-wife. And yet, on top of all this there was one thing missing. Those of you who are familiar with my reviews of this series will probably know what I’m going to say. There’s barely any suspense! Once again, we hear mention throughout the entire book of a rival gang to the Chaos motorcycle club, and a villainous leader who seems intent on bringing down our favorite MC. However, we’re always deprived of any kind of momentous confrontation between the two groups, which makes the entire book feel relatively lacking in action. At this point, I can’t help but wonder why there’s even a bother with putting in these brief snippets of suspense in each book when they continually go nowhere? It’s like the whole series is building up to one final battle, but we’re not getting enough incorporation of this side plot for us to be fully invested in its resolution.

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Series: Chaos, book 4. Of all the books in the Chaos series so far, I’d have to say this one was probably my favorite.

Final Impressions: Even though I didn’t agree with Millie’s abandonment of Logan with no explanation, they are both rather enjoyable characters, and you become invested in seeing them find their way back to each other. She also had two adorable-sounding kittens that were my favorite aspect of the book. That being said, it could have been half the length, and this side plot with the rival motorcycle gang that always goes nowhere brought things down for me. Not to mention, you could have played a drinking game with the number of times there was a reference to Millie having to “walk through fire”, or having “walked through fire, or was currently “walking through fire” in regards to Logan. There’d probably be a good chance of alcohol poisoning though. Consider yourself warned.

Smut Level: Take my advice and don’t read this baby in the bathtub like I did. You’ll spontaneously combust from the excessive heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 602 Pages.

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