Company Ink by Kat Colburn

A delicious office romance with a secretive twist.

What’s it About?

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I think this might be someone else’s story…because it certainly doesn’t feel like mine anymore. I can still remember a time when I was happy, when I didn’t go to sleep each night with a stress headache, and wake up each morning and cry because I no longer recognized my own life. A sick parent, a job I can’t stand, a company I hate, and too many people counting on me to stick it out and be strong. This can’t be my story. I guess I’m an unlikely heroine anyway- sarcastic and feisty, and more than one person has called me foulmouthed. Yeah, I guess it’s pretty unlikely that there is a hero and a white horse in my future.

Enter Dan Kelly. The new smoking hot vice president at this horrible company. He’s offered me a way out, one more shot at my dreams and the life I always wanted. He stands too close to my desk with his cocky smirk and makes it hard to type, he pushes our workplace flirting until it’s all I can do not to beg him to bend me over his desk, he challenges me, makes me want to argue with him until our fights verge on something…more. He makes me feel alive like no other. He makes me feel like there just might be a happily ever after in my future.

The problem is…his mountain of secrets.

The problem is…we can’t cross that line or I’ll be fired.

The problem is…he’s my best friend and now I want more.

The problem is…I’m about to be sucked into a story I never imagined I’d be a part of, and I’m not sure if I can make there be a happy ending.

First Impressions

I really enjoyed this book! It was such a good combination of funny, romantic, slightly suspenseful, yet also kind of sad. Office romances are always a tricky thing, and must be handled delicately so that we don’t cross over into inappropriate work behavior/sexual harassment. However, this book cleverly avoids that scenario. Sure, there’s that first initial physical attraction upon first meeting for our lead characters, but they don’t take things further for a really long time. Instead what we see is a true blossoming of friendship. They help each other in work, he helps her with managing stress, and only by opening up through spending so much time together do they slowly start to fall for each other. I for one appreciated how natural it seemed. And sure, once their friendship is secure we do see some fabulous sexual innuendo thrown in there too!!

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Trapped

The work factor of this novel was just as gripping as the romantic side of things. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t fully comprehend whatever the hell technology it was these two were working on. However, that wasn’t really the most important facet of it. Instead it was all about Dani, and how we’ve seen her become trapped by something she used to love. How this company is running her into the ground with stressful hard work that she doesn’t receive appropriate compensation for. Yet she’s unable to leave because she needs the money to help pay for her mother’s cancer treatment. And that’s when Dan comes along.

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The two of them are forced to work together on a big international proposal, the commission from which would allow Dani to finally have enough funds to help her mother, quite working for a company she hates, and finally get back to the woman she once was before corporate suits and fake personalities buried her true self. She can finally focus on living her life and escape from the depression she’s slowly steeping herself in. And I just found this part of the story so compelling. We find this strong woman at her wits’ end. At first she is hesitant to work with the domineering Dan, but they quickly discover how similar their personalities are. They have the same interests, laugh at the same jokes and truly become best friends. He helps her smile again, and uncover the sassy side she’s kept hidden for so long. They both want to take things to the next level, yet also don’t want to rush the possibility of ruining their friendship. Not to mention breaking a few HR rules along the way!

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Taking Their Time

After a while I really started to wonder if we would ever be privy to Dani and Dan breaking those HR rules, because damn do we have to wait a long time for them to get around to it!! Again, when push comes to shove I’m happy we were able to see them develop an emotional connection beyond anything physical, but good God! Eventually there was so much sexual tension I was ready to burst. While you do have to wait until a good three quarters of the way through the novel to get to the good stuff, lemme just tell you it…doesn’t…disappoint! I’d say we get a good full chapter of details, and my word do they make every second of it count. Simply delicious!

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

Series: Nope!

Should you read it? Personally I really liked this one, and I think it’s a good one to take to the beach. You can’t help but root for Dan and Dani to eventually find a way to be together. There are some secrets to Dan that I won’t give away here, but let’s just say they also impact his decision to hold off on taking things further with Dani. There was one element brought into the very end of the novel that I can’t 100% say was necessary, but overall I thought it was a fun, sweet, sexy read.

Smut Level: We have some warming up in a pool, shower, and against a window. See, I told you it didn’t disappoint!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $12.89 Paperback Price. Self-Published. 245 Pages.

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The Dark Side by DB Kennison

Farm life on a cattle ranch can be such an interesting thing. I mean, it seems like one of the only legitimate businesses where one can honestly say they had to take a day trip on the weekend to go buy some cow semen.

What’s it About?

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Addiction, greed, envy…They say every person has a dark side. All it takes to set it off is the right trigger. With the woman who tried to kill her behind bars, private investigator Randi Lassiter is still suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress nearly a year later. And just as she and her cop boyfriend, Jon Bricksen, have finally settled into the routine of a happy couple, someone in town is murdered and the news threatens to send her down the rabbit hole again. What Randi needs now is a case to focus on. When a missing person case waltzes into her office, Randi embraces the chance like the lone life preserver on a sinking ship.

Unfortunately, the client is her ex-husband, Stuart, and the missing person is the woman he’s now married to—her former best friend. Randi’s decision to help the man she’s sworn to loathe for all eternity is so out of character that Jon questions not only her judgment, but her mental health as well. To make matters worse, Randi begins to keep secrets from him, the kind that could ruin a relationship. When Stuart is suddenly arrested for murder, Randi stubbornly stands by her ex and tries to clear his name, despite the evidence Jon has against him. Now pitted against one another, not only is the couple’s love tested, but their survival against the dark side of a killer.

First Impressions

Phew, I think…yes I believe I can finally take a full breath and stop clutching my Kindle in a death grip. To say this book is a suspenseful read that’ll keep you guessing from start to finish is an understatement, just like book 1 in the series! This one probably has even more moving pieces than the first, and at times I was really wondering how it was all going to fit into place, but it was almost surprising when it did all come together like one perfect jigsaw puzzle. Looking back, there wasn’t one piece that was left out, and in the end you could tell how well orchestrated the entire plot was. Everything comes full circle, and you’ve gotta hand it to the author for being able to reign everything in at the last moment.

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Who Dunnit? 

Unlike book 1 where we had to wait until the very last moment to discover who our villain was, we actually find out earlier on in this book who is pulling the puppet strings. Granted, we don’t find out right away, so you do still have the fun of suspecting basically every character in the novel of ill-doing at some point. The true brilliance with this book is that once we finally discover who that villain is, if anything the suspense level heightens even more as our main characters are still left in the dark. We also don’t necessarily understand the full motive or end game of our evil doer, but with every turn of the page I found myself starting to rock back and forth a little more in agitation just wanting to yell to our detectives, “you’re so close!”, or “no, don’t discount that theory, it’s right there!!”. And of course, my personal favorite, “Just answer your damn phone!!!”.

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A Bump in the Road

In book one we saw how Randi and Jon had to work together to solve a string of murders that arrived in this small Wisconsin town. With the start of this second book we see how their relationship has lasted through Randi surviving an attempt on her life by the killer from the first book, and you can’t help but smile at their fun-loving relationship. But when murder pops up again in this small town we see their relationship put to the test on multiple fronts. Will this chief of police be able to cooperate with this private detective looking into his crime scene? Or will he push her away in the hopes of saving her from the details of death once again? And when Randi’s cheating ex-husband comes into the picture, well let’s just say the dynamics of their relationship are pushed to the breaking point.

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Cell Phones and Breaking Bad

I will say at times there were certain aspects of this novel that seemed slightly far-fetched. First and foremost, the cell phones. My goodness this must have been the most frustrating part of the book for me. Not only would Randi and Jon continually ignore the most important phone calls at the most important times (repeatedly!!!), but of course we have the joys of cell phones losing their charge right at the climax. Now I get it, stuff like that happens, but after a while it did start to feel almost like a cop-out to show it’s the only possible way these characters could get into these kinds of situations. Honestly, I’d probably prefer a lost cell phone to characters constantly ignoring calls from their significant other during a time of crisis. Just saying. In the grand scheme of things though, that’s really just me searching for something to nitpick. Maybe I just didn’t like that it simply ratcheted up the intensity of the story!

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As for the criminal activities in the book, I will say they felt a bit too Breaking Bad at times, which is funny considering the show is mentioned at least once in the book. One of those big-time crime issues in such a small, tight-knit community definitely isn’t impossible, far from it, but again it was one of those aspects I’d have to say was slightly over-the-top. Overall though, still a really interesting plot point! Again, throughout the whole thing you’re wondering how everything’s gonna come together, and who will survive. Just keep in mind that there are dark sides to this book, as hinted in the title. People die, and normally in violent or disturbing ways. Nothing too egregious, but just something to keep in mind if murder isn’t your cup of tea.

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

Series: Randi Lassiter, book 2. Another good addition to the series, and just as suspenseful as book 1.

Should you read it? This one might be too dark and suspenseful for the beach, but would be great on a cold and rainy/snowy day. This one will probably knock up the blood pressure a bit with the intensity level. Even though we know the identity of our villain earlier on in the novel, that doesn’t detract from the mystery of it all. Overall, a good murder mystery that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat.

Smut Level: The steamy scenes in this book are few and far between as more attention is placed on the murder investigation at hand, not to mention the fact that our lovebirds have some rocky moments in the book that test the strength of their relationship That being said, the few moments we do get are rather saucy.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. W.R. Publishing. 371 Pages

Lachlan by Hazel Hunter

This book is like Gladiator meets Outlander meets…Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Shockingly, it works!

What’s it About? 

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When Kinley Chandler abruptly lands in medieval Scotland, there isn’t much she’s leaving behind. With her body shattered and her military career over, Kinley has resigned herself to death. But in the past, all that changes. Lachlan McDonnel, the laird of a clan of immortal highlanders, can hardly believe his good fortune. Not only does the mysterious lass save his life, she awakens his heart in a way he’d thought no longer possible. But the druid spells that allow Lachlan’s clan to live forever have a dark side as well. He and his men know all too well that the magic folk never give without taking. Though he is sworn to protect them, the price of his loyalty may finally be too high.

First Impressions

We open on our heroine, Kinley, who has been gravely wounded as a soldier fighting in Afghanistan. She’s experiencing intense PTSD, has no family or friends for support, and has given up to the point where she’s ready to end it all. On a day trip away from the VA hospital in California, she’s prepared to roll her wheelchair off the edge of a cliff when she is suddenly transported to 14th century Scotland where her body is magically healed. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, a clan of immortal highlanders are battling against a legion of Roman vampires, and Kinley is able to assist the Scotsmen by shooting fire out of her hands. So…yeah. Believe it or not, the highlanders and Romans actually make a lot of sense story wise! Now, why a magical portal would transport someone from California to Scotland? Not sure.

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A Fantastical Blend

I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much this story pulled me in and wouldn’t let go! I finished reading it in a day as I traveled from Denver to Salt Lake City for work. We have history, fantasy, time travel, fierce warriors, magic, betrayal, revenge, and some unbelievably steamy sex scenes between Kinley and our highlander laird, Lachlan. Altogether I would say there are three main components at play here: the developing relationship between Kinley and Lachlan, the battle against the Roman legion, and the mystical element concerning Kinley’s travel through time and newfound fire powers. Shockingly, I think my favorite component was actually the fighting, and for one very important reason. Kinley is a freakin’ badass!

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You Go Girl!

As you all know, I love a strong female lead character, and Kinley represents this to the max! She’s not afraid to stand up for herself, and show the men a thing or two about fighting, strategy and hand-to-hand combat. Her persona is the perfect combination of sass, physical and mental strength. This is a woman who is taking advantage of her body’s sudden healing and will live her life to the fullest, even if it’s in another time and place than she’s used to. Kinley knows she’s in a historical era and land where women are inferior to men. But you know what? She doesn’t…give…a f*ck!

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Kinley isn’t afraid to speak up until she’s heard, even if it’s not necessarily what others want to hear. You go girl! And you go all day long! In addition to Kinley’s overall badassery, we also have this larger never-ending battle at hand between highlander and Roman that’s been raging for centuries. It’s a dark and violent battle, and these Roman vampires are merciless and pretty disgusting. Be prepared for some nasty descriptions of battle and blood-sucking murder/mayhem. ‘Twas interesting though!

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Druid Magic and Wonder

The mystical aspects of the novel, while interesting, also left me slightly confused at times. As I mentioned earlier, the reason Kinley is transported from present day California to 14th century Scotland isn’t fully explained. There is Druid magic at play which has made these highlanders immortal, and Romans become vampires. However, the interactions with the local mortals left me a bit befuddled, as these are small villages and the highlanders have been interacting with and protecting them from the Roman vampires for centuries. Yet their immortality is supposedly a secret?

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Then there’s Kinley’s fire power, which is so honed at one point and then completely vanishes the next. Huh? Lastly, the passion between Kinley and Lachlan is off the charts amazing, with so much detail and dirty talk, but at one point Lachlan’s snake tattoo gets involved in the bedroom activities in a rather…disturbing way. At least in my humble opinion! Can’t say it was a feature that was absolutely necessary. Their link is already undeniably intense, so I’m not sure we had to bring the tattoo into the grand scheme of things too?

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

Series: Immortal Highlander, book 1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be continuing with this series. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our other highlander warriors.

Should you read it? This is an entertaining and action-packed read! It’s definitely dark at times, but the strength truly lies in the personalities of the characters. From Kinley’s strength to Lachlan’s soft side, his highlander brothers’ loyalty and even the evil of the Romans. It’s all just very believable even though we’re dealing with so many fantastical elements. It’s a uniquely compelling story, and while I can see how it might be too dark a read for some, I’m excited to see where this story is headed!!

Smut Level: Holy sh*t here people! Just because this is a historical read, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s tame!! We’ve got extensive detail, and dirty talk galore. Which I must say whenever we have dirty talk mixed in with old time 14th century speak it kind of makes me giggle. Such a stark juxtaposition.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Allure Press. 382 Pages.

Consumed by Skyla Madi

OMG you guys, the names in this book are so over the top “romance novel” names you can’t help but love it. Blade? Seth Marc? The guy literally has 2 first names. What more could you ask for???

What’s it About? 

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Olivia James has never been one to walk on the wild side, at least not until she meets Seth Marc—a cocky, sexy fighter at her father’s gym. He’s infuriating, nauseatingly addictive and she just can’t seem to shake him. He’s only been in town a short while and his name is already on everyone’s lips. He’s the kind of guy moms’ warn their daughters about—the kind that leaves a trail of shattered hearts behind him and he has Olivia in his sights. Olivia has never met anyone as confusing as Seth and his hot and cold attitude constantly sends her reeling. She’s never wanted anyone’s touch so badly in her life, but having recently come out of a long term relationship diving into another is something she’d prefer to avoid. Determined for his touch, but not to let him under her skin, Olivia embarks on the most thrilling ride of her life.

First Impressions

This novel has two main themes. First: it’s all about moving on from one relationship to another. Second: good girls can have fun too you know! Olivia has just got out of a six year relationship with an ultimate ass-hat who cheated on her multiple times. At first, she turns to fighter Seth as a distraction, and as a way to finally have a fiery sexual relationship in her life. Well, she definitely gets both, but also more! Olivia soon discovers that she wants more out of her tie with Seth, as she starts to develop real feelings for him. But can she take a chance on a man who is so different than anything she’s ever known, and will he choose to let his guard down for this “good girl”?

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All in All

I will say this isn’t the strongest story, plot-wise. It’s definitely an interesting read, but when all is said and done not a whole lot happens until the very end of the novel. The climax is a rather comprehensive combination of sad, sweet, and action-packed. For the first three quarters of the novel though? It’s primarily just Olivia and Seth laying the foundation for their relationship, without too much overt drama.

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Throwin’ Some Shade

For the most part I can pretty much say I am a fan of Seth. He’s definitely putting himself out there with Olivia by not only opening up about his past, but also even the fact that he’s pursuing a relationship with her in the first place. That’s not exactly his modus operandi, and he’s quite honest and adorable at times as he maneuvers how to enter into a serious and monogamous relationship for the first time.

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However, in spite of his cute side he does also have two brief flashes of darkness. These come out particularly when taunting other men who want Olivia. First was with her boss during a heated standoff in her office. While Olivia confronts her boss about her new relationship with Seth, he proceeds to come up behind her, smell her neck, and tease the boss by saying “she tastes as good as she smells.” Ummm….the shade has officially been thrown!

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Then there’s a moment with Olivia’s ex boyfriend, Blade, who wants her back after seeing her photographed in a dress which he purchased for her. Seth again taunts this potential foe by saying that after one of his match fights he and Olivia went back to his hotel and he proceeded to “ruin” that dress. Daaaaaaamn. If I were Olivia I must say I’d be kind of pissed. You’re kind of crossing the line there buddy. Why not just head somewhere more private if you wanna measure who has the biggest willa walla ding dong? c8fce312f321a767d12a4f0c2a01ef01433b312c22910cca0bcdd5ad9549aa01The Best “Friend”

There was another important character in this novel, and that would be Olivia’s best friend, Selena. Not gonna lie, she annoyed the ever loving shit outta me. Definitely using the term “friend” rather loosely here if you ask me. Look, I’ve definitely had friends who were pretty much the total opposite of me. They’ve succeeded in sometimes pushing me out of my comfort zone to try new things. But, unlike Selena, they have never berated me, or made me feel like an idiot if I didn’t want to try something that made me legitimately uncomfortable. Selena doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “no”, and often offers up judgement when Olivia wants to play things safe. Severe judgement.

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At one moment she scoffs at Olivia for turning down the opportunity of having a threesome between her and a complete stranger. During another she begs Olivia to go on a blind date in her place, and when she then learns that Seth kicked the shit out of this date she immediately calls Seth an ass without even asking Olivia’s versions of events to find out what truly happened. Said blind date was actually a drunken ass who tried to force himself on Olivia, and Seth stepped in to protect her. If I had to describe Selena in a word, it would be selfish, as she’s a woman who only cares about having fun even if at the expense of Olivia’s comfort. Not a fan.

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Series: Consumed, book 1. I’m excited to see where this story goes, and how Olivia and Seth will develop their relationship even more.

Should you read it? It’s a sexy read that held my interest, even though not a whole lot happens story-wise. I’m starting to wonder if this first book is more of a build up to book 2 that might have more struggle and drama between our characters. However, in this book we understand the framework and starting off point to their relationship, so still a good read.

Smut Level: You just know fighters have an excess amount of testosterone that’s bursting for release. One of my favorite scenes involves our couple making a mess of things in the bathtub.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing LLC. 422 Pages.

 

Axel by Harper Sloan

When Isabelle seeks to escape from her abusive husband, she has to turn to a man from her past who she thought was gone forever. Translation? Sexual tension is all up in the house!

What’s it About?

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Fate hasn’t always been friends with Isabelle West. In fact, fate has been a downright bitch. Isabelle has learned the hard way how hard life can be when fate isn’t by your side. It can hand you dreams on silver platters, but it can snatch them right back and hand you nightmares. One thing Isabelle knew for sure fate was consistent with was taking away everything she ever loved. For the last two years Isabelle has been slowly clearing the clouds of her past. Happiness is finally on the horizon. She has a thriving business, great friends, and her life back. All she has to do is jump over the last hurdle…her ex-husband.

When problems start causing her to fear her new life, and memories that are better left forgotten start rushing to the surface the last thing she needs is a ghost from her past to come knocking on her door. Axel never thought he would look into the eyes of Isabelle West again, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to now. He’s carried his anger for so long he isn’t sure he can just turn it off, but when he is faced with protecting her and an unexpected desire to have her again, life gets a little more complicated. How will Axel and Isabelle deal when all their cards are put on the table and everything they thought was true blows up in their faces?

First Impressions

When it comes to my first impression of Axel, I’m not gonna lie he was kind of a scary dick! Axel and Isabelle used to be a couple of teenagers in love, but after he went away to join the armed forces, a handful of misunderstandings and lack of communication forced them to split. She thought he was dead, he thought she moved on to love someone else right after he left. But more on that later. Years pass, and eventually Isabelle is on the run from her abusive ex-husband and trying to get a divorce. Her close friend who works for a security firm decides to put his best man on the case: enter Axel. When these two lovebirds reunite after so many years apart their first inclination is to hate each other. Yeah, I was kind of confused too.

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Axel just assumes that Isabelle is seeking a divorce from her husband because she was bored at being a lonely housewife, as though there could be no other reason for a woman to want to leave her husband. He treats her with a shocking amount of hostility and intimidation. Only when he discovers that her husband abused her does he show any amount of sympathy. You’d think the fact that she needs a security firm to act as a buffer with her ex would have been enough of a freakin’ clue. To be fair though, it’s not all Axel’s fault. He continually asks Isabelle what drew them apart so many years before, as well as what happened with her ex, but she consistently remains close lipped and in a state of annoyance for Axel coming into her life again. Jeez people, can’t you just open up and communicate already?!?!

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Foster Mamma June

Aside from Izzy’s abusive asshole of an ex-husband, we do have another ultimate villain in this novel, and that would be Axel’s bitch of a foster mother, June. Although we never actually encounter a scene with her firsthand, she is essentially the puppet master who pulled the strings that brought an end to Axel and Izzy’s former relationship. When Axel rode off to join the military, he and Izzy initially had every intention of spending the rest of their lives together. But all of Izzy’s letters to Axel are returned undelivered, and Axel never gets in touch with Izzy. When she eventually seeks out his unloving foster mother to find out what’s what, June brushes her off by basically telling her to take a hike. When she returns again later on in sheer desperation, June snarkily tells Izzy that Axel is never coming back because he’s dead.

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Um, I’m sorry, but did this book unknowingly take place in the 80s? Why the hell was it so hard for them to stay in touch, or even locate each other? I feel like one simple text message could have resolved any and all issues here. Or hey, maybe ask around to find out if he’s actually dead. However, there was one thing that bothered me above all else. When Izzy and Axel eventually reunite after so many years apart, she doesn’t express any joy to discover he’s actually alive. No, she’s pissed at him. And why? Because although June told her Axel was dead, she assumes that when Axel did return from the military June must have told him Izzy was still looking for him. He simply must have decided not to find her. Are…you…kidding me??? This woman gave you the brush off and told you the love of your life was dead, and yet when you ultimately discover that wasn’t the case you still choose to give her the benefit of the doubt over him? Whyyyyy? This woman was clearly being deceitful, yet you gave her more credit than you gave him.

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Mutual Animosity

So the blessed reunion between Axel and Izzy is tainted by animosity. She assumed he never tried to find her after returning from military training, even though she initially thought he was dead. As for Axel, he basically assumes that right after he left for training Izzy moved on, and ran off to be with another man. They really don’t like each other. But that initial animosity dissolves pretty quickly as far as actual days, although it does take up a large portion of the novel itself. Then they are all lovey dovey again and planning a future together.

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This was the part of the book that I could actually start to enjoy. While their switch from hatred to love does seem pretty quick, we do have to remember that they have a history together; a romantic past that is an interesting technique to get around what initially seems like a quick romance between them. The problem is that I felt like we never truly got to know them when they were younger together, or at least as a couple anyway. We really only get a glimpse of them at the moment they are separated, rather than finding out what it was that initially brought them together. This does sort of make you question what the foundation of their relationship, whether past or present, really is.

When All is Said and Done

Looking back on this novel you sort of have the impression that these two had an inordinate amount of sex with each other. While true, and believe me ’twas rather graphic, it’s also surprising to remember that they don’t actually do the deed until well over halfway into the book. They spent so much of the first half of the book needlessly mad at each other, before spending the second half constantly intertwined…naked. It almost seemed like two separate stories were pushed into one. A little more cohesion would have gone a long way.

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One of the most satisfying moments of this book, aside from the moment Axel and Izzy finally decide to put their convoluted pasts behind them and jump into bed already, was the ending. Izzy finally stands up to her abusive ex in the biggest of ways. When all is said and done you can’t help but feel the asshole finally got what he deserved. Although Axel was instrumental in helping Izzy end things with her ex once and for all, it was really Izzy who had the last word. You go girl!

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Series: Corps Security, book 1. I could see myself giving the second book in this series a try.

Should you read it? I really wish the section of them being pissy at each other had just been completely removed. It seemed totally unrealistic that after believing he was dead for so many years, his reappearance in her life would make Izzy’s first reaction be something akin to, “I can’t believe you didn’t call me.” And the fact Axel could be so cold and harsh when he knew she was going through something difficult with her husband made him come across as an uber dick. It was only when they started opening up to each other about their time apart that I could truly connect with their story. Before that? You just wanna give em both a good slap in the face.

Smut Level: Good God Axel and Isabelle have a sexual magnetism that is intense, and full of the dirtiest of talk you can imagine. We’ve got licking, pulling, pounding, and enough moaning to satisfy the most alpha of males.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 260 Pages.

What’s Your Favorite Bookstore? 

I was in a discussion the other day with my friends about a new brick and mortar Amazon bookstore that’s coming to town. Needless to say, it got us all to wondering…um, why? This is a company that’s pretty much synonymous with making actual book stores a thing of the past, yet now they’re opening up right next door to what used to be a Barnes & Noble that went out of business. Basically the definition of irony.

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However, while my friends and I contemplated the reasoning behind Amazon opening a physical location, it also got us to talking about our former bookstore loving glory. When I was little, going to the local bookstore was my favorite pastime. I would spend hours roaming the shelves, looking in the bargain bins, and discovering new titles that would whisk me away from small town Ohio.

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While I do still enjoy browsing through bookstores, I’m sad to admit that the joy isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Nowadays I often find myself overwhelmed by such a wide array of books, constantly asking myself if the book I’m holding is actually a later book in a series and I just don’t know it, or what the user review rating might be. 9 times out of 10, I find myself pulling out my phone, and checking Goodreads or Amazon when I’m in an actual bookstore. I know…it’s positively shameful.

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That being said, I will say there is one bookstore that, to this day, remains my ultimate favorite. It helps me hearken back to a time when I was like a kid in a candy store, only I’m surrounded by the written word. I can still spend hours upon hours browsing through this particular bookstore whenever I have the great opportunity to be in the city where it’s located, and that would be Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China.

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Hands down, this is my favorite bookstore I’ve ever been to in my entire life. It’s actually a converted parking garage, which is cool enough in and of itself. But it also has thousands of volumes, from Western and Chinese classics that you can find in both English and Mandarin, to art books, law, history, economics, pretty much anything your heart could desire.

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I first discovered it when I was studying in Nanjing for graduate school, and whenever I get back to China I always try and revisit one of my favorite places on Earth. It’s quietly serene and 100% unique. The entrance is hard to miss, again, seeing as the darn thing is basically underground. However, if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit.

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So that got me to thinking, what are some of your favorite bookstores? Maybe it’s one you’ve been going to since you were little. Maybe it’s a new beauty that you’ve recently discovered. Or maybe it’s a place that’s on your bucket list to one day explore. Feel free to share in the comment section below!

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Carved Wooden Heart by Elizabeth Horton-Newton, Starla Hartless

Goodness gracious this book is an emotional roller coaster! It’s an exploration of how fate takes a hand in one woman’s love life so that she experiences the highest of highs, and lowest of lows with two men at different points in her life.

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A sexy encounter with a talented native artist, a broken heart, and a knight in shining armor are just the beginning in this passionate erotic romance. Dani Stone never expected to fall in love with carver Jesse Wolf Carver. She certainly didn’t foresee the results of her intense one night stand with the sexy hunk. From the wealth of New York City to a small southern community, follow Dani as she journeys the winding path fate has laid out for her.

First Impressions

Dani and Jesse initially come together as she interviews him for an article she’s writing on native art forms, and then proceed to imbibe in alcoholic delights before spending a few passionate days wrapped up in each other. She never expected her life to change forever after falling into the arms of this devilishly handsome, and sometimes hot-headed artist. But an unfortunate misunderstanding, not to mention his proclivity for alcoholic indulgence, forces Dani to run from him. Little did she know he left her with something more permanent than some memories of hot and intense sex. Soon after putting Jesse behind her, she starts to explore something new with another man who simply wants to look after her. Throughout the whole thing you wonder, how is this ride going to end? Will Jesse and Dani ever come back together to rediscover what brought them together in the first place?

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From Start to Finish

I do think this book could have been organized a bit differently to hep with the overall flow of the story. We are introduced to Jesse at the very start of the novel when he re-enters Dani’s life after an obviously lengthy time apart, and we then proceed into a flashback about how he and Dani first met. I have nothing against flashbacks, but instead of coming back to the present after discovering how they first met, almost the entire novel is a very extended flashback showing how Dani must move on in her life to explore a relationship with another man. All the while, Jesse is notably physically absent for the majority of the book. Throughout the whole story we remember Jesse in the back of our minds, and we’re just wondering how long until we reach that moment from the start of the novel where they reunite in the present.

 

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Unfortunately I do think it was almost too much of a separation from Jesse and their few days together in the past. The two had an obvious connection, and Jesse himself was a pretty intriguing character, I guess I just wanted more scenes that had him and Dani together in the same room! He isn’t reintroduced as a main character until almost 80% of the novel is complete, and honestly during all that time I sort of had trouble remembering why their brief relationship fell apart to begin with. Perhaps we could have started right away with how Dani and Jesse met, and proceeded forward chronologically as though it was happening in real time? Or I might have even liked the opposite, where we see more returns to that moment where Dani and Jesse reunite with flashbacks interspersed throughout. Just a thought!

So Freakin’ Cute

Hands down, my absolute favorite character in this entire novel would have to be a young precocious child named Dylan. He was so freakin’ adorable, and quite funny for such a young lad. His intelligence and artistic talent just added to his personality, and you can’t help but love him. Just like with Jesse, I would have liked to see more from Dylan as well, specifically in his interactions with some of the adults in the novel. He’s seemingly quite mature for his age, and if he had been given the chance to have more one-on-one moments with some of the other characters, I think he could have helped them discover things about themselves they may not have known before.

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Short Chapters

Another feature that I saw as both a blessing and a curse to the organization of the novel was the chapter length. For the most part, the chapters are quite brief which is something I usually love! It makes it so much easier to read during commercial breaks whilst watching TV in the evening. However, when you combine this with the fact that we have over 400 pages divided into about 6 parts and 104 chapters, the novel starts to feel a bit broken up and staggered.

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Many chapters would often end with a feeling of dread, or a hint of things to come. When you have so many chapters ending on this note, it kind of starts to wear on you after a while. Just when you think things will start to turn the corner for the better, you’re basically told to not get your hopes up. There’s a part in the middle of the novel where it seems like every chapter ends on a note of, “little did I know the happiness wouldn’t last”, or “I thought the worst had come, but little did I know…”. It was just too much anxiety after a while by constantly waiting around for the worst, and then the eventual ultimate worst, to come.

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Back to the Present

When we do finally catch up with the present, it was kind of shocking how quickly everything came together. We just sort of jump right back into how the novel started, with very little recap after having spent so much time apart. After spending the majority of the book going over what Dani went through for the last few years separated from Jesse, I felt like we never fully discovered what he went through in the interim.

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We do learn a few details, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he too ever spent time with someone else? Why did it take so long before he finally sought out Dani in person? It seems like we never really learn the answers to these questions. I also would have liked to simply learn more about Jesse’s past, and how he came to be the man he is today. Most of the book’s attention is focused on Dani, which is definitely understandable, but maybe having a few more chapters focus on Jesse could have provided us with a window into his oftentimes complex personality.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read. It shows how fate can be both generous and a heartless bitch in the same vein. I will say it really seemed like this was mainly Dani’s story, and an exploration of her growth as a character more than anything, or anyone else. I think the story could have been structured a bit differently to help with the overall flow, but it’s still an interesting tale of newfound love, love lost, and love found again. Some of you might want to have a few tissues on hand when you read this one!

Smut Level: Phew! Jesse is a bad boy with a motorcycle, and you can definitely sense he has a naughty and flirtatious side to him. The heat between him and Dani is delectably sultry, though not too over the top in description.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Createspace Publishing. 435 Pages.

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