The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery

A man who enjoys reading romance novels? Yeah I might just have to battle it out with the female lead to get my hands on this perfect male specimen.

What’s it About?

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In this modern-retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” Savannah Carmichael, betrayed by an unreliable source, returns to her hometown of Danvers, Virginia with her once-promising journalism career in ruins. Given the opportunity to get back in the game by writing a patriotic human interest piece, Savannah turns her attention to the town hermit, Asher Lee, a wounded veteran who returned to Danvers eight years ago, and hasn’t been seen since.

After an IED explosion in Afghanistan took Asher’s hand and disfigured half of his face, he’s lived a quiet life on the outskirts of Danvers where the locals respect his privacy…that is, until Savannah Carmichael comes calling in a borrowed sundress with a plate of homemade brownies. When Asher agrees to be interviewed by Savannah, he starts feeling things for the beautiful reporter that he hasn’t felt in years.

Misfits in small-town Danvers, Savannah and Asher create a bond right away, touching each other’s hearts in ways neither thought possible. When a terrible mistake threatens to drive them apart, they’ll have to decide if the love they found in one another’s arms is strong enough to fight for their hard-won happily ever after.

First Impression

At first I was kind of like, oh it’s cute how this story kind of matches your classic Beauty and the Beast tale. After all, we have a scarred and slightly surly male lead who is a bit of a hermit living alone in his big house. One day our hidden hero finds his solitude interrupted by a curious female who is willing to look beneath his outward appearance to uncover the beauty hiding within him. When I found out he not only has a huge library, but also a housekeeper named Mrs. Potts I realized, oh this isn’t really supposed to be a subtle comparison! Hell, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we eventually met a gardener named Cogsworth. Alas, that doesn’t happen, but I would have been all for it.

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Southern Hospitality? 

I must say I was kind of surprised how quick the townsfolk were to turn their backs on this wounded war vet upon his return from battle. I understand it helped tie into the connection with the actual Beauty and the Beast story to have him presented as a recluse on the outskirts of society. It also sounds like his personality soured a bit after being wounded, so he might not have been the most pleasant company. However, to hear some of the hateful comments which were said by some of Savannah’s friends and family was downright shocking. To give him a nickname of the hermit, avoid pretty much any and all contact with him, and to even deter her from spending time with him because of his scars?

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Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire

This man almost died trying to save the life of his fallen comrades, and rather than provide him with a warm homecoming you’re gonna express open shock at his return and start mocking him? I could get how some would be initially surprised at his obvious scars and missing limbs, but they practically treat him as a leper to be avoided at all costs. I just had a hard time believing that an entire town could be so cold to one of their own who was a hero in battle. Especially considering this book takes place in the South, where Southern hospitality is practically a way of life! I feel like even if Asher had tried to hide from the rest of the world he would have had people like my Aunt banging on his door every other day with baked goods whether he liked it or not.

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Details Matter

They always say the devil is in the details, and there were a few missteps here and there which were somewhat questionable. Firstly, Savannah and her potential new editor never really focus on the ethical ramifications of a reporter getting romantically involved with her subject. Maybe it’s because technically she’s not actually employed by this newspaper, and it’s more of a trial audition piece? Still though, probably not the best sign of professionalism upon looking for a possible job to swap spit numerous times with the focus of her article.

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The fact the editor actually encourages their little romance seemed also slightly unbelievable, but heck what do I know? It’s the lifestyle section. Maybe they’re a bit more loose on the do’s and dont’s. But considering she was fired from her last job because of a bad source who just happened to be the guy she was dating means she doesn’t have the best track record when her personal and professional lives start to mingle. Lastly, it’s called Johns Hopkins people! Not John Hopkins!! Ok, I realize this is barely worth a mention, but as an employee of said establishment, it was like nails on a chalkboard.

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Keeping Secrets

Their relationship might be fairly new, but it doesn’t take long before Savannah and Asher are both keeping big secrets from each other. He’s not sharing his inquiries into reconstructive surgery to improve his face and limbs. She’s not telling him about the approach to her article being about their growing friendship and love. While you really want to push both to open up, I can understand his reasoning a lot better than hers. Asher doesn’t want it to be true, but he logically sees the short term reality of their relationship. If Savannah’s article is a success she’ll move to Phoenix, and that’ll be it, so what’s the point of putting false hope behind the idea of a forever? He’s not going to leave Danvers, and he doesn’t want to have to ask her to give up her dreams of a career. I think he also fears that if he mentions it to her and she latches onto the idea of him improving himself, then it means she’s only sticking with him because of the possibility he’ll look better on the outside. That in essence would show that who he is now is lacking. It’s really an interesting observation of his mental state and reasoning.

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Now, if we look at her reasons for silence about the approach to her article? Girl what are you thinking?? What, you think he’s just not gonna read it once it’s published and realize that you included some of the most private details of your relationship with a wide audience? Savannah basically admits to herself that her motive is to ask for forgiveness later rather than permission beforehand. Mkay…we’ll see how that works out for ya.

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Turns out, very very badly. As expected. Asher really rips her a new one, and you can’t completely fault him for it. She went against his trust and privacy. What I really loved about this big blow-up scene was that Asher gave her every opportunity to explain her reasoning once the truth came to light. I was wondering if we’d get an instance where he refused to listen to reason, but instead he calmly asks her to explain her motives. The problem is, her reasoning suuucks. It always did. She was desperate to salvage her career, and when the editor demanded something more steamy and romantic in her article about Asher, she caved to that pressure. In spite of countless opportunities to explain the true spin of her article to Asher, she chose to keep silent. She assumed their love was strong enough that he’d automatically forgive her indiscretion and misuse of his trust. Well, you know what happens when you assume, don’t you? It almost makes you question which of them is the beauty and which is the beast.

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Series: A Modern Fairytale, book 1. I’ll probably continue with this series.

Final Impressions: Goodness gracious do I want Asher for myself. This man is so damn near perfect I can’t even stand it. Sure he may have been a bit surly in the beginning, but he was quick to open up and let his true beauty shine. Savannah is a bit more hit or miss. Her love for Asher is undeniably true, but she let her ambition for success cloud her judgement when it came to him. We all knew it would be just a matter of time before the truth blew up in her face, and when it does man oh man is it a humdinger. In the end you can’t deny these two ultimately brought out the best in each other. She gives him the hope and desire to live again, while he helps her see what true love feels like.

Smut Level: Asher might only have one hand, but my God does he know how to use it.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle Version. Self-Published. 290 Pages

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Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

I had a feeling in just the first chapter alone this was gonna be one emotional journey!

What’s it About? 

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1948: Change has come to every corner of the globe—and Rosie Stanton, returning home to northern Queensland after serving the war effort in Brisbane, plans to rescue her family’s foundering sugarcane farm with her unstoppable can-do spirit. Coming up against her father’s old-world views, a farm worker undermining her success, and constant reminders of Rosie’s brothers lost in the war, Rosie realizes she wants more from life and love—but at what cost?

Italian immigrant Tomas Conti arrives at a neighboring farm, and sparks fly as Rosie draws close to this enigmatic newcomer. When an enemy appears with evidence of Tomas’s shocking past, long-held wartime hatreds rekindle . . . and an astounding family secret sets Rosie’s world ablaze. At the dawn of a new era, Rosie must make her own destiny amid the ashes of yesterday—by following her heart.

First Impression

Rosie might be a young Australian woman returning home to her small town after the end of WWII, but I was surprised to find how much I could identify with this lady. Sure, I might be from a small town in the Midwest of the United States, but I could relate to the reverse culture clash involved of returning home after living in a big city for so long. Rosie encounters this friction of facing nostalgia and the happy memories of childhood with the reality of looking at her home from an adult’s perspective. It’s such a bizarre juxtaposition to have to face as an adult. Home is supposed to wrap you up in warmth and comfort, but sometimes you get cold moments instead, with a wall being put up in place of a welcoming embrace. This book tackles some serious issues and discussions revolving around racism, women’s rights, and the status of immigrants. It makes us realize that in some respects we’ve come a long way, and yet at the same time it’s so sad to see how much has remained the same. Honestly, this book could have been set in the present day based on some of the conversations which took place. I had to keep reminding myself that we were dealing with a post-WWII setting. Such an eye-opening comparison!

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Welcome Home

A main discussion point of this novel revolved around the topic of war, specifically the effects of men returning home after risking their lives to protect the safety of their country. PTSD of the returning soldiers isn’t the only issue highlighted though. We also see the impact of women having to return to their “proper place” in the home after getting a glimpse of independence. There’s also a spotlight shone on societal issues involving all of the different migrant communities who fled their homeland to escape the terrors of war, and in some instances had to leave a home behind which no longer existed because of the mighty wrath of war. In my opinion, all of these sensitive topics were described and detailed to perfection. You feel for these characters, and understand their frustrations in life, as well as the difficulties they face in moving on from such a tumultuous and unforgiving war.

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Light Shining Through the Darkness

There are some heavy subjects which are discussed in this book, and yet a guiding light through it all is the blossoming romance between our home girl Rosie, and a mysterious Italian immigrant named Tomas. To be frank, it was sort of the one component of the story which was somewhat lacking for me. There’s definitely a coy flirtation going on between them, but Tomas is obviously a troubled man dealing with the atrocities he’s witnessed in war. Sometimes this difficult past causes him to lash out at Rosie when she tries to learn more about what happened to him back in Italy. Now, it’s 100% understandable that he would want to try and forget the past rather than dredge up the painful memories of all the tragedy he’s seen firsthand. But then he has the tendency to push Rosie away, only to pursue her again, or she’ll come after him to make some headway, but then he’ll push her away again.

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It’s kind of a grueling back and forth that, while undeniably realistic of many post-war relationships of the time, made me feel kind of bad for Rosie. They also both have the somewhat annoying tendency to start sentences or thoughts without finishing them. It happens a LOT. I lost track of the number of times they would be in the middle of a deep discussion, and just when we’re about to make some headway in their connection one or both of them would utter, “Never mind, it doesn’t matter”. Yes it bloody well does!! Tomas comes across as a rather moody man with a short fuse, and you can never really tell when he’s willing to open up about his past to lay all his cards on the table, versus when he’ll get testy and stalk off in a huff. It speaks to Rosie’s headstrong and persistent nature to not give up on him, but I wish we could have seen just a few more sparks of lightness and tenderness from Tomas.

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

Series: Personally I’d love to see a sequel to this novel which shows us what Rosie and Tomas are up to a few years down the line.

Final Impressions: A must read for your next book club. Definitely some interesting discussion points on society which still resonate today. While it’s kind of sad to see that some of these issues are still present, it shows us a light at the end of the tunnel, and how people can overcome their differences if they’re just willing to open up their eyes to see the good in other people. For me the standout feature of this book was really the societal issues discussed in terms of PTSD, racism, sexism, and the stigma of migrant communities. Tomas and Rosie’s romance was nice, but in my opinion it took a back seat to these other topics.

Smut Level: Some light touches, kisses, and one fade-away sex scene that we don’t get any detail to. Overall I’d say it’s a clean read!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Lyrical Press. 275 Pages.

Alpha Dragon Awakes by TJ Shaw

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impression

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

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The Secret Dragon

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

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A Mysterious Mastermind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Escaping Solitude by Sara Dobie Bauer

His exile has ended. Vampire Andrew is finally back in society with his shipwrecked sailor, Edmund. The temptations of New Orleans await them both!

What’s it About?

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Ancient vampire Andrew escaped his tropical island exile with his beloved human sailor, Edmund. They’ve now returned to Andrew’s home in nineteenth-century New Orleans and must navigate not only their developing relationship—and equally haunted pasts—but also a hungry coven of vampires Andrew used to call friends.

Desperate to stay by Andrew’s side forever, Edmund examines the impressive coven library in search of an Elder, the only creature capable of turning Edmund. Although missing for centuries, Andrew believes an Elder must still survive somewhere; they just have to find him.

The search is put on hold when Edmund receives word that his mother is ill in London, and the lovers set off on an oceanic journey surrounded by new friends and old enemies. When things go terribly wrong, Edmund’s fragile human life hangs in the balance, and an Elder must be found or Andrew will be alone forever.

First Impressions

At the end of book one I wondered if dry land would prove to be the salvation Andrew and Edmund thought it would be. They’re both thrilled to be on dry land and in society once again, but now they find themselves having to check their behavior when out on the town. They simply can’t be openly affectionate in public like they were on the seclusion of the island. Sure, they may have only had blood thirsty cannibals as companions on the island of exile, but apparently they didn’t discriminate.

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While Andrew and Edmund both lament not being able to show affection in public, they’re certainly able to locate a few places all over the city for them to indulge in their passions behind closed doors! I also questioned at the end of book one if Andrew’s blood lust would prove too great to handle once he’s back in the midst of society. While his hunger for blood does grow, we see that his tastes are for Edmund alone, and he can’t bring himself to feed on anyone but his sailor. The question is, will Edmund bare his neck to Andrew’s fangs, or will he run away in fear? Spoiler, he bares it allllllllll.

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Vanishing Cynicism

I’ll admit I was a partial cynic in book one, wondering if the love between Andrew and Edmund was authentic, or simply a matter of convenience at being the only two men alone on a deserted island together. Not including the cannibals of course. I’m happy to say that this book really did put aside those critical views of mine. At the start of this novel you can see that their sexual connection is obviously very strong. There are many scenes which focus on their physical desire for each other, as well as with other people at times. And yet, as the novel progresses we see their emotional link come to the forefront. Whereas they start off by taking advantage of all the sexual delights and brothels that New Orleans has to offer, it doesn’t take long before they admit to each other that they only want to spend the rest of their lives in each other’s arms.

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There were two moments in particular for me which highlighted that this sailor and vampire are actually in love. The first is when Andrew realizes how comfortable he is spending time with Edmund simply doing nothing. Do they enjoy exploring the city together and indulging in their sexual passions? Absofreakinlutely. But they’re also happy to just lounge around in their room for a few hours reading. They can be comfortable in silence with each other, and that in my opinion is a sign of true love. And then there is Andrew’s fear over Edmund’s safety. Sure, that might seem like a given, but we see this augmented even more for Andrew as they begin their search for a vampire Elder to turn Edmund into a vampire as well. Andrew is so afraid that something will happen to take Edmund away from him just when they’re on the brink of spending a lifetime together. It was such a humbling show of desperation and vulnerability in his love for Edmund, you can’t help but feel moved.

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

Series: Escape Trilogy, book 2. The ending of this book? Wow, just wow!! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. I can’t wait to dive into the continuation and conclusion that book 3 has in store.

Final Impression: This book was a delightful look at uncovering who Edmund and Andrew truly are when they’re off the island. At times their indulgence in all the sins that New Orleans had to offer were a bit too over the top sex heavy for me. Not something I usually say, I know. However, I did appreciate that underneath it all we could really sense the growing love and devotion these two share for each other. I also liked that we got to see more of a focus on some supplementary characters from Andrew’s vampire coven. They provide an interesting complement to our loving couple. I think I would have liked a few more moments focusing on Edmund’s research into locating an Elder, with some additional details of this unique vampire world we’re getting to know.

Smut Level: My goodness, somebody get me an ice cold hurricane punch to cool off from all this New Orleans heat! Andrew and Edmund spend a lot of time in bed together, and sometimes they even have a few guests present as well. I feel like New Orleans humidity + 4 men in one brothel room= a literal bucket of sweat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 111 Pages.

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Starting Over by Pamela Q. Fernandes

If you’re looking for a sweet fall romance that you can finish in one sitting, then this is the book for you!

What’s it About?

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Cara Wallace is stunned to find Nathan Reynolds back in Henderson County. His sudden arrival brings to the fore unresolved questions of what might have been.
How could she unwrite the past?
How could she undo the mistakes?
How could she unlove him?

Nathan Reynolds can’t understand why Cara chose to stay in this small town. How could she sacrifice her career, her future and their love for a small run-down cottage in the middle of nowheresville? Whatever her reasons, Nathan intends to find out and start over again!

First Impressions

This is a short read, at just 64 pages, which means this review here is gonna be brief, or else I’ll risk spoiling the entire sequence of events! In spite of it’s short length, I was surprised to find out how much story and emotion could be packed into this novella without it feeling rushed. We have the opportunity to really get to know our characters, as well as the tragic reasons behind their break-up years before on the cusp of going away to college. Back then, Cara gave Nathan minimal excuses as to why there was no point in continuing their relationship, but when they reconnect after all these years he is determined to figure out the real reason behind her withdrawal. The details are devastating, but beyond them all we see a second chance at love which was seemingly lost years ago. Their years apart and previous misunderstandings can’t stop their old feelings from coming back to the forefront.

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Overcoming the Past

The bulk of this novella observes Nathan and Cara finding their way back into each other’s lives, and overcoming the ghosts of their pasts. Everything comes together to end on a big note which is so freakin’ adorable (bonfire included), but I think we needed just one more scene of Cara and Nathan connecting in the present. There’s such a focus on their past, and on how Cara’s niece, Brooke, might fit into any relationship Cara chooses to explore with Nathan.

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If we push all of that aside though I think we needed one more moment of them falling back in love after so many years apart to highlight their current emotional connection. Not only could it have allowed them to fall in love with who the other person is today rather than focusing on memories of the past, but it also could have helped to compliment the big ending scene. Because we didn’t get that the end scene felt slightly rushed in regards to the progression of Cara and Nathan’s relationship, but I don’t want to give too much away! You’ll just have to pick this book up and read it for yourself 🙂

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

Series: A Sweet Fall Romance. Personally I would love if this turned into a series which highlighted every season of the year. Mkay, now I definitely want to see that happen. I’d read every single one.

Final Impression: For those of you looking for a sweet, short read as you wait for trick-or-treaters to arrive, or for your turkey to finish baking, or heck if it’s just a cold, grey fall day and you don’t feel like getting out of bed until noon, this would be the perfect solution for you. It’s a beautiful look at second chances, coming home, and recognizing that the love of your life is right in front of you. I always worry that short novellas of this length will result in us receiving just a preliminary glimpse of the characters and story, but this one presents us with almost the perfect blend of character development, romance, and the importance of family.

Smut Level: A steamy kiss here or there, but overall a clean read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 64 Pages.

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

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impression

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

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

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Creating a Villain

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

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

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Off-Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Portal to the Land of Chroma

 

Dare to Surrender by Carly Phillips

He’s been waiting for her for years. Now that she’s free of her jackass of an ex, he doesn’t intend to let her go. Mkay, I could also see how this might be the start to a stalker-horror film, but we’ll run with it.

What’s it About?

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Isabelle Masters is done…

Done with her cheating boyfriend.

Done with his domineering ways.

Just done.

Taking off in her leased Mercedes to start over turns out to be the best decision she’s ever made — despite being arrested for grand theft auto and hauled off to a local police station. Being rescued by the most unlikely person possible, Gabriel Dare, makes it all worthwhile. After all, she’s yearned for the sexy man for years—yet now is her chance to finally take the plunge and dare to become the independent woman she’s always wanted to be. But can she be in control of her life if she surrenders to a man like him?

First Impression

Our novel begins with Isabelle breaking up with her boyfriend of a few years, after she caught him cheating on her. It’s only when she leaves him that we start to discover just how much control her ex had over her. It wasn’t just that he cheated, but rather throughout their relationship he cut Isabelle off from her friends, pressured her to quit her job, and take care of their household. While their relationship didn’t enter the physical abuse realm while they were together, it’s clearly evident that there was mental abuse going on. Then we have Gabriel who comes along as her knight in shining armor willing to rescue her from it all.

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After leaving her ex Isabelle has no place to go, no job, and just $500 to her name. Gabriel offers her a place to stay, and quickly reveals that he’s wanted her for so long, and that she’s different from any other woman who has come before. He doesn’t want her to leave the safety of his apartment. While their physical chemistry is off the charts, I must say I would have been extremely disappointed if she had fallen into his arms like he wanted. She simply would have been going from one gilded cage into another one, without ever having the chance to stand on her own two feet. It might seem bizarre for a romance heroine to turn her back on our six-pack ab hero before the halfway point, but I was actually pretty proud of her. I’m not saying she can’t be with him ever, but I was just happy she realized moving in with the dude so quickly after leaving an abusive relationship would have been a huge mistake.

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Three Months Later

But that’s not the end of their story! Far from it ladies and gents. Three months later their worlds collide once again when Gabe’s sister, Lucy, seeks out Isabelle to help decorate one of their exclusive night clubs on a secluded private island resort. Gee, I wonder if anyone else might be behind this little ruse? Yeah, it’s Gabe. We know it. She knows it. Lucy tries to shirk it off by saying she wouldn’t be risking the reputation of their club on the whims of her brother. But, yeah she is. Isabelle knows she’s being manipulated and that Gabe is behind the request that she travel to this private island. Lo and behold when she arrives there’s a certain devastatingly handsome man waiting in her penthouse suite.

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The funny thing is, she knew he was behind it, but she went anyway because she’s been thinking about him non-stop since she walked out on him 3 months before. They proceed to do some rather PG-13 activities, and she essentially thanks him for letting her walk away all those months ago so that she could walk back to him on her terms. At first I thought, oh honey you didn’t walk back to him, he pulled the strings to get you there. I couldn’t help but feel that she was once again being manipulated by a man who just wanted her in his bed. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that she really did hold all the cards. She knew he was behind it, and if she really didn’t want to get involved with him she simply didn’t have to go. But then I thought about how he pulled her work into it, and how her boss probably would have insisted she not lose such a big account or else risk losing her job. And then I really didn’t know what to think.

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Series: NY Dares, book 1. Follows the Dare to Love series. I question if I missed something in the previous spin-off novels, particularly how Isabelle and Gabe met. It’s mentioned briefly in the prologue, as though his first glimpse of her pulled him in so that he was just waiting around for the relationship with her boyfriend to end. If that’s the case, meh kind of creepy.

Final Impression: Honestly I don’t know how to feel about this book, or the romance portrayed in it. On the one hand I like to think that Isabelle is finally taking control of her life, and living it the way she wants. On the other, there’s definitely a fine line into manipulation that I think Gabe is guilty of crossing. Yes, they have a connection, but I think I much rather would have preferred if Isabelle had been the one to ultimately pursue Gabe when she determined the time was right, rather than allowing this ruse of a job offer push her into his arms.

Smut Level: He definitely likes to tie up her hands and slap her…nether region. As he likes to say his ultimate aim is to bring her mind-numbing pleasure. If she has to use her hands to get more pleasure, even if it means embracing him in the midst of love, it means he’s doing something wrong.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. CP Publishing. 230 Pages.