Beck by Harper Sloan

For any of you with a positive childhood association with pop rocks, let’s just say this novel takes a rather R-rated spin on the beloved candy.

What’s it About?

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Dee
I’ve always been good at wearing masks. Not letting anyone see the real me. I’m content being the happy-go-lucky best friend. The strong willed boss. The independent woman who doesn’t need a man. But the truth is I’m just as broken as the rest of you. I’m terrified that all it will take is one person to make all my carefully constructed walls crumble into fine dust. So I guard my heart with everything I have. Determined to never let anyone get close enough to hurt me again. All is perfect until HE walks into my life. No… he doesn’t just walk. He struts his good-looking, sex-oozing self right into my space and demands that I see HIM. Making me want what I know I can’t have. So I did the only thing I know how to do. I run. But he just won’t let me go.

Beck
The second I see her, I know she will be mine. I see past the gorgeous smiles and heart-stopping laughter. I see HER. She doesn’t want me to know her secrets or the past that haunts her, but I make it my mission to find out. To make her mine. She can run all she wants, but it will never be far enough to stop me from coming after her. She’s it for me and she knows it. She’s just too scared to admit it.

First Impressions

It’s important to note right off the bat that if you haven’t read the first two books in this series, then you should set this book down right now and walk away slowly. This book is categorized as a “inter-connected standalone”, which I guess makes sense since we deal with a new couple in every book, but there are some pretty crucial back stories and dramatic events that unfolded in books one and two which have an immediate impact on our couple for this third book. If you were to skip out on these first two books I have a feeling you’d find yourself pretty lost when it comes to this one. That being said…I have read books one and two and even I found myself a bit confused and lost at times.

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Back to the Beginning

When this novel starts off we actually do a mini travel through time back to when Dee and Beck first met in the first novel in this series, Axel. After a few scenes involving their first foray into a physical relationship, we then jump ahead to “present day” which finds us picking up where book 2 left off. Here’s my problem with this approach. The jump back to their first meeting was pretty unnecessary. We’ve seen this all play out before, but now we just see it from Dee and Beck’s point of view, and honestly I feel like it didn’t add a whole lot of insight into their relationship. But here’s the real problem. A LOT of stuff happened between their first meeting and the present day situation that actually was important, and it was basically glossed over. Was it cute to read about how they both desired each other upon first meeting? Yeah, sure. But did it actually say anything that would help me better understand the dynamic of their relationship today. No, not really.

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Something which would have been much more enlightening and crucial to get insight on was how Beck helped Dee cope with PTSD after seeing her best friend get shot, how she spiraled into a deep depression, how he had to pull her back from the brink of committing suicide, how he helped her find a professional to speak to about all that she’s suffered through in life. Instead, we just get a brief mention that these events took place throughout the past two years. This is why I couldn’t help but feel lost at times throughout the book. Why didn’t we focus more on those important moments in their relationship? Did I miss something here? I feel like those moments would be so telling as to why Beck consistently stays by Dee’s side even though she closes herself off from the prospect of engaging in a long-term relationship with him. It would show why he keeps coming back to her, and indeed why she keeps coming back to him for help. I couldn’t help but feel let down that we didn’t see more focus on those first instances where things started to spiral out of control for her. Instead we see what comes after, where she’ll have some setbacks here and there, but not so much the impetus for how it all began.

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Those You Least Suspect

Something that I think this novel did extremely well was to focus on the impact that depression can have on relationships and friendships with others. Beck is really the only person who knows the depth to Dee’s struggle with depression. He’s apparently been there for every low moment. Even though Dee eventually pushes him away due to her general distrust of men because of her ass-hat father’s behavior, the two always manage to find each other again for a very complicated on-again off-again relationship. This is something their respective friend-groups simply don’t understand, and even mock at times. Their constant back and forth seems somewhat childish and too “high-school” drama for them. But here’s the thing. None of them know the truth about Dee’s depression. She wears a mask of happiness and enacts a bubbly persona to keep them off her scent.

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It’s such a sad glimpse at how far someone will go to keep all of their depression inside and hidden away from those closest to them. Eventually though, both Dee and Beck come to admit the truth behind Dee’s depression these last few years to their immediate friends. Beck gets especially snippy at one of Dee’s best friends, and the focus of book 2 in the series, Cage. He definitely loses his cool by insisting that if Cage were a true friend, and not so swept up with focusing on his own life, he would have been able to see the reality of what was lying underneath Dee’s mask. It’s an interesting conversation for sure about finding a balance between love and friendship. Was Cage so focused on his own love life that he missed the signs of his best friend falling so deep into despair that she felt the need to end her life? Is it fair to ask Cage to put aside the dramas and issues of his own life to focus on Dee, especially seeing as she is so adept at putting this mask into place? These are questions that really don’t have answers, but the debate which is waged in this novel opens up both sides of the argument in a very intriguing way.

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Series: Corps Security, book 3. I feel like I keep saying this when it comes to this series, but while this book definitely wasn’t my favorite, I’m really looking forward to what comes next.

Should You Read It? Overall, not my favorite book. The first half or so is kind of slow, repetitive, and didn’t hold my interest as much as I would have liked. BUT! And this is a big freakin’ but. The second-half of this book is phenomenal. The suspense and action really kick in, and there is a shockingly emotional twist which takes place towards the end that left me in tears. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say it results in these tough-as-nails military men breaking down to the point where they don’t try to hide their own tears from flowing. It also sets everything in place for the next novel that I am really looking forward to reading.

Smut Level: Whenever these two have sex, I’d say 9 times out of 10 they end up on the floor. It doesn’t matter where they start their exploits: the bed, the kitchen counter, the kitchen table, eventually they’ll roll their way in a screaming and panting mess to the floor. They usually manage to break a few things in the process too!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 238 Pages.

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The Beast of Aubyn Hall by Alex L. Michaels

A slightly quirky and accident prone bookworm? Check. A sexy as hell and overly confident alpha male? Check! You can definitely understand why this book would be part of the Bookworms & Alphas series!

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The man they call the beast, sworn off love, meets the bookish beauty who thinks that love exists only in books. When Bronte Beltran finds out that her next assignment is cataloging the famous Aubyn Hall library, she’s ecstatic. But when she finds out they call the owner the Beast of Aubyn Hall, not so much. A week in a dusty library should be right up her alley. But a wrong word at the wrong time and she might just find out what exactly is beastly about the Beast of Aubyn Hall.

First Impressions

Holy crap this book is the epitome of sexual tension build-up. Practically from the moment that Bronte crosses the threshold into Aubyn Hall, and hears the dark and foreboding voice of Caine, aka our Beast, you can practically feel the air get thick with desire. That being said, prepare yourself to be teased, as we don’t get a full and final…climax to this desire until the very final moments of the book. You’ll want to scream out loud, “Just ravish each other already!”

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In a way, it sort of follows the same story arch of the first novel, where we were also presented with some delayed gratification. Whereas book one presents us with a plethora of being pushed up against a wall and being whipped around for an intense close-up discussion, in this novel we get the added glory of Caine continually coming up behind Bronte in the heat of an argument. Sexy whispers in her ear, not to mention that a particularly part of his anatomy is usually…digging into her bum. I will say, although we are being teased right along with the characters, this makes for a very quick read because you just keep reading on and on so you can get to the moment when they consummate this thing.

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Sexy as Hell, buuuuuuut…

This book is sexy as all get out, but at the same time I also found the dynamic between Caine and Bronte to be somewhat worrisome. It’s clear that Caine is set and determined to have Bronte in his bed, and while she is obviously affected by his sexy whispers and passionate stares, she expends quite a bit of effort to convince both herself and him that she’s not receptive to his sexual ministrations. He’s also quick to boss her around, and while sometimes it relates to the fact that she’s working for him, in his home, cataloging his library, it also crosses the line of professionalism. Below is one quote which I found to be particularly concerning:

In fact, I don’t think he ever approached me in a kind or respectful manner. He just kept sneaking around me, provoking me, making me feel uncomfortable and sometimes he plainly insulted me. He also made me feel foolish, confused, insecure and sometimes plain afraid. But he also excited me enormously, that much I was able to admit to myself.

I mean, goodness gracious if it weren’t for that last sentence I’d be screaming at the woman to get the hell outta that house! At the same time though, whether she’s sexually excited by this man or not, I feel like the fact he sometimes made her feel “plain afraid”, can’t really be a good thing??? The last thing we want is to have an alpha male who borders the line into jackass. Although, I guess we were warned right in the title that we’re dealing with a beast here 🙂

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However, based on how the novel progresses it becomes clear that Bronte is definitely attracted to this man, and she just doesn’t want to admit it to herself, so it results in Bronte continually running away from her feelings for this man. One of my favorite quotes from the book is said by another woman who has her sights set on Caine, and during one confrontation with Bronte she declares, “and you want him to get you whether you’re willing to admit this to yourself or not”. Such an intelligent statement that can carry over into so many romance novels. I guess I just wish there weren’t those moments thrown in where Bronte admits she doesn’t feel respected by Caine. It kind of throws a damper on the sexual fire that is spreading throughout the rest of the book.

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A Library in Disarray

Bronte and her team have been brought to Aubyn Hall in order to get Caine’s library in order for eventual public view. Maybe I’m just too much of a book nerd, but I sort of wish more time had been spent talking about the details involved with this work. I mean, what exactly goes into cataloging a library? Apparently a lot of heavy lifting, but what else? Alphabetizing? Writing down all the titles? Making sure there’s a designated romance section? This sort of ties in as well to my wish that Bronte and Caine had connected a bit more over their shared love of books. They both admit to the fact that they’re book lovers, but maybe having just one or two additional moments where they connect over books in the library might have transformed their relationship beyond just the obvious sexual connection.

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A Beast with a Set Mind

Apparently Caine has a motto in life when it comes to Bronte, and that would be “I have set my mind on you.” This is his answer for everything when it comes to why he is constantly pursuing Bronte, and why he refuses to give up on her. No matter how many times she says no. Bronte is totally stumped when it comes to Caine’s pursuit, since she can’t understand why someone as gorgeous and rich as him would pursue a bookworm such as her.

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This brings us to the inevitable confrontation and blow-up between Caine and Bronte. Just when they are starting to make some progress and headway to starting a relationship, it is revealed that Caine asked for Bronte specifically when it came to the work on his library. Apparently he had seen her once before, and this provoked his mind to be set on her. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble understanding why this was seen as such an offense to Bronte. She is immediately pissed, and explains that it was a way of Caine using his money to try and exert his control into her life.

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Which, ok, I can see is kind of weird. He could have just been a normal person, walked into the library where she was working and ask her out for a cup of coffee. But then we wouldn’t have a book, would we? 🙂 I guess her reaction seemed just a bit over-the-top considering this ploy to get her in his house was essentially his version of a pick-up line. My favorite comment on this entire situation comes from Bronte’s friend who states, “…boo hoo. So what? Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest type of seduction, but it wasn’t the worst either.” Amen sister!

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

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 2. You really don’t need to read the first book in this series to follow the plot of this one. The female lead from book 1 does get a mention towards the end of the novel, but there’s no plot carry over, so you should be all set! I’d love to see future books in this series focus on some of the supplemental characters from this book, as they are an absolute hoot!

Should you read it? This is sort of a different take on your classic Beauty and the Beast tale, in that our beast is actually gorgeous. He’s more beastly in manner, not to mention a beast in the bedroom. When it comes to building sexual tension this book has perfected it to a damn near science, but I wish we would have seen a bit more connection between the characters over their love of books. It’s sort of the only time we see a soothing to his beastly manner, and I just wanted more of it. I also wasn’t a huge fan of their dispute over why Bronte was brought to Aubyn Hall to begin with. While it provided conflict to the plot, I couldn’t really understand why she was soooo offended at the thought of being brought there because he’d seen her before.

Smut Level: Caine just loves to make a happy hour of Bronte, in that he has the tendency to pour his alcoholic beverages over her before lapping it up. While we have to wait quite a long time before they officially have sex, we get a delightful amount of dirty talk and teasing before then.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 153 Pages.

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Dangerous Secrets by Allie Zanders

Does anyone else out there find it kind of weird when a romance novel either features or mentions a threesome scenario involving a female lead and two male siblings? I can’t help but go noooooooooo thank you. This wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered it, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

What’s it About?

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Two secret pasts… one passionate love story. Taryn Malone is stranded, broke, and desperate for help. But even if the sexy bartender she’s been eyeing offers her a job for the evening… even if he seduces her with his impossibly intense blue eyes… even if every fiber of her heart tells her to stay with him… she can’t. Because Taryn Malone doesn’t exist.

Jake Callaghan has been running the family’s Irish pub for years now. When he sees Taryn standing out alone in the rain, he does what he’s been trained to do as a SEAL – he rescues her. It has nothing to do with her full, firm curves, or her loose, golden-blonde hair, or the way she brushes against him that sends lightning bolts through his body. It’s just the right thing to do. Really. But both Taryn and Jake are hiding secrets from each other. Dangerous secrets. And neither one of them knows just how dangerous it can be to fall in love…

First Impressions

During the opening scene of this novel, my first gut impression was, “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!” Definitely an interesting and action packed start. We have a young woman chained to a bed, and a creepy man watching her sleep who has obviously abused her physically, mentally, and sexually. Unfortunately, I chose to start listening to this as I got ready for bed one night. So much for a good night’s sleep!! Eventually the story evolves into this young woman being on the continual run from her captor, and finding solace in the arms of a rugged stranger. There’s also a smidge of political espionage thrown in there as well.

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Sexual Chemistry in the Family

While a threesome with Taryn, Jake and one of his siblings doesn’t actually occur, it seems to be considered at some point by multiple parties. Taryn thinks about, as does Jake before he is quickly overcome with an alpha protective sense of “mine and no one else’s”. In addition to the obvious sexual tension between Taryn and Jake, it seems as though there are some sparks flying between her and almost every single one of Jake’s brothers. And there’s a decent handful of them!

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Jake is clearly supposed to be Taryn’s main love interest. However, strange as it may seem, every time another brother arrives on the scene you kind of question if a love triangle is about to happen. Or perhaps an awkward familial threesome. A foursome perhaps? With this many single, muscled and burly brothers on the premises, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Some Time Apart

This novel follows a different arch than what you’d expect. It begins with a crazy intense intro, then a time jump to years later with Taryn on the run. She meets the devilishly handsome and flirtatious Jake, and it’s not too long before they’re rolling around in the sheets. That being said, about half-way through the book Taryn runs away from Jake over fear of discovery from her former captor, and ultimately spends the majority of the second half of the book with one of Jake’s brothers in a secluded mountain cabin. She has no idea he’s related to Jake though. I just found it interesting that such a large portion of the novel was spent apart from the male lead and love interest.

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Who Do You Root For?

When all was said and done, I can’t say I was 100% convinced that Taryn was actually in love with Jake as a person. I think she idolized his lifestyle more than anything else. A strong, independent figure who had a loving relationship with his large and supportive family. I don’t think she and Jake really got to know each other well enough to call it love, especially considering they both kept pretty massive secrets form each other for the limited time they did spend together. She was hiding her true identity and history of being on the run, whereas he was hiding the fact he was onto her secret past.

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While the two had chemistry, I was actually a bit shocked to find that I almost preferred Taryn with Jake’s brother, Kane. They are both two troubled souls who are able to find comfort in each other. There is one moment in particular where they are able to take a moment in the midst of all the hiding and drama to let loose and be silly. It was just so freakin’ adorable, especially considering Kane is supposed to be the ultimate hard-ass. Maybe I just want to see him have a happy ever after, no matter who it’s with!

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Series: Callaghan Brothers, book 1. With every entrance of another Callaghan brother you can easily envision another additional book in the series. I’d be very interested to read Kane’s tale of romance.

Should you read it? Things all come together in the end, but it almost felt too quick and convenient. I guess when you have a family of private operatives on your side though, things will probably end in your favor. The political side of the story never felt fully explained to me, but it’s definitely an intense and suspenseful read.

Smut Level: If I remember correctly, we are really only privy to one full sex scene. Definitely hot, but not my favorite, as they aren’t…facing each other. They also have a pretty big argument about 5.7 seconds after finishing.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 356 Pages.

Savage Urges by Suzanne Wright

When you find a woman who knows how to interpret your grunts, well that’s a woman worth keeping. Even if she is a lone wolf.

What’s it About? 

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She’s a lone wolf with a cause. As a volunteer at a shelter for lone shifters—the same one that rescued her—Makenna Wray has dedicated her life to finding homes for its residents. And when she discovers that a teen in her care is related to Ryan Conner, the broody, handsome-as-sin enforcer of the Phoenix Pack, she’s eager to help connect the two. She just wasn’t prepared to feel a connection of her own.

Lone wolves are loners for a reason—and most of them bad. Or so Ryan assumes until he meets the mysterious Makenna. Quirky and sensual, she seems to enjoy riling him, especially when she refuses to discuss her past. Although there is no mating bond, he’s sure she’s the one. All he has to do is be patient and wait. But when another pack’s sinister Alpha comes sniffing around, threatening Makenna and her shelter, this enforcer is ready to let his wolf off the leash.

First Impressions

What I always find so unique about this series is how in each book our main couple often discovers they are mates in different ways. It’s never the same big reveal on repeat every time, which can sometimes happen when dealing with a series of this length. In this novel, what makes it all the more interesting is that close-mouthed Ryan is the one who first discovers they are destined to be together, and he has to try and convince the seemingly carefree Makenna of their mating link. Such a complex role reversal that we haven’t really seen before.

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Although she feels an undeniable chemistry with Ryan, Makenna is hesitant to acknowledge they are mates in case it isn’t actually true. As the story progresses, we uncover that her hesitations aren’t just related to her bond with Ryan, but with the Phoenix Pack as a whole. Makenna has been a lone wolf since she was a little girl, and fears that by joining a pack it means they might eventually abandon her. We haven’t really been introduced to any lone wolf characters in this series before, but their stories draw you in where you just want to learn more. Combine that with a somewhat eccentric female lead and a male whose literal job is to protect his pack? You can’t help but be entertained.

A Threat to Loners

The suspenseful story line in this book was definitely a standout within the series. Makenna works at a shelter for loners who are on the run, and their safety is being threatened by an alpha wolf who wants to claim the shelter for his own. The shelter itself provides us with a slew of new and lovable characters. However, we can see that it isn’t the only dramatic point in the novel, although it is sort of the center point from which all the drama unfolds.

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We have Ryan’s nephew who is on the run from a hurtful pack who wants him back under any means necessary, and it simply wouldn’t be a Phoenix Pack novel without a few human extremists running around demanding blood. Again, all of these issues involve the shelter in some way, which simultaneously heightens the suspense, and threatens the existence of the shelter as it is attacked form multiple enemies. Ryan comes to help the shelter, but so does his entire pack. It makes Makenna question if the lone wolf lifestyle is really for her anymore.

A Continuing Theme

As is often the case with the novels in this series, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed with how the drama progressed. There’s always a spurt of introduction to it at the very beginning, and it all comes together for a climactic end, but it’s pretty absent from the middle section of the novel. However, this in no way means the middle part isn’t interesting. Far from it!

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Seeing Makenna try to make the tough-as-nails Ryan loosen up, and him trying to convince her of their mating link was thoroughly entertaining. It’s just a shame that the dramatic elements are always pushed to the back burner. That being said, I will admit that this novel probably does some of the best work in the series of trying to weave those suspenseful points into as much of the story as possible. While not perfect, it’s definitely an improvement from the last few Phoenix Pack stories.

Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 5. I can’t wait to see what comes next in this series as a wolf shifter falls for a raven. Inter-species y’all!!

Should you read it? I really do enjoy this series, and this novel was superior to some of the others which came before it. The characters are relatable and lovable, even if they are wolves. That’s something else about this series which is utterly fascinating. So many of the social scenarios concerning rival factions, prejudices, and outsiders can be drawn to issues which we see in our own society today. Who knew you’d be able to see such stark parallels in a paranormal series about wolves?!?!

Smut Level: This book will make you drool like a wolf with how hot and steamy it can get.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 318 Pages.

Until Ashlyn by Aurora Rose Reynolds

You know the old adage that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” I think we can all agree that it never holds true in romance novel land. That shit always follows you home.

What’s it About?

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Dillon Keck knew Ashlyn Mayson was drunk when she suggested they get married. He knew he should have taken her back to their hotel room and put her to bed. Instead, he did what he had been craving to do since the moment they met. Claim her as his.

Waking up married in Vegas isn’t something Ashlyn Mayson ever thought would happen to her. Having Dillon, her boss, a man she thinks is a dick, insist they stay married is absurd, but every time he touches her, she gets lost in him and wonders if maybe they are meant to be together. But someone isn’t happy for Dillon and Ashlyn and their new found romance, and they’re willing to do anything to keep them apart. Even commit murder.

First Impressions

Alright, when it comes to full on first impression of Dillon, it’s not too hard to come up with a description of his character: the dude is basically a dick. He has taken over the dental practice where Ashlyn works, and upon first meeting he states that he’ll need to re-interview her to ensure she has the necessary skills, as he doesn’t just need a pretty thing to look at every day. Well f*ck you very much your majesty. Sure, meet with her a few times to double check she meets your standards, but don’t imply that just because she’s pretty she can’t be skilled and useful. We do eventually learn that this was his particular take on a classic schoolyard tactic to hide how he really felt about her by acting douchey, but it still doesn’t leave a very good first impression. Strike one against you sir!

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Unicorns Left and Right

One feature of this novel which was pretty unique is the fact that when Dillon and Ashlyn finally do the dirty in that Vegas hotel room, it’s revealed that this was actually the first time either of them had had sex. Unfortunately, there’s no real discussion between them about how special this is! Dillon does express that he had never closed the deal with another woman beforehand because it never felt right, but come on! The rarity in this day and age of having two grown adults remain virgins for so long deserved some more attention! There’s another adage out there which compares women who haven’t had sex by a certain age to unicorns, in that they are basically mythological creatures. In this case, we have both a male and female unicorn! I think this feature really deserved a discussion, but instead was kind of glossed over in a one off comment from Dillon.

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From Rom Com to Horror Film

The start of this novel truly reads like a romantic comedy; pretty silly and light-hearted. We have two co-workers who hate each other, yet have some underlying sexual tension, so they get drunk and married in Vegas. Because we’re dealing with a novel in the Until series world, we of course have an uber alpha male who refuses to let Ashlyn get away. She too also has an inherent sense of possessiveness when it comes to Dillon. At one point his crazy bitch of an ex tries to weasel her way into the picture, and Ashlyn kind of goes off on her after a fair amount of goading. While Ashlyn didn’t like the jealous person she became in that moment, Dillon was totally into it, as it showed she was just as in love with him as he was with her.

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Awwww, isn’t that just the cutest?! Well, flash-forward a bit and things start to take a turn for the bizarre. Someone tries to run Ashlyn down with their car, and two women in this small Tennessee town are found murdered. Suspense. Intrigue! Well, we’re gonna put that on hold for another large section of the book for some more lovey dovey stuff and familial interactions. Until the last 10% of the book of course when it pretty much turns into a full on horror film. I’m talking kidnapping, stabbing, some more murdering. To introduce and resolve all of that murder mystery within the final 10% of the book was just too rushed. Although an interesting plot twist, it was kind of jarring to go from what felt like an Ashton Kutcher rom com to Saw in such a short amount of time. Ok, so Saw is definitely too out there of a comparison, but you catch my drift. I also don’t watch horror films, so my repertoire is lacking.

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Series: Until Her, book 3. Personally, I would recommend reading these in order. Although each novel focuses on a different stand-alone couple, there are certain reappearing characters and themes that would be helpful to know from the beginning.

Should you read it? All in all, a good addition to the Until Her series. That being said, while I found the suspenseful murder aspect of the novel to be totally enthralling, it definitely could have been integrated better into the overall story line.

Smut Level: Something must be in the water in this small Tennessee town which causes “alpha male syndrome”.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 225 Pages.

 

 

Alpha by Jasinda Wilder

What would you do if you received a $10,000 check in the mail? It’s addressed to you, yet the signature is illegible. There’s just one word written in the memo line: “You”. So, what would you do? Cash it? I feel like I’d harass someone at the bank for more info, even if they couldn’t give it to me. Ask around a bit!

What’s it About?

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The first time it happened, it seemed like an impossible miracle. Bills were piling up, adding up to more money than I could ever make. Mom’s hospital bills. My baby brother’s tuition. My tuition. Rent. Electricity. All of it on my shoulders. And I had just lost my job. There was no hope, no money in my account, no work to be found. And then, just when I thought all hope was lost, I found an envelope in the mail. No return address. My name on the front, my address. Inside was a check, made out to me, in the amount of ten thousand dollars. Enough to pay the bills and leave me some left over to live on until I found a job. Enough to let me focus on classes. There was no name on the check, just “VRI Inc.,” and a post office box address for somewhere in the city. No hint of identity or reason for the check or anything. No mention of repayment, interest, nothing…except a single word, on the notes line: “You.” Just those three letters.

If you receive a mysterious check, for enough money to erase all your worries, would you cash it? I did. The next month, I received another check, again from VRI Incorporated. It too contained a single word: “belong.” A third check, the next month. This time, two words. Four letters. “To me.” The checks kept coming. The notes stopped. Ten thousand dollars, every month. A girl gets used to that, real quick. It let me pay the bills without going into debt. Let me keep my baby brother in school and Mom’s hospice care paid for. How do you turn down what seems like free money, when you’re desperate? You don’t. I didn’t. And then, after a year, there was a knock on my door. A sleek black limousine sat on the curb in front of my house. A driver stood in front of me, and he spoke six words: “It’s time to pay your debt.” Would you have gotten in? I did. It turns out $120,000 doesn’t come free.

First Impressions

When our main female lead receives this mysterious $10,00 check she decides to cash it. She just got fired from her job, her mom is in an assisted living facility, her brother is in college, she’s in college, and her rent is past due. I think I’ve got all her bills covered! Although she debates over it for a while, she seemingly has no choice but to cash it. I must say, I did admire that one of the first things she did was give some of the money to her best friend to help with rent payments. Pretty selfless if you ask me. She made sure to take care of her own responsibilities rather than, say, go on a shopping spree. Kyrie also has the sense to admit to herself that there’s no way this money is being given absolutely free. Eventually, someone will come to collect. And after one year of receiving a $10,000 check every month, that collector comes a knockin’!

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10k Here and There

Now, you’re probably asking yourself the same question I did whilst reading this one: why the hell would you continue cashing these checks, and racking up even more debt to this unbeknown benefactor? Especially considering the first 3 checks spelled out “you belong to me” in the memo lines. Creeeeepy! However, I gotta give it to Kyrie, she had a pretty logical answer to this conundrum. She was desperate to cash that first check to take care of herself and her family, and she knew there was no way she could have paid back that initial $10,000. When the others started coming she figured, what the hell? I’ll never be able to repay any of it, might as well keep cashing ’em. It kind of makes sense.

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The set-up to the novel was interesting, but the first year of cashing checks did drag on for a while. Then when the collector finally comes along things get pretty weird. Her benefactor’s personal driver comes to “collect” Kyrie, and when he brings her to Mr. Rich Guy he insists she wear a blindfold whenever she’s in his presence. He also refuses to tell her his name. Dude, you’re basically kidnapping this chica, maybe try and make her feel a bit more at ease rather than making it seem like she’s trapped in a horror film.

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A Billionaire Beast

In a way, this novel reminded me of a blend between Beauty and the Beast and Pretty Woman. Our mysterious benefactor is rather moody at first, he has his own personal quarters which are off-limits to Kyrie, and they manage to bond over his ginormous library. As for Pretty Woman, well, he provides her with her first ever opera experience!! The only difference here is that she had to remain blindfolded the entire time, and he makes her come during the “climax” of the performance.

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And this brings me to the discussion of their sexual relationship. Gotta say, not a fan. I’m sorry, but I feel like there is a big difference between pushing your lover to try new things, and making them do things they legitimately don’t want to do. Prime example was when the blindfold was eventually removed, and Roth is feeling up Kyrie in his car. They quickly catch the attention of the driver in the car next to them. Kyrie repeatedly tells him to stop, that she’s embarrassed, and she keeps trying to push his hand away. But he ignores her, and keeps shoving his hand up her skirt. Personally, I found that to be disturbing rather than hot.

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Keeping Secrets

Now for the other annoying feature of the story. Roth admits right off the bat upon first meeting Kyrie that he has a big secret he’s keeping from her. Eventually he’ll tell her what it is, but he admits it will cause her to run from him, so he’s going to keep it to himself for now. Kyrie is initially concerned, but then basically just focuses on her burgeoning sexual relationship with Roth, and all the pretty things he keeps buying for her. I thought this secret was ridiculously obvious, but what really irked me was that Roth didn’t tell her what it was upfront. Yeah, she would have withdrawn from him, but then he could have tried to win her over through his actions. Instead, Roth tries to get close to her, make her fall for him, and then try to bring honesty to the discussion. Seems pretty manipulative to me.

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Narrator

I listened to this one as an audio-book. Overall I would say the narrator was just ok. Although she does a good job with Kyrie, she seemed to have a more difficult time with Roth. He’s supposed to have a slight British accent, and I felt she focused so much on trying to get that right that his voice came across as much older, and lacking any real emotion. When it came to Roth’s Mexican housekeeper, Eliza, and his Italian restaurant owner friend, both came across sounding Russian. The accents were definitely a problem. The last chapter of the novel was told from Roth’s point of view, and we suddenly get a male narrator, who actually did a great job. However, it was kind of jarring to suddenly have this deep and rumbling voice for just a few pages at the very end.

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Series: Alpha, book 1. I wasn’t a huge fan of the decisions some of these characters made in book one. Not sure I’ll want to carry on with book 2. Stranger things have happened though!!

Should you read it? Upon first collecting Kyrie, Roth was pretty insistent that this wasn’t all about sex, and if they do eventually have sex it wouldn’t be prostitution even though he gave her $$. Umm, sure, whatever you say. I have to call slight B.S.though considering it’s not long before he’s making her moan.

Smut Level: Funny how these billionaires always have a friend who owns an Italian restaurant. In this novel, Roth makes Kyrie secretly come by fingering her under the table as his friend presents their dinner of lasagna and chicken parmigiana. Who needs to worry about awkward dinner conversation when you have that going on under the table?

Get it on Amazon:  Click Here. FREE. Self-Published. 450 Pages.

Assumption by Aurora Rose Reynolds

You know what they say happens when you assume, right? You make an ass out of you and me. Well, that doesn’t prevent these two characters from jumping into bed together and making some sweet sweet whoopie after making a few assumptions of their own.

What’s it About?

assumption

[as·sump·tion:]a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof

They say when you assume that you make an ass out of you and me. Kenton Mayson learned this lesson firsthand when he made assumptions about Autumn Freeman and the kind of woman she is based on what little information he had. What he finds out is she’s not only beautiful, but also smart, funny, a fighter, and exactly the kind of woman he wants to share his life with. Autumn made assumptions of her own about Kenton, and now he needs to prove her wrong in order to protect her and their future.

First Impressions

Before reading this book, I never gave a whole lot of thought to the title, but you quickly realize how important it is as our two main characters are quick to make assumptions about the other. Autumn has come to stay with Kenton after witnessing a mob hit in the strip club she worked at. Kenton initially tries to keep his distance from her, in spite of his intense attraction to her, thinking that Autumn must be a promiscuous stripper. What he doesn’t know is that she is also a nurse, and only strips to help pay the bills as she gets close to finishing her practicum. Autumn knows what Kenton assumes about her, yet she makes no attempt to correct him, making an assumption of her own that he’s a shallow womanizer, and that it’s not worth the effort or time to tell him otherwise. Oh, how these two realize their first impressions couldn’t be more wrong!

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The Classic Assumption

Normally, I’m not a huge fan when our romance leads are quick to make assumptions, and how it can inevitably cause a clusterf*ck of mayhem. However, in this novel I gotta say I didn’t mind it so much, as Autumn even admits to herself that she’s probably making an unfounded assumption about Kenton. It’s only because she’s on the run for her life that Autumn believes she can’t afford to gamble on feeling more for someone she’s just met. Also, when Kenton finally discovers Autumn’s true profession, he’s unbelievably quick to try and rectify the situation. His alpha-male personality turns on full-throttle, and he’ll do anything to protect his woman and get her into bed. All assumptions officially forgotten!!

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Sassy-ness and Alpha-ness

This novel definitely starts off with a bang, as Autumn is on the run for her life, and Kenton has agreed to take her in. Although they have a rather rocky start, you can’t help but love the development of their relationship. I’ll admit, I had trouble putting this one down at times, as it’ll make you laugh, sympathize, and even fear for our main characters.

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Autumn’s sass at dealing with Kenton’s crazy ex was hilarious, yet you also see her and Kenton grow closer and learn to trust each other. She even opens up to him about the child she had to give up years before. And ohhhhh my goodness, the sex! Seeing how Kenton initially tried to keep his distance, it was delightfully surprising how alpha and growly this man could be in the bedroom. Although, considering we’re dealing with the incredible Aurora Rose Reynolds here, who is a master expert at creating a possessive alpha male, I guess it shouldn’t have been too surprising!

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Disorganized

One slight problem I had with this book dealt with the organization of it. Firstly, although it starts and ends with a lot of suspense and intensity, the middle was completely lacking in pretty much any reference to the fact Autumn was witness to a mob hit. Although I absolutely loved the middle section as Kenton and Autumn’s relationship blossomed, it did feel rather disjointed. It was also slightly unrealistic considering Autumn is supposed to be lying low as she’s hiding from a mob hit-man, and yet she registers as a nurse at a local hospital. Pretty sure you just put a homing beacon on your back there!

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Varying Points of View

Another element which I considered to be both a plus and minus was the fact that we get to see certain aspects of the novel from both Autumn and Kenton’s point of view. Autumn is the main narrator, and although I enjoyed Kenton’s POV, it came at some rather haphazard times. It takes a while for us to see it at all in the beginning, and I remember being kind of shocked when it suddenly appeared. Then his POV disappears for a large majority of the novel before finally reappearing for a suspenseful portion at the end of the novel.

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It was pretty interesting and exciting to hear Kenton’s side of the story, yet also slightly disturbing as we see how he isn’t afraid to take the law into his own hands, and bring about his own form of justice when someone threatens his woman. Although this was in line with his possessive, alpha-male persona, it was also at odds with the caring protector he’s been for Autumn up until this late point in the novel. An action-packed, yet rather jarring ending all things considered.

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Series: Underground Kings, book 1. Technically this is a stand-alone, yet it takes place concurrently with the Until series. There are a few mentions here and there of characters and events from that series which was fun, yet also kind of hard to remember who they all were, not to mention the timeline of events.

Should you read it? I really did enjoy this one. We see some of the same elements from the Until series that we all know and love, from an alpha-male hero to a bit of suspense, and some fun supporting characters. This is probably one of my favorite heroines by this author, as she was a tough cookie who could look out for herself. Certain aspects of the novel could have been arranged a bit better, including the narration and suspenseful plot points.

Smut Level: Sexual attraction and intensity is immediately evident, yet it does take a while for our couple to seal the deal. When they do though?! Hot dog in the Tennessee heat, look out!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 222 Pages.