Love So Deep by Kathleen Ball

She’s been shunned. He’s been exiled. Will two outcasts find love in the winter freeze?

What’s it About? 

Colorado, 1853. Samantha Foley is cold, alone, and scared. After being rejected from her wagon train for refusing to marry a man she didn’t love, she must find a way to survive the merciless Colorado winter on her own. When she stumbles into a handsome mountain man, she might be saved… if she can convince him to take her in.

Patrick McCrery knows what it’s like to feel unwanted. Half white and half Indian, he fits in neither world and has built a solitary life as a trapper. Caring for the beautiful woman he finds in the snow is the right thing to do, but it means risking the sting of another rejection come spring.

As winter bites and the two wait out the thaw, an unexpected attraction heats up. But with trust in short supply, will Samantha and Patrick open their hearts to love, or will past hurts and discrimination freeze romance in its tracks?

Love So Deep is a sweet Western romance. If you like heartwarming stories, complex characters, and raw emotions, then you’ll love Kathleen Ball’s gorgeous novel.

First Impressions

I know what you’re thinking. Rugged mountain man rescues traveling damsel in distress. He takes her to his secluded cabin to recover from her hardships, and they’re stuck there for the rest of the grueling winter. With just the one bed. Heck yeah, let’s get this party started!! Well…not so fast. Patrick and Samantha practically only have two solitary seconds alone together before another unexpected lost traveler finds his way to this safe haven of shelter. Young and rambunctious Brian certainly knows how to make an entrance, and kill any potential chance of our two leads sharing that bed any time soon. Especially when yet another surprise guest is dropped off at Patrick’s doorstep in the form of a woman from a local indigenous tribe who is due to give birth any day now, and insists that she belongs with him.

Again, we’ve got a bit of a mood killer happening here when another woman is staring daggers, and sometimes even wielding daggers, at Samantha. And that’s before the scoundrel who kidnapped and abused the young Brian finds his way into this bevy of characters who have become so tense with cabin fever that a trek through the harsh winter wilds of the Colorado mountains is starting to seem like a bright idea. For a secluded cabin this place is certainly getting a bit crowded! And yet, in between each new surprising arrival there’s the tedious repetition of daily chores, from laundry to cooking, fur trapping and whittling. Even we as the reader can’t help but feel a little stir crazy for something to break up the monotony of frontier living. 

From One Extreme to the Next

This is a novel of extremes. From overreactions to unsupported judgments, everything is done to the n’th degree and then some. The perfect example of this is when Patrick first rescues Samantha as she is trudging through the mountains in the middle of winter, at immediate risk of frostbite, or even death. When she relays her story to Patrick of how her parents both died on a wagon train, and she was thrown out to fend for herself, he scoffs at her wild tale which must obviously be fabricated. When Samantha repeatedly insists that she’s telling the truth, Patrick gives her an “oh sure whatever you say” kind of roll of the eyes that I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives. Then when young Brian comes on the scene, Patrick insists that he must be her son since they share the same coloring, and she must have abandoned him on the trail to save her own skin. Again, we’re going from zero to sixty here in less time than it takes to blink. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t necessarily the best way to be introduced to our leading man, and although many of his later actions prove he is indeed a decent man, there was always a part of me that didn’t fully warm up to him considering his initial harsh judgement of Samantha. 

This theme continues throughout the rest of the book with almost every character we see. We’ve already discussed the pregnant woman who is dropped off and takes an immediate dislike to Samantha, even going so far as to threaten her with a knife not too long after first meeting. There are multiple villains who try to kill our characters at some point, all of whom are the purest representations of evil. When Samantha, Brian and Patrick eventually get to town we see how the townsfolk are the most racist, high and mighty bunch of quick-to-judge dimwits we’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting. They look down on Patrick for being half-Indian, and while they initially pity Samantha for the harsh time she was forced to spend with such a “beast”, they instantaneously switch to thinking she’s a harlot when she deigns to defend him. Throughout all of these crazy shenanigans Samantha and Patrick are slowly starting to warm to each other, but any time they allow themselves to feel something they are quick to convince themselves that the other really isn’t all that interested. Even if they’ve just shared a passionate kiss or embrace out in the barn. Honestly, it was kind of exhausting to be presented with so many irrational and exaggerated responses. 

Series: Stand-alone.

Would I befriend the heroine? Considering how the men of the cabin always relied on her to do the cooking, I feel like she and I would kick some serious butt if we did some kind of team cooking TV show competition together. 

Would I date the hero? Can’t really say that I would. I wanted to like him, but talk about a negative first impression. It was even more disappointing later on when we find out how much unfair judgement he received by the townsfolk throughout his entire life, but he was still quick to judge Samantha on her arrival. 

Final Impressions: There were several aspects of this novel which needed to be either toned down or amplified. Everyone was quick to think the worst of everyone else, to the point where it’s frustrating to see these characters interact with one another. We would go through bouts of text where not much was happening in the seclusion of the cabin, and then boom! Villains come out of the shadows and are squandered in about a page, to the point where you think, wait, was that really it? There was one other feature of the novel which held the most promise, but ultimately kind of fizzled in execution, which was how the slow build of Samantha and Patrick’s relationship was impacted by his Indian heritage. Any time Patrick started to feel something for Samantha he would immediately try to push it aside by insisting that she didn’t feel the same way, or that he couldn’t put her in a situation where she would be ostracized by the town, but now he’s willing to give their relationship a chance, actually never mind, wait actually he’s going to propose, oh but their kids would be ostracized so really never mind. What could have been such a fascinating exploration of Patrick’s inner turmoil at his insistence on sacrificing this deep love for Samantha in an attempt to protect her from scandal instead came across as a guy who just couldn’t make up his mind over what he wanted. The pieces were there for a truly emotional moment of sacrifice and eventual acceptance, but they never fully came together in a compelling way. 

Smut Level: This is a low-heat read. A few stolen kisses in the barn, but nothing too steamy. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 194 Pages. 

Until Talon by Aurora Rose Reynolds

It’s inevitable that every Mayson child will find their BOOM. When Talon finds his, he walks a fine line between wanting to spend every waking moment with Mia, but also not scaring her away. Are they both up for the challenge?

What’s it About? 

When Mia Allenton’s sister calls, asking her for help after finding out her husband cheated, Mia packs up her life in Montana and moves to Tennessee to be there for her and her three girls. As Mia begins to settle in, a tornado comes through, bringing along with it Talon Mayson, a man determined to prove to her that good men do exist.

Talon knows he’s got his work cut out for him when it comes to earning Mia’s trust, but slowly her walls start to crumble, and they begin to build something beautiful. Unfortunately, someone from Talon’s past isn’t happy about him being back in Tennessee, and they’re willing to do anything to prevent him from ever being happy.

Is the Boom between Talon and Mia strong enough to weather the storm that’s coming?

First Impressions

There are three primary features to any novel in the Until series. First, we’re always dealing with a case of BOOM insta-love. As someone who isn’t always a huge fan of this trope, this series somehow succeeds in presenting it in a way that intrigues me. Every Mayson experiences “the boom”. Two, alpha man. All of the men in this series love their women, and they will do anything it takes to protect them. Three, we usually see a bit of over-the-top drama which plays second fiddle to the romance of the story, but it’s present nonetheless. This is the ninth book in the Until Her/Him series, and technically the thirteenth book when you combine it with the original Until series featuring the parents of our new generation of Maysons. By this point, you know what to expect, and there are very few surprises to the overall arch of the plot. Nevertheless, Talon’s tale of romance pulled me in more than some of the recent installments, and while not as electric as the original series, I almost felt transported to the glory days of those first stories. Yes, Talon is an alpha male who knows immediately upon first glance of Mia that she represents the boom phenomena the men in this family have been warning him about for years. What I particularly loved about this story though, was that we see how Talon was just as much of a boom for Mia as she was for him.

While Talon runs towards that link pulling them together, Mia initially wants to push away from it. All her life she’s only known men who have abandoned her or her loved ones, and she’s not ready to open herself up to that kind of hurt again. And yet, the more Talon tries to spend time with her, the more she realizes he’s unlike any other man who has come before. Her life is better when he’s around, and even though her head is telling her things might be moving too fast, her heart can recognize that the difference in him is something worth holding onto. Previous men in this series have sometimes straddled the line of appropriateness in how far they’ll go to win over their boom. When it comes to Talon, he is straightforward in relaying to Mia that he wants forever with her, but he actually does a pretty good job of letting her move their relationship along at her own pace. I think it hearkens back to the fact that Talon was also Mia’s boom, and he could see that simultaneous realization within her, even if she tried to suppress it afterwards. By allowing her to set the pace of their relationship, which was admittedly fast (though perhaps not fast enough for him), he was confident that they would ultimately end up together. Only by pushing her to move quicker could he inevitably push her away. The fact he was able to take a step back to support her as they explored this new relationship highlighted a level of restraint not common for Mayson men!  

A Sprinkle of Drama

As with any Until novel, there is always a side-story weaving in and out of the background which our main characters will have to interact with whenever they manage to put some clothes on and make their way outside of the bedroom. Surprisingly, the secondary story in this novel managed to push its way through the romance of Talon and Mia from time to time to capture our primary attention. This story involved Mia’s sister, Cece, who is trying to find her footing with her three daughters following an unexpected split from her cheating husband. As if the complicated family dynamics weren’t intriguing enough, there’s a hidden sprouting romance between Cece and her boss which also comes into the picture. This entire side-story was fascinating, and I’m not gonna lie there were times when I was hoping that Mia and Talon would just go off and snuggle for a few days so we could see more of Cece standing up to her douche of an ex, putting the happiness of their children first, and figuring out what the heck was really going on with her hunk of a boss. 

This is also where we see a sprinkle of drama come into play, and while some other readers will claim that the dramatic climax was over-the-top, I must say it felt pretty tame in comparison to some of the stuff we’ve seen presented in previous novels. Although certain aspects of Cece’s story find a resolution, things are far from being tied up all neat and pretty with a big red bow by the end of the novel. It leaves you craving a follow-up where Cece can finally find the happily ever after she and her daughters deserve. Considering how open-ended things were left at the conclusion of this book, it seems like the most logical next step to have Cece as the lead of her own story. And yet…I can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever see that come to fruition. After all, she’s not a Mayson, and the boss she’s fallen for isn’t a Mayson either, so it would be unheard of to have an Until romance featuring two non-Maysons as the lead characters. I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that we’ll get a novella somewhere along the way, or hear tell of Cece and her boss in the background of a future book. 

Series: Until Him/Her, book 9. I love that you know what you’re getting when you pick up any book in this series, and each one is an ideal beach read. Technically you can probably understand the flow of this story as a stand-alone, but it’s still fun to read in order so you can see the Mayson family continue to grow from one book to the next. 

Would I befriend the heroine? Maybe. I have a feeling most of her time would be spent with her sister and nieces, as well as with Talon. Nothing wrong with that at all, but something tells me I would be too exhausting of a friend for her. 

Would I date the hero? The fact he chose to foster a cat and her 5 kittens makes me desperate to say yes. However, the alpha side to his personality would probably intimidate me.  

Final Impressions: The earlier books might be better, but I felt this installment did a good job of breaking through the monotony of some of the more recent reads. Talon is probably one of the less intimidating of Mayson men we’ve come across, and Mia is as selfless as they come. As a couple they were meant for each other. I do wish we had seen more of a resolution to Cece’s story, and the drama of the story was on the lighter side. We’d get a brief mention here and there of intrigue, and then everything came together in a quick description of events which took place “off the page”. We don’t really see it play out firsthand, but rather the details are relayed to us after the fact. Spreading the drama out more fully across the entirety of the book would have been an exciting ride. 

Smut Level: We’ve got steam here folks. After running out of condoms following their first sexploration, Talon quickly stocks up on about 8 boxes of them. And seriously, we see them go through a decent number of that stock-pile.  

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 243 Pages. 

The Diplomatic Heir by Rebecca Hefner

A new villain has emerged beyond the ether. Will two hybrids who have never wanted to rule find a way to stand up together in the face of evil? 

What’s it About? 

A new era dawns as ancient threats emerge…

Tordor, son of Queen Miranda and King Sathan, was born to inherit the immortal throne. But deep within, he feels a calling to help his people in other ways. As their imminent immersion with the humans looms, he joins a clandestine team to offer his skills.

Esmerelda, daughter of Elf King Dakath, has spent centuries evading her father’s cruelty. Striving to create peace, she leads the team that will approach the humans after the destruction of the ether. Having the kind, diplomatic immortal heir on her team is a fortunate bonus.

As Esme and Tor work together to unify the realms, Dakath’s interference intensifies, reinforcing Esme’s vow to remain free of close bonds. Even if the handsome prince is determined to break through her walls and claim her as his immortal mate…

Can Tordor push past Esme’s fears, or will her father destroy their future before it’s begun?

First Impressions

After seven books you’d think by now I would be used to the author’s ability to take us on a thrilling journey with each new installment in this series, but it still manages to surprise me every time. The Diplomatic Heir presents us with a new immortal species or two, a brand new setting beyond the walls of Etherya’s Earth, and the emergence of a dastardly new villain. Caught in the middle of it all are our two featured leads, Tordor and Esme, delightful new characters that I’m hoping we’ll see featured again and again throughout the rest of the series. They are natural-born leaders who are hesitant to lead, but will always succeed in finding a voice to stand up for their people when it matters most. 

This seventh book does a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for future novels in the series, while also creating a substantive amount of personalized drama for Tordor and Esme to hold our attention throughout this one. In hindsight it was kind of surprising to realize that for an Etherya’s Earth book the vast majority of the plot takes place outside of the world of immortals. However, we can see how necessary this change in setting was to act as a transitional point between the world we once knew before the ether fell, and the reality our characters live in now that the ether has been destroyed. It’s only a matter of time before humans are fully aware of the existence of immortals, so we need to see the beginning phases of how the people of Etherya intend to make this as smooth a transition as possible. Aside from our lead couple, we are introduced to so many new characters who will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in this progressive integration. 

If there was just one minor issue I had with this novel, it would be that we flip back and forth and sideways to so many different characters in the first half of the novel that I had a minor case of whiplash. We’ll see a chapter told from Esme’s point of view, followed by Tordor, then travel over to see what crazy thoughts our villain Dakath has, or we might go back to Etherya to check in on the couple from the first novel (a true delight), but maybe there’s a chapter to be told of a hardened soldier moving on from a lost love, or a playboy spy intent on helping our heroes succeed. Now, don’t get me wrong, the mere introduction of these side characters has me craving more of their stories almost as badly as I crave hot cocoa on a cold winter’s night. My interest has been piqued so much I can’t decide who I want to have their own novel first! Nevertheless, it was still a kind of character overload that would make me miss the focus on our lead couple for a time. By the second half of the novel we have a clearer understanding of how all the characters fit together, and Esme and Tor’s romance really picks up steam to a point where their chemistry can’t help but take center stage. It’s just that first half which felt somewhat discombobulated as we jumped from character to character. 

The Runner and the Virgin

I have fallen in love with every couple in this series, and Esme and Tor are near the top of the list when it comes to two characters who simply feel right with each other. We’re dealing with a friends-to-lovers scenario, which is always one of my favorite tropes. They made perfect sense as a couple, and yet their road from friendship to an intimate relationship was not a straightforward one. Esme has a complicated past which makes her hesitant to form deep emotional attachments with others due to the fear that her evil father will kill them. Enter Tor. He is her equal in every way, and will do everything in his power to support her vision for peace. He also happens to be a virgin, and the incorporation of this element into the overall plot of the novel was absolute perfection. It added a layer of complexity to their connection, but it also wasn’t the defining feature of their relationship. Tor has been saving himself for a woman important enough to want to share that moment with, and practically upon first meeting Esme he knows that she’s the one. 

When he learns more about her complicated background of running, Tor knows with absolutely certainty that the reveal of his virginity will make Esme want to flee. And it does. Not because she thinks there’s too much pressure over the idea of being his first, but rather because she knows it will establish yet another emotional bond between them that will make it even harder for her to run away after the deed is done. When they do finally come together in a physical sense, amidst all of the complications and drama going on in their lives, they still manage to find laughter and joy with each other. It’s a talented author indeed who can successfully bring laughter into the bedroom without it feeling awkward or forced, but Rebecca Hefner managed to show us two friends celebrating life in the midst of their intimacy, and it’s a glorious sight to behold. 

The Formidable Foe

When the ether fell between the immortal world and the human realm, Esme was determined to ensure a smooth integration of the species, yet from opening bell she understood that she probably wouldn’t be able to see the entire project through to completion. For centuries, Esme has been on the run from her powerful Elf father, Dakath. He has a determination of his own, but rather than the honorable mission his daughter fights for, Dakath will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the Elven bloodline remains pure. Even if that means killing any Elf-human hybrids he comes across. Even if it means his own daughter is a hybrid, and he’s intent on extending her torture by killing anyone with whom she forms an emotional attachment. This is why Esme knows her time with the integration team is limited, and even though her heart is pulling her towards Tor, her brain is telling her she has to flee to keep him and the rest of their team safe. 

Tor acts as the perfect partner by not always insisting or demanding that she stay with him. He shows Esme that sometimes it’s more important to live in the moment while they still have time with each other, rather than always look for the tipping point which will force her to leave. And while that tipping point does eventually rise up, their journey has made her realize that she’s no longer alone. Esme can finally face her father with other people standing alongside her. They’re so much stronger together than she could ever be running off on her own, and for the first time in centuries she has hope. Dakath is certainly a formidable foe who won’t go down easy, and I have a feeling he might even strike down a few more we’ll come to know and love in his destructive path towards what he deems as purity. However, it will be quite the thrill to see how this badass team of warriors turned family will stand up against him every step of the way. Game on. 

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 7. I’d recommend reading the series in order. We are presented with two teases in this book. One is a glimpse of what’s in store for book 8, which I need to have in my hands, like, yesterday. The other was a teasing mention that only the most die-hard fans of this writer would recognize, which was the oh-so-casual name drop of the town of Ardor Creek. To say that my mouth dropped open in an exclamation of, “oh no she didn’t!!” would be the understatement of the year.

Would I befriend the heroine? I have a feeling our mutual tendency for quips and Chandler Bing-like sarcastic comments would mesh together quite well. 

Do I crave the hero? I gotta say, this is one male lead I’d probably have to kick out of bed. But only because he snores like a freight train. Would I first drag him into bed before kicking him out of it? Absolutely. 

Final Impressions: The new generation of immortals have firmly established themselves in this series, and proven that they are just as engaging as the OG’s who came before. This series is a plethora of lovable characters, and while we may have been introduced to a few too many new ones all at once in this seventh book, it’s undeniable that each and every one will play a crucial role in how this drama unfolds over the next few novels. I’m excited by this new villain, whose twisted motivations put him toe-to-toe with Crimeous in the malicious category. Esme and Tor are everything you could ever want in a lead couple, and in a pair of leaders. The heart of this series will always show us that while the road to good triumphing over evil might be an arduous one, it’s also attainable when surrounded by friends and family who will have your back around every dark corner.  

Smut Level: There are definitely some graphic and descriptive scenes, but on the whole I would say their sexual relationship is quite tame, all things considered. Tor and Esme certainly desire each other, but they sort of ease their way into things because of Tor’s virginity. He’s definitely an eager student though, just as Esme is a dedicated teacher. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 316 Pages. 

How Snowball Stole Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa and snuggle up in front of the fireplace so you can be whisked away to this magical holiday wonderland.

What’s it About? 

It’s Christmas time at the Weber Haus mountainside inn, where the official greeter, watcher, and matchmaker of the hotel’s resident humans is an adorably mischievous bundle of feline fluff named Snowball. Snowball takes her job very seriously –even if it means being a little more naughty than nice –and she’s ready to celebrate her third holiday season by making the purrrrfect match.

Most cats have nine lives, but Snowball is one of the very few with two jobs. Officially, she’s the Weber Haus inn’s greeter. Unofficially, she’s the town matchmaker. Her track record is the cat’s pajamas—until she meets her owner’s grinchy brother, Peter Diemer. Peter hopes to move the family bookstore to a busy location downtown—but someone else has outbid him for the last storefront.

Christmas is the ideal season for Lara Wolfe to fulfill her dream of expanding her home business into a real shop. Too bad someone is posting negative comments on the town forum. What kind of Grinch objects to a toy store?

Snowball is sure these two are a perfect match. They already have so much in common—books are a kind of toy, right? Now all they need to add to the mix is love, and Snowball has just the shenanigans up her furry sleeve to deliver a sweet romance in time to make the season merry and bright . . .

First Impressions

It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, as soon as you pick up a book in this beloved Snowball series, you will immediately be transported to all of the holiday comforts that Weber Haus has to offer. Not only will you become enamored with the characters this author artistically brings to life on the page, but you’ll also fall in love with the warmth that these reads evoke and envelop around you. Of all the books in this series so far, it’s fair to say this was my favorite couple of the bunch. Quite a few familiar faces (both human and of the furry variety) from the previous novels will make an appearance throughout, but Lara and Peter bring their own special personalities into the fray.

This novel opens with our two leading characters at odds with one another, but they don’t even realize it yet. Unaware enemies-to-lovers? Yes please! Peter has taken to crafting some rather negative comments on the town forum against the new owner of one of the most coveted shop locations in the area. Lara visited the town of Braunfels a few years before during a particularly melancholy Christmas, and she just knew it would be the idyllic place to open her toy store. Little did she know she would outbid a local man who was hoping to move his family’s bookshop to the prime location of little shops on the outskirts of Weber Haus. When Peter first meets this bubbly woman who “stole” the spot from him, he has every intention of staying as far away from her as possible. But a growing sense of guilt over his hurtful writing towards this caring and hardworking woman, not to mention a precocious matchmaking feline, will soon turn his entire world upside down.

The Lovable Grinch

It takes a few chapters for this book to find its feet, or paws for that matter, but once it does you’ll want to stay in this picturesque town bursting with lovable characters for as long as possible. Similar to the previous installments of this series, this book is fairly low drama from start to almost finish, but Peter and Lara have found each other after experiencing some rather life-changing moments which ultimately impact their unexpected newfound relationship. Upon first meeting, Peter is simply the surly Grinch living next door. It’s not that he’s your typical bah-humbug character who hates all things Christmas, but rather his sour mood is a result of a horrific accident months before which left him in a coma with massive brain trauma. He might be physically recovered on the outside, but his brain is still healing in a way where Peter’s personality isn’t quite what it used to be. He’s more prone to short-tempered outbursts and frustrations which have left even his closest family members wanting to keep their distance.

And yet, delightfully, none of this seems to phase Lara in the slightest. I kept expecting there to be a moment where Peter’s gruffness would prove too much for the outgoing toymaker, but she takes all of his minor moments of sourpuss attitude in stride. The fact Lara doesn’t know any of the details of his accident for the bulk of the book, and that she always tries her hardest to bring a smile and laugh to this Grinch of a man, demonstrates just how special a character she is in trying to find the good in everyone. Peter realizes that his accident changed him, but he also realizes that this at-times frustrating yet intriguing woman is bringing out more of the man he used to be. She heals him, she makes him better, and he can’t help but fall for her. Unfortunately, he knows it’s just a matter of time before the secret of his hurtful writing is revealed.

The Toymaker

Lara might be new to town, but she’s determined to make her toy shop a success. She’s overcome numerous obstacles to make this dream a reality, including a backstabbing boyfriend who maxed out her credit cards, an opinionated brother who seems convinced she’ll fail, and the death of her beloved grandmother who always had faith in her. As if moving to a new town and opening her store weren’t stressful enough, an anonymous local is also wishing for her downfall by spewing doubts on the town forum. When Lara’s brother insists that she look after his son over the holidays to deal with a family emergency, she’s almost convinced that the universe has it out for her. However, she refuses to let any of these hurdles stand in her way. She’ll do whatever it takes to make her shop a success, even if it takes up all her energy, and even if it means asking her Grinchy neighbor for a favor or two. Throughout the read the author does a phenomenal job of showing the constant tug-of-war happening between Lara and Peter. When Peter realizes his beautiful neighbor is the shop owner who outbid him, he tries his best to stay away, but soon decides to make it up to her by helping out with one favor during a busy moment in her toy shop. Let’s just say it involved a Santa costume.

Thinking that he was acting out of selfless kindness, Lara insists on repaying the favor, and what follows is an endless back-and-forth of both characters trying to help the other. These benevolent acts bring them closer together in a way neither expected, and those feelings of neighborly kindness naturally evolve into something deeper. Peter’s sense of protectiveness towards Lara also grows, especially when he sees how the hard work she puts into her business and loving care for her nephew is leaving her exhausted at the end of every day. He tries to help even more, and starts to voice his concerns that she’s doing too much, which of course results in her questioning his actions. Why won’t he let her fight her own battles? Is Peter just like her brother in thinking she’s bound to fail? Will he hurt her like her ex did? It was evident pretty much from the get-go that no matter how much holiday magic or meddling from a fuzzy fur ball might bring these two together, the reveal that Peter was the one behind the online vitriol would ultimately be the thing to push them apart. We were all hoping it wouldn’t happen, but it was surprisingly the most logical progression that upon discovering Peter was initially behind those hurtful comments about her business, Lara would need to take a step back to consider if she’s willing to give her heart over fully to this man. Luckily for us, not to mention Peter and Lara, one very determined and darling little fluffy wuffy kitty will do anything necessary to bring them back together again for a holiday happily ever after.

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

Series: Snowball, book 3. This is one of those series I will be happy to return to again and again. It’s also fun to see Snowball grow up from season to season, and I’m loving the implication that one day she might even find a little romance of her own.

Final Impressions: This read is a delightful bundle of heartwarming comfort. From the characters to the setting, you’re quickly enveloped in all of the warmth this small town has to offer. When the story was forming its initial foundation there were some descriptive scenes which felt a bit repetitive in nature, but it didn’t take long to become fully invested in finding out whether Peter and Lara would find their HEA. One aspect of Peter’s character which I wish had been explored more fully was the nature of his accident, and the hardships involved with adopting a new personality that he knows isn’t completely his own. Instead we see the moments of connection between Peter and Lara were grounded in discussion of how their jobs did or didn’t bring them happiness, which was definitely entertaining in its own right. I also appreciated how the author highlighted the growing pains involved with any new relationship. The constant balancing act between Peter wanting to protect Lara from exhaustion or pain, while also giving her the freedom and space to stand up for herself when fighting her own battles. It was interesting to see them find the path that worked for them.

Smut Level: A few passion-filled kisses here and there, but no hanky panky.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Kensington Publisher. 272 Pages. 

Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner

What’s better than a paranormal romance featuring a virginal male hero who finds his happily ever after with the love of his immortal life? 

What’s it About?

Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Strong and stoic Dragos yearns to build an honest life after the War of the Species ends. Due to his servitude to the Dark Lord Crimeous, he never had the opportunity to experience love or true emotion.

Vampyre widow Raina promised she’d never love another. Yet, she’s taken with her handsome, enigmatic new neighbor and his kindness to her two sons.

When Raina realizes Dragos has never had a lover, she gives in to their mutual passion, never realizing she might also lose her heart to the man who somehow invaded every crevice of her soul…

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a novella for the Etherya’s Earth series I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. For those of you who are also a fan of the Etherya’s Earth paranormal series, you won’t want to miss this beautiful short story, Immortal Beginnings. While it doesn’t feature any of the primary characters from the series we’ve come to know and love, you’ll quickly become enamored with the romance between deamon Dragos and vampyre Raina. You’ll have no problem finishing this novella in one sitting, and yet there is so much story to unpack between these two characters. Fangs down, of all the short stories featured in the Etherya’ Earth series so far, this was undoubtedly my favorite. I can only hope we’ll get a glimpse of this couple again in a future full-length novel.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, this novella does feature a virginal male hero which I was fully on board for, but beyond this amazing trope of a more experienced female lead guiding her man in the ways of pleasure, we were also presented with two complex characters who are trying to find their way in a new world unlike anything they’ve known before. Etherya’s Earth has been plagued by war for centuries, but its inhabitants are finally living in a time of peace, when vampyres, deamons and slayers can coexist rather than fight against each other. This is the setting upon which our novella opens, as deamon Dragos is trying to live a “normal” life away from the world of deamon caves and constant fighting which he’s only known up until this point. As for Raina, she is now a single mother trying to adapt to life following the death of her “bonded” in the final battle against the evil deamon Crimeous. These two unlikely neighbors are able to push aside their troubled pasts to find happiness and pleasure with each other in the present, and the promising hope of something even more permanent going forward.

Upon first reading this novella, I was so worried we’d ultimately discover that Dragos was responsible for killing Raina’s husband in battle, but thankfully we focus instead on what it means for these two to explore a relationship together at this particular point in their lives. For Dragos, he has only known the horrors of war. At one point in the story, Raina offers to bring him salve for a burn on his arm, and he reveals that it is the first time he’s been voluntarily touched by another in all of his centuries on this Earth. The glimpses of vulnerability we witness for this weathered soldier are almost enough to bring a tear to your eye, as you realize that beneath the tough exterior lies a man who simply craves the soft touch of another. He has craved Raina since she first moved in next door, and when she finally offers herself to him, he can’t help but fall hard and fast for this loving woman and caring mother.

For Raina, she initially worries that Dragos will feel more for her than she could ever reciprocate, especially considering she’s the one to touch and physically please him for the first time ever. Even though a letter from her belated husband clearly states he hopes she can move on to find happiness with another during her immortal life, she can’t help but keep a part of herself back from Dragos in a foolhardy attempt to prevent herself from falling for this deamon. Dragos is willing to accept any part of her she’s willing to give, but can Raina acknowledge that there’s room in her heart for both Dragos and her former bonded? Giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband. She’s allowing herself the opportunity to move on and make new memories that can co-exist with, rather than take over, those of the man she loved before. Again, there’s definitely a lot of emotional baggage to unpack in such a short novella!

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 4.5. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here for posterity: I will read anything and everything this author ever releases.

Final Impressions: Loved it, adored it, consider myself officially smitten. It’s not simply the tale of a male losing his v-card, but also an observation of how two people can put aside their traumatic pasts, and convince themselves they are worthy of love. How it’s possible to open up one’s heart again after having found and lost true love before. We not only fall in love with Dragos and Raina, but also Raina’s two adorable sons, Galen and Ekon. There is so much to love about this novella, and I’m excited to see what else this anthology has in store!

Smut Level: The first time this series presented us with a deamon falling for a vampyre we were privy to the most alpha of males who was well-versed in the ways of pleasure. This time around, Dragos might not have the experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quick study in the ways of pleasure, or dirty talk for that matter. As a former soldier, he is more than capable of following all the sultry orders that Raina has to give in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 154 Pages.

Lost on the Atlantic by Angela Christina Archer

Declan and Siobhan knew that their journey on the Titanic would change their lives forever. They never could have expected that by boarding the Ship of Dreams they were taking a step onto what would soon become their Ship of Nightmares. 

What’s it About? 

The gossip had spread across Ireland. People talked of her speed, size, and how even God couldn’t sink her.

Titanic—the ship that could forever change their lives.

With Ireland on the brink of war, passengers Siobhan and her husband Declan board the luxury steamer headed to America. While her husband dreams of a better life in a new country, she dreams of a life on stage, singing for audiences young and old. Having read the stories from her husband during the three years he helped build the ship, Siobhan is excited to see all the lavishness carved into every inch from the bow to the stern. Unfortunately, their third-class tickets hinder their ability to explore the deepest secrets of the first-class areas.

Determined to experience all the ship has to offer, they steal clothes from the cargo hold and pose as members of the elite, vowing to talk to no one. Their devious plan goes awry, however, as they soon find themselves not only invited to dinners and parties, but they are making friends with the rich and famous interested in helping Siobhan’s dream come true. Can they run the con long enough to make it to New York? Or will their lies catch up with them? And will it matter when the ship is headed toward a fate no one thought possible?

Quick Review

Angela Christina Archer has once again transported us to another time and place, this time from a small rural village in Ireland, to the wooden decks of the illustrious Titanic, and ultimately to the bright lights of New York City. While it’s hard to read this book without immediately comparing it to the 1997 film, or the true events of history itself, I would say that something Ms. Archer has done exceedingly well is provide us with a glimpse beyond the first class cabins and passengers the film and history books often prefer to focus on, and instead lets us walk the hallways of third class. That’s not to say we aren’t also introduced to a few familiar faces from history, including the stalwart and lovable Molly Brown, to the loving Astors, the top-hat wearing Mr. Guggenheim, and even the white-bearded Captain Smith. Beyond these known names though, we get to know the passengers and stories for those who were relegated to remain in the bowels of the ship.

For our lead characters, and so many others who shared the lower decks with them, the Titanic was not merely a pleasure cruise transporting them from one place to another. She was their salvation from poverty and war, bringing them to a land of promise. We see the years of toil and struggle that went into being able to afford just one ticket, rather than simply winning it with a lucky hand of cards during a poker game a la Leonardo DiCaprio. We also witness the immense heartbreak that went into leaving one’s country and family behind. For so many, they knew that they would most likely never be able to afford a return ticket home for a nice “visit”. The process of taking those steps onto the infamous ship was, in essence, a death of their former life which had to be mourned before they could fully celebrate the new adventure upon which they were embarking. To see that so many inevitably left one death behind just to move closer to another more permanent death is a whole other kind of heartbreak unleashed upon us. This book is certainly an emotional journey from start to finish, but for fans of Titanic history I would say it’s worth picking up. 

Series: The Wildflower Women Collection, book 4. I can’t recommend this series enough. Each book is a stand-alone, set in four very distinct periods of history. They are all connected in a way by the presence of a strong female-lead, trying to find a place in the world with the love of her life supporting her through all the obstacles they might face together as a couple. While it’s not necessary to read this series in order, I would say just keep in mind that the third and fourth novels are probably the most emotionally taxing of the bunch. You might want to build up to those!

Final Impressions: My biggest piece of advice when embarking upon this read is to plan it out when you can finish it all in one sitting. We all know the inevitable tragic fate that will befall this ship. However, we’re constantly held in a heightened level of suspense wondering what will happen to not only our beloved lead characters of Siobhan and Declan, but also the family and friends traveling along with them, as well as each and every character they happen to meet along the way. The iceberg is a constant shadow we know is lurking just beyond the horizon, and I have a feeling that if you put it down at any point you might find it hard to pick back up for fear of discovering which characters will survive or perish. In that sense, it’s actually a fairly quick read as I found myself picking up the pace with every page our married couple spends upon this ill-fated ship, desperate to find out if they’ll realize their American dream. I also spent about the last half of the book in tears, so again, aim for one sitting! My only complaint with this book came in the very very end, which felt too rushed. We almost have the opportunity to learn how some specific characters met their fate, but instead we just get a quick listed mention of who lived or died, even though we’re presented with a survivor who could have provided more of a first-hand account of what happened. Other than this rushed ending, it’s an interesting historical read of love and ambition.  

Smut Level: We might see reference to an automobile kept in the cargo hold of the Titanic, but don’t expect any post-coital sweaty hand-print moments in this read. A few kisses here and there, with everything else a fade-to-black. This tale rightfully focuses more attention on the emotional connection between Siobhan and Declan, especially as the sad fate of the Titanic crumbles around them. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 264 Pages. 

Dominik by Sawyer Bennett

They both assumed that one night together would be enough. But you know what they say happens when you assume! 

What’s it About? 

I built myself up from nothing. A product of the foster care system, I learned early on how to fight hard to get what I want. Whether it was starting my first company in college, earning my first billion, or buying my first professional sports team, I know how to get what I want, when I want it. Until now.

Willow Monahan is fierce, independent, and hot as hell. She also takes great pleasure in shutting down my advances. The younger sister of one of my star players, Willow intrigues me to my very core. And while she may have willingly given me her body, she is hesitant to offer up more. Now I’m on a mission to find out why.

I’ve decided to approach my desire for Willow like I’ve approached much of my life; with persistence, determination, and a whole lot of that Dominik Carlson alpha charm. Buying a hockey expansion team, building the Arizona Vengeance from the ground up, and bringing home a championship may prove to be an easier feat than winning Willow’s heart. But I’ve never been a quitter. Willow Monahan… I’m coming for you.

First Impressions

The romance between Arizona Vengeance billionaire team owner, Dominik Carlson, and the sister of one of his star players, Willow Monahan, has been hinted at several times over the last few books. It’s a passion that has teased and intrigued, as we’re presented with a game of cat and mouse that’s been turned on its head. While we all expect this billionaire alpha to be in hot pursuit of the female lead, it’s unexpectedly titillating to see her try and push him away at every turn to his initial advances. Eventually we see her admit that there’s definitely something simmering between them which can no longer be ignored, but rather than give into any kind of emotional connection she might be feeling towards Dominik, she insists that they only treat themselves to exploring the physical. It might not be what Dominik had in mind, but his libido certainly can’t give up on such a tempting offer. These two are hot and heavy from moment one, and while most of their scenes in the bedroom will leave you fanning yourself, others will make you realize they’re avoiding difficult conversations (and even arguments) with each other by falling into bed. Or on the couch. It’s also the critical scenes which take place outside of the bedroom (with clothes on) that might leave you slightly frustrated. 

The Present and Missing Flaws

Dominik and Willow are unlike any characters which have been presented in the series so far, and their tale of romance is also unique to them in a variety of ways, mainly in that most everything we see is flawed in some form. They both react to various scenarios in ways that will make you want to slap them upside the head a time or two. For example, all the times that Willow continuously ignored Dominik’s attempts to initiate a date beyond the bedroom. Come on girl, give him a chance already! Then there’s the time when Dominik’s alpha-ness extends beyond the bedroom as he insists Willow stop putting herself in dangerous situations to pursue her journalism career. Umm, no no no, not cool dude. Or how about when Dominik chooses to end their relationship completely because Willow turned down his marriage proposal in the heat of the moment following a big win by his hockey team? Even though she begged him to be understanding in her need for just a bit more time to put words to these unbelievable feelings she’s never felt for anyone else? Nope, he throws a mini temper tantrum, puts his house up for sale and refuses to respond to her calls and texts, perhaps as a direct payback to how she treated him at the start of the novel. We haven’t really seen such childish reactions from any other couple in the series, so it kind of threw me for a loop to suddenly be presented with a male lead I wouldn’t characterize as my “ideal book boyfriend”. 

The fact that Willow is so determined to keep her relationship with Dominik reserved to sex rather than forming any kind of emotional attachment means that the bulk of the interactions we’re presented with are physical in nature. I certainly love a good sex scene, and this installment is filled to bursting with some delectable ones, but when you look back on the series as a whole so far you can’t help but feel that something crucial was missing in the progression of Dominik and Willow’s story. They needed to open up to each other more about how past hurt and tragedy influenced who they are today. After all, Dominik lost his parents at a young age, and grew up in foster care. It’s no surprise therefore that he’d seek control in every aspect of his life, or that the bulk of his relationships up to this point have involved him being the one to leave first so as not be left behind once again. As for Willow, she was betrayed years ago by the man she thought was the love of her life, so we can understand her need to construct barriers in the hopes that no man will ever weasel his way back in to break her heart. We as the audience are privy to these difficult pasts through exposition, but it’s never fully discussed by our couple together in an emotional moment of vulnerability. These moments are hallmarks of the previous novels, and the absence of them in this sixth book was felt hard.  

Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 6. I don’t really know what to expect from the next lead of this series, as it’s a player of the Arizona Vengeance we haven’t seen much so far in the series. I’ll still jump in with both feet! 

Final Impressions: Our lead characters are far from perfect, and while they grow in some areas throughout the read, we still see imperfections and room for improvement in others. Was this…frustrating? Sure! Is it probably more realistic than most of the other relationships we’ve been presented with so far in the series? Absolutely. That being said, most of us dive deep in these romances to lose ourselves in another world, and this book kind of reminds you in a not so fun way that not everyone is perfect and some imperfections are left without resolution. Not everything is tied up in a big red bow by the end of this read, including how Willow’s career will fit into their relationship going forward, or if they’ll continue to throw hissy fits whenever the going gets tough. We do get a somewhat far-fetched climatic scene towards the end that is supposed to convince us they both realize the most important thing in the world is their love for each other, and that they can overcome any other obstacle as long as they are together. Let’s just say unfortunately I’m not 100% convinced. 

Smut Level: Oh boy. As with most other features of this novel, the sultry scenes are also not necessarily without fault. Granted, most had me needing to douse myself with a glass of very cold water. Others might leave you feeling a tad uncomfortable, like when Dominik shoves his tie in Willow’s mouth to essentially shut her up before they once again go at it like bunnies. Definitely an “eek” kind of moment. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Big Dog Books, LLC. 322 Pages. 

Until Harmony by Aurora Rose Reynolds

This series is all about that BOOM, and this installment just goes to show that if you try to push the BOOM aside, it will come back full force for the ultimate impact. 

What’s it About? 

Harmony Mayson isn’t the kind of girl to take unnecessary risk, but after meeting Harlen MacCabe, she starts to wonder if maybe she should be. The more time she spends with the wild and free biker, the more she starts to crave the freedom he gives her…. And even more, she starts to crave him. 

Harlen lives his life on his own terms. After losing both his parents at an early age to a robbery gone bad, he knows how precious life is, and he’s determined to get as much out of it as he can. When he runs into the beautiful Harmony and finds out she’s moving to town, he knows it’s time to take his shot. 

She thinks he only wants to be friends, but she couldn’t be more wrong. What Harmony and Harlen don’t know is that their time might be cut short. Revenge is in the air, and someone won’t stop until a debt is settled.

First Impressions

For avid readers of the entire Until series, if you’ve made it this far to the sixth book of Until Her/Until Him, believe me when I say you’re going to love it just as much as all the others which have come before. And if you haven’t read any of these books before…then what the heck is wrong with you?! Get on it already. This book presents us with everything we know and love about the series: a sexy and growl-y alpha male, a strong and tenacious female, lovable side characters (both new and beloved old friends), and of course, the BOOM that brings our two love birds together. What I loved so much about this installment was that Harmony and Harlen sort of try to suppress the immediate connection which has brought them together in the first place. 

Our novel opens with a chance meeting in a hospital parking lot after Harmony secures a job as a nurse there, and while Harlen would like nothing more than to throw her on the back of his bike to go celebrate, they both recognize the hesitation that Harmony feels about throwing all caution to the wind. After all, she’s no risk taker, so the idea of giving into her feelings for this seemingly bad-boy biker causes her to pause, an action that Harlen can see clear as day. While she declines his invitation for a joy ride, no matter how much she might want to say yes, this isn’t the end for our main characters. Harlen respects the boundaries of this initial rejection, but he refuses to let this be the end of their story. Throughout the next few chapters we see Harlen slowly try to reignite a connection with Harmony, but he’s almost too slow for his own good as it results in Harmony thinking he just wants to be friends. The more time they spend together as “buddies”, the more our risk-averse heroine contemplates the ultimate risk of laying all of her feelings out on the table. And once she does? Well, there’s no going back after that BOOM. 

The Happily Ever After

I was personally delighted by the subsequent romance which played out between our two lead characters, especially when we consider that Harmony was sort of the one to initiate it by finally acting on her desires for Harlen with a passionate kiss. Sure, she immediately tries to avoid him afterwards from embarrassment at the thought that maybe he didn’t want to be anything more than friends, but he’s more than willing to come after her to prove otherwise. I guess in a way it was a mutual overtaking of desire. The rest of their story is relatively drama free and even-paced as they easily fall into a relationship with each other. Harmony is willing to stand up to her overprotective father, Nico, to convince him that Harlen is the man of her dreams, just as Harlen won’t back down to convince Nico he’ll do anything to protect his beloved daughter. Harlen does indeed epitomize the characteristics of an alpha male, but I also appreciated that Harmony wasn’t afraid to poke the bear every once in a while. 

He demands a kiss before she leaves for work, or else he’ll have fun punishing her later? Well, she cheekily saunters out the door sans kiss to see just what he has in mind, and my goodness does she enjoy her “punishment”. Nothing like being held up against the wall for some sexy fun times, and yet in their post-passion haze we see Harlen put down his alpha wall to openly acknowledge how he does need that kiss from her every morning to make it through his day until he can see her again. And that’s one of the aspects I love about this series. Our alpha males clearly have a sensitive side to them, and we never doubt that the love they feel for their ladies goes deeper than merely a sexual component. There’s heart beneath it all. 

Series: Until Her/Until Him, book 6. It was so much fun diving back into this world. We get a brief introduction towards the end of this read of who the main characters will be for book 7, and I am more than ready to get started!

Final Impressions: This is the perfect kind of beach read. Funny, sexy, heartfelt, with just a smidge of drama to keep things interesting. The primary focus of the read truly is on the evolving relationship between Harlen and Harmony from their BOOM to friends to lovers, but delicately interwoven throughout the novel is an underlying sense of conflict involving a handsy doctor at Harmony’s work. The author does a fantastic job of simultaneously keeping this drama primarily reserved for the background, yet also slowly elevating it throughout the progression of the novel before it ultimately breaks through for a final, suspenseful climax. Be sure to add this one to your TBR pile. 

Smut Level: Harmony might express a bit of timidity when Harlen first expresses an interest in her, but once they finally end up in each other’s arms all sense of hesitancy is thrown right out of the bedroom. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 239 Pages.

Hit by the Cupid Stick by Abigail Owen

“A siren who lures men to their deaths and a cupid who helps humans fall in love.” I can’t think of a more perfect match for this sexy Valentine’s Day paranormal romance. 

What’s it About? 

All’s fair in love and…whatever this is. This Valentine’s Day, when a cupid accidentally shoots himself with his own arrow, he falls for a siren whose only job is to lure men to their deaths.

Charismatic and irresistibly fun, Chance Eroson is a cupid who gets a kick from pairing odd couples and being right about them. Used to getting his way, the only person who shuts him down is the siren who has ruined more than one of his pairings before they started. But his bigger problem is he wants her. He’s always wanted her.

Elodie Sirenian uses her power for good, only hunting evil men. But after so long, and so many horrible people, her cynicism has settled deep inside. She can turn on the charm when she doesn’t mean it, and they fall for it. Every single one. Every single time.

Except Chance. He’s the only person—man or god—who has ever challenged her.

But a cupid’s magic is temporary. There’s no way a true love match is possible. Not this time.

First Impressions

This is one paranormal novella you’ll want to be sure and add to your Valentine’s Day TBR list. You know when you have those cravings for a romance where the lead characters just go for it? No dilly dallying, let’s get to the good stuff ASAP? Well then this read will scratch your itch. We are not only presented with two delightfully entertaining main characters full of moxie and teasing, but there’s a bit of suspense enveloped throughout the story as their feelings for each other quickly transition from instantaneous lust to trust to love. Chance plays our debonair cupid whose six-pack abs will put the standard cartoonish Valentine cherub image to shame. He and gorgeous siren Elodie have always exchanged a witty rapport throughout the years, though the call of her siren monster to hunt a few of Chance’s targets has sometimes caused them to quarrel on top of their banter. 

All of that changes one night when Chance takes aim with his bow, only to have a misfire when his arrow goes through both he and Elodie, resulting in an immediate, all-consuming need to finally give into their desire for each other. On the one hand they could stay apart in an attempt to ignore their burning passion, or they could dive in head first. It’s no big mystery as to which option these two fall for. On his couch…against the living room window…in his bed…the shower…I think the kitchen may have been involved at one point, etc. etc. But what happens when the power of his arrow ultimately fades? Will Elodie and Chance want to explore a lifetime together, or will they revert back to their solitary ways before the arrow brought all of their secret wants to the forefront? Well, this is a proper romance after all, I’m sure you can guess which way the story goes!

Oh gods and goddesses!

Fans of Greek mythology will definitely have a blast with this read. The fact that Chance’s last name is Eroson, and he’s a cupid…the connection there just filled me with absolute delight! Towards the end of this short read there is sort of a quick mention of multiple mythological characters and stories that I could see being slightly overwhelming for those who aren’t as familiar with those particular tales. Overall though, the way these myths and creatures are interwoven into Chance and Elodie’s story was the perfect mixture of action and romance. While our lovebirds spend the first part of the story steeped in their sensual bubble of sexual delights, we’re also aware that in the not too distant background there exists the plot point of a vengeful minotaur seeking Elodie’s downfall due to her killing of his brother. We do get a few minor confrontations between these characters before one exciting, action-packed final battle scene. 
Another element which went hand-in-hand with this tale of revenge that ultimately provided a well-rounded story arch for our characters was Elodie’s fear at revealing her true siren monster to Chance.

She’s been abandoned by former lovers in the past who couldn’t handle the transformation of this beautiful vixen into a frightening siren who must feed off the aura of her enemies to survive. If the power of cupid’s arrow should wear off, and Chance catches a glimpse of her true monster, will he also be tempted to run? And then there’s Chance’s true nature, which he is quite upfront with Elodie about even though it stands in contradiction to what many would consider the conventions of “masculinity”. He is a cupid after all, doing his best to bring couples together to find love, and his Netflix is jam packed full of romance movies that he consistently fast forwards to get to the good parts, aka all the smooching. He just might be my ideal man! The true test of their love isn’t how well they connect in the bedroom (or taxi cab, or secluded cabin, or shower again, etc. etc.), but rather how they will react to these mythological influences on their personalities: her siren propensity for violence and death, and his cupid devotion to love and a happily ever after. 

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

Series: Brimstone, Inc. book 5. It’s not 100% necessary you read the previous books before you get to this one, but just note that there are a few characters who reappear here from previous installments. 

Final Impressions: Loved it! If it weren’t for my bedtime I wouldn’t have had any problem knocking this baby out in one sitting. There was no messing around before our characters got to the sexy fun times, yet it wasn’t just about the physical component from start to finish either. We have a tale of revenge that will keep you on the edge of your seat, as well as the emotional conundrum of showing one’s true self to the one they’re falling for. It’s something that most of us can probably relate to, even though we’re not mythological sirens or cupids!

Smut Level: Phewwwwww!! There’s a lot of heat packed into these pages. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it might be below freezing temperatures outside, but even I was tempted to crack open a window to cool down a bit. A cupid full of charm and an enchanting siren just might be the best mythological combination possible!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 114 Pages. 

Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton

When Viv inherits a house on the other side of the country, she contemplates a romance with either a hunky cowboy or a smoldering librarian. Who knew tweed jackets and elbow patches could be so sexy?

What’s it About?

Readers back for a third round of the bestselling Cocktail series will enjoy a madcap romantic comedy about bodice ripping and chest heaving, fiery passion and love everlasting. Plus a dash of paperwork filing and horseshi—wait, what?

By day, Viv Franklin designs software programs. By night, Vivian’s a secret romance-novel junkie who longs for a knight in shining armor, or a cowboy on a wild stallion, or a strapping firefighter to sweep her off her feet. And she gets to wear the bodice—don’t forget the bodice. When a phone call brings news that she’s inherited a beautiful old home in Mendocino, California from a long-forgotten aunt, she moves her entire life across the country to embark on what she sees as a great, romance-novel-worthy adventure. But romance novels always have a twist, don’t they? There’s a cowboy, one that ignites her loins. Because Cowboy Hank is totally loin-ignition worthy. But there’s also a librarian, Clark Barrow. And he calls her Vivian. Can tweed jackets and elbow patches compete with chaps and spurs? You bet your sweet cow pie.

In Screwdrivered, Alice Clayton pits Superman against Clark in a hilarious and hot battle that delights a swooning Viv/Vivian. Also within this book, an answer to the question of the ages: Why ride a cowboy when you can ride a librarian?

First Impressions

While nothing has quite lived up to the near spectacular perfection that was the first book in this Cocktail series, Wallbanger, we still get a fun and entertaining addition in this third read. Viv is a spunky, vivacious heroine who definitely lives life according to the beat of her own drum. She’s romance novel obsessed, which means she automatically rises up a few notches in my perception. She’s a dreamer, often visualizing romance novel scenarios playing out in her daydreams, so when she receives a late night call in the middle of the night informing her that she’s inherited a cliff-side fixer-upper home along the coast of California, Vivian believes she might just be in the midst of her very own romance novel. As soon as Viv arrives out west to gaze upon the stunning home which is now hers, not to mention catches a glimpse of the surly cowboy who cares for the animals on the property, Vivian is convinced that she just needs to peel away the layers to connect with this hunk of burning love so they can delight in their own HEA. After all, that’s what all her previous romance novel reading would have her believe to be true. 

But if Romancelandia has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t force a romance where it does not exist. What happens when the seemingly gruff but beautiful cowboy is in fact…just a good looking cowboy with no emotional depth to him whatsoever? Well, fear not lovely heroine! All Vivian needs is to turn around and notice that the handsome librarian/head of the historical society who’s been giving her such a tough time about all of her proposed renovations to the historically registered property might be the knight in shining armor she’s been waiting for all along. Sure, she may have pictured herself with a muscular and complicated rogue, but the bespectacled, elbow-patch tweed jacket wearing librarian has everything she truly needs when it comes to love. Clark is caring, open, and all that arguing they’ve been doing has been the perfect build of foreplay to something more. Honestly, you’d think a veteran romance novel reader like Viv would have recognized this earlier on! Just goes to show that when you try too hard in looking for romance, you can oftentimes miss the real thing when it unexpectedly crosses your path. 

Slow Burn

There was so much to Vivian’s character that was easy to love. Although she’s fallen into the family expectations of computer programming, she’s always felt an artistic calling deep within her. When the opportunity arises to grab life by the horns, she really doesn’t hesitate to leave her old life behind and jump at the chance to set out for a life she’s been craving for years. Moving clear across the country does indeed seem like a romantic scheme, but even in the face of complications and obstacles Vivian refuses to give up. You have to admire her determination in many things, even though her intense focus on trying to get Hank the hunky cowboy to notice her was something we all probably wish she had given up on sooner. Sometimes there are no layers beneath a man, just a hunky beefcake with nothing else going on beyond a good face and a sexy six-pack abs body. Clark on the other hand might not seem like her type right away, but it’s very clear early on that Vivian recognizes some kind of pull to this sexy librarian. 

There’s daytime Clark, who is a pretty straight-laced rule follower, but then she starts to get to know nighttime Clark through some unexpected late night phone calls, and this is when Vivian notices his playful side. Not to mention the fact his voice drops about two octaves when his tone becomes especially suggestive. It would have made for a more enjoyable read if she had switched gears to focus her attention on Clark at an earlier point in the read, especially considering he still would have fit the vision she had in her mind of her world becoming a romance novel come to life. Instead, the author really drew out the development of their relationship, especially considering that 1) Clark and Vivian don’t even really interact directly with each other until a third of the way into the book and 2) their first kiss takes place in same scene as their first romp against a balustrade, with a declaration of love sprinkled on top at the 93% mark. That’s a long time to wait, and certainly takes “slow burn” to a whole new level. While the final result was certainly worth waiting for, it also left the conclusion of the novel feeling rather rushed as we go from questioning whether or not these two unlikely characters will ever get together, to seeing them rip each other’s clothes off all in the last few pages of the book. 

Try to Keep Up

Another feature of this novel which I started out loving, but after some time became rather irritated by was Vivian’s lengthy inner musings and romance novel snippet daydreams. At first I felt a connection to this character whose mind seemed to work at 100 mph, and would flip between various topics at random. I couldn’t help but think, “wow, this author has captured my mind on the page”. Buuuut then I remembered that my mind is a weird place, and I oftentimes have to apologize to my friends who wonder what the heck I’m talking about by saying, “oh yeah sorry, I forget sometimes that other people can’t see where my train of thought is choo choo-ing along to”. Seeing this play out over 256 pages of romance novel made it an almost exhausting read at times, and difficult to follow along to conversations. There were also multiple times throughout the read where Vivian would fantasize herself as the heroine of a romance novel scene, whether it be with a pirate, a cowboy, or some other rugged hero, before coming back to reality. While certainly entertaining at times, I would have preferred some of those scenes to be replaced with more interactions between her and Clark in the real world. As it stands, I felt like Vivian and Clark spent more of the novel apart than together, and their connection was so adorable I simply wanted more, more, MORE!

Series: Cocktail, book 3. I’m not sure if any read will be quite as good as the first, but this is still a fun series I want to continue on with. 

Final Impressions: Consider yourself warned this read will inspire wanderlust as you crave the purchase of a rundown house on a cliff beside the ocean somewhere. I definitely appreciated the fact we were presented with a tenacious female lead who happened to be obsessed with romance novels. The constant bickering between Viv and Clark was the most delicious kind of foreplay, but I was ultimately left craving more scenes involving the two of them together. I know there’s also been some debate in Romancelandia recently about the frustration of not seeing a sex scene until the 60% mark, and while I certainly don’t feel there are any hard rules to when or how much sex must be presented, I do feel with this particular read that having our lead characters go from angry with each other to a bump and grind to a HEA epilogue one scene immediately after the other left the end of the book feeling needlessly rushed. Overall though, this is still a fun contemporary romance to bring along on your next adventure to the beach!

Smut Level: Although we only get one scene, it’s quite a doozy! Their passionate evening starts in front of the fireplace, transitions out to the rain, then back inside up against the wall and the aforementioned balustrade. As if that wasn’t delicious enough, our sexy librarian just so happens to be a dirty talking wordsmith. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $8.99 Kindle Price. Gallery Books. 257 Pages.