Wild Hunger by Suzanne Wright

They haven’t seen each other since they were children, but one look as adults is all it takes for Trick to realize that Frankie is his destined mate.

What’s it About? 

When half–wolf shifter Frankie Newman receives an e-mail from a family member she didn’t know existed, a secret is revealed: as a child, Frankie witnessed her father killing her mother…and then himself. Frankie was torn from her pack by her mother’s human relatives, and the trauma was erased from her memory. Realizing that she’s been lied to her entire life, she’s never felt more alone. Until she catches the scent of an old friend—warmly familiar and intoxicating.

Trick Hardy, enforcer of the Phoenix Pack, can sense the rush of mutual attraction when he sees Frankie again. He knows immediately that she’s his true mate. But he also knows that, given her fragile state, he needs to tread with care—no matter how fierce his surging desires.

As aroused as Frankie is by Trick’s darkly dominant air and simmering desire, her priority right now is her past—not her future, no matter how tempting. But as more secrets emerge and Frankie’s life is threatened, Trick must do everything he can to keep her close and safe. After all, it’s their destiny.

First Impressions

We’ve been introduced to a slew of different couples throughout this series so far, and while each has traversed their own unique path to discovering that they are destined mates, one shared component is that it usually takes a decent portion of the book before our lead characters uncover the mating link drawing them together. Whether it be because they’re too busy fighting off a common enemy, one of them insists true mates aren’t real, or perhaps one mistakenly thought they’d already found and lost their mate years before, there’s something which has caused our characters to put up a mental block against recognizing the person they’ve come to desire is meant to be theirs for the rest of time. A refreshing element which sets this seventh book apart from any of the installments which have come before is the fact that Trick identifies Frankie as his true mate almost immediately upon first setting his sights on her after many years apart. As for Frankie, her realization of their fantastical connection is just a few short weeks behind Trick’s.

Neither of them tries to deny the truth from themselves or each other. The only thing preventing them from taking that final step to cement the link is that Trick acknowledges Frankie is already dealing with enough in her personal life, from finding out her grandparents lied about how her parents perished when she was just a young girl, to the fact they also hid the fact she has loving wolf family members out there who would want nothing more than to bring her into the fold of their pack. Trick has been hoping for years that he would find his destined mate, yet when she’s finally standing right in front of him he realizes she needs time to heal and reconnect with family first. Finalizing their connection can wait, and he thinks it will be a good idea for them to spend time getting to know each other first before taking that big step. Considering all we know about how strong that mating pull can be, it’s probably one of the more beautiful expressions of caring we’ve seen so far in this series. 

Sexuality

Another interesting aspect of our couple’s relationship was the history of Trick’s sexuality. We’ve seen in previous novels that Trick has been sexually involved with men, at one point even with one of his fellow packmates. It’s something that Trick reveals to Frankie fairly early on after they start having a physical relationship, primarily so that she won’t be blindsided should any troublesome characters try to use it as a way to push a wedge between these two destined mates. Frankie isn’t bothered by his admission, but she does experience a brief moment of hesitation wondering if there will ever come a time when he might desire something physically that she won’t be able to give him. He squashes any of her concerns by insisting that she’s the one he’s been waiting for all this time, and there wasn’t a romantic component to any of his previous partners, whether they were men or women.

I do wish we could have gone a bit deeper into discussing Trick’s sexuality beyond just describing his previous interactions with men as “scratching an itch”. It seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity to finally highlight a non-heterosexual male lead in more detail within this series. In terms of his exes, you also can’t help but wonder if the mere presence of Trick causes others to lose their minds with obsessive infatuation. Whether it was a woman from his past who repeatedly insisted that he was her destined mate, to a former male sexual partner who asserts that Trick is actually gay and therefore it’s impossible Frankie could be his true mate as a female. Frankie never doubts that Trick will be true to her, and it was nice to see there wasn’t a single moment where she questioned if he might leave her for someone else, but if I were Frankie I might be concerned over how many other unstable exes might be making their way out of the woodwork!

Drama on Two Fronts

As with most books in this series, our couple is faced with dramatic elements emanating from two separate fronts. One impacts the pack as a whole, where a rival wolf and his ragtag pack insist on claiming Phoenix pack territory. They approach the Phoenixes under the guise of wanting to form an alliance, but they can all recognize a scheming enemy when they see one. The villainous Morelli lurks in the background through most of the novel, but will pop up every now and again before instigating a final climactic battle at the most inopportune of moments. The fight with this rival pack is just a smaller piece of the larger war that Morelli is trying to start between wolves and humans, as extremists on both sides are shockingly coming together in the hopes of bringing down all of their enemies so they can finally rule over whoever is left standing. As we progress through the series we’ve seen these extremists become more daring in their efforts, and we can’t help but wonder if the final installment will finally bring about this aforementioned war, or crush it down once and for all. 

The more emotional dramatic plot point of this novel involves Frankie’s parents who died when she was just three years old, and the story that all have come to believe of their deaths is that Frankie’s father brutally murdered her mother before dying by suicide. Frankie’s grandparents kept these gruesome details from her, and upon learning the truth from some of her other long lost family members, we see her embark on a tragically compelling journey of confronting the details of this unfortunate tragedy. While this emotional exploration was certainly fascinating, especially as we see how uber alpha Trick can soften his surly demeanor to comfort Frankie when it matters most, this story was rather disappointing in the plot twist it tries to surprise upon us towards the end of the book. Not only is it crystal clear to us as readers that something else must have happened the night these untimely deaths occurred, but it’s kind of shocking that it wasn’t obvious to the rest of the pack back when it first happened. They can all acknowledge that it was unbelievably out of character for Frankie’s father to cause harm to his wife, but it’s also essentially unheard of for a wolf to harm their true mate. So…why would they have readily accepted this inexplicable explanation? The fact they never questioned that someone else could have been involved is quite ridiculous. Also, these are wolf shifters we’re dealing with here! How did none of them smell the remnants of another person in the house that night?! Simply preposterous!!

Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 7. We only have just one more packmate to explore next in what will be the final book of this series. And Dominic just so happens to be the most flirtatious wolf of the pack. Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Final Impressions: This was an exciting addition to the series. In glancing through some of the other reviews of this novel, it appears a common criticism amongst some readers is that the author continues to follow a clear formula for each installment where you always know what to expect. Honestly, fair assessment! Alpha male meets sassy female, physical desire and multiple horizontal mambo sessions ensue, drama threatens, they ultimately discover and cement the mating bond, final climactic battle, sexy fun times. And you know what, I love it! There might be a formula, but I’ve never felt as though we see the same couple, or even story, on repeat each time. We see so many unique personalities, and everyone has their own history which sets them apart from those who may have come before. If anything, I find that formula comforting rather than boring. I know what I’m getting into, that it’s going to be an entertaining and sexually-filled ride, and each character will bring something new to the table.

Smut Level: How these two didn’t pass out from exhaustion considering all the delicious deeds they got up to in a hot tub is mind-blowing. Also, as with almost every other book in this series so far, we do get some description of anal sex. Something to keep in mind for those of you who are or aren’t fans of that act!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 322 Pages.

Irresistible by R.L. Mathewson

After a one-night stand results in pregnancy, Melanie learns that carrying a Bradford child not only leaves her craving allllll the food, but also craving the man who is reluctant to be the father. 

What’s it About? 

Aidan Bradford never wanted a family, but after having a one-night stand with the woman that he hadn’t been able to resist, he’s going to find himself getting exactly what he needed in this romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author R.L. Mathewson.

There weren’t many things that Aidan regretted, but that night he’d spent with the woman that he couldn’t stop thinking about was definitely one of them. He’d always been careful, always did the right thing, and now…

Now, he had to figure out a way to fix this before it was too late.

Melanie still couldn’t figure out how one night could change the rest of her life. She should have done a lot of things differently that night. She should have turned him down, should have spent the rest of the night wallowing in self-pity like she’d planned, but that’s not what happened and now, she needed to figure out how she was going to survive this pregnancy with a Bradford doing everything in his power to make her fall in love with him.

First Impressions

Any good Neighbor From Hell book will contain a particular set of hallmark features which are emblematic of this classic laugh-out-loud series. From fraught neighbors turned lovers, to food consumption that borders on the obscene, and hilarious prank-filled family dynamics that leave you wanting more. This eleventh installment contained all of the above, albeit some were displayed a bit more prominently than others, whereas others you kind of had to dig a bit deeper to find the connection. It certainly felt like the entire Bradford family was present in this novel, including siblings, cousins, parents, spouses and children, that your head can’t help but spin at all the previous characters who make a reappearance, not to mention a few new ones who will clearly be the focus of a future novel.

While I appreciated the attempt at including a family tree at the start of the novel, the presentation of it in a simple list form rather than as an actual tree which showed how all the different branches inter-connected felt like a missed opportunity for clarity. Aidan, Melanie, and their little one were lovable and welcome characters to add to the tree, but with so many faces popping up throughout this novel it was hard to keep track of who was a relation versus a potential love interest. While I typically love seeing previous couples making a reappearance, it became a bit overwhelming in this eleventh book. I think we’ve reached a point in the series where some characters are clearly more memorable than others, and maybe highlighting just a select few rather than every single couple that came before would result in a bigger nostalgic impact. This was definitely a fun read where I enjoyed getting to know Aidan and Melanie, but I have a feeling going forward they probably won’t be standout memorable characters to add to the tree. 

Rejecting to Embracing Fatherhood

The concept of the novel was intriguing as we are thrust into the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, with Melanie finally finding the courage to admit to her one-night stand from months ago, Aidan, about the little bundle he left cooking in her oven. Why has it taken her this long to confront him? It’s explained away as a combination of long-lasting debilitating morning sickness with the fact that Aidan made it strikingly clear the morning after their drunken night together, upon realization that their condom broke, that the last thing he wanted was to become a father. I was hoping we would have the chance to more fully explore Aidan’s hesitancies and fears regarding fatherhood, but ultimately we are really only presented with a surface level explanation that he worries he’ll either 1) never live up to the wonderfulness his parents represented or 2) somehow become like his uncle who abandoned his cousin when he was a child…? You can’t help but feel that neither excuse was legitimately warranted, as backed up by the fact that upon hearing these comments Melanie openly admits he’s being pretty stupid. The honesty and witty sarcasm these two lovebirds hurled back and forth at each other was entertaining, but you never get the sense that there was any real development to who they were as characters. We knew from the beginning that Aidan was a good guy, who in no way hated or begrudged children in any way, so it was no surprise to see him jump fully on board with fatherhood almost immediately upon Melanie walking back into his life. 

Sugary Sweet Neighbors

The two other fundamental elements to any installment in this series involves: food and living arrangements. Let’s start with the first. Goodness gracious golly me, the food obsession involved with women who are pregnant with a Bradford spawn is no joke. Seriously, it was repeatedly featured in almost every single chapter of this book to the point where you are basically left worrying for the physical health of Melanie and her unborn child. The fact that the sight of any vegetable has her running to worship the porcelain throne was pretty funny at the beginning, but to see how the crux of her diet involves the consumption of sugar mixed with sugar, piled high with sugar and then rolled in sugar became…kind of nauseating after a while. Your stomach will practically churn from the constant description of Melanie’s obsession with junk food during her pregnancy, and I kind of feel like I need to eat an apple to counteract the sugar high I got from reading this one. 

And now for the feature that really let me down. Neighbors. It’s right there in the title of the series. You expect to see two neighbors, oftentimes with a tension-filled background, slowly turn from enemies-to-lovers. Two tropes for the price of one! Alas, to say these two spent any time as neighbors was definitely a stretch of the imagination, and I’d say they liked to teasingly push each other’s buttons rather than classify them as “enemies”. At the start of the novel we see Melanie worrying over the fact her best-friend roommate has now moved out, and she can no longer afford the two bedroom apartment on her own with a baby on the way. When Aidan finally discovers the truth of her condition, he insists she move into the apartment building he owns so he can keep an eye on her, especially seeing as her doctor has ordered strict bed rest throughout the next stage of her pregnancy. What could be more convenient than moving in across the hall from him? Well, it feels as though they live “next door” to each other for about a minute. It doesn’t take long before Aidan is sharing her bed, initially for the purpose of providing her snuggle comfort during her pregnancy, but things quickly evolve into cohabitation. I felt like I missed out on the fun and craziness of the somewhat toxic neighborly relationship this series is known for. 

Series: Neighbor From Hell, book 11. While the last two books in this series have been mild letdowns, it’s still a fun-filled series as a whole. I’m definitely excited to dive deep into the next installment, as it involves a Bradford who is a single father, and has sworn off love until his children are fully grown. Yeah…like that’ll work!

Final Impressions: This is a fun addition to the Neighbor From Hell series, though I did feel like we missed out on the “neighbor” aspect which I love so much from this author. The book leans heavily into the comedic side of things rather than the dramatic, even when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. While I appreciated this light-hearted tone, it was kind of confusing how potential elements for drama would keep being introduced, but then never fully developed. From Melanie’s potential financial woes, to Aidan’s initial rejection of fatherhood, a deceitfully trouble-making sister to an ex who might not want to be an ex after all. Some of these dramatic plot points went nowhere, and others didn’t seem of much concern to our two leads. Instead the focus is on Aidan and Melanie sharing funny details about their pasts and getting to know each other so they could be on a solid foundation of friendship before their child arrived. Friendship quickly turned to love, and the rest is history. 

Smut Level: This was possibly the most compelling aspect of the entire book, as every steamy scene between Melanie and Aidan occurred when she was quite far along in her pregnancy. Following months of bed rest Melanie is finally given permission by her doctor to engage in more rigorous activity, and sex just so happens to be at the top of the recommendation list. To see how Aidan still desires Melanie more than anything with her rounded belly, swollen ankles and frightening food demands was both refreshing and adorable. These two get all kinds of steamy and creative in their positions. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 275 Pages. 

Mai Tai’d Up by Alice Clayton

After breaking up with her fiancé on their wedding day, Chloe soon crosses paths with a blue-eyed, ginger-haired beauty who sets her heart aflutter. How does she know if he’ll prove to be the love of her life, or her rebound of the moment? 

What’s it About? 

The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancé the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true.

When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State.

Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing.

Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.

Quick Review

Looking back on this series as a whole, it’s difficult to fully recreate the incandescent magic captured within the first novel, Wallbanger, but this fourth book perhaps gets closer than any other installment so far. The chemistry between Chloe and Lucas is strikingly electric from the first moment they catch eyes with each other across the mirror behind a bar, and the sizzling intensity simply continues to grow from there. They are both moving on from the aftermaths of broken relationships, both of which ended on their respective wedding days. While they can openly acknowledge the attraction which exists between them, neither wants to fall into a quick rebound fling with the other, but they also don’t want that to impact their ability to spend as much time with each other as possible before Lucas leaves town for 12 weeks as part of Vets Without Borders. The teasing banter and flirtatious quips exchanged between our two leads were some of the highlight features of the novel, and definitely hearkened back to some of that original magic we saw presented in book one. 

Sly smirks, brushes of the hand against one’s back, and even a hip check or two, it doesn’t take long before you’re practically salivating for these two to get together. Our anticipation builds with every turn of the page. And yet, the fact it takes almost the entire length of the novel for our solitary steamy scene to emerge was another mark of cleverness at how the plot ultimately evolved. The author could have easily had these two try and enter into a no-strings-attached fling from the very beginning. However, by allowing them both the time to process the end of their previous relationships, and spend time getting to know each other beyond their  physical chemistry, we’re more convinced than ever by the time Chloe and Lucas fall into those sexy fun times that they are finally doing so for the right reasons. 

All in all this fourth book was shaping up to be a stellar read, but unfortunately throughout the entire novel we were waiting for one obvious point of conflict to emerge, which was the fact that upon learning Lucas’s ex-fiancée left him standing at the altar on the day of their wedding, Chloe couldn’t bring herself to admit that she had left her own ex on their wedding day. I secretly kept hoping there would be another point of contention to arise between them, such as the concern about maintaining a long-distance relationship while Lucas was abroad for several months, or maybe even the fact that Chloe put herself in potential harm’s way by rescuing a battered pit bull at the center of an illegal fighting ring. But alas, it was in fact the super duper uber predictable secret that caused the drama to implode. The fact that this slight detail of omission held such strength for Lucas to threaten this beautiful relationship really put a damper on things, especially after Chloe clearly articulated her reasons and sincerely apologizes for keeping it from him. We do eventually get a happily ever after, but it was so disappointing to see the impressive arch of this novel interrupted with such a disappointingly predictable and unnecessarily over-exaggerated plot point.  

Series: The Cocktail Series, book 4. The first book is clearly the best, with this fourth book coming in second. Each book is light-hearted, and you’ll probably find yourself chuckling aloud a time or two with the silly antics our lead characters find themselves in. 

Final Impressions: Looking back at the synopsis of this book it’s kind of surprisingly deceptive. This small community doesn’t really seem absorbed at Chloe’s arrival into town. If the gossip mill were truly at work then the truth of how Chloe ditched her fiancé would have made it’s way to Lucas’s ears, thereby preventing the eventual blow-up argument between them about how she kept it a secret. There’s also an insinuation in the synopsis that there might be some possible kink to their relationship, especially considering the thought of “being tied up”. Alas, there is no tying up of lovers to be seen. The majority of the sensuality between Lucas and Chloe lies within their delicious flirtatious banter rather than physically coming together, which is reserved to just one scene towards the end of the book. You’ll find yourself smirking in delight every time they come together for a cocktail and some witty repartee. If the final point of drama between our two leads didn’t feel so contrived at the end of the novel, or perhaps could have stemmed from a less predictable area of contention, then this book would have been near perfect. 

Smut Level: You have to wait for it, but it’s worth the wait. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $8.99 Kindle Price. Gallery Books. 273 Pages. 

The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen

Meren has lived her entire life in the shadow of her twin sister, waiting for the moment when she might need to step in front of danger to sacrifice herself. Now the shadows have come for her, and she must sacrifice everything she thought she understood about the world around her. Buckle up folks, you’re in for quite the ride. 

What’s it About? 

Everything about my life is a lie. As a hidden twin princess, born second, I have only one purpose—to sacrifice my life for my sister if death comes for her. I’ve been living under the guise of a poor, obscure girl of no standing, slipping into the palace and into the role of the true princess when danger is present.

Now the queen is dead and the ageless King Eidolon has sent my sister a gift—an eerily familiar gift—and a proposal to wed. I don’t trust him, so I do what I was born to do and secretly take her place on the eve of the coronation. Which is why, when a figure made of shadow kidnaps the new queen, he gets me by mistake.

As I try to escape, all the lies start to unravel. And not just my lies. The Shadowraith who took me has secrets of his own. He struggles to contain the shadows he wields—other faces, identities that threaten my very life.

Winter is at the walls. Darkness is looming. And the only way to save my sister and our dominion is to kill Eidolon…and the Shadowraith who has stolen my heart.

First Impressions

In a word, this teen fantasy romance is simply mind-blowing. I have been a long-time fan of Abigail Owen’s adult dragon romance series, so I was excited to step into another world with her. I’ll admit I had a few hesitations in the beginning, wondering if this young adult novel would skew too young for me, or if the evocative cover art would potentially hold too much promise of what would lie within. I’m happy to say I was proven wrong on both accounts. Readers of all ages can appreciate this story, and the dramatic juxtaposition of flowers against skull on the cover simply hints at the wondrous magic in which you’re about to find yourself entranced. Ms. Owen is a master world-builder, and it’s hard to articulate just how refreshing it was to be immersed in a fantastical land unlike any I’ve ever come across before. 

From the powers of our characters, to the monsters of the various landscapes they traverse, everything was a constant surprise from one page to the next. As the novel progressed I couldn’t help but feel as though I had entered somebody’s dream world where fantasy and nightmare blend together to create something entirely unique. The rules of this world aren’t terribly difficult to understand, but in hindsight I wish I had paid a bit more attention at the beginning when the details were first being discussed. We’re provided with something of an info dump early on in the book, so something I’d recommend is maybe jotting down a few notes for reference later so you fully understand the differences between things like Vexillium, Imperium, hyloraes, enfernaes, etc. Some fantastical elements were explained more fully than others, and I get the sense we’ve been teased with the mention of some things we might not see until later on. 

Shadow and Glass

Meren is the standout lead character of our novel. A second-born twin princess whose identity has been hidden from the world, save for a chosen few who can be trusted, she’s expected to stand in for her sister whenever the possibility of danger arises. It’s on the eve of her sister Tabra’s coronation as Queen when a man composed of shadows mistakenly kidnaps Meren, thinking she’s the highborn princess whose powers can change the fate of their world. The dynamic between Meren and this Shadowraith was electric, with an obvious animosity towards each other slowly developing to respect, and ultimately something even more powerful. While she might be totally out of her element by being kidnapped across lands unknown to her, Meren isn’t afraid to stand up against him. She refuses to go down quietly, and the frustrations evoked by both her and the Shadowraith when they repeatedly throw verbal barbs at each other was positively delicious. It was the perfect blend of comedy, fearlessness, foreplay and even emotional vulnerability. Their combined presence on the page quickly became the foundation of the story going forward, and you never wanted to see the two of them apart. 

Perhaps the most enigmatic feature of the book was witnessing Meren come into her own by stepping out of the shadows she was forced to hide behind. She’s always been something of a rebel. When she was told to never use her powers, Meren would often sneak away to practice transforming sand into glass. Ordered to live hidden away in a small house, she found ways to escape into the wide-open vastness of the desert. And yet, these few instances of rebellion were hidden from her keepers, and she’d always walked the line set before her. It was never out of subservience, but rather out of true love and protection for her sister that she continued to do what was expected. When the Shadowraith takes her away from all she’s known, Meren is rightfully pissed, but in a way it also allows her to finally explore what it means to be her own person. As the Shadowraith shows her how a fight against evil is forming in the distance, Meren once again steps up to protect those she loves. Whereas before she played the role of delicate princess to save her sister, she now realizes she’ll need to up her game by becoming a badass in her own right. Wielding her power over sand to create pretty glass flowers has now evolved into forming waves of glass spears in battle. She no longer blindly listens to the orders others bestow upon her, but rather she becomes part of the conversation to try and find a solution in saving their world against a power-hungry evil King. As her distance from the palace grows, Meren more fully transforms from a girl into a woman, and it’s quite the captivating journey.  

Butterflies at First Sight

In perusing a few other reviews of this work online, an unexpectedly common theme is a few readers mentioning they felt that Meren and the Shadowraith fell for each other too quickly, and that it was a love at first sight scenario. I suppose I can’t 100% agree with this assessment. Meren is clearly confused about how she feels towards this stranger. On the one hand, there is a clear presence of animosity following his kidnapping of her, and he has several instances of eye-roll happening at her consistent back-talk. And yet, Meren can clearly see something good within him that slowly causes her to lower her defenses the more time they spend together. If anything, I would say it was a slow burn rather than a situation of love at first sight. Meren certainly feels an attraction at first sight of the Shadowraith’s distinctively dashing profile in the darkened streets of her hometown, and she’s not sure how to act in front of someone who makes the butterflies take flight within her. However, there also appears to be some other kind of connection simmering between them that I think has only just been teased to us in this first novel. There’s something drawing these two together, and it extends beyond simple attraction or even love, but perhaps there is a fantastical element at play here too. I certainly can’t wait to find out more about what it might be. 

This novel also presents us with the formation of a mini unrequited love triangle. The relationship between Meren and her Shadowraith takes front and center, but we also see instances of Meren’s only childhood friend, Cain, wanting to express intimacy with this unknown princess. I will say this was the only feature of the book which reminded me of another series, as it felt very reminiscent of the love triangle present in the Hunger Games series. Similar to how the heroine of that series always viewed her longtime male friend as something of a brother, Meren too has looked to Cain with brotherly affection that is a special kind of love all it’s own. There may have once been a time when the concept of a future with Cain seemed like a great prospect, but it’s only upon meeting the Shadowraith that she realizes how much more there is to feel towards a potential partner. I’m typically not a fan of love triangles, and thankfully this feature wasn’t a primary focus of the novel. However, we definitely see the hostility level growing between Cain and the man of shadows, and I have a feeling this conflict could possibly become a more prominent discussion point for the next book. That being said, these characters certainly have a few more life-and-death priorities to deal with, including a power hungry king with his focus on the crown, so hopefully they choose to focus their energy on resolving those matters first!

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

Series: Dominions, book 1. This is book one in a three part series. I hope for book two the author will either provide us with a thorough recap of the fantastical dynamics we were presented with in this novel, or maybe even a glossary of important terms we can reference to re-acclimate ourselves to this world. 

Final Impressions: Sometimes the first book in a series is so good you can’t wait to get started on book two. Then there are the premier books that are so fantastically amazing you’re almost angry you don’t have the next book in front of you right now! The Liar’s Crown definitely falls within the latter category. This novel sort of ends on a smidge of a cliffhanger, but the epilogue gives enough of a solid stopping point where you don’t literally feel like you’re dangling off a cliff. Instead you’re just eager to see what our characters will get up to next. It’s very important to know going into this read that this is the start of a series, a fact I didn’t remember when I started. Meren and the Shadowraith take up the majority of the plot focus, so I was initially disappointed that we didn’t see more scenes involving her sister or the evil king. Abigail Owen has always succeeded in creating a dubious villain you hate to hate, and I sort of felt like I was missing out in this one. Now that I know there’s two more books to come, and considering how this first one ended I realize the author was simply laying the groundwork for us to dive deeper into this world of characters going forward.

Smut Level: This is a slow burn of tempting glances, slight brushes against each other, a stolen kiss here and there, and a few instances of intense panting. All of these delicious moments of will-they-won’t-they ultimately intensify into one steamy scene that isn’t too explicit in detail, but it provides enough satisfying description for this first kind of intimate moment between our characters. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Teen Publishing. 448 Pages. 

Fierce Obsessions by Suzanne Wright

He can’t stand her wisecracks and pomposity. She’s infuriated by his ego and skepticism. Sounds like a match made in mate shifter Heaven! 

What’s it About? 

When raven shifter Riley Porter was given sanctuary by the Phoenix Pack, she let them believe she had left her flock. Reluctant to divulge the secrets of her past, she was still embraced as family. Only Tao Lukas, the protective and passionate Head Enforcer of the pack, was resistant to the enigmatic shifter. Until Riley started to arouse in him something other than suspicion…

Tao doesn’t trust lone shifters, especially ones so guarded – and tempting. But the sexual tension between them is making them both come undone, and vulnerable to more than desire. All Tao wants is for Riley to stay with him and to trust him with the truth of her past…

As Riley’s mysteries come to light, so does a danger that threatens not only her life but the safety of the entire pack. For Tao, keeping Riley safe means keeping her close – forever – as his mate!

First Impressions

It’s been a few years since I last engaged with this series, and soon after starting this sixth book I quickly remembered how freakin’ fantabulous it is! If you’re a fan of shape-shifters, alpha wolf males and sassily resilient female leads, you definitely don’t want to miss out on everything this author and series has to offer. I may not have entered this world for some time now, but it simply took one step before I was thrust back into this close pack of characters with unique personalities and dynamics all their own. Riley and Tao certainly have a chemistry and connection which sets them apart from every couple which has come before, and their witty banter back-and-forth is the most delicious kind of foreplay. It’s expected for alpha male characters in romances like this to be the kings of one-liners, and while Tao can hold his own with the best of them, Riley has a piercing repartee that sets her far and above the rest. 

I relished the fact that this novel presented us with not only a dominant male, but also a dominant female who could dish back everything Tao was serving up. There’s a humor to their exchanges which manages to keep everything light-hearted in the face of some rather pointed remarks, and it’s clear that the more “insults” they hurl at each other, the more likely it becomes that Tao will soon be pushing Riley up against a wall, gripping her raven locks in a passionate embrace. It’s also clear that certain characteristics of their animal forms shine forth in their personalities. Tao is all kinds of growly and surly, but just like his wolf he has a stealthy and protective soft-side that you don’t expect to see upon first meeting. Riley might seem small and unassuming, similar to her inner-Raven, but that doesn’t mean she’s weak. Far from it, she’s a quick-witted trickster who can clearly take care of herself, and will stand up in the face of danger to protect not only herself, but those closest to her. Bringing these two passionate, over-protective and dominant characters together guaranteed that sparks would fly, and my Kindle was near set alight by the chemistry emitting from Riley and Tao. 

Fleeing the Flock

While the connection between main characters, as well as sexy fun times, have always been a strong hallmark of each book in the series so far, one detail which has had a tendency to fall short in previous novels was the dramatic plot point. This conflict would often involve human extremists who would turn to violence in their hatred of shifters, but it was typically pushed aside to simmer in the background for the full-breadth of the novel until one final climactic battle scene. Not terrible, but just not always brought to the forefront in a compelling way. This installment of the series brought not just one, but two gripping dramatic plot points front and center, and wove them together in a way that constantly had you questioning where the next attack would come from. On the one hand, we have a human criminal mob boss who is seeking out the healer of the Phoenix Pack to rehabilitate his dying brother, something which the healer wouldn’t be able to do without resulting in her own death. Let’s just say that the word “no” isn’t one that a somewhat psychotic mafioso likes to hear very often. The other element of drama for our lovebirds involves a tragedy which befell Riley’s raven flock years before, and one she’s been running from ever since. When Riley and Tao go back to her flock for a visit, an unknown enemy from the past tries to finish the job which was started but never completed.

While previous installments presented us with somewhat repetitious problems involving human extremists and lone shifters, this sixth book takes us in a different direction completely. Throughout the read you’re practically guaranteed to suspect almost every member of Riley’s flock of trying to kill her, while also wondering if it’s all just a distraction from the real threat of our treacherous mob boss. When Riley and Tao finally return to Phoenix Pack territory we question if they’re finally leaving the danger of Riley’s past behind, if it might follow them back home, or if they’re just leaving one threat behind to run straight back to another in the form of the mob boss. Perhaps a combo pack! While these two dramatic plot points fed off of each other quite seamlessly in a way that majestically amplified the suspense level, the only hindrance came in their conclusion. One story line is essentially the full focus of the climax, drawn out with constant twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat. The other felt too rushed with how everything came together, clearly with the intention of focusing more attention on that other story line. Not terrible, but not as seamless a conclusion as I was hoping for. 

Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 6. If you’re looking for a steamy paranormal romance series with alpha heroes and powerful female leads, be sure to check out this series. 

Final Impressions: This was a fabulous addition to the series. Riley and Tao played off of each other so well. Their banter is simultaneously cutting, yet tongue-in-cheek. A scintillating flirtation that pulls you in from the very beginning, and won’t let you go until you’ve finished the last page. You’ll be fanning yourself from the steam coming off of this read, but it will also keep you in suspense as danger lurks behind every corner. Our lovebirds aren’t the only ones that will keep you entranced, as familiar faces from previous books return to create a sense of family within this pack of shapeshifters. My only complaint is that one of the story lines was too rushed in its final explanation, but other than that this is an exciting and fiery read that you’ll want to be sure and bring on your next beach vacation! 

Smut Level: Mkay….hot daaaaaang. The novel opens on the morning after a drunken sexcapade between our two lead characters, but don’t be disappointed on missing out on a description of their first time together. There will be a plethora of descriptive sexy fun times throughout the novel to keep you fully satisfied, especially considering we have two dominant and forthright characters that can go head to head. Pun absolutely intended 🙂 There is also one scene involving anal sex, just as an FYI for those of you who are or aren’t into that. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 305 Pages. 

Until Cobi by Aurora Rose Reynolds

He almost lost her before he even knew her. Now that Cobi has experienced his BOOM, he has no intention of wasting one more second to bring Hadley into his life. 

What’s it About? 

Cobi Mayson knows exactly who Hadley is to him the moment he sees her for the very first time. That doesn’t mean it will be easy for him to convince her to take a chance on him.

Hadley Emerson knows she could fall hard and fast for a guy like Cobi. A man who seems to show up every time she needs him, but she knows better than to just hand over her heart.

Knowing his future with Hadley is on the line, Cobi begins to tie their lives together. As the invisible rope that connects them tightens and things between them heat up, an unknown threat emerges threatening to take away their happily ever after and send them both into darkness.

First Impressions

Another fabulous addition to the Until family series that will make you wish for an insta-love BOOM moment of your very own. Consider yourself warned, if you’re not typically a fan of love at first sight, that is literally the hallmark feature which binds this entire series together. A Mayson family trait that can’t be escaped, ignored, or lessened. And Cobi Mayson is a most glorious example of an alpha male who doesn’t try to avoid that BOOM, he dives in with everything he has, and everything he wants is Hadley Emerson. This is an interesting addition to the Until Him/Her series in that it picks up immediately where the previous novel, Until Harmony, left off in a climactic shoot-out that left Hadley wounded in the hospital following her brave rescue of Cobi’s cousin. I’ve always suggested reading this series in order for the mere pleasure of not wanting to miss out on anything it has to offer, but for this seventh book especially I’d say it’s quite important to read the previous novel beforehand so as to fully understand the events which brought our two love birds together. As you can expect from this author by now, what follows is a delightfully steamy, yet also emotional tale of insta-romance between a male and female lead you love to love. 

The Impact of Trauma

While Cobi and Hadley’s romance was another fabulous addition to what has quickly become one of my favorite go-to series, there were a few areas that could have been tweaked to make this a truly stellar read. Firstly, Hadley’s troubled relationship with her lawbreaking parents is brought up a few times throughout the book, but their presence isn’t incorporated as fully as it should have been to make them feel like a critical component to the plot. Instead they came across as an annoyance that would come back at inopportune times, and even then we wouldn’t see a clear resolution to the blips their appearance would cause. Honestly, I don’t think they would have been missed if they’d been removed completely from the story. 

More importantly though, Until Cobi presents us with an intriguing, yet ultimately incomplete exploration of the aftermath of trauma. At the start of the novel we see how Hadley is struggling to cope following the horrific events of the previous book, wherein she was almost killed alongside Harmony at the hands of a mad-man. She feels the need to keep every light on in her house, has trouble falling asleep, and is often pulled out of sleep due to terrifying nightmares. We see Cobi, as well as Hadley’s closest friends, gather together to provide her support, and they convince her to seek help from a professional. We also get to see another one of my favorite tropes, which is that only when surrounded by the arms of her man can she find peace in sleep. Hadley’s journey back to something resembling normalcy was fully fleshed out in a tasteful and thoughtful way. However! As with any book in this series we eventually see a final climactic scene which puts our female lead in danger, and it was this second instance of a traumatic event which didn’t receive nearly the attention it deserved. 

It is in this aftermath of Cobi once again seeing the love of his life put in danger that we see the tables turned, and he is now the one who jerks awake from nightmares, and fears letting Hadley out of his sight in case danger should find her once again. And then…he gets over it in the span of a few paragraphs. It felt like such a missed opportunity for what could have been an enlightening comparison of Cobi’s path to healing compared to that of Hadley at the start of the book. Instead we get another somewhat unfortunate hallmark of this series, which is an ending that seems far too rushed for its own good. This book clocks in at just 239 pages, which makes it a satisfyingly quick beach read, but I gladly would have faced another 50 pages if it meant we could have observed what happens when an alpha male is brought to his knees by the forced realization that the love of his life could be ripped away at any moment. To see the strong, knight in shining armor crumble at the simple fragility of life. But to then see the strength of his love for this woman bring him back out of the darkness? That’s the full circle story I would have liked to see. 

Series: Until Him/Her, book 7. As always, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this series. 

Final Impressions: By this point in the series I’m starting to see that some other readers are getting “bored” with the repetitive nature of the plot progression. Insta-love, alpha male, lots of sexy fun times, fairly low drama, final climactic scene where female lead is put in danger. Fin. Surprisingly, I still find myself falling in love with every new couple we get the opportunity to meet, as well as the beloved secondary characters that make each novel feel as though you’re coming home to friends you’ve known for years. What some may see as a tired progression, I actually find comforting in the reliability of the series as a whole. I know I’ll be entertained, probably laugh a few times, reach the brink of tears a time or two, and get some deliciously descriptive bedroom/bathroom/kitchen scenes thrown into the mix. What’s not to love? 

Smut Level: Hadley has never been one to luxuriate in a hot bath, but Cobi is more than willing to show her just how fun and steamy a romp in the tub can be. 

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

One Shingle to Hang by Deann Smallwood

When Lil looked to the future, all she ever saw was the law. She’s defied family expectations, not to mention societal norms, to open her own law practice. Marriage never seemed to be on the table. But all of that changes when one rugged cowboy with a threat against his life walks in seeking her help. 

What’s it About? 

A woman with too much knowledge was at risk for insanity. Her fragile mind couldn’t handle it. That’s what Lil had been told when she went against convention and became an attorney. The 1800’s had fewer women lawyers than women doctors. Her pride knew no bounds when she hung her shingle—L.M. Wentfield, Attorney At Law.

Drew was a struggling cattle rancher, building a fledgling Hereford empire. He was working toward that goal when he was accused of rustling and faced possible hanging. He needed a lawyer—a good one—a man. Chesterfield had one lawyer—a new one—L.M. Wentfield. He wasn’t prepared for a beautiful blonde with a sharp tongue and fiercely won independence.

Lil had no homemaking abilities. Her love was the law. And if the thoughts of the gray-eyed cowboy, who had the audacity to refuse her legal help, stayed in her mind, she’d push them aside. She had nothing to offer a rancher . Even her wealth wouldn’t be considered an asset to a prideful man. And Drew Jackson was proud. So proud, he knew he couldn’t ask a woman of Lil’s stature to share his life—but he wanted to—from the moment he’d stolen that first kiss.

First Impressions

This is a cute, light-hearted read whose synopsis was unfortunately more enticing than the story itself. I’m always excited to pick up a historical romance that will regal us with a strong female character who is “ahead of her time”. While Lil was certainly a headstrong and quick-witted female lead, I was rather disappointed we didn’t get to see her engage more with the law. After moving to this small mountain town with the goal of opening her own law practice, the most lawyer-ly activity we see her pursue is writing up an ironclad will for her first ever client who deigned to giver her a chance. When it comes to helping Drew, the dashing cattle rancher in need of legal help, Lil almost transforms more into an intelligent private detective than a lawyer.

She even goes so far as to set up a sting operation with the local sheriff to catch Drew’s accuser in a lie. An entertaining scene to be sure, but I was holding out hope for a dramatic courtroom argument where Lil could truly showcase her law prowess. The fact we are never privy to one scene in court throughout the entirety of the novel was the peak of disappointment, not to mention that Drew’s drama is resolved quite early on in the novel. Even though an act of revenge from Drew’s nemesis is hinted at in the beginning, it’s a threat which never comes to fruition. Instead the focus of the novel switches to the budding romance between Drew and Lil, which was certainly an adorable relationship you proceed to root for, but the flow of the story probably could have benefited from bringing the conflict involving Drew’s land and cattle business back full circle. As things stood, that particular story line was left feeling unfinished. 

The High Point

While the story didn’t quite live up to the hype of the synopsis, one area where this novel truly excelled was in the characters. This is a world you want to live in, or at least have the opportunity to visit, merely in the hopes of sitting down to a cookout with our outspoken female lawyer, her devilishly handsome and selfless rancher, the candid yet caring housekeeper and her precocious granddaughter, just to name a few. Even our villains were characters you loved to hate, from the nefarious cowboy who has his sights set on Drew’s ranch, to Lil’s conservative parents who threaten to stand in the way of everything she’s built for herself. I can’t remember the last time I was so inclined to don a pair of gloves, merely so I could rip them off to haughtily slap a fictional character’s face.

Even though the author should be commended for the creation of such distinct and hypnotizing personalities, it was also a little disappointing to see the introduction of some fascinating characters at the start of the novel, only to have them fade away from the story completely by the midway point. I think this can once again be attributed to the flow of the plot, which was too distinctly segmented into Lil setting up shop, Drew seeking her help with his legal troubles, and then the slow evolution of their romantic relationship after his legal conflict is resolved. This meant that when one segment was settled, there wasn’t an attempt to bring back some of the characters and drama from that section into a later one.

Series: Chesterfield Colorado series, book 1. Though a sweet read, I’m not sure I’ll continue on with this series. 

Final Impressions: Greater cohesion for how this story unfolded, as well as further incorporation of Lil’s law knowledge, really could have made this historical romance a standout read. It seemed like an odd choice to suggest that the source of Drew’s legal drama at the beginning would come back to seek revenge against him and Lil, but then abandon that story line completely. The book as a whole is relatively conflict free, so to bring in Lil’s parents as the final source of drama for the book felt random compared to the possibility of fully resolving the outstanding risk of Drew’s nemesis. Lastly, every great legal story, from Philadelphia to My Cousin Vinny has an exciting courtroom scene of opposing counselors, so never giving Lil the chance to prove herself in court seemed like a wasted opportunity for some delightful entertainment. 

Smut Level: The most sensual moment of this read is when Drew and Lil share a jug of lemonade together in a shaded, hidden meadow. Their clothes stay on the whole time, and the biggest step they take is a brush of lips, but there’s something about that lemonade scene, as they contemplate where each other’s lips have just been that will make you giddy with excitement. Who knew? 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle book. Soul Mate Publishing, LLC. 213 Pages.  

Deceitfully Yours by Bethany Bazile

Jude was just supposed to be another mark, but it doesn’t long before Kylie finds herself breaking the number one rule of con artists: falling in love with her target.

What’s it About?

Jude Baxter knows instantly that he wants Kylie in his bed. What he didn’t realize is that she’s everything he’s been looking for. When lust turns into love, Jude puts everything on the line to make Kylie his.

Kylie Weber manipulates situations to get what she needs from men, but Jude knocks her off her game. Jude is unexpected and exciting. Kylie soon finds herself erotically entangled in Jude chains and rope, but worst of all she’s gotten her heart entangled in this very dynamic man.

Will the secret she keeps from him cost her everything she never knew she needed?

Quick Review

I’ll be the first to admit that BDSM romances typically aren’t my favorite, but nevertheless I like to try them out every once in a while to mix things up. Therefore, I was a bit surprised that this one managed to hold my interest essentially from start to finish, primarily due to the fact that this wasn’t simply another introduction into the world of whips and spanking, though that was still certainly a prominent feature in the sexual relationship between Kylie and Jude. Beneath the sexual layers of our lead couple we’re also presented with an intriguing con of deception. We know pretty much from the start of the novel that Kylie has her sights set on Jude for some kind of ploy, but as the novel evolves we are privy to the dark details behind Kylie’s motivations in that she is merely working at the behest of a criminal who proves to be the penultimate puppet master, constantly pulling the strings of this vulnerable woman to meet his every whim.

While this side plot successfully added a layer of suspense to the overall story, the short length of this novel at just 241 pages resulted in a lack of depth to what could have been a truly engaging story arch. Instead, we can’t help but feel left wanting when it comes to the relationship which develops between our lead characters, as well as the drama involving Kylie’s con and dubious employer. We’re never provided with enough dialogue or attention to become fully invested in what Kylie’s employer was after, the reintroduction of someone from Kylie’s past, or why our couple became so enamored with each other so quickly considering Jude was always suspect of Kylie’s ulterior motives. The entire novel builds to a climactic twist of a reveal, but unfortunately it was one that seemed fairly obvious from the get-go, not to mention the utter disappointment in discovering that Kylie was aware of this twist all along. I won’t spoil it for the rest of you, but let’s just say things would have been significantly more intriguing if Kylie was just as surprised by the big reveal as the rest of us were also supposed to be. In spite of Kylie’s cryptic warnings to Jude that something from her past would threaten their relationship, but to always remember how much she loved him, Jude is quick to throw her to the side when the going gets tough.

Series: This premier book was supposed to be followed by a sequel featuring friends of Kylie and Jude, but I’m not sure if it was ever released.

Final Impressions: Throughout the entire read we know it’s simply a matter of time before Jude discovers that Kylie’s initial pursuit of him was due to nefarious plotting, and that this inevitable reveal would threaten the very foundation of their relationship. We keep hoping that Kylie will open up to Jude about how she’s been trapped into conning him by the machinations of her scheming employer, but alas, she chooses to keep this crucial detail to herself until it’s far too late. At one point I was willing to push aside this somewhat aggravating trope when I thought it meant that Kylie was refusing to reveal her secrets to Jude so that she could stand up to the villain all her own without needing to rely on Jude to solve her problems for her. Unfortunately, not only do we see that Jude is needed to ultimately bring our heinous wretch to justice, but he then brings Kylie’s initial deceit into their BDSM practices as a way to “punish” her. Even though Kylie always enjoys the dominant ministrations which Jude subjects her to, I couldn’t help but feel this straddled the line of mental manipulation to a point that went beyond their typical forays of pain and pleasure.

Smut Level: Goodness gracious, golly gee, this one is certainly a doozy when it comes to delightfully excessive dirty talk and deliciously explicit sex scenes. At first I thought we were only introduced to a few BDSM moments at the start of their relationship, before things transitioned back to rather vanilla scenes of lovemaking, but the author manages to bring things back full throttle by the end back to d/s play.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 241 Pages.

The Billionaire’s Beauty by Ava Ryan

This Beauty and the Beast adaptation presents us with perhaps the best reaction of our female lead being presented with the most exquisite library in existence. Pushing that surly hunk of a hero up against the library wall for some sexy fun times.

What’s it About?

They call him The Beast for good reason. Now this billionaire boss wants his beautiful–and off-limits–assistant…

Griffin: They call me The Beast. Some people think I’m a bully. I’m not here to make friends. I ruthlessly clawed my way to the top of the real estate market in NYC. No friends needed.

She’s my feisty executive assistant. My right hand… woman. We have an unspoken arrangement: she pretends I’m smarter than she is while I pretend not to notice how sexy she is.

That was before she gave me her notice while wearing that dress.

I can do a lot. Run my family empire. Ignore the loneliness the top brings. Punch anyone who looks twice at her. But letting her go without a fight? Over my dead body…

Quick Review

This second novel in the Fairy Tale Billionaires series is very loosely inspired by that most classic of fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast. While there were certain elements we could all clearly recognize from the original, from a surly male lead with a soft side to the intelligent woman who isn’t afraid to stand up to him. There’s the traditional presentation of an expansive library, a west wing with a troubled past, the beloved father of our heroine, and last but not least a mention of a rose garden. That being said, this reiteration still manages to stand on it’s own two feet without relying too heavily on the progression of events from the original source material, which was quite refreshing. Some of these secondary elements get just the briefest of mentions, whereas others take upon a life of their own with a twist or two on what we might expect. There might not be an enchantress who put a spell on our hero to make him a Beast in appearance, but instead we focus on a difficult man who has been significantly influenced by the trauma of his past, the beauty who frustrates him in one moment while calming him in another, and finally the ever present reminder that their time together has an end date.

There was an interesting contradiction at play to constantly see Griffin argue with himself that he’s not prepared to be the partner Bellamy would need in a relationship, yet also seeing his alpha side break to loose by insisting he’ll be the one to protect and care for her in every way possible. As for Bellamy, she has all the spunk and toughness you could possibly want in a female lead. When Griffin was at his beastiest, or insistent on treating her like his possession, she would turn from sultry romantic interest to a vocal and determined adversary who wasn’t afraid to point out how he was being a total ass. That being said, as they proceed to take their relationship from one level to the next, she was also insightful enough to notice when his shitty behavior was being influenced by the fear and vulnerability borne of his troubled past. Bellamy knew how to navigate the fine line of pushing Griffin to explore the emotional turmoil of his childhood, while also giving him the space needed to come to certain realizations on his own rather than at her constant prodding. We ultimately see that the deep-rooted fear of Griffin being abandoned leads him to try and push away the only woman he’s ever truly cared for so that he can be the one to end things rather than being left behind once again. I wasn’t quite expecting for something that initially started as a light-hearted, sexy office romp to slowly evolve into a heartbreaking examination of loss and the healing power of love.

Series: Fairy Tale Billionaires, book 2. I didn’t read book one in this series before giving this one a go, but I must say I’m now intrigued to finish the rest of the series in its entirety. The love stories for these brothers are clearly taking place at the same time, so the small glimpse I’ve had of Griffin’s brothers and their respective love interests has tickled me pink.

Final Impressions: This was a fun and sexy read that successfully managed to avoid using the classic Beauty and the Beast tale as a crutch to lean upon. Griffin’s traumatic past played a key role in shaping him into the bastard he’s become today, and I appreciated the focus on this troubled history while simultaneously exploring how the progression of his relationship with Bellamy might be the force needed to break through the walls he’s built around him all these years. Bellamy was certainly a force to be reckoned with in her own right, and never allowed Griffin to have the upper-hand in intimidating her into submission. If anything, he was like putty in her hands, even when their bickering was somewhat over-the-top. I will say I wish we had seen Bellamy’s father incorporated a more fully into the story, and not just because the father figure was such a key character of the original fairy tale. He clearly plays a crucial role in Bellamy’s life, but his presence is solely limited to phone calls, which was rather disappointing. A perfectly pleasant read overall though.

Smut Level: This book adds significantly more steam and raunchiness to the classic fairy tale romance we’re all familiar with, which was just positively wonderful. I will say though, the several references to Bellamy’s…nether region as smelling/tasting of fresh oysters was…unexpected.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. I got this book for free on Amazon not too long ago, and it looks as though the other books in the series alternate between being available for free. 208 Pages.

Dax by Sawyer Bennett

This fourth installment in the Arizona Vengeance hockey romance series teaches us a universal truth of romance novels. A bit of alcohol mixed with a seemingly innocent tickle fight will inevitably lead to sexy fun times.

What’s it About?

My name is Dax Monahan and hockey is my passion. And if you want to succeed in this sport you have to bust your ass 24/7. I’ve never had a hard time focusing on my career, but when my past comes knocking, no amount of training can prepare me for what lies on the other side of the door.

Regan Miles was always like a sister to me. When a shared tragedy brings us face to face after several years, I’m shocked to see just how much she’s changed. Gone is the shy, awkward little girl that always used to chase me and her brother around. Instead, I’m faced with a gorgeous woman who makes it damn hard to concentrate on anything but her.

Turns out, she’s in trouble, and the only way out is to get married. I surprise myself when I tell her to marry me. Order her, actually. And most shocking of all, she doesn’t even hesitate before saying yes. So it’s settled. We’re getting hitched and she’s moving to Arizona with me. All platonic, of course. The catch? I never knew I’d fall so hard for my best friend’s little sister.

First Impressions

When it came to this book I broke my cardinal rule of romance novel series reading, which is that after finishing the third novel I immediately jumped right into this one. The fact that the timeline of Dax and Regan’s romance overlaps with a decent portion of the events from the previous novel meant that certain major plot points were repeated. In hindsight, it probably would have been beneficial to read something else in between books three and four to sort of break up the series, but I will admit it was still entertaining to see those important story lines told from the point of view of different characters. As with every new addition to the Arizona Vengeance, we are once again presented with a slew of delightfully tried and true romance novel tropes, including friends-to-lovers, falling in love with a best friend’s sister, and a marriage of convenience. While I absolutely loved Dax and Regan as characters, and the progression of their connection from family friends to passionate lovers to soulmates was a joy of a ride, I can’t say this was my favorite addition to the series, or that it was entirely necessary to have as a full-length book. Let’s dive deep to take a closer look!

Full-Length versus Novella

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. It’s a lovely romance and it’s not like you should skip it when reading this series as a whole, which I definitely recommend picking up considering it’s been an absolute treat so far. However, I almost wonder if Dax and Regan’s story would have benefitted more as a novella or half-book rather than as a full-length addition to the series. First and foremost, as already stated a decent portion of the book overlaps with the events of the previous novel. Although it was interesting to see some of these elements played out from a different viewpoint, it didn’t really add much to the progression of the series as a whole. The overall story arch is kind of stuck at this particular point in time, and it probably won’t break through into another level until book 5, when a key secondary character who as been the focus of much drama up until this point will finally be getting his own book.

And this brings us to the other secondary characters. I am loving the bromance portrayed amongst all of the members of this hockey team, and while the previous novels have provided us with introductions or hints at the drama or romance to come for other characters, this was really the first novel in the series where I felt that other story lines were competing for attention with the one playing out between our lead characters. The emotional turmoil around the team captain, Tacker, continues to be a primary focus in each novel as he keeps spiraling further down into depression following the tragic death of his fiancée months earlier. Every member of the Arizona Vengeance wants to support him, so it makes sense that he’d be an important feature of each book in the series. In addition to Tacker’s drama, we also see the start of what will undoubtedly be an eventual romance featuring Dax’s sister, Willow, and the billionaire owner of the Arizona Vengeance, Dominik. I can’t wait to see this story play out further in a future book, but combining this with the details of Tacker’s story along with Dax and Regan’s romance, there were almost a few too many competing stories going on at once. None of them overshadowed Dax’s story per se, but if they’d been limited more in their description we probably could have seen this book transition from installment #4 to #3.5.

The Leading Romance

And this finally brings us to Dax and Regan. Although they had a few minor bumps in the road to finally admitting how much they loved each other, on the whole their journey was fairly free of angst. Considering that some of the previous books in the series would present us with rather contrived disagreements between our leading characters, it was kind of refreshing to see that the strength of Dax and Regan’s original friendship ultimately led them to having a strong physical and loving relationship too. While the development of their love was essentially drama-free, there were two other aspects to their story which introduced the fundamental conflict of the novel. The first was that Regan’s brother, Lance, who was also Dax’s best friend, was killed during a mugging gone bad at the end of the third novel. The second is when Regan admits to Dax she has a life-threatening illness, and he basically insists they get married ASAP so she can benefit from his health insurance to pay the exorbitant fees required for her life-saving medication.

Both of these plot points were crucial to pushing Dax and Regan’s relationship to the next level, but in hindsight I’m not sure the Lance story line was incorporated enough for it be a necessary feature of their tale. The unfortunate reality of Regan’s illness quickly supersedes any shared despair they felt over Lance’s death, and it was promptly pushed to the background. I think we would have seen the same emotional and romantic progression for our primary characters, marriage of convenience and all, if Regan had simply been an only child and long-time family friend of Dax’s. In addition, as the novel progressed we saw how the drama around whether or not Dax’s health insurance would successfully cover her treatment was also extinguished to seemingly minimize any large amount of conflict. I remember listening to this as an audiobook and thinking the insurance conundrum would inevitably come back into play for some kind of climactic hospital scene confrontation, but when I looked at my phone at one point to discover there was only 4% left in the book I realized we wouldn’t be privy to more conflict for our leading characters. To be fair, they’ve certainly been through enough!

Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 4. I’m going to try and read something else before immediately diving into the next novel, but my goodness am I beyond eager to get my hands on books 5 and 6. I have a feeling Tacker’s book is going to destroy me emotionally, but I’m ready for it!

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fine addition to the series, but a few tweaks probably would have put it above and beyond. Either certain elements needed to be incorporated more fully, such as Regan and Dax relying on each other to find happiness again following the murder of her brother/his best friend, or they should have been removed entirely to focus the story more on our lovebirds in a shorter span of pages. This is the first time while reading the Arizona Vengeance where I felt like we didn’t see much forward momentum in the series as a whole, which was especially highlighted by the fact that so many of the major events from books three and four overlapped with each other. That being said, I adored the evolution of Dax and Regan’s friendship to romance, and we are once again provided with two leading characters you love to love.

Smut Level: Regan isn’t a virgin, but she also isn’t too experienced when it comes to sex. While this causes an initial hesitancy for Dax to take things further after their first night together, it also doesn’t take long before these two simply can’t deny the chemistry simmering between them while living in such close quarters.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Big Dog Books, LLC. 342 Pages.