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.

My Life in Shambles by Karina Halle

A fake New Year’s Eve engagement that turns into the love of a lifetime.

First Impressions

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They say bad things happen in threes. After my boyfriend broke off our engagement, I lost my apartment, and was laid off from my job, I can definitely attest to that.

They also say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures. So when my two sisters invited me to ring in the new year in Ireland, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and go for it. I was going to let “saying yes” be my new resolution. Little did I know I’d spend New Year’s Eve having a hot and dirty one-night stand with Padraig McCarthy, one hell of a sexy Irishman. I also didn’t know that the brooding and intense sex god was one of Ireland’s top rugby players.

A rugby player with a proposition for me: Come with him to his tiny hometown of Shambles and pretend to be his fiancé for a few days, just so that his ailing father can have some peace of mind. It sounded simple enough. It was anything but. Not when a town gets up in your business, not when the media hunts you down, not when your past comes back in the picture, not when there are real hearts and feelings at stake. Not when there are secrets that could break you. They say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures. This is my life in Shambles.

WARNING: this book will pull at your heartstrings. It is recommended to have a box of tissues ready, and maybe some wine. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands. Also contains sex and foul language, sensitive readers be advised.

First Impressions

Let me take a moment to say the warning at the end of this synopsis is entirely warranted! Having a box of tissues handy is more than necessary, and a glass/bottle/cauldron of wine will be more than welcome. I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional depth which this book had to offer. From the description of this read I initially assumed it would be like any other light-hearted fake engagement story. Instead we are presented with a tale of true love, but also see how this bright spot can be interspersed with moments of sadness, anguish, and heartache at discovering how a life one has always planned for can be thrown to the wayside in the most unexpected of ways. It demonstrates the importance of taking chances, living life to the fullest, and opening your heart to someone new.

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The Journey to Shambles

Based on the title of this read it was pretty easy to assume that after our lead characters met we’d quickly be transported to the town of Shambles, where their fake engagement ruse could be featured front and center. However, I couldn’t be more thrilled to discover that Valerie and Padraig managed to develop a true connection in the short amount of time they spent together on New Year’s Eve. We clearly see throughout this first night how they are able to build an emotional foundation to their relationship and really get to know each other before they find themselves in bed, and the prospect of a fake engagement is eventually proposed. If we had gone immediately from a sultry glance at a bar to a tumble between the sheets, the fake engagement trope would have seemed irresponsibly forced. Instead we can wholeheartedly believe the progression of their relationship, and understand why Valerie even considered such an outlandish scheme.

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Upon first meeting, Valerie and Padraig were both looking to escape the realities of their lives which seemed to be falling down around them. For Valerie, a short engagement with her former fiance unexpectedly ended, quickly followed by the loss of her job. For Padraig, he’s suffered a career-ending injury as a rugby player, and is also dealing with the fact that his father’s illness has progressed to a tragic level. At first, they both present a distraction to each other, a means to forget the problems they’d rather avoid. However, it doesn’t take long before they realize that they can lean on each other, and lose themselves in each other when they have no one else to turn to. What started out as a fake engagement turns into something more meaningful when Valerie admits she’s willing to stand by Padraig’s side as things continue to worsen during their time Shambles. It would have been so easy for her to turn away, and fly back across the ocean to live her life, but she realizes that love is worth sticking around for.

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Series: Stand-alone, though I would absolutely adore a sequel to this story, even if it’s just a short novella!

Final Impressions: Prepare yourself for an emotional read, but it’s one worth reading. It demonstrates a selfless act of love, and a tale of lust which quickly evolves into friendship and ultimately adoration. There were a few details towards the end which I wish had been tweaked a bit, from Valerie leaving Padraig behind after he tells her to go back home, and ultimately the fact that he was the one to come after her. Valerie stood by Padraig’s side for so much of the novel, so if she had fought just a bit harder to remain by him at the moment when it mattered most this would have been a darn near perfect read. As it stands though, still a unique and insightful romance that deserves your full attention!

Smut Level: For two people who developed a deep emotional connection after such a short amount of time together I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they’d also have an intense sexual connection. From dirty talk to a bit of spanking, this heartfelt read still has plenty of steam!

Get in Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Metal Blonde Books. 350 Books

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Always, Almond Fudge by Charlotte O’Shay

“It’s never a bad time to tell someone you love them.” This novella is as short and sweet as a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream.

What’s it About?

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On a lengthy car ride to their annual seaside vacation, a mother recounts the true story of a sweet family tradition.

It’s the summer of 1941 in the seaside town of Langford, Rhode Island, and seventeen-year-old Meredith Franklin works as a server at Seymore’s Ice Cream Shoppe. When aspiring baseball player Anthony Fanelli strolls into the ice cream shop, his teasing banter leads to romantic sparks and dreams of forever love. Their whirlwind courtship comes to an abrupt halt on December 7, 1941, when America enters World War Two, forcing the couple to put their future on hold.

Decades later, a treasure trove of wartime letters details the romance of Merry and Anthony and the sacrifices of a generation.

First Impressions

How does one keep their bored teenage son entertained during a lengthy traffic jam in the midst of their summer road trip? Easy! There’s nothing better than sharing a family tale of summer love that takes place in the shadow of war. The bulk of this novella plays out during the summer of 1941, but it is juxtaposed against a mother telling her son, Sebastian, this story of romance during the present day. I must say these few brief scenes involving the mother and son were a delightful comedic break, especially when Sebastian requests that his mother gloss over the kissing parts of the tale to instead focus on the exciting baseball prowess of his great-grandfather. It was almost a fond call-back to the young boy in the Princess Bride who solemnly asks, “Is this a kissing book?”. As it turns out, the scenes involving Anthony and Merry weren’t filled too heavily with smooches, but it was a sweet tale that will put a cheesy grin on your face from their meet-cute over ice cream, to their letters of love exchanged during wartime.

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The Events of December

Anthony and Merry’s story of romance begins during the steamy summer months of 1941. Their attraction was instant, with zings of electricity felt throughout the small ice cream shop where they first met. As their relationship progresses we see their romance extend beyond the heat of the summer into fall. When they celebrate Thanksgiving together we sigh at how their summer fling seems to be turning into a forever kind of love. However, with the progression of the seasons, we increasingly start to hold our breath in anticipation of the tragic events of December which we know are lying in wait just around the corner. This novella might be brief, but you can’t help but commend Charlotte O’Shay for her ability to capture our attention from the get-go, and instill such a wide-range of emotions throughout the pages, from infatuation to suspense and an overall captivating level of enjoyment. If you’re looking for a quick, sweet summer read that has a hint of drama, then this is the story for you!

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

Series: One Scoop or Two. I would actually love to see this novella turned into a full-length novel. There is such strong content filled throughout this short novella that I could see myself becoming even more invested in their story the more time I spent with these characters.

Final Impressions: When I first received this novella I had every intention of saving it for the beach. However, I ended up finishing the whole thing before I could even get there! It only takes about 30 minutes to read, and has a little bit of everything you could possibly want in a summer romance. A small seaside town, sweet ice cream treats, a charming tale of love, a tad of wartime suspense, the importance of family, and a happily ever after that is simply the perfect cherry on top of the whole thing.

Smut Level: This is a clean read from start to finish. There are a few exchanges of blushing glances, a stroke of the arm, and a gentle kiss or two to make you sigh with appreciation.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 53 Pages.

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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.

Nothing but Trouble by Amy Andrews

CC has never let her employer’s quarterback fame influence her view of him. But put that man on a farm, throw a cowboy hat on him, and all bets are off!

What’s it About? 

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For five years, Cecilia Morgan’s entire existence has revolved around playing personal assistant to self-centered former NFL quarterback Wade Carter. But just when she finally gives her notice, his father’s health fails, and Wade whisks her back to his hometown. CC will stay for his dad—for now—even if that means ignoring how sexy her boss is starting to look in his Wranglers.

To say CC’s notice is a bombshell is an insult to bombs. Wade can’t imagine his life without his “left tackle.” She’s the only person who can tell him “no” and strangely, it’s his favorite quality. He’ll do anything to keep her from leaving, even if it means playing dirty and dragging her back to Credence, Colorado, with him.

But now they’re living under the same roof, getting involved in small-town politics, and bickering like an old married couple. Suddenly, five years of fighting is starting to feel a whole lot like foreplay. What’s a quarterback to do when he realizes he might be falling for his “left tackle”? Throw a Hail Mary she’ll never see coming, of course.

First Impressions

CC has been working as personal assistant to former NFL quarterback, Wade, for almost six years, and we’re meant to believe she’s at her wits end in his employ. She’s seemingly just biding her time to finish out her contract before she can yell out “I quit!”, pack up her things, and move to California. That’s the plan. But her plan is thrown off kilter when Wade drags her to his small hometown community of Credence, Colorado to help out on his family farm following his father’s stay in hospital. This is when CC starts to view him in a new light, and finds herself having a few too many erotic dreams of her employer, which she begrudgingly labels as “farmer porn”. Overall a fantastic premise, but there were a few missteps in execution.

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The Un-bossy Farm Boy

CC makes it sound as though working for Wade the last five and a half years has been an absolute nightmare. However, we never really see him act the tyrant he’s supposedly meant to be. Sure, there are some unique quirks to working for this famous retired quarterback, like ensuring he’s constantly well-stocked in Nerds candies, and interceding phone calls from the women he dumps. This is all in addition to her regular PA responsibilities, so it’s not all ridiculous requests. There aren’t really enough moments of him being this supposedly uber-annoying employer for us to truly commiserate with her frustration and desperation to get out of his life forever. This then sort of transitions into the second aspect of the book that I found confusing, which was that after so many years under his employ, CC is suddenly starting to fantasize about being…under Wade in an entirely different sense.

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The reasoning for this is explained away as suddenly seeing him in a different, homey environment. Again, I think if we’d seen a few more glimpses of him being a hard-ass boss in the beginning, and then witnessing a total transformation to him having a softer side after going back home, then the evolution of her feelings for him would have made more sense. Instead we almost see the opposite happen, where Wade becomes more of a complainer after returning home as his mother and the town council strategize ways to entice single women to move to their small dying town. I was left wondering why, after over five years of an apparently unbearable working relationship, CC abruptly started to view Wade in such a different light. I think we can more fully understand Wade’s change of demeanor, as he’s suddenly presented with the prospect of a life without her. But can the change for CC really just be attributed to an erotic dream featuring Wade as the male lead?

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An Absentee Relationship

Aside from the confusion surrounding the transformation of their relationship from employer/employee to something more, I was extremely surprised to see how much of the book CC and Wade actually spent apart from each other. In a way, I appreciated that CC was constantly reminding us they’d worked together for almost six years. Otherwise I would have questioned how well they actually knew each other considering how little time they spend in each other’s company. The bulk of the book involves them contemplating their evolving emotions, and when they do eventually come together in the physical sense I must say I wasn’t thrilled with how it unfolded.

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I was hoping for some kind of passionate confession about their feelings, or maybe Wade would finally admit that he needs CC for more than his Nerds fix. Instead we see that following the untimely death of CC’s estranged father she ingests about half a bottle of tequila, and spends most of the night vomiting as Wade comforts her. They pass out in each other’s arms, and upon waking the next morning things get kind of steamy. After five years I think I was hoping for a more climactic scene full of emotion, rather than one steeped in alcohol.

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Series: Credence, Colorado; book 1. While I wasn’t thrilled with this first book, I was definitely a fan of the town of Credence, as well as some of the supporting characters. I actually had more of an emotional connection to the love story which involved Wade’s brother rather than the one involving Wade. Maybe I’ll see what book 2 has in store.

Final Impressions: I think we needed more of a glimpse into CC and Wade’s working relationship before the move to Credence. It was kind of difficult to fully stand behind the transition of their feelings when we didn’t get the entire picture of their interactions beforehand. It seemed as though the basis was going to be that CC finally saw Wade in a different environment which made her start to see him in a different way, but this wasn’t fully executed. The big issue here was that the characters spent so much of their time in Credence apart from each other, that it was difficult to understand how they could begin to develop a more romantic relationship.

Smut Level: Only two scenes of an erotic nature, and nothing too descriptive to make you blush.

Get it on AmazonClick Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Dreamscape Media, Entangled: Amara. 362 Pages.

Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan

By the end of this novel you can’t help but wonder who loves Melanie more: the man or the dragon?

What’s it About? 

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In exchange for a vial of dragon’s blood to save her brother’s life, Melanie Hall offers herself up as a sacrifice to one of the British dragon-shifter clans. Being a sacrifice means signing a contract to live with the dragon-shifters for six months to try to conceive a child. Her assigned dragonman, however, is anything but easy. He’s tall, broody, and alpha to the core. There’s only one problem—he hates humans.

Due to human dragon hunters killing his mother, Tristan MacLeod despises humans. Unfortunately, his clan is in desperate need of offspring to repopulate their numbers and it’s his turn to service a human female. Despite his plans to have sex with her and walk away, his inner dragon has other ideas. The curvy human female tempts his inner beast like no other.

First Impressions

When I first started listening to this audio book, I remember thinking that the description of this agreement to live with a dragon-shifter clan as a “sacrifice” seemed a bit over the top. After all, that term is usually associated with death, and this contract essentially seems to revolve around sex. A vial of life-saving dragon’s blood in exchange for Melanie spending six months with a dragon in an attempt to procreate. However, it’s not long before we discover that most women who enter into this kind of exchange aren’t strong enough to survive the complexities of giving birth to a dragon. More often than not, it results in the woman dying. Lo and behold the sacrificial moniker seems a bit more appropriate!

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The premise of this novel seemingly had everything you would want in a fantastical romance that would result in an exciting and phenomenal read. Human and dragon thrown together. A binding agreement to have a child in exchange for the blood needed to save her brother’s life. Moving to a remote dragon community which is un-trusting of outsiders. Dragon hunters for crying out loud!! Let’s get this party started!!! Unfortunately, after this premise is outlined to us and we’re introduced to all the key players, the story never really gets elevated to it’s full potential.

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It’s Almost Too Easy

Melanie gets pregnant almost immediately, meaning the question of whether or not she’ll be able to fulfill her side of the bargain evaporates instantly. The next feature which we would undoubtedly start to wonder about would be the threat to Melanie’s life in childbirth. However, this never really seems to be an issue at the forefront of our character’s minds, or at least we’re never presented with a building amount of tension as her pregnancy progresses where it appears to be a primary concern. Instead the sole focus is on the interactions between Melanie, Tristan, and his dragon, as well as Melanie figuring out how to integrate into this new community she’s found herself in.

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The animosity between Melanie and the dragon villagers was another feature that I thought could build up some interesting tension, but yet again this is an aspect which never resulted in any kind of direct confrontation. The angst and contention of the novel is focused instead between Melanie and Tristan, but possibly more so between Tristan and his dragon. Upon first meeting, Tristan’s dragon immediately recognizes Melanie as his mate, and the urge to claim her as their own kicks in right away. However, we see that Tristan is constantly fighting against his dragon’s connection to Melanie, and it seems as though his dragon has a strong emotional connection to her than he does throughout the entirety of the book. They obviously have a sexual connection, but if we didn’t see such desperation on the side of his dragon to be near Melanie, I seriously question if Tristan was really all that interested in her.

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Series: Stonefire Dragons, book 1. While this first book wasn’t my favorite, I was intrigued by some of the secondary characters. I could see myself exploring book 2 at some point in the future.

Final Impressions: Simply put, I wanted more from this one. The foundation for a spectacular novel was definitely there, but it wasn’t as action-packed and suspenseful as I would have liked. The most disappointing feature of the book for me was the fact that we never see any direct conflict with the dragon hunters. The only action sequence which does take place with them happens “off camera”, and we only see the aftermath rather than the action described in real time. I will say the inner musings and arguments that Tristan has with his horny dragon were quite humorous, and combining this erotic desperation with the voice of our narrator (who sounded like a stuffy British librarian) lent an unintentional comedic tone to certain aspects of the story. Overall I think too much time was spent on Tristan trying to fight his connection to Melanie, and I was never fully convinced of his commitment her.

Smut Level: Upon first mating, Tristan’s dragon is determined to impregnate Melanie as quickly as possible. Let’s just say they don’t leave the bedroom until it’s mission accomplished.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Mythical Lake Press, LLC. 258 Pages.

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Hot as Puck by Lili Valente

What could be better than a sexy, funny, caring hockey player with six-pack abs? How about one who also likes to crochet?

What’s it About? 

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The NHL’s biggest bad boy is about to fall for the virgin next door…

I am the world’s biggest dating failure. We’re talking my last date went home with our waitress kind of failure. But I have an ace in the back pocket of my mom jeans–my sexy-as-sin best friend, NHL superstar forward, Justin Cruise. Justin owes me favors dating back to seventh grade, long before he became a hotshot with a world famous…stick. So in return for my undying platonic loyalty, all I want is an easy-peasy crash course on how to be a sex goddess. How hard can it be?

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I have never been so hard in my life. The things I want to do to my sweet, kindergarten-teaching, mitten-crocheting best friend Libby Collins are ten different kinds of wrong. Maybe twenty. But I’m a firm believer in teaching by example, and by the end of our first lesson, we’ve graduated to a hands on approach to her education: my hands all over her, her hands all over me, and her hot mouth melting beneath mine as I prove to her there isn’t a damned thing wrong with the way she kisses. Give me a month, and I’ll transform Libby from wall flower to wall banger, and ensure she’s confident enough to seduce any guy she wants. Problem is… the only guy I want her seducing is me.

First Impressions

Alright ladies and gentlemen, I think we can all agree that the cover pic of this read deserves honorable mention. Not to mention the play on words we have happening with the title Hot as Puck, as well as the name of the entire series Bad Motherpuckers. Cue delighted golf clap. Now, plot-wise we’re essentially dealing with a friends-to-lovers romance, which is one of my favorite themes of all times. With any novel dealing with friends who choose to elevate their relationship into something more sexual, we always question what will be the turning point in their dynamic? When will one or both of them start to look at the other as something more than a friend? When it comes to this read, almost immediately after breaking up with his girlfriend, Justin notices Libby walk into the room wearing a tight black tank top. And his pants get just a smidge tighter. Sooooo, I guess you can say wardrobe choice was the deciding factor here!

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Lesson One: Find Your Pleasure

While the impetus for Justin seeing Libby in a new light was inspired by her clothing, for Libby she turns to Justin for some instruction. She has a huge crush on somebody she works with, and she wants her long-time friend to teach her a thing or two on how to please a man. Yet another theme that’s usually one of my favorites in Romancelandia. With this situation however it wasn’t quite the sexucation I was expecting. I assumed it would be more about the logistics and techniques of how she might be able to give her crush the ultimate pleasure by using Justin as her instructor in all things sex.

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However, once Justin and Libby start spending some couch/bed time together, it turns out the giving and receiving of pleasure comes pretty naturally for both of them. Libby didn’t really need an education in the mechanics of sex after all, but rather in how to build up her own self confidence. This is what Justin is able to teach her. That she is a beautiful, desirable woman that any man would be lucky to have. A past break-up is what made Libby question her sensuality, but it doesn’t take long following a roll in the sheets with Justin for her confidence to start shining through.

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Series: Bad Motherpuckers, book 1. Again, gotta love the series title here, and I can see myself continuing with it.

Final Impressions: This is a cute read that definitely brought a stupid grin to my face many times when I listened to it as an audiobook. I’d say that Libby and Justin develop more of a friends with benefits situation than the sexucation I was really hoping for, but it’s still fun to see their relationship evolve. While both are initially surprised to find how much pleasure they can bring each other, eventually they realize it’s the most natural thing in the world.

Smut Level: Justin and and Libby bond over something more than just sex, and that would be their love of crochet. But who says you can’t bring the two delights together? Hence Justin’s wearing of a cock puppet…which is basically an adult sock puppet…on a certain part of his anatomy…

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self Taught Ninja Publishing. 330 Pages.

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A Man of Character by Margaret Locke

“What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?”

What’s it About? 

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Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do … especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.

A startling revelation — that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago — forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.

Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect — who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which — or whom — she wants more.

Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character is a whimsical-yet-thought-provoking romantic comedy that tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.

First Impressions

Looking back on this novel I have to say that the premise was probably the strongest part. We’re presented with Cat, a seemingly lifelong bachelorette who is down on her luck in love and in life. But then something fantastical happens. Not only do a slew of different men start asking her out, but she comes to realize that these men are actually characters she created in stories when she was younger. Cat soon discovers that an old manuscript passed down through her family explains the power that the women in this family wield when it comes to putting pen to paper. In the midst of this literary conundrum she also meets a man with whom she has the strongest connection, but she can’t help but wonder if he’s real, or simply a character of her own creation which she can’t remember.

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It certainly sounded like such a fun read at the outset! Unfortunately I felt like the story never went to the next level it needed to in order to reach its full potential. Similar to the narrator’s delivery of the audiobook which I listened to for this read, the progression of the story also came across as a bit flat. More life needed to be injected into it! I almost wish it had been elevated one additional level of silliness so we could lose ourselves in the fantasy of the situation. Or…we could have done a complete turnabout and gone full on horror scenario, but overall I think I would have preferred a more comedic lift to the plot and narration.

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The Family Manuscript

As discussed earlier, an old manuscript which Cat’s father left her before he died contains the answers as to why these fictional characters have just recently come to life. This manuscript presented us with both a heartbreaking, yet frustrating influence to the plot. Let’s start with the heartbreaking side of things. At the start of the novel, we see Cat’s father wrapping up this manuscript to give to his beloved daughter on her birthday. It’s an item his own mother had given to him with clear instructions on when he needed to give it to Cat, and also the history contained within this manuscript which grants the female family members with an unbelievable power. Sure, it’s a power he himself doesn’t believe, but what’s the harm in sharing this silly story with Cat?

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Sadly, we then see him pass away from a heart attack before he ever gets a chance to give it to Cat, or explain the implications of its history. The untimely death of her father has an enormous impact on Cat, and we especially see this come to the forefront when she interacts with these fictional love interests. In a way, she has so much power literally at the end of her pen. She can create the ideal man. What woman wouldn’t want that? Well, for Cat she realizes there are things far more important than creating a man on paper for herself. She’d much rather have her dad back, spend time with her family and friends, and find someone who chooses to love her of their own free will rather than being written to love her. It was really a powerful exploration of what truly matters in life.

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This is all well and good but there was another aspect of this manuscript which frustrated me to no end. Basically, Cat barely spends any time with it! This is seemingly the key which contains the answers to all her questions. It was only after this thing came into her life that madness ensued. If it were me, I’d read that thing from cover to cover, and probably more than once just to ensure I had all the information I needed. As for Cat, she doesn’t really seem that concerned with it. She only bothers to read the intro, the final conclusion, and get the whole thing photo-copied because of it’s age. But then she just pushes it aside without another attempt to discover what secrets or explanations might be lying within.

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Series: Magic of Love, book 1.

Final Impressions: Overall, the premise was far superior to the execution of the story. I wanted more from it, whether that be comedy or suspense, I honestly could have gone in either direction. Instead the story just kind of stays flat at the same level throughout the entire read, and I never felt like I connected strongly with the main character’s personality. It was also kind of surprising, considering we’re dealing with a romance novel here, how often the characters of the book berated romance novels. Her friends and family laugh at Cat for ever having written love stories, and the concept of her amorous writings seems almost more unbelievable than the prospect of her characters coming to life.

Smut Level: A fairly clean read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Locked on Love Publishing. 336 Pages.