A Deep Thing by A.K. Smith

This book is sort of like Indiana Jones meets Jason Bourne, meets…Jacques Cousteau?

What’s it About?

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What was her husband hiding in the jungles of Mexico? Rocked by her husband’s tragic death, Kendall Jackson strives to put her life back together. But Ryder, her nineteen-year-old stepson, is bitter and wants nothing to do with her. And she can’t keep the grief at bay. Sometimes, it’s so strong, she wonders if life is worth living.

A call from a cave diver in Mexico gives her hope of mending the relationship with her stepson. Before his death, her husband arranged a diving expedition as a birthday gift for his son. Kendall persuades Ryder to honor his father’s last wish.

From the campus of Western Maryland College to the woods of Camp David and the caves of the Yucatán, Kendall and Ryder take a journey to discover what her husband worked so hard to hide, and to protect his treasured secrets from falling into the wrong hands. The choices they make will decide their fate and the future of others. Will they risk everything for the truth?

First Impressions

This novel really focuses on exploring cenotes, which translates into “a deep thing”. Pretty appropriate title, all things considered! While most of the characters in this book look upon these deep pools of water as mysteriously beautiful holes of a multitude of gloriously blue colors, I like to think of them as endless dark depths which could contain any plethora of deadly sharp-toothed and fanged creatures who could kill you in one fell swoop.

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Who is to Blame?

To be fair, there is one person to blame for this fear of the dark blue cenotes, and that would be Jeremy Wade, host of River Monsters. One of his episodes from this last season featured treacherous cenote-dwelling octopuses who can pull unsuspecting swimmers into the endless cave systems deep below, ne’er to be seen or heard from again. Sorry to say, it freaked me out just a smidge. Every time our characters would willingly go diving I would just think to myself, “No good can come of this. Swim away!!”

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A Little Bit of Everything

A mix of adventure, government cover-ups, and moving on after the death of a loved one. A lot is going on in this novel, yet for the most part I felt like this book was sort of out of my wheelhouse, as there wasn’t a whole ton of romance involved. At the start of the novel, Kendall is still reeling from the death  of her husband, Tim, in a tragic cenote diving accident. See, nothing good comes from those places!

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As the novel progresses, we find out there was more to Tim’s death than we originally thought, and in more ways than one. Kendall proceeds to join her stepson on a diving expedition Tim planned before his untimely death. It’s when they return from this trip that a government conspiracy and historical/mystical legends come to the forefront.

Draw You In

I will say, I thought it took too long for the story to really get going. I understand that the goal was to make it appear as though Tim’s life was nothing like it seemed, but there was almost too much build-up and a lot of focus on the initial dive trip between Kendall and her stepson, Ryder. I would have liked more to happen earlier on to really draw you into the mystery. As it stands it almost felt like a cenote travel guide at the beginning.

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Once the intrigue did come into play, the story went in two different directions. One was with the government connection that I felt didn’t completely come full circle. Then there was the historical aspect tied into that story as well, but that didn’t come into play until the very last chapter of the book. Everything sort of builds to one huge twist that I thought seemed kind of rushed, and therefore almost out of place because there was so much focus on the government side of things beforehand.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? Definitely an interesting twist at the end, but I think it almost took too long to come about. The entire novel sort of takes place in three major sections: the initial dive trip, the government hoopla, and the big twist. I wish things would have flowed a bit more smoothly between them all. The last part of the novel could have used more focus and attention in my opinion.

Smut Level: Kendall is experiencing a lot of difficulty after the death of her husband, so there’s not really any sex or smut. More focus is placed on the adventurous side of the plot.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 278 Pages.

 

Tempt the Ocean by Agnès de Savigny

This novel is labeled as a “romantic adventure”, but I guess I underestimated how much of a page-turning adventure it would actually be! Complete with pirates and everything!!

What’s it About?

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What happens when a stranded young woman reluctantly accepts a ride on a stranger’s yacht, accidentally falls in love with him, then finds out he might be a killer? Tempt the Ocean is a Romantic Adventure that tells the story of a reluctant heroine plucked from the self-isolation of her apartment and thrown into a harrowing sailing adventure down the west coast of Africa. She puts her life in the hands of Xavier, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past who battles his own demons. The heroine begins to question her trust of Xavier and the wisdom of her decision in the face of high seas pirates, slave traders, corrupt island magnates, jealous lovers, Canadian bureaucracy, and an evil nemesis with a hideous scar. Ultimately she must learn to trust her own wits and will to survive.

First Impressions

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At first, I thought I had this book pegged as your typical serendipitous and predictable romance, but it takes a surprising and delightful turn towards an unexpected tale of suspense, murder and intrigue. The novel starts with our heroine being left on a dock in Spain by her family, who unknowingly sailed away without her. To catch up with them, she hesitantly agrees to travel with a hunky Frenchman on his stylish yacht. A bit of an unlikely and rather improbable start? Of course! But this is an adventure we’re talking about, you gotta start somewhere!!

From Sexy to Suspenseful

The start of the novel was the part of the story I saw coming. All that alone time in such close proximity with a sexily accented muscle man, and you just know it’s undoubtedly going to lead to some naked time. I must say, these two get pretty darn creative with all the wavy rocking going around in that yacht! After they hook up on the boat, I thought the rest of the book would primarily be about their slow and lazy love-making all day long in the glorious sunshine.

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Just goes to show that right when you think you have the story all figured out, it takes an interesting turn towards adventure. This was the point in the story where I simply didn’t want to put the book down! I wasn’t expecting a full-on adventure story, which was sort of nostalgically reminiscent of adventure stories of old, like the pirates of Treasure Island. Only in this novel the pirate is a murderous wretch who is linked to Xavier’s past, and most likely intends on selling our heroine into prostitution. I guess you could say it’s more of a realistic modern twist to your typical pirate adventure.

The Good, and the Room for Improvement

The best thing about this novel is that the story definitely keeps you on your toes. One thing’s for sure: it never gets boring! Our couple begins their tale on a beautiful yacht, only to be kidnapped by pirates on a huge freighter, and they ultimately make their escape to the African coast. The story is constantly moving and developing. Is it 100% believable? Not really, but just loosen up and let the story take you where it will!

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One area I would have liked some more information on was Xavier’s past. He has a previous link to the lead pirate thug, Scar, and although their relationship is somewhat explained I feel like it wasn’t done to the full extent which was really needed. We see how this murderer had a devastating impact on Xavier’s family, but I wanted more of an explanation as to how Xavier got mixed up with him in the first place, and what exactly Xavier used to do for a living. It seemed like a few details were still shrouded in mystery.

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

Series: A delightful stand-alone.

Should you read it? It’s an exciting and short summer read! Some scenes between Scar and our heroine were a little difficult to read though, especially as he prepares to use her for sex with paying customers.

Smut Level: Gotta love a sailor. They can get so creative with their knot tying skills.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services. 174 Pages.

 

 

Prince of Solana by Susan Sheehey

I must say I was a bit surprised at how much I actually enjoyed this book. Don’t get me wrong, the synopsis definitely caught my interest, but whenever we have a romance novel revolving around a prince I become somewhat hesitant. After all, there are only so many ways you can retell the classic Cinderella tale of a handsome prince falling in love with a commoner before you get a little bored. However, the Prince of Solana is in no way a simple fairytale. It incorporates an intense side-story, and also teaches us one of the most important lessons in life: never mess with a Texan.

perf5.000x8.000.inddPrince Andre has been exiled from his home of Solana for eight years now. Despite the fact that he hasn’t stepped foot in his home country for almost a decade, he finds ways to pass the time by surrounding himself with alcohol, women, and cards. His life of leisure is tragically interrupted when his father and brother are assassinated by a cartel hoping to take control of the small island nation of Solana. To escape this same gruesome fate, Andre and his most trusted bodyguard hide out on a remote cattle ranch in the heart of Texas. While a hired mercenary wreaks havoc on the people of his country, Andre has no choice but to remain hidden until the slow-moving diplomatic political process can restore order to his nation. Andre never expected his life to change so dramatically, just like he never expected short-tempered ranch-hand Gemma to affect him so greatly. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, something the cultured prince isn’t used to. Just as these two start to explore the passion which draws them together, their lives are interrupted yet again when the assassins discover where the exiled prince has been hiding.

Alright, before we really get started let’s take a timeout to admire the gorgeous hunk of male gracing the cover of this novel. I mean…will you just…oh me likey. The fact that he’s standing on a white sandy beach in front of crystal clear blue water is an added bonus. Rawr! Ok, I definitely need to work on my sexy growl.

There were two main features of this novel that I absolutely loved. Firstly, the balance between the romantic storyline of Andre and Gemma juxtaposed against the horror taking place on Solana was carried out to perfection. I have read a LOT of romance novels, and I think one of the most difficult things for an author to do when introducing suspense or drama into the plot is to not make it seem like an after-thought. Sheehey is an expert at smoothly transitioning from the sexual tension and extended foreplay happening on the ranch in Texas, to bringing us into the nightmarish hell of political upheaval in Solana. The mercenary who took control of the island is an extremely sinister character who brings a disturbing sense of reality to the entire situation. It’s easy to think that the handsome prince will come to save the day, but in the meantime we are presented with harsh descriptions of the murder, rape and torture of the people of Solana.

The second standout feature of this novel was the character of Gemma. Talk about a strong female lead who can not only take care of herself, but those around her as well. It was quite refreshing to read a novel where a woman actually protects the male lead for a change. Again, I was afraid at first that this would be a cheesy Cinderella story, but I wasn’t expecting Cinderella to know how to throw a punch or handle a shot-gun. Gemma likes to be in control in all she does, even when it comes to sex. It is so common to have the hero be the dominant one in the bedroom, but in this case Gemma likes to take the reins and be a cowgirl in more ways than one!

I also enjoyed seeing the evolution of Andre’s character from that of a selfish and spoiled playboy, to actually caring about someone other than himself. Not only does he come to whole-heartedly care about Gemma, but also the people of his nation. When his family was assassinated Andre had no intention to become involved in what was happening on the home front, but as time goes on he gains the courage to step up for his country. I can’t handle this kind of perfection in a male specimen!

There was one aspect of this novel which I thought was a bit far-fetched, and that was the ending. After the hired mercenaries fail to assassinate Andre, but succeed in burning down the cattle-ranch, Gemma accompanies Andre and his bodyguard to Solana to seek revenge. Don’t get me wrong, it was entertaining, but also rather fantastical for an exiled prince to return to his home country with a group of Texan ranch-hands in tow to overthrow a maniacal rebel group. Gemma was definitely a force to be reckoned with in Texas, but she may have been a tad out of her league strutting around in her cowboy boots in such a hostile environment.

Despite the somewhat sensational events which took place towards the end of the novel, I simply couldn’t put it down. I remember waking up one lazy Sunday morning with the intention of reading for an hour or so in bed before making myself a nice cup of coffee. Next thing I know it’s going on noon and I’m leaning over my Kindle with avid curiosity as to how this whole revenge scene is going to play out. You should consider yourself forewarned that although this is a romance novel, there is an obvious darker side to what happens on Solana throughout the entirety of the book. However, on top of all this drama we also see an unlikely relationship form between Gemma and Andre, and we have to wonder if a handsome prince and a bold cowgirl can truly have a happily ever after.

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

Series: Royals of Solana, book 1. I’m not 100% sure when book 2 will be coming out, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will be reading it. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

Should you read it? Yes! It’s almost the ideal beach read. Sure, there may have been some moments of cheesiness and unbelievability, but overall it was suspenseful, heartbreaking, sexy, sweet and funny. What more could you want? Oh yeah, I want book 2!!

Smut Level: There is a decent amount of build-up, but once these two go at it, they hold nothing back! She tells him what to do, he tells her how much they both want it, and there are moments where they lose themselves in the intense passion blossoming between them. Hummina yummina!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here

Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare

About a month ago I made a vow to myself that from now until the New Year I would only read books which authors had provided to me for review. You see, my list of ARCs is getting rather large, so I wanted to dedicate the rest of the year to knocking off as many from that list as possible. Well, that little promise to myself lasted about…15 hours. Once I saw that the next book in the Billionaire Boys Club series had been released I knew I had to have it. Immediately. I can’t help it, I absolutely adore this series! Each book is sexy as hell, and this ended up being one of my favorites. Even though I broke my vow I managed to finish all 304 pages in one day, so it didn’t distract me for too long. Gosh, I may have an addiction to this series. Including the cover art.

romancingJonathan Lyons is basically the Indiana Jones of the modern world. Minus the religious elements and melting people of course. He’s an adventurer, and a rich one at that. He also has a pretty impressive six pack, which is kind of weird when you think about it. Does he stop work in the middle of an archaeological dig site to do 1000 sit-ups or something? Maybe bench-press a few mummies? I doubt there’s exactly a gym with free weights in the middle of the Amazon. Sorry, I digress (you should probably get used to that by the way). Anyway, when Jonathan learns that his mentor has passed away, and possibly left behind a journal which could lead to a priceless artifact, Jonathan is determined to find it. There’s just one little problem standing in his way: Violet. She’s the daughter of his mentor, as well as his former lover from years ago. In order to find the artifact it requires both of them to work together and follow a list of clues to the ultimate prize. After a couple of clues these two love birds rediscover their attraction for each other, and do quite a bit of bumping and grinding beneath the sheets. Tee hee 🙂

There were two main reasons why I enjoyed this book so much more than some of the others in the series:

1) It was just so darn exciting! Almost like a sexy scavenger hunt. I know I referenced Indiana Jones earlier, but it’s almost like National Treasure too! Our heroes need to follow a bunch of clues which reference a bunch of old dead people that I couldn’t possibly solve. The added benefits of this book are that we don’t have to watch a balding Nicolas Cage run around awkwardly, and there is more smut! There was a pretty decent amount of sexual tension build-up before we got to the really good stuff, but the wait really didn’t bother me because I was so wrapped up in trying to figure out where their next clue would lead them.

2) Jonathan is definitely more likable than the other boys in the Billionaire Club. He isn’t a complete jackass like some of the others, or a really annoying playboy. After things ended with Violet all those years ago he could never bring himself to get involved in a real relationship with another woman, so he would just hire hookers from an escort service to fulfill his physical needs. Well isn’t that…sweet? Ok, so he was pretty sketchy in that respect, but you could tell throughout the book that his feelings for Violet never completely went away. Their back story was so much more poignant and moving than the leads in the other books. One scene in particular was kind of heartbreaking when Jonathan discovered the real reason why things ended with Violet when they were younger. Something about reading how such a tough macho man like Jonathan could break down into a heap of tears just got to me. Man, I am such a pathetic sap!

Looking back in the series, my least favorite book was actually probably the first one, Stranded With a Billionaire. However, even though the books don’t really follow each other, and you could definitely get by without reading the others, it just seems like blasphemy to not go in order. Especially considering the first book goes into more detail about what the Billionaire Boys Club is, and who all is involved. There are some features which are present in each book, including a misunderstood rich alpha male, a balanced amount of humor and smut, and even a little mystery as to how the two leads can overcome their differences (and sometimes even hatred for each other) to end up together. If you are going away for a week or two on a beach vacation, then I would definitely recommend bringing this entire series along. So now that that’s out of the way, I pinky promise to only read ARCs from now until January 1st. But…the next book in the With Me in Seattle series just came out. Shit!

Series: Billionaire Boys Club, book 5. There is only one more book left in this series, and once I read it I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. Probably cry.

Should You Read It? If you have read any of the other books in this series, and had a good time, then I’d say hell yeah. If you didn’t enjoy a previous book in this series then I would say back away slowly.

Smut Level: You have to wait about 50% to get to it, but when you do it is steamy hot. At one point they rock the bed so much a painting almost falls off the wall. Nice!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here