Undeceived: Pride & Prejudice in the Spy Game by Karen M. Cox

When you’re reading Price and Prejudice and think to yourself, “this book is good and all, but you know what would make it even better? Some Cold War-era espionage”. Well then, this retelling of the classic British romance just might be right up your alley!

What’s it About? 

“…if I endeavor to undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me?” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 40)

Elizabeth Bennet, a rookie counterintelligence officer, lands an intriguing first assignment – investigating the CIA’s legendary William Darcy, who is suspected of being a double agent. Darcy’s charmed existence seems at an end as he fights for his career and struggles against his love for the young woman he doesn’t know is watching his every move. Elizabeth’s confidence dissolves as nothing is like she planned – and the more she discovers about Darcy, the more she finds herself in an ever-tightening web of danger.

Unexpected twists abound in this suspenseful Cold War-era romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic tale.

Quick Review

Similar to a modern version of a classic fairy tale, I’ll dive right into a Pride and Prejudice retelling as soon as I can get my hands on it! That being said, I would probably categorize this version as “loosely inspired” by the story we all know and love, rather than a retelling of it per se. There were certain inspirations from the original that were unmistakable, from the cantankerous dolts of Wickham and Collins, to the unrequited initial declaration of love by our prideful Darcy, and finally the animosity turned affection of our leading lady Elizabeth. In certain scenes we even see how sticking so close to the original source material in this updated tale of espionage essentially resulted in some unfortunate spoilers of the spy game at play.

After all, when you have the lecherous character of Wickham insisting that Darcy must be a double agent, it’s not too difficult to gauge that his insistence and motives would be less than honorable. On the whole though, there were some hallmark traits of the 1800s classic which were noticeably absent, to the point where you almost question why there needed to be a link to Pride and Prejudice at all. Gone were the familial dynamics involving Elizabeth’s many sisters and hilariously embarrassing mother, while other crucial supporting characters were oftentimes relegated to secondary side plots that barely received mention. I almost think this story would have benefited more if it didn’t try to put a Pride and Prejudice label on it, but rather stood on its own two feet as an enemies-to-lovers romance set in the confusing world of Cold-War spy craft.    

Series: Stand-Alone. 

Final Impressions: It took some time before the plot really pulled me in to the point where I had a vested interest in seeing how everything would play out. A large part of this had to do with the fact that while we see Elizabeth and Darcy engage in a few different spy missions, we’re never really privy to the details or end-goal of each mission. We just know that Darcy is the leading spy of the day, and Elizabeth serves as his translator. We never really learn what they’re after, or hoping to achieve, with each mission. Linking this spy novel to Pride and Prejudice meant that we were constantly dealing with this odd juxtaposition of not being surprised when certain plot points were revealed, but then also being surprised to see some character development twists that were a shocking departure from the original. Again, this read may have had more of an impact if it were a stand-alone book that didn’t try to affiliate itself with P&P. 

Smut Level: This was one departure from the original that I was all on board for! While Elizabeth and Darcy initially tip-toe around their attraction for each other, once their mutual adoration becomes known they have no reservations about physically exploring their desires. And on a hot and sweaty Caribbean island no less!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Adalia Street Press. 334 Pages. 

Beg for Me by Natalie Anderson

This contemporary romance presents us with the biggest fear for anyone out there who manages multiple social media accounts: what happens when you publish the wrong content to the wrong account? The repercussions for Min involve a confrontation with a brooding billionaire who could benefit from a fake fiancée for a few weeks. Sooo…winner, winner?!

What’s it About? 

One mistake means she’s his to marry?

No one needs an image overhaul more than Logan Hughes. His notoriety has reached epic proportions thanks to a sex clip circulating on the Internet. But when his newly contracted social media manager inadvertently tweets his happiness at his engagement, he—along with the rest of the world—is astounded.

With one wrong click of a button Min Jones just committed career suicide. Mixing up her client’s account wouldn’t have been so bad if he had only a few followers… unfortunately he has almost a million. Summoned to meet with him face-to-face, she’s more tongue-tied than ever when he announces that his engagement is to stand and that she’s to be his supposed fiancée.

With her career on the line Min agrees but she isn’t going to hide away meek and mild. If Logan Hughes wants a fiancée, he’s going to have to play by her rules and that means he’ll have to learn to handle some restraint…

First Impressions

While this sequel didn’t necessarily compare to book one in the Be for Me series as far as enjoyment level, it did certainly present us with several high points. From a delightful premise completely distinct from the first book, to a slew of new and intriguing characters, I’ll take any fake engagement romance I can get my hands on. The sexual chemistry between Min and Logan was positively riveting, and you can’t help but enjoy the ride of their relationship evolving from one of animosity to convenience, friendship to love. The majority of the scenes between these two also involved them spending time together in fairly close quarters, whether it was in Logan’s luxurious New York City apartment, or confined to a room in his parent’s mountain resort, which successfully added to the passionate electricity between them. That being said, there were a few different power dynamics at play which oftentimes posed a few problems that probably could have been dealt with or expanded upon differently. 

Who has the Power? 

First and foremost, if this kind of meet-cute had occurred outside of Romancelandia we’d definitely be dealing with a blackmail/sexual harassment lawsuit on our hands. Min is, for all intents and purposes, Logan’s employee through her management of his social media presence. Although the two have never met before, Min’s unfortunate error of publishing an engagement announcement meant for another client to Logan’s Twitter account guarantees a swift and tension-filled confrontation. However, it’s during this first meeting that Logan realizes Min, not to mention a fake engagement, could prove to be of benefit during an upcoming awkward meeting he has to spend with estranged family. To convince her to play along, Logan says that if she doesn’t participate in the charade he’ll basically destroy her business by announcing her Twitter-error to all of his closest contacts. It’s not long after this initial meeting that Logan’s desire for Min takes over. He insists it won’t be long before she’s begging him to give her the ultimate pleasure, and he’s willing to tease and tempt her in any way possible so that she’ll eventually beg for him. 

As you can see, even though we recognize that Min is immediately smitten with this hunk of a man, and her initial reservations to this scheme act as a shield to her admitting her own desire for him, there’s still an awkward employer/employee power dynamic at play here. This continues throughout the novel when it comes to their sexploitations as well. As they set the terms for their fake engagement, Min is initially insistent that there not be any sexual intercourse between them, which Logan immediately sets as a challenge that he will pleasure her in so many other ways she’ll soon be begging him for more. He’s always consistent with bringing her to release, but it’s never quite to a point where she can reach the full potential of pleasure, which does in fact keep her coming back to him.

Alongside Logan’s insistence that she will be the one begging him for sex, he simultaneously vows that he won’t find his own release, whether it be by her hand or his own, until she begs for him to take her. The rather heartbreaking aspect of this entire dynamic is we eventually see how much Min struggles with the fact Logan is continually giving her pleasure, but he’s not allowing her to express her own sexual desires by returning the favor. During one tearful scene Min admits that while he’s been so insistent on her begging for him, the thing that could bring her the most pleasure would be if he were to beg for her. It is during that moment that we recognize how painful all of this constant back-and-forth power play teasing between the two of them has probably been, and it sort of lent on overarching air of unpleasantness to something that initially seemed like it was all in good fun. 

Series: Be for Me, book 2. Even though I enjoyed book one significantly more than book one, I am in no way done with this series. I can’t wait to see how book three plays out involving Logan’s sister and best friend falling for each other. We were also introduced to a slew of other characters that I can’t wait to hear more from in future novels. 

Final Impressions: The initial premise which brought these two characters together was spot on, as was the eventual focus on both Min and Logan needing to overcome their own personal insecurities before they can truly find happiness with each other. While there were certain elements of their relationship which I enjoyed throughout the rest of the book, we do have a few problematic features. This was especially true when it came to power play, which appeared to be a distinctive feature of their sexual relationship. I think the issue here was that power play can be such a personal thing between a couple, that it can make it difficult for us as outsiders to fully understand. I couldn’t help but feel that there were several times during this power exchange that Min was left feeling emotionally exposed and frustrated in a way that wasn’t pleasurable. In addition, when we consider this book clocks in at 397 pages, it seemed the attention spent on certain facets of the plot could have been divvied up differently. For example, after the initial Twitter-error confrontation that led to their fake engagement, there were several scenes that dragged on for too long as they would continually rehash the details of what happened and how their engagement would proceed. The flow of the novel probably would have benefited from several of these scenes being shortened, and instead using that page length later on in the story when it came to Min and Logan interacting with and confronting their troubled relationships with their respective parents. These were interesting elements that didn’t receive the full attention, or even resolution, that they deserved.  

Smut Level: Logan might not indulge Min in his sexual intercourse prowess until she’s begging for it, but that doesn’t mean he won’t introduce her to a multitude of other pleasurable (and fully descriptive) delights. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. 397 Pages

Swaying the Opposition by D.M. Porters

What better way to start off the new year than with a captivating historical romance featuring two headstrong lead characters on opposing sides of a societal battle? We can’t help but wonder who will succeed first, the innocent beauty trying to sway this man to see her point of view, or the devilish rake hoping to sway said beauty into his bed. Crack this one open to find out for yourself!

What’s it About? 

Lady Aeryn Dunning believes love is fiction, a clever myth designed to control the weak. It was why marriage had never been an option for her growing up. But time changes that. Aeryn starts to feel like a burden on her family and yields to their wishes, accepting the hand of her father’s friend, the Honorable Lord Dunning. Kenneth is much older than her, but the politician is kind and compassionate, making him as good a choice as any. The two become more friends than lovers, but sadly, the marriage would be short-lived. Aeryn is left a wealthy widow, free to pursue a cause dear to her and her husband – saving children from factories and giving them the gift of learning.

Handsome Royce Garrington is a member of Parliament whose tragic past made him cold and uncaring. His arrogance is well-known, and his patience razor-thin. The young lord hates wasting time on inconsequential matters and sees the Factory Act as one of these. He believes the alleged abuses in factories exaggerated and urges the House to move on to more pressing issues.

Aeryn and Royce meet under the most extreme circumstances, and immediately he is drawn to the ravishing redhead. Aeryn knows of Lord Garrington; he is a scoundrel, and she should have nothing to do with him. But when the cad threatens her father’s reputation, Aeryn is forced to agree to a most scandalous arrangement with him. Neither is prepared for the torrent of emotions that would overwhelm them during their time together. Perhaps love does exist, and its power can sway the opposition.

First Impressions

Swaying the Opposition proves to be the kind of historical romance where you not only have the opportunity to witness the development of a young couples’ relationship from enemies to lovers, but you also learn something about the time period in question. At first I was a tad concerned that the rather heavy subject matter of child labor and corresponding injuries/fatalities in the midst of the Industrial Revolution would put a damper on the romance evolving between Lady Dunning and Lord Garrington, but the author actually does a phenomenal job of weaving the details of the Factory Act as a key feature into the romantic story line of the book. The two elements go hand-in-hand, and while you might need a tissue (I know I certainly did) a time or two as we witness the harsh realities of factory work in this era, there are plenty of other moments where you’ll want to stand up and cheer for the bravery and resilience of those who fought to bring about an end to these injustices. What better backdrop for two people on seemingly opposite sides of the aisle to find their way into each other’s arms?   

A Blackmail Scheme that Leads to Love

Aeryn proves to be the perfect boss lady of a heroine. She’s the kind of female lead you love to love. Not afraid to go after what she wants, she also does whatever is necessary for the betterment of those less fortunate than her, even if it means throwing societal pressures and expectations to the wayside. Does she ultimately succumb to the blackmail scheme devised by Lord Garrington to get her into his bed in return for his silence over her actions of trespassing to free a young girl from a harmful factory? Sure, but this really shouldn’t be construed as a matter of weakness, but almost as one of empowerment. I couldn’t help but applaud the author for her ability to highlight this scenario as a way for Aeryn to finally explore her sexuality for the first time in her life, and with a partner she actually wanted to say yes to. In a way, it felt as though this moment of blackmail was the excuse Aeryn needed to convince herself it was ok to give into the desire that Royce had awoken within her. You never for a moment think that Aeyrn was forced into a situation that she didn’t want to wholeheartedly explore herself. 

And that brings us to good ole Lord Garrington. Oh yeah, he’s the perfect cad you love to hate, but then grow to love. The story arch of Royce’s character from an unfeeling politician at the start of the novel to a loving partner by the end was probably my favorite aspect of the entire book. Lady Aeryn proves to be the catalyst for him to start looking at what his life has become, and not only question where things went wrong in the past, but also wonder how he might want to change things for the future. In spite of his wealth and stature in society, he doesn’t feel good enough for a woman of Aeryn’s integrity. For this very reason Royce goes through most of the novel believing he’ll never succeed in winning her over into his life permanently, and yet this surprisingly doesn’t stop him from ultimately succeeding (with some supplemental help from a lovable friendly butler) to change his ways for the better. His continued self-deprecation was in fact a crucial feature of his growth as a character, as we are convinced by the end that Royce wasn’t merely trying to change on the surface in the hopes of getting Aeryn back in his bed, but rather she inspired him to do some soul-searching of his own to see how he could become the man, friend and brother he once was. 

The Game of Politics

Politics play a critical role throughout this entire novel, not only in the logistics of the Factory Act itself, but also for the development of Royce’s character, his evolving romance with Aeryn, as well as the transition of a former friend to villainous foe. I remember at the very start of this novel thinking to myself, “it’s simply not believable that there would be such intense opposition, and from our lead male character no less, to the passing of a resolution which would safeguard women and children” to then having this eye-opening realization of “oh yeah…politics…that definitely tracks”. It was almost comically horrific to see how applicable some of the same debates and futile misunderstandings which permeated the political landscape of the era still ring true today. From Royce thinking the tales of abuse and disfigurement were merely overblown exaggerations not to be believed in the newspapers, to other politicians insisting previous legislation already dealt with the topic, and finally to wealthy businessmen arguing a change in regulations would cripple advancement and economic prosperity. Same arguments, different era. 

While these political debates were crucial to capturing our interest in the story as a whole, they also presented two problematic features for our characters that I wish had been addressed or altered in some way. Firstly, as previously discussed, Royce is initially presented to us as…well a bit of an ass. He staunchly opposes the Factory Act, and seemingly delights in arguing with members of the opposition in a way that makes their blood boil. Even though we ultimately see a change in character for Royce later on that makes us (and Aeryn) fall in love with him, the fact he could be so blasé and dismissive of child endangerment at the start of the novel was quite a turn off. We do see a brief mention that Royce believes there are more pressing issues at hand to discuss in Parliament, but we never really get a full insight into what he thinks those topics are. If we could have been privy to one or two other key pieces of legislature that he felt truly passionate about, and perhaps had even put a lot of time and energy into, he could possibly have been a more redeemable character to us, and Aeryn, earlier on. And this brings me to the second, and perhaps more pressing issue that this political opposition presents, which is that it’s a bit hard to understand why Aeryn was so smitten with Royce considering he essentially stood for everything she despised.

Don’t get me wrong, I was 100% rooting for them to come together by the end of the story, but I couldn’t help but feel as though the initial connection on Aeryn’s part for Royce was almost too steeped in sexual attraction at the start. This is a woman who has devoted most of her life to rescuing women and children from oppressive working conditions, and yet after a few tumbles between the sheets with Royce as part of his blackmail scheme she continues to think upon him fondly after he sends her back home. At this point in the story all she knows of his character is that he voraciously opposes the Factory Act every chance he gets, and that he’s an amazingly attentive lover. We as the readers get a few glimpses early on that there is more lying beneath the surface for this complicated man, as we are privy to his inner musings and changing ways, but Aeryn doesn’t necessarily see the same revelations at that point in time. Later on she learns more in conversations with his butler and adopted brother that Royce came from a complicated past that impacted who he became later in life, but during those early days of their interactions she simply knows him as the ruggedly handsome blackmailer who fights her father on the Parliament floor. This is another reason I had hoped we could have seen one other thing early on that Royce was passionate in arguing for, not against, as it could have been something for Aeryn to hold onto beyond their sexual connection as a reason she couldn’t push him out of her mind. 

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This read captured my interest from opening bell, and it was rather difficult to put down at times, as evidenced by the fact I finished reading it in just 3 days. We have a strong female lead, a troubling male lead in want of reform, and a slew of supplementary characters that bring the story to life. Sure, I would have enjoyed one or two more scenes involving Aeryn and Royce engaging together outside of the bedroom, but they were also so focused on each other when they weren’t together that you almost didn’t notice the physical distance. Almost 😉 The time period setting was truly fascinating, and the political arguments presented were surprisingly reminiscent of those we still see made today across the aisles. This novel does present us with hope though. Hope that true love can not only be found, but that there are people who won’t stand down in standing up for what’s right. 

Smut Level: Me oh my is it getting hot in here! There are plenty of instances of bodice ripping and being pushed up against closed doors/walls to make you swoon. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 284 Pages

Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty

A modern twist on a classic fairy-tale. From a devastatingly handsome Prince Charming to an enchanting, down-on-her-luck heroine. The only missing detail was a delicate glass slipper!

What’s it About?

Garrett Tucker inherits his grandfather’s casino empire and steps into the reclusive billionaire’s shoes as the “Prince of Vegas.” His first act is to buy a bankrupt casino in Biloxi. When he discovers embezzling in his new operation, Garrett goes undercover. His prime suspect is the new finance supervisor–the spitfire brunette who stole his heart at first sight.

Andi Ryan moves to Biloxi to care for her godmother and takes a job as finance supervisor for the renovated Bayou Princess casino. She discovers someone is skimming from the till and starts her own investigation, worried she will be blamed for the theft when the new owner discovers her godmother has a gambling addiction.

A rival Vegas competitor has sent a spy in to ruin the Bayou Princess, and Garrett and Andi are forced to work together to prove her innocence and discover the identity of their casino spy.

First Impressions

This sequel in the Cinderella Romances series had all of the classic fairy-tale details which were only hinted at in book one. From evil step-mother and step-sisters, to a cheery godmother, and everything culminating in a fancy gala with our female lead draped in a gorgeous sparkly blue gown. However, this isn’t simply a rehash of the story we all know and love, but rather those details are sprinkled into the bigger story being told of embezzlement and corporate espionage. I did appreciate that all of the Cinderella elements weren’t solely reserved to our heroine, Andi, but also shared equally with her Prince Charming, Garrett. While she may have been the one cursed with the villainous step-relations, Garrett was the one who was hiding the nature of his true identity from the woman with whom he was quickly falling in love. I always felt like the Prince was a secondary character at best in this particular fairy-tale, and it was refreshing to see Garrett as a primary character in his own right.

Screeching Villainesses

Once we immerse ourselves into the plot of this sequel, there were aspects that weren’t quite as successful as book one. First and foremost, it was a bit overly-complicated at times, especially in terms of some secretive behind-the-scenes plotting, and probably could have been about 100 pages shorter. In addition, while I appreciated seeing more of the classic Cinderella details, some of them were almost too over-the-top for reality. This was especially true for Andi’s step-mother and one of her step-sisters who took the roles of wicked villainess to the extreme. They acted as Andi’s boss and supervisor at the casino where they all worked, and while many of us have dealt with overbearing and demanding bosses, these two acted in ways that were clearly an HR nightmare. Their propensity to literally shriek at the top of their lungs in front of everyone about their disappointment in Andi’s work performance and personal life was especially cartoonish. Having villains who could have been more sly and cunning in their deceptions would have been scarier in my opinion than the surface-level crazy these two characters constantly emitted.

Another rather frustrating detail of this read was that almost every chapter would end on a cliffhanger scene or comment, and then the subsequent chapter would change gears to focus on another issue entirely. It was literary whiplash! It seems this technique was employed in an attempt to build a sense of tension to the read which all culminated in what was probably supposed to be an unexpected climactic twist. Unfortunately, the surprise we were presented with was fairly obvious early on in the book, so all of that build-up eventually led to a final reveal that wasn’t as rewarding as I was hoping for.

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

Series: The Cinderella Romances, book 2.

Final Impressions: While this sequel certainly had more Cinderella elements than book one, not all of the wider plot points necessarily came together in a cohesive way. The ending focused more on resolving the romantic story-line between Garrett and Andi rather than tying up all the loose ends of some of the more dramatic embezzlement plot points. We may have gotten our happily ever after, but not everything felt entirely finished.

Smut Level: These two shared some passionate kisses that left Garrett desperate for more and Andi’s eyes rolling into the back of her head. They never take things into the bedroom though.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Soul Mate Publishing LLC. 434 Pages.

Yours by Angela Christina Archer

War might tear some friends and families apart, but this read highlights how it can also pull others together.

What’s it About? 

After France surrenders to the Nazis, all eyes turn to the Channel Islands off the coast. Knowing the Germans could invade their quiet home the resident children of Guernsey are evacuated. Among them are Amelia Ashton, and her older sister Evelyn.

The promise to stay safe.

Forced onto the boat by her older sister, seventeen-year-old Amelia Ashton arrives in Weymouth with hundreds of other children. Although she is placed with a kind and loving foster family in Derbyshire, her world is torn apart. With all her communication cut off from her family, and the boys at school joining to fight in the war, Amelia struggles with her own desire to help. On a whim, she lies about her age and boards a train headed to volunteer with the Women’s Land Army. Finding solace in the work of farm life, she reconnects with William, a young man from Derbyshire, and who doesn’t waste any time asking for her hand in marriage. Can Amelia start a new life without looking over her shoulder at what she left behind in Guernsey or will the war change everything?

The promise to survive.

Fearing for her parents’ lives, nineteen-year-old, Evelyn Ashton stays behind, living through the German occupation plaguing her once beautiful home—the island of Guernsey. Living under German rule, the residents find a new meaning of desperation and despair, trying to survive on rations and evade the threats of being sent off to a death camp. After her parents die in a bombing, Evelyn is left alone to fend for herself against her enemy, and when German soldiers take over her house, she seeks refuge in the only family she believes she has left—Henry—the man once interested in her sister. Can they find comfort in each other or will the occupation claim not only their love but also their lives?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

After completing the first few chapters of this book I was surprised to admit how much it reminded me of Game of Thrones. Bare with me for a second. Sure, there might not be any fire-breathing dragons, paranormal elements or gratuitous sex scenes. And while we can probably take a far reach to compare the impending arrival of Nazi forces on this small island to the terrifying Night Walkers traversing a wall, that wasn’t exactly the similarity I had in mind. Rather, outside of our two primary sister main characters, you really shouldn’t try to become emotionally attached to anyone else in this book, as they are all fair game to become a victim of the horrors of war. This read might have romance weaved into the plot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’ll be given a romanticized view of war. We aren’t presented with any scenes of battle on the frontlines between soldiers, but we do see the devastating effects for those back “at home”. Consider yourself warned you might want to have a box of Kleenex nearby when you pick this one up.

It’s a captivating, albeit oftentimes emotionally devastating read, but alas that is merely the reality of war. We must commend the author for successfully capturing the loss, uncertainties and hopes of those left behind. I’ll admit, I sometimes had to take a few breaks in between my stints of reading this one, as it was so reminiscent of the stories my Oma used to share with my sister and I about what it was like growing up in Nazi Germany with her own sister. From bombs landing in their family attic, to a Jewish classmate who stopped showing up to school one day. She even regaled us with the story of how an American soldier crash landed in a plane outside her village, and she was the only one who could speak a few sentences to him in English before German soldiers came and took him away. I’m sure there was plenty my Oma didn’t tell us about what it took to survive the war with her sister, but reading this tale about another pair of sisters trying to survive each day became quite emotional for me, especially as I tried to envision my sister and I in their shoes.

My Oma, Renate, with her sister, Elfriede.

Sisterhood

This might be a tale of romance, war and survival, but it’s also a tale of sisters. Amelia is sent off to England on her own, while Evelyn remains behind on the island of Guernsey as the Nazis invade. While we’re immediately swept up in the emotional roller coaster this read has to portray, one thing I would have liked to see a bit more of was a connection, yet also a distinction, between these two heroines as sisters. Aside from their goals for the future, these two ladies are rather similar in personality and demeanor that it almost felt like either one could have been present in either part of the story. This is where more distinction would have been welcome. As far as connection, the novel opens with Evelyn pushing Amelia onto a boat for the safety of England, and we sort of missed out on any experience of them together as sisters. It seemed like we didn’t get a full glimpse of their sibling dynamic, and maybe a flashback or two could have helped set the scene of what it was like for them to suddenly be separated by the distance of war.

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 1. I’m officially fully invested in seeing what happens to these sisters, and am committed to seeing it through to the end.

Final Impressions: This first novel is definitely setting the scene of our primary characters, including our sisters and their respective beaus whom they unexpectedly found in the midst of unimaginable tragedy. While I was initially hesitant to see Evelyn start to fall for her sister’s former flame, the situation is presented and explained in a way where you can only root for them to survive this war linked arm in arm. Amelia also finds a burgeoning romance where she wasn’t looking for one, and we must simply hold our breath in anticipation to see how the next few years of this war will unfold for the Ashton sisters.

Smut Level: A few breathtaking kisses, but nothing overtly explicit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 323 Pages. 

The Sins of Our Father by Kate A. Knight

I listened to this novel using the text-to-speech function on my Kindle. I figured it would be a great way to read a non-audio book while working my way through the day. Turns out, big mistake!

What’s it About? 

sins

Amy Koehler was reared to exacting standards to be a better version of her father – a senior counter-intelligence officer with the CIA, an American hero killed in his prime. He devoted his life to his country. Then his country betrayed him. A loving daughter must choose between loyalty and love… Even if she must betray her country in the pursuit of justice, Amy will finish her father’s work and avenge his death Amy.

Todd Birch is a charismatic diplomat who complements Amy’s rise to the apex of her career. Despite her best intentions he becomes more than just a means to an end. The pure, primal attraction between them can neither be tamed nor denied, and they know they could wait a lifetime and never feel the like again. But Todd is not who he claims to be. When the time comes to choose between sacrificing herself and running from the consequences of her work, will Amy finally understands what it means to love someone more than herself?

First Impressions

Amy shies away from people. She’s a methodical woman who doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion in her interactions with others. Therefore, the robotic voice of my Kindle’s text-to-speech made her seem even more mechanical than she already is. Definitely a major fault on my part. However, that still didn’t change the fact that I found it pretty hard to relate to Amy on any kind of emotional level. She works so hard to distance herself from other characters in the hopes of not being hurt herself, that I feel she also distances herself from us as the readers.

9

Todd vs. Townsend

There’s a pretty interesting/strange dynamic when it comes to Amy and her love interests. She initially set out with the intention to have an affair with the dashing Townsend, who is kind of a co-worker of hers. Unfortunately for him, he arrives late to the party where Amy intended to approach him. So along comes Todd. He swoops Amy off her feet, and the rest is history.

quantum

Only it turns out there’s a lot more history involved than any of us were aware of, including Amy. Todd and Townsend have a history of their own, as they were both involved with a woman named Mona, who met with a tragic end. There is obviously a lot more to this story that we aren’t aware of, which gets kind of frustrating at times. I did find it funny though how Todd and Townsend were basically in a pissing contest when it came to who would be able to take Amy home for the evening. Seriously boys, just whip ’em out and measure already.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!

choking

The sex presented in this novel was out of my personal comfort zone, but to each his/her own! Amy likes it rough, including being choked by her lover. Todd is hesitant at first, but let’s just say he quickly gets into it. I guess as long as both partners are comfortable with it, that’s the most important thing? Unfortunately, things start to take a darker and more violent turn.

Things escalate rather quickly with their sexual relationship in way that was pretty concerning. Choking turns into slapping, and Amy gets visible bruises following their amorous activities. When she runs into Townsend with her visible marks, he is obviously concerned. The fact that she is so tight-lipped about anything relating to herself makes him even more worried. I’m not sure if we were supposed to side with Amy in this scenario, but I could definitely see where Townsend was coming from in thinking that some abuse was going on.

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 1.

Should you read it? The sex scenes were too rough for my taste. In addition, I felt like there were too many stories happening at the same time. We have a love triangle, drug smuggler, the murder of Amy’s parents, and a few other story lines that are mainly build-up for the next novel.

Smut Level: And you thought Fifty Shades was rough?!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Khaton Enterprises LLC. 396 Pages.

The Protector by Abigail Owen

Lyndi and Levi have been denying their true feelings for over 200 years. When the fates of war threaten to pull them apart, they finally have to confront the desire they both feel for each other.

What’s it About? 

The cousin of the High King, Lyndi Chandali has lived with the constant threat of being pawned off as a political prize. A rare, female-born dragon like Lyndi can’t truly mate—not in the way it counts. Which is why she’s kept her distance from a certain sinfully delicious Beta. Instead, she’s built a life for herself giving orphaned dragons in the Americas a home.

As Beta of his team of enforcers, Levi Rowtag is a fighter first, last, and always. His job is to protect—his team, the shifters in his territory, and the stubborn woman hell-bent on fighting with him at every turn. He knows from the moment they first meet what she’ll never accept—they are destined to be mated.

But with the kings at war, the enemy is now coming for Lyndi. Worse, he’s coming for her orphans, too. He’ll have no choice but to defy his king and go rogue if he has any hope of protecting them all…and finally claiming his mate.

First Impressions

Every once in a while you manage to come across a very special series that fills you with excitement with the start of every prologue. After a thrilling journey full of delightful characters and gripping storyline you’re almost sad to have the story end. But then each epilogue fills you again with that familiar excitement of anticipation as another sequel’s groundwork is laid out before us. This fantastic addition to the Fire’s Edge and companion Inferno Rising series proves once again that Abigail Owen has succeeded in brining us into this world that we never want to leave, or ever see the series end for that matter.

Throwing Away the Rule Book

A truly thrilling aspect of this series is that we’re constantly kept guessing as to what might happen next, or which preconceived assumptions will change with every turn of the page. While we’ve come to understand some of the basic components of this fantasy world of dragons, it’s a world without a rule book, or at least, the rules are constantly evolving. The Huracan Enforcer team have come to realize how long they’ve been kept in the dark by their leaders when it comes to mates, mating, and what is or isn’t possible in their magical landscape. The impossible is seemingly increasingly possible with each passing day. This lack of a rule book is what keeps each new addition to the series interesting and unique from that which came before. I definitely had a moment or two where I had an “oh snap” exclamation of surprise from a plot twist I didn’t see coming.

The Couple of the Series

Hands down, Lyndi was my favorite heroine of this series so far. She was a powerhouse of a woman who could hold her own with the boys, had a heart of gold to take in orphans who nobody else wanted, and a sprinkling of self-doubt when it comes to her worth in life as a sterile female dragon. Levi has loved her since first meeting, but her initial cold shoulder has kept him at a distance from admitting his true feelings for centuries. When Levi is called away by his king to fight in a war of kings, he realizes he has no more time to stay away from Lyndi. It’s when they’re at risk of losing each other that they can voice how important the other is to their very existence.

As if the prospect of Levi being called away wasn’t hard enough of a trial for their burgeoning relationship, when a dragon from a rival enforcer team comes to claim Lyndi as his own mate, the challenges before them are thrown into overdrive. Levi and Lyndi’s connection was palpable from the first page, and their combined strength in the face of adversity made them a standout couple of the entire series. Lyndi is convinced her infertility means Levi is deserving of more, but he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to prove to her that he not only loves her, but that they’re fated mates who deserve to be together. You root for him to succeed in convincing her to accept him fully into her heart, and you keep your fingers crossed that they’ll both succeed in defeating a common enemy who wants Lyndi for himself.

Digital painting by Sunima (Sunniva Myster)

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 5. I can’t wait for the next book!!! I’m beyond excited to focus on a former member of the Huracan team who went rogue. Be sure to read this series in order, as well is in conjunction with the Inferno Rising series.

Final Impressions: Once started, it was near impossible to put this book down. I actually read the whole thing in about 3 sittings. Levi and Lyndi’s story immediately pulls you in and won’t let go. They have so many forces trying to pull them apart, that you can’t help by stand by on the sidelines cheering on every success they achieve in the face of hardship. What seemed like years of animosity between them have shown how much they’ve watched and learned about each other in all that time. Lyndi and Levi are the ones to draw you in, the rest of the team will pull you in even closer with their familial support, and their battles against injustice will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Smut Level: These two may have waited hundreds of years before indulging in their ultimate physical desires, but we certainly don’t have to wait long before Levi has Lyndi spread out and tied to her bed. Talk about dragon’s fire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 254 Pages

Finder Keeper of My Heart by Vina Arno

Emma is convinced a message in a bottle holds the key to her future happiness. When she meets handsome Avery bathing nude under a waterfall in Hawaii she believes he’s the one she’s been waiting for all these years. Oh honey let’s be honest, his rock-hard abs and bare tushy helped with that decision too!

What’s it About?

Emma Munroe, a Juilliard senior, snags a plum role on Broadway a few weeks before her twenty-first birthday. She travels to Hawaii with her best friends to celebrate. When she gets lost in a jungle during an impromptu hike, she happens upon a waterfall—and a naked hunk bathing underneath it. When she finds out his name is Avery Bell, she’s dumbstruck. She believes she’s meant to love someone named Avery. It all goes back to a message in a bottle she found when she was nine, a letter written by a soldier called Avery to his sweetheart named Emma. He’d written it in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack during World War II. Since then, Emma has been searching (and saving her virginity) for her own Avery. But Avery Bell is as mysterious as he is irresistible. Emma learns about his family secrets and bitterness. In the course of this vacation, an accident and a tragic death will shake both of them to the core. Her singular faith in him—her unwavering belief in love and destiny—proves to be his saving grace.

First Impressions

Emma is a carefree, spunky actress with a whimsical tendency to create word mashups to find the perfect way to describe any situation. Avery is a tech nerd who prefers the quiet solitude of nature to the company of others. These two couldn’t be more mismatched, but when their paths cross in the middle of the Hawaiian rainforest, they’re inexplicably drawn to each other. They challenge each other to look at the world around them in new ways, and open their eyes to the possibility of something different in life. As if that wasn’t enough of a reason for Emma to start falling for Avery, his very name has her convinced they’re meant to be.

Years before, Emma discovered a washed-up message in a bottle from WWII where a man named Avery professed his undying love for a woman named Emma. Since that day, Emma has always believed the love of her life would be named Avery. Seems like a somewhat silly reason to love someone, and in a way I think it resulted in Emma overlooking a rather important red-flag detail when it came to Avery. Namely, that he already has a girlfriend waiting for him back in civilization.

The Other Woman

Upon first meeting, Avery is initially annoyed with this carefree spirit who has interrupted his solitude in the jungle. It doesn’t take long though for her inquisitive nature to win him over, and it’s not until a passionate make out scene that he reveals he already has a girlfriend. Now, they’re on a bit of a break at the moment, but they haven’t officially broken up yet either. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the classic Ross and Rachel Friends debate of whether or not Avery’s kisses with Emma could be construed as cheating considering that he and his girlfriend were “ON A BREAK!!”

I think that what most rubbed me the wrong way about this couple was that even after Avery admits he is already involved with another woman, this fact doesn’t really deter Emma. She continues to flirt and tease Avery, initiate kisses with him and shockingly almost seems upset when Avery refuses to sleep with her. As for Avery, he tries his best to say no, but can’t deny his time with Emma is making him re-think continuing his relationship with his girlfriend. What kind of bothered me though is that when his girlfriend comes to town for an unexpected visit and he admits that he and Emma have kissed several times, he gets agitated when his girlfriend greets Emma with coldness and an underlying sense of hostility. I mean…did he really expect these ladies to become best buddies and go shopping together or something? Of course they’d be wary spending any time together, and having to pretend to be cordial.

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

Series: Stand-alone.

Final Impressions: This is a romance where seemingly polar opposites are able to learn from and challenge each other. Avery teaches Emma how to appreciate the slowness and beauty of nature, somewhat taming this whirlwind of energy. Emma is able to get Avery to live in the moment, and be more carefree and indulgent in life. While I didn’t agree with some of the choices they made in their relationship, or Avery’s interactions with his girlfriend, the situation wasn’t really presented as though we are supposed to agree with every decision they make. Instead, we see that they’re humans who err and learn from their mistakes.

Smut Level: These two spend most of the book pining after each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their hot and heavy moments. Especially when it comes to stumbling upon the other bathing naked out in the open.

Always, Almond Fudge by Charlotte O’Shay

“It’s never a bad time to tell someone you love them.” This novella is as short and sweet as a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream.

What’s it About?

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On a lengthy car ride to their annual seaside vacation, a mother recounts the true story of a sweet family tradition.

It’s the summer of 1941 in the seaside town of Langford, Rhode Island, and seventeen-year-old Meredith Franklin works as a server at Seymore’s Ice Cream Shoppe. When aspiring baseball player Anthony Fanelli strolls into the ice cream shop, his teasing banter leads to romantic sparks and dreams of forever love. Their whirlwind courtship comes to an abrupt halt on December 7, 1941, when America enters World War Two, forcing the couple to put their future on hold.

Decades later, a treasure trove of wartime letters details the romance of Merry and Anthony and the sacrifices of a generation.

First Impressions

How does one keep their bored teenage son entertained during a lengthy traffic jam in the midst of their summer road trip? Easy! There’s nothing better than sharing a family tale of summer love that takes place in the shadow of war. The bulk of this novella plays out during the summer of 1941, but it is juxtaposed against a mother telling her son, Sebastian, this story of romance during the present day. I must say these few brief scenes involving the mother and son were a delightful comedic break, especially when Sebastian requests that his mother gloss over the kissing parts of the tale to instead focus on the exciting baseball prowess of his great-grandfather. It was almost a fond call-back to the young boy in the Princess Bride who solemnly asks, “Is this a kissing book?”. As it turns out, the scenes involving Anthony and Merry weren’t filled too heavily with smooches, but it was a sweet tale that will put a cheesy grin on your face from their meet-cute over ice cream, to their letters of love exchanged during wartime.

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The Events of December

Anthony and Merry’s story of romance begins during the steamy summer months of 1941. Their attraction was instant, with zings of electricity felt throughout the small ice cream shop where they first met. As their relationship progresses we see their romance extend beyond the heat of the summer into fall. When they celebrate Thanksgiving together we sigh at how their summer fling seems to be turning into a forever kind of love. However, with the progression of the seasons, we increasingly start to hold our breath in anticipation of the tragic events of December which we know are lying in wait just around the corner. This novella might be brief, but you can’t help but commend Charlotte O’Shay for her ability to capture our attention from the get-go, and instill such a wide-range of emotions throughout the pages, from infatuation to suspense and an overall captivating level of enjoyment. If you’re looking for a quick, sweet summer read that has a hint of drama, then this is the story for you!

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

Series: One Scoop or Two. I would actually love to see this novella turned into a full-length novel. There is such strong content filled throughout this short novella that I could see myself becoming even more invested in their story the more time I spent with these characters.

Final Impressions: When I first received this novella I had every intention of saving it for the beach. However, I ended up finishing the whole thing before I could even get there! It only takes about 30 minutes to read, and has a little bit of everything you could possibly want in a summer romance. A small seaside town, sweet ice cream treats, a charming tale of love, a tad of wartime suspense, the importance of family, and a happily ever after that is simply the perfect cherry on top of the whole thing.

Smut Level: This is a clean read from start to finish. There are a few exchanges of blushing glances, a stroke of the arm, and a gentle kiss or two to make you sigh with appreciation.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 53 Pages.

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Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Parker is a straight-laced woman who demands order in every aspect of her life. But when sexy bad-boy Malcolm comes along offering her a ride on his motorcycle, she can’t possibly say no.

What’s it About? 

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As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride’s vision. She just can’t see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcom Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker Brown—with her endless legs—is no exception. But as a good friend of Parker’s brother, he knows that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step.

No man has rattled Parker in a long time, but the motorcycle-riding, raven-haired Mal seems to have a knack for it. His passionate kisses always catch her off guard, much like her growing feelings for him. Parker’s business risks have always paid off, but now she’ll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart…

First Impressions

Parker is a planner in every sense of the word. Not only does she handle the fundamental management of her wedding business, Vows, with her group of besties, she’s also meticulously organized when it comes to her personal life. She may not have time for romance, but when it does happen she has the basic idea of what the love of her life will look like, act like, and how he’ll eventually propose. Let’s just say that when sexy grease monkey Malcolm comes along, he completely throws her perfectly planned schedule off its tracks.

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“What’s happening with Malcolm is completely off script”

We’re meant to believe that these two are polar opposites who can’t help but be physically attracted to each other. However, once we dive deeper beyond the surface level details of their occupations, not to mention the fact they grew up on different sides of the track, we find that they actually have more in common than we or they were led to believe. First off, they’re both business people. They weren’t afraid to grow something from the ground up into the successes they both have today, and that prowess is an aphrodisiac unlike any other. Second, and most importantly, they’d do anything for family. Whether it’s his mother, or her best friends who have essentially become sisters, these two are caring and affectionate behind the tough facades they like to wear for the outside world. When they both catch glimpses of this in each other, they can’t help but fall deeper in love.

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A Hectic Compromise

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the key to any relationship’s success in Romancelandia is compromise. Malcolm and Parker both excel, yet also flounder when it comes to this concept. On the one hand, these two lovebirds are excessively busy business people, which means that they oftentimes have to balance their time together when the harsh realities of running a business come knocking. Parker especially is wont to answer her constantly ringing phone to placate and soothe a nervous bride-to-be. I think one of the reasons Parker knew Malcolm was different than all the other men who came before was that he never chastised her for being busy, and even encouraged her to answer her phone during a date.

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This is something that obviously wouldn’t work for everyone, but for these two it made sense. Malcolm knew she’d constantly be worrying about who was on the other line if she didn’t pick up, and he could also appreciate that her business was her baby. Vows was part of the package when it came to dating Parker, and he was more than willing to compromise a few minutes on their date if it meant it would set her mind at ease for the rest of the evening…and into the next morning if you catch my meaning.

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The Past Can Hurt

One area where I feel these two struggled to compromise was in communicating openly about their respective pasts. Malcolm has obviously suffered on multiple accounts throughout his past, including the loss of his father, abuse at the hands of an uncle, and a car accident which left him scarred beyond just the physical sense. All of these experiences have influenced the man he is today, and he’s hesitant to open up about the details of his past. When the going gets tough, he prefers to push it aside rather than talk out with Parker what’s bothering him. After a while, Parker becomes fed up with the fact he won’t be more open with her, and it results in an argument that threatens to break their relationship.

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Now…I get why she was frustrated. She could always tell when something was impacting Malcolm, and while she knew some of the basic details of the difficulties he’d previously experienced, he never confided in how he felt about those things. However, we don’t exactly see her throwing all of her emotional cards on the table to discuss how she felt in the aftermath of her own parent’s deaths years before. I feel like if she had shared a little bit about her own past tragedies in those moments when she wanted to learn more about him, perhaps Malcolm would have been more willing to bare his soul. As it stands she would just yell and storm out in anger. Not very productive.

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Series: Bride Quartet, book 4. The sun has finally set on this romance quartet.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fun, cute series with a group of gals and guys you’d love to hang out with and drink some wine. The author does a good job of inviting us into their world, and making it feel as though we’re witnessing the love stories of our actual friends. The series as a whole is kind of lacking in drama, with just a few minor arguments sprinkled throughout. At times I’ll admit things did kind of straddle the line into boring when too many wedding planning details were being discussed, or our couples contemplated whether or not to admit how much they cared for each other. Books two and four were probably my favorite, but as a whole it was a nice, cohesive series.

Smut Level: Of all the books in this quartet, this last one is probably the steamiest of them all. Malcolm might not be what Parker was expecting, but she’s more than willing to go for a tumble between the sheets with him. Or even in a supply closet!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 369 Pages.