Escaping Exile by Sara Dobie Bauer

Edmund finds himself shipwrecked on an island with an exiled vampire and a group of cannibals for company. And you thought your day wasn’t going so well?

What’s it About? 

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Andrew is a vampire from New Orleans, exiled to a tropical island in the 1800s as punishment for his human bloodlust. During a storm, a ship crashes off shore. After rescuing a sailor from the cannibals native to the land, Andrew becomes fascinated with his brilliant, beautiful new companion, Edmund.

Edmund is a British naturalist who has sailed the world seeking new species. Intrigued by creatures that might kill him, immortal Andrew is this scientist’s dream-but so is making his way back home. Edmund will fight to survive, even while wrapped in the arms of a monster.

As light touches and laughter turn to something much more passionate, the cannibals creep ever closer to Edmund. Can the ancient vampire keep his human alive long enough to escape exile and explore their newfound love, or will Andrew’s bloodlust seal his own doom?

First Impression

When Edmund first washes ashore on this lonely island in the middle of nowhere, Andrew thinks it’s his lucky day. He’s finally managed to capture a potential food source away from the hungry cannibals he’s been sharing this island with during his exile for the last few years. Once Andrew gets a good look at this stranger though he realizes that he desires him in another way beyond food. The brilliance of this read is that we all know it’s simply a matter of time before Andrew gives into his hunger for this man. His desire is so strong it’s an inevitability. What we don’t know though is which hunger he’ll succumb to first. His physical desire for Edmund, or his stomach’s need for sustenance? For a short read of only 83 pages, there’s definitely a building sense of anticipation as Andrew’s hunger grows, which begs to question if Edmund will come out unscathed on the other end. We want them to come together, but you sort of hold your breath in the process as you wonder if Andrew will be able to keep his darker hunger for Edmund in control.

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Exiling a Monster

The bulk of this novella takes place on the island, but we do get a few flashbacks here and there where we get a glimpse of Andrew in New Orleans before his exile. While there was a good balance between island time vs. flashback, I do wish we had more fully explored Andrew’s relationship with Michelle, the leader of his coven. She’s the one who exiled him to this tiny island full of cannibals, yet I can’t say I fully understand the reasons behind his exile. I mean yeah, sure, he killed a lot of blokes back in New Orleans, but…they’re vampires. Isn’t that sort of their modus operandi?

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We even get a very revealing flashback scene wherein we witness Andrew’s camaraderie with another member of his coven who seemed even more heartless and reckless than Andrew. At least Andrew seemed to want to bring his victims to unspeakable pleasure before drinking up every last drop of blood. Gotta look for a bright side, right? Obviously there must have been a building animosity from Michelle towards Andrew, but I would have liked maybe one additional flashback scene where we see why Michelle was so fed up with him that exile was the only option. It’s not only the impetus behind his very presence on this island, but I think it also could have revealed a very interesting and perhaps darker side to Andrew’s nature and character.

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The Cynic in Me

From the minute that Andrew finds Edmund on this beach you want them to end up together. However, a very small and cynical part of me couldn’t help but wonder if this is actually love, or just a convenient answer to Andrew’s last four years of solitude. Don’t get me wrong, I positively love the idea of them together. The naturalist and the vampire? Perfect. Upon discovery of Andrew’s dark creature hiding within, Edmund can’t help but want to study him. He’s spent the better part of his life traveling the world looking for new species, and he’s certainly hit the mother-load on this tiny island. You can’t help but question though if their intense connection is due to Andrew’s admiration of Edmund’s spunky attitude, or if he’s just so thrilled to finally have the presence of an able-bodied male on this island who happens to have the same sexual tastes as himself. I want to believe their love is true. However, considering not only their brief time together, but also the rather short length of the book, I’m not 100% convinced that we were presented with enough scenes demonstrating the depth of their feelings for each other.

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A Saving Grace?

It’s not long before both Andrew and Edmund indulge in their desire for each other. As their love for each other grows, so does their intense wish to escape from this hellish island. I have a feeling though that getting off the island may not eventually prove to be the saving grace they were both hoping for. Sure, they may have had cannibals for neighbors, but who out there doesn’t have at least one neighbor that they’re not a huge fan of? At least on the island they could both be themselves with each other, wrapped up all day long in their passion. We have to wonder if Andrew will be the same loving and in-control vampire he became on the island after he is let loose once again among the numerous temptations of New Orleans. Will his increased access to blood drive him to revert to his old ways, with a different kill and a different man in his arms every night? Or will his love for Edmund hold true once they leave the island behind them? I can’t wait to find out what’s in store next for our unlikely couple!

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

Series: The Escape Trilogy, book 1. There’s a really intriguing concept which is introduced at the end that will leave you wanting more!

Final Impression: I definitely understand why this book was shorter in length, as we are essentially dealing with two men trapped on an island alone together. If it was much longer we could easily run the risk of entering boredom territory. That being said, I think I would have liked to have seen two additional scenes. One which dealt more with Michelle’s reasons for exiling Andrew in the first place, and one more which maybe highlights an even deeper connection between Edmund and Andrew. They definitely open up with each other, and confide some crucial details of their respective pasts, but I think just one more scene could have cemented my belief in their relationship.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaamn. These two get to be all kinds of sweaty. Edmund asks Andrew to strip out of his clothes so he can conduct a full scientific examination of this unique species. Sure buddy, like that’s your only reason for asking him to shed his breeches 😉 What follows his plenty of kissing, licking, sucking, rutting, thrusting and of course biting that will be sure to make this day at the beach positively sweltering.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. NineStar Press. 83 Pages.

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Rogue Dragon Rising: Part One by T.J. Shaw

Let’s kick off the new release extravaganza in style! Shifters and herbivores and a sexy-ass dragon, oh my! This novel is jam-packed with fantastical characters, and its cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more.

What’s it About?

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Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her.

Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy.

As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?

First Impressions

I’m definitely intrigued by this world! It literally pulls you in from the opening scene. But at the same time I can’t help but feel a little bit lost in it. There’s a lot going on! We have shifters, one-souls, sheep, dragons, herbivores, predators, half-breeds, Trinity moon, auctions, Eldians, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things here. Oh, healers! That’s another one. Rogues! Panthers! Gahhh, fantasy character overload! I thiiiiiiink I understand what most of it means, but I would have appreciated a few extra pages focusing on the unique features of this world so I could confidently understand how all the players fit together. Something that you don’t need a guide map to understand though is the electric magnetism bringing Amari and Jaxon together. At times they don’t even need to exchange words. All of their desire and fascination can be expressed solely in their eyes. It’s some pretty heady stuff at times, and it’ll keep you turning the pages for more.

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Who Are You? Who Am I?

In addition to all the fantastical elements at work here, there’s another unique added plot element of Amari having lost her memory. This takes place right at the very start of the book, so we as the audience are just as lost as she is in regards to who she is, or where she comes from. We’ve all encountered romances with this feature, but what makes it even more intriguing in this instance is that she can’t remember what her designation is. Herbivore? Predator? Who knows?!? Definitely not her! When she finds herself being sold at auction she unwittingly declares that she’s a sheep. This is something that Jaxon insists he and his dragon would never be attracted to, but he also can’t deny the intense desire he feels that is constantly pulling him towards Amari. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that she’s not really a sheep, but something else entirely.

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A Desperate Search

Interspersed with Amari’s desperate attempts to remember who she is, we also get a few scenes here and there providing us with glimpses of her family desperately trying to find her. We quickly discover through these side scenes that Amari isn’t a simple, helpless sheep. Far from it. She’s a drakaina. A dragon. Aka, something Jaxon and his dragon had pretty much given up hope of ever finding. It certainly explains to us as the reader why Amari isn’t afraid to look Jaxon in the eye, and even to challenge him at times. She’s his equal, and quite obviously his mate, even if neither of them realize it yet.

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Something I didn’t fully understand though, either through these side scenes with Amari’s family, or the main focus on Amari herself, was in regards to her visions. At the very start of the book when one of the trackers reaches for Amari to kidnap her, she seems to get a vision of how he’ll die. However, this unique ability is never really mentioned again. Why doesn’t it happen when she touches Jaxon? Is it because she’s lost her memory and can’t access this part of her mind? Again, this is another area where I wish we could have seen a bit more explanation, but I have a feeling I’m probably just too impatient at this point, and need to wait to see what book 2 will have in store!

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

Series: Outside the Veil, book 1. This book ends on a mini cliffhanger. Not the kind that will make you angry, but it leaves you on a point of lustful suspense. I don’t see how you can’t be seduced to find out what comes next.

Final Impression: I was quickly enchanted with this world, but I can’t help but feel as though I was dropped into the middle of it with an old compass to guide me instead of the fancy GPS I’m used to. I can see how more detail and explanation is forthcoming in the future books, especially in regards to Amari’s transition into her dragon form. Not to mention all the drama which might come with that, as her family seems to have kept her in the dark about some of this. That being said, I think a few more pages of set-up introducing some of the particularities of this world would have helped 🙂

Smut Level: We get a lot of smoldering, intense looks. A big build-up at the end as Jaxon pushes her up against a rock with his arms on either side of her. Running his lips along her neck. Pushing his hips into hers. Looks into her eyes to ask for a kiss. We’ll just have to read book 2 to figure out what other sexy good times might be in store!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing, LLC. 105 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: Within the Skin by Zara West. Multicultural Suspense.

Another Five Minutes by Destiny Booze

Do you know how many times this book almost made me late for work because I couldn’t put it down?! Ok…only once. I started it one night before bed and finished it the next night at about 2:00am, but you get my point!

What’s it About?

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Loving him is easy.

Fearing him is necessary.

Trusting him could be a deadly mistake.

Born deaf and living with an anxiety disorder, Brooke Hartley manages life in five-minute intervals. It’s all she can do to get out of bed each morning. She’s hidden inside her sister’s apartment for over a year. Everything changes when Brooke’s sister goes missing. Her fragile world crashes. She is desperate to find her, and she’ll need help.

Haunted by a past he needs to forget, Scott Derrico keeps to himself until his gallery manager, Autumn Hartley, suddenly disappears. He is forced out of his isolation to help a woman that needs him with a terrifying intensity. Scott tries to deny his attraction to Brooke. He doesn’t want to get emotionally involved but he craves her like nothing else. And, for her, he is a dark and sexy diversion to overcome her fear.

With a genuinely flawed and relatable heroine and a mysterious and protective hero, you won’t want this love story to end. You’ll beg…for another five minutes…

First Impression

This book quite literally pulls you in from the opening bell, and doesn’t let you go until you cross the finish line. This is the perfect definition of a beach read, because it’s one you’ll want to finish in one sitting when you have nowhere else to be. There’s a continual sense of anticipation and suspense throughout the majority of the book which is highlighted by the fact that almost every chapter ends on a mini cliffhanger. Normally this technique gets on my nerves, but I must say it was executed quite well with this one. Our characters are so intriguing that just when you think you’ll be able to take a break at the end of the chapter, you’ll find yourself being pulled into the next one.

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Suffering through the Panic

Another aspect which heightens the intensity level of the book is Brooke’s own anxiety. This is a troubled, deaf woman who has survived both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her brother throughout her entire childhood. The prologue provides us with a minor glimpse at what she suffered, and I must say just these first few pages were difficult to get through. Imagining Brooke having to endure such torture for years with no reprieve is truly heartbreaking. Because of this abuse she suffers from extreme anxiety as an adult, including debilitating panic attacks, constantly needing her back to be at a wall to minimize the likelihood of surprise, and an intense fear of ever leaving the apartment she shares with her sister, Autumn. Her twin has been her one solace and companion in life, and when Autumn mysteriously disappears one day without a trace, we are right there with Brooke as her entire world spins out of control.

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One feature of the novel that I wish had been incorporated a bit more fully was the “five minute” element. The concept of getting through one day is often too overwhelming for Brooke to take in all at once. Instead, she tries to just get through the next five minutes. When Autumn goes missing, the number of times that Brooke has to calm herself down through just another five minutes increases about tenfold. It was definitely an interesting concept, but I just wish there was a way that we as the audience could have felt the pressure of those five minute countdowns even more. Definitely easier said than done, and I still haven’t completely determined how I would have liked to see it play out.

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If it were a movie, I can definitely see a countdown timer in my head, almost like 24. In written form it’s a bit more difficult, but maybe when one of those panic attacks happened we could have started out a chapter with a “five minute” heading at the top. Two pages later we get “four minutes”, and so on and so on until we end the chapter with what’s happening in that final minute. Instead it seemed like we were presented with a rushed 5 minutes in just a few paragraphs. Overall, a really fascinating concept that was executed well, but if it had been pushed just a bit more I think it really could have been something super special and unique.

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Nowhere to Turn

We have this woman who is deaf and suddenly alone in the world, her sister nowhere to be found. Brooke finds there is only one man she can turn to, and that’s Scott, Autumn’s boss. Scott has a troubled past of his own, and lives every day feeling guilty and unable to escape from the tragedies of his past. But when Autumn first introduces him to her sister, Brooke, there is suddenly a light and beauty in his life that he hasn’t seen in years. He’s aware of her anxieties in life, but when Autumn goes missing he becomes her protector, and one of the only people willing to take the time to figure out what she’s saying. The police assume she’s overreacting, or that Autumn simply needed a break from being the caregiver for such a seemingly helpless sister. But Scott recognizes the severity of the situation in this case, and will do anything he can to bring Autumn back safe, and try to keep Brooke calm in the meantime.

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What surprised me here is that the emotional bond between these characters never seemed rushed or ill-timed, even though we’re searching for a missing person here. It felt real, natural, and all encompassing. Neither character can quite explain it or understand it. Brooke herself refuses to believe someone like Scott could ever have true feelings for a “freak” like her. And yet, you can see how naturally comfortable and at peace these two characters are with one another. Brooke finds her anxiety lessen when she’s with Scott, and even being in his apartment surrounds her with a sense of calm. As for Scott, spending more time with Brooke makes him consider leaving the ghosts of his past behind him. It was really quite touching.

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What…Happened?!?!

The mystery component of this novel was very clever. Autumn’s disappearance happens so suddenly and so early on in the book that we as the audience have no possible guess as to what might have happened. Could she have really left her sister behind, fed up with looking after her? Or did something more sinister happen. We uncover the clues right along with Brooke and Scott, and throughout the whole book I was surprised to find I had very little guesses as to what might have happened. The lack of predictability was quite refreshing. As the novel progresses the anticipation continues to increase until the ultimate climactic final act when everything finally comes together.

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I won’t give anything away, but I will say it goes in a surprising direction that I definitely didn’t see coming. Unfortunately, I can’t say it totally came together in a cohesive manner for me. To put this in a way that I think my readers will appreciate, the foreplay was significantly more enjoyable and entertaining than the climax 😉 That’s not to say I didn’t find the ultimate big reveal to be interesting, but rather I think there could have been a few more pages to fully explain why everything played out the way it did. It seemed as though some questions weren’t fully answered as to the why, what, who, how does this all connect exactly?

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

Series: I know this novel is designed as a stand-alone, but my goodness I would absolutely love to see a sequel. I have zero clue what the story concept would be, but I was just so drawn in by Brooke and Scott that I want to see more from them.

Final Impression: This novel reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle. I had an absolute blast piecing it all together, and while I wasn’t sure what the final image would be, you simply can’t walk away until it’s complete. While there may have been a missing piece or two when all was said and done, in the end you can’t help but feel as though you finished something that was unique, and one-of-a kind. Mkay, that’s about all I can get out of my puzzle metaphor there. While the mystery of Autumn’s disappearance is the catalyst for the plot, I found that what kept me turning the pages one after the other was Brooke and Scott. Their connection was electrifying, and you keep your fingers crossed that they’ll be able to make it through this drama together.

Smut Level: Brooke doesn’t believe that she’s good enough, or enticing enough, for a man like Scott. He’ll do anything he can to demonstrate that she has become an ultimate shining light in his life. We don’t get an inordinate amount of detail to their love scenes, which I think was appropriate considering all the other stuff going on in their lives right now.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 187 Pages.

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Ancient Souls by Marianne Bissett

“I can’t imagine the world without my tub. A hot bath can heal any mademoiselle’s soul.” I seriously think I need to get these words embroidered into my bath towel. Truer words were never spoken.

What’s it About?

40795668Death is only temporary and then you’re reborn, sending out a call to other souls linked through past friendship, love—and betrayal. When WWII nurse Cora Tate discovers she can remember past lives, she is thrust into a world she never knew existed but lived through more times than she could count. Although the memories of her many pasts have not yet returned, she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old conflict with a clear line dividing those who seek power and those who seek to give it. With her superior fighting skills and instincts for battle resurfacing, Cora agrees to fight, joining ancient warriors who could never blend in and a petite female sniper you could never see coming.

With battle after battle, Cora’s memories begin to flood back–though some not soon enough. Their leader, British Captain Alastair Scott, doesn’t hide his feelings for her, barely reigning in his passions in his attempt to give her space to remember. But as Cora’s mind begins to open further revealing her love for Alastair and the never ending war in which they fight, memories of another soul emerge from a far away past where lovers turned into enemies and enemies became lovers. With her destiny held in the balance, Cora must reconcile who she once was with who she was always meant to be to finally end the war.

First Impressions

Cora is just trying to make it through each day as a nurse in the midst of WWII. Little does she know, she’s actually a key player in a war that has been raging for centuries, and that she herself has been fighting throughout countless lifetimes. The details of this war are…complicated, so I’m gonna do my best to summarize it. Cora is part of a group of men and women known as guises, who “have the ability to recall skills and knowledge from their previous lives, making them superior to others in this world.” Cora is part of the good group of guises, who believe that mankind is inherently good. But then there are the Vigilare, led by their uber evil leader, Vitus. These are the bad guys who think that war is simply an inherent part of human nature, and their sole purpose throughout the centuries is to remind humans of the hate and darkness lying within them. It’s your classic tale of good vs. evil; the angels and the devils on the shoulders of humanity. Cora is apparently the key to it all, but there’s one major problem. She’s only just learning that she’s a guise, and can’t remember the details, or fighting prowess, from any of her previous lives.

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The A-Team

In order to remember how to fight, Cora’s fellow guise comrades determine she needs to be placed in a situation where she has no choice but to channel her skills. Essentially, she is walking into battle unarmed, yet at the same time she has all the necessary training needed to succeed. If only she can remember it. It almost seemed like a baby bird learning to fly. Approaching the ledge, needing to jump, and hoping that eventually the flapping of wings will save you. We can sense her trepidation, and I must say it was a cleverly suspenseful way to help us as the audience connect with Cora’s character. We might not be a guise, but we can all imagine the fear which would envelop us if we were placed in a similar situation. To be thrown into the middle of a battlefield and basically told, don’t worry, it’ll all come back to you. The hell you say?!

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We initially question why her teammates wouldn’t just tell Cora about her past lives and their mutual connection to her, so that her fighting skills and other memories could come back to her faster. Well let’s face it, that would simply be too easy. However, it’s also a key feature that separates them from the enemy. They don’t want her memories to be tampered by their view of how events transpired, and instead believe it’s better for it to all come back naturally to her. Honestly, I think the camaraderie of the team was my favorite aspect of the novel. Their countless lifetimes together have strengthened their sense of loyalty, and they’re constantly looking out for each other. Also, you can’t help but love how each character’s distinct personality comes together to form a cohesive team.

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No Ending to True Love

In my opinion the one down-side to the strategy of leaving Cora to come by her memories naturally was that it sort of impacted our ability to really understand the depth of Alastair and Cora’s emotional connection. The link of the team is undoubtedly strong, but I was left wanting more in terms of our lead couple’s romantic pulse. These two have a love that extends across multiple lifetimes, but because Alastair tries to keep away from Cora in the beginning so she can realize their love on her own, it thereby creates a sense of distance between them. While it’s true that Alastair has immense difficulty in staying away, and often loses his control to stroke her hand, nuzzle her neck, or devour her mouth, when all was said and done I wished we had been able to connect with them more as a couple rather than comrades.

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Instead there was more of a focus on dealing with the undoubtedly important matters of war at hand, and develop their strategy against the ultimate enemy, Vitus. Totally understandable, and I have a feeling we’ll uncover even more of their connection in the next book. I just wanted to see a bit more of them discussing what brought them together all those lifetimes ago, and how it’s managed to persist for so many lifetimes thereafter. When it comes to these two, “true love never has a happy ending, because there is no ending to true love.” They mention throughout the story that there’s a line which draws them together, how their pulses are linked, but I guess as the reader I had some trouble feeling this line.

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Here We Go Again

This war against the Vigilare is literally never ending. Death does not mean an end to the controversy, but rather the person will be reborn to continue the fight in their next lifetime. A unique aspect to this endless cycle of war is that it’s not always the same battle on repeat. In one lifetime the Vigilare leaders might be annihilated, only to have them prevail in the next one. Cora may succeed in bringing about peace for humankind, or the Vigilare might find and kill her before she has a chance to remember anything from her previous lives. It definitely makes for a suspenseful read, as the possibility for failure is very real.

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My one question though is aren’t they tired of this never ending struggle? Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. If either side should succeed, it’s a short-lived success. Once they die it just starts all over again. Sooo…what’s the point of it anymore? I mean seriously, after so many centuries of fighting can’t they just be like, ok, you take the Caribbean, we’ll take the south of France, in 100 years we’ll switch. Byeeee, have a fun century. Let the humans do whatever the heck they want. I have a feeling this book has just demonstrated to me that I’m far too lazy to ever become an evil overlord. Thank goodness.

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

Series: Historical Fantasy Romance, book 1. This book definitely ends on an “oh snap” moment that will make you want to find out what might come next. I’m definitely intrigued!

Final Impression: The overall balance of the novel was slightly off for me. There’s an exciting start as Cora realizes all is not as it seems in this world, and I loved the introduction to her rag-tag team of guises. The middle portion did drag a little bit as they venture around war-torn Europe going from mission to mission. It all culminates with a suspenseful and action-packed finish, albeit one that felt slightly rushed. I wish it had come a few chapters earlier in the book, especially the eventual face-to-face confrontation with Vitus. There were so many repercussions of this meeting, and because it happened so late in the book those following details were kind of glossed over in order to pull the reader into the next novel.

Smut Level: Alastair does all he can to keep his distance from Cora, who is still trying to discover how she fits into this world of guises. However, after centuries of falling in love over and over again, the man only has so much willpower 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 298 Pages.

Hard by Eve Jagger

Cassie will do anything she can to make sure she doesn’t lose her home to pay off her brother’s debts. Even if it means she has to spend every day working for an intimidating, sexy bastard.

What’s it About?

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Strong. Arrogant. Hard. Ryder Cole is the King of Atlanta’s nightlife — and the one man who can erase my past. I’m running from secrets that could destroy me and there’s no room in my life for someone like him: too damn cocky, and sexy as hell. I should keep my distance, but smart goes out the window the minute he looks my way. And when he puts his hands on me…? A girl could forget her own name. But what happens when the past catches up with me, and all the things I’m hiding from tear our lives apart again? I can’t keep running forever, and Ryder always wins. He’s not the kind of guy to let me go gently, Ryder will give it to me hard.

First Impression

Cassie has just moved back to the United States after leaving an abusive relationship behind in England. She’s looking to escape from the drama in her life, but instead she walks into even more drama than what she was expecting. She’s fast asleep one night when she’s jerked awake by a devilishly handsome and muscled man named Ryder who is looking for her brother, Jamie. As well as the $10,000 Jamie owes him. When Cassie discovers her brother put their house up as collateral, she finds she has no choice but to start working off her brother’s debt by managing the account books for Ryder’s business. Her goal in working for this man is to untangle both herself and her brother from Ryder, but as Cassie spends more time in his world she finds herself ensnared by his passionate stare and sexual magnetism.

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All in all, I kind of wish Cassie and Ryder had met differently. Not necessarily in regards to her brother owing Ryder a debt. That part was definitely an interesting impetus for them coming together! I just wish their first meeting hadn’t involved Ryder and his thugs kicking her door in one night looking for Jamie and his 10k. Even if Ryder did mistakenly assume he was walking in on Jamie that night instead of Cassie. I guess I found it a bit hard to believe that after being shaken awake in the middle of the night by a muscle bulging, tatted stranger, she’d be able to fall for him so quickly. I feel like I’d be shaking from shock for the better part of a year after such a rude awakening. But I treasure my sleep, so anyone who interrupts it immediately rises to the top of my enemy list. Has anyone seen my list by the way?

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She Gives as Good as She Gets

I absolutely loved the verbal chess match which plays out between these two. You never know who will put forward the most sass, and have the foresight to checkmate with just the right hint of sexual innuendo. Sometimes there is no clear winner. Ryder isn’t afraid to take what he wants when it comes to Cassie, which I understand sounds a bit…forceful, but believe me when I say Cassie is fully prepared, and desires to take everything Ryder is putting out there. What I love even more than the delightful physical element to their relationship though is when we get to see a softer side to Ryder’s character. He initially comes across as such a hard-ass bastard. The title of the book and series alone says it all!

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We are presented with this muscled, tatted, badass who is all intimidating businessman on the outside, but there’s more to this man. There’s a scene where Ryder explains to Cassie how he first got into fighting, and we discover that in spite of his tough exterior, at the heart of this man is someone who is willing to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. He looks out for others, and cares deeply for the people in his life. It was probably my favorite scene in the whole book. While Ryder lets his shield down a bit by letting Cassie take a glimpse into his past, unfortunately we see that Cassie isn’t necessarily as forthcoming with her own past.

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Keeping Secrets, or Withholding Details

Cassie chooses to keep the abusive aspect of her previous relationship from Ryder. Let’s face it, we all know that just means it will eventually come to light anyway, and Ryder will undoubtedly be very pissed that she kept it from him. And sure enough, it happens. Now, this ultimate reveal evoked some interesting reactions for me. Normally when we come across something like this in a romance novel, I get frustrated with the lead character for keeping such a large secret from their love interest. However, in this instance I can’t say I really fault Cassie for not revealing this aspect of her life to Ryder. She just met this man. Their relationship up to this point has been primarily physical, and they haven’t really defined their relationship. It’s definitely implied they’re exclusive, but they haven’t even been out on a date yet.

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Ok, yes, ideally she would have told Ryder she was still married. But this past with her ex, Sebastian, was one that was both mentally and physically abusive. I think even Cassie is trying to sort it all out for herself. She’s taken such a big risk by leaving Sebastian behind in England, only to arrive back home to find her brother owes a massive debt. Cassie is not even at the point where she’s admitted the truth of this broken relationship to her own family, let alone to some dude she just met that she’s sleeping with. So, in this regard, I get why she didn’t divulge the details to Ryder. Yes, he opened up about his past, how he defended a helpless classmate from the hands of a bully, as well as the deatils about his cheating ex. But in my opinion it’s a bit different than the emotional torment which Cassie has been suffering with for the last two years all by herself.

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Sebastian Comes To Town

That…being…said. Once the truth of her marriage does come to light, and we are presented with a scene where Ryder, Sebastian and Cassie are all in a mini face-off circle, I do kind of judge Cassie for not shouting out the truth of the matter at the top of her lungs. When Sebastian introduces himself to Ryder as Cassie’s husband, and that she’ll be going back with him to England, I don’t understand why she didn’t interject, “um, f*ck that! This dick hole beat me, and I’m not going anywhere with him.” Instead, she tries to persuade Ryder to leave him be, and insists that Sebastian is just leaving. Come on girl, stand up for yourself!

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I am happy to say though that my frustration didn’t last too long. Rather than let Ryder sulk, Cassie doesn’t hesitate in going after him. She still kind of tries to keep the darker  details of their relationship a secret, but eventually Ryder gets the truth out of her. Even better though is that when we build-up to the eventual final climactic finish where Cassie needs to confront Sebastian, my girl does not disappoint! We have an exciting finish where we finally see Cassie stand up to her abusive ex. The theme of giving back as good as she gets comes to light in her final confrontation with him too.

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Series: Sexy Bastard, book 1. I loved the introduction of all of Ryder’s business partners, as well as the female friends in their lives. I’m excited to see what comes next, as each character really has a personality all their own.

Final Impression: There was actually more depth and plot to this story than I was expecting. The details of Cassie’s past with Sebastian were dark and full of turmoil, but also added an element of suspense and anticipation to the plot. In addition, I enjoyed the scenes where we were able to see Ryder be more vulnerable with Cassie, and open up about his own past. Unfortunately I also feel that the story didn’t 100% come full circle for me in regards to Cassie’s brother, Jamie, and the debt he owed to Ryder. I would have liked to see more scenes between Cassie and Jamie especially, but for the majority of the novel Jamie is really reserved to the background. When he does finally reemerge, it’s to quickly hand over a bag of cash paying off his debt. Seeing as this debt was the impetus for the whole book, I felt that it’s resolution was thrown together a bit too quickly.

Smut Level: Holy crap. I can’t remember the last time I read a romance novel where a male lead was so eager to get his head between a woman’s legs.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Eve Jagger Books. 260 Pages.

Craving My Costar by Maura Rose

There’s nothing quite like simulated sex with your co-star to awaken the true desires lying just underneath the surface.

What’s it About?

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Robin’s a big star in Hollywood, and with his handsome face, hot body, and lengthy resume of blockbusters, he’s going nowhere but up. He’s cocky for a good reason, and he lives by the code “it’s not bragging if it’s true.” He’s made a name for himself, and he feels like he deserves every ounce of fame and fortune he’s got. The women chasing after him are just icing on the cake.

Lindsay’s a woman with daring dreams, high hopes, and a mouth that sometimes gets her into trouble. She’s got a heap of acting talent, but there’s just one problem: she’s a no-name. When she gets an audition for the film that’s destined to be the next big hit, her hopes and dreams finally become a reality when she nails it and lands the role.

When Lindsay and Robin first meet on set, she can’t stand his arrogance and he can’t believe her insolence. The two hate each other—but now that they’ve both been cast in the lead roles in the film, they have to work together…as lovers.

First Impressions

This is a sweet, quick read, with some definite sexiness thrown in there as well. It has a delightfully strong start, with a premise to die for. Who doesn’t love a tale of romance that starts out with enemies who become friends, and eventually even something more? At the start, you’d assume that Lindsay and Robin would get along fairly well, as they both have a clear passion for acting. They live for it, and are clearly dedicated to their craft. But it’s really more about their journey to this film they’re shooting together which causes the tension between them. For Robin, he’s always been a committed student, going to the finest drama and film schools in the world. It may have taken money for him to enroll in these places, but his raw talent is what helped him excel into a star of screen and stage. It may have also boosted his ego a bit to where he has too much pep in his step.

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As for Lindsay, this film is her first big break. She’s fought hard to get where she is, and has scrimped, saved, and clawed her way through countless failed auditions to finally be given the role of a lifetime. You can’t help but admire Lindsay’s tenacity and spunk. When she first meets Robin on set and he mistakes her for a lowly assistant, demanding she fetch him some coffee, she has no problem standing up for herself with a good ole oh hell to the no! Unlike her cast-mates, she refuses to be star-struck by the leading man on set, and what results is a delightfully entertaining clash of talent. Lindsay’s vulnerability and inexperience also shines through though, and this makes her an even more endearing character. The fact she tries to help the stagehands with the set setup? Love her!

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A Quick, Yet Slow Development

As I mentioned earlier, this is a nice quick read. However, I almost wonder if it was too quick, especially considering we were dealing with the huge production of a full-length, Oscar-buzz film here. I wouldn’t necessarily say it felt rushed, but instead we got more of a surface glimpse of things. And who knows? Maybe it really doesn’t take as long as you’d think to put together a high-budget film, but as a movie buff I would have loved if we were privy to some more of the behind the scenes elements involved in making a movie.

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What wasn’t rushed though was the development of Robin and Lindsay’s relationship from enemies to friends. Due to the initial clash between our lead actors, Lindsay is feeling rather isolated on set, as everyone else stands behind Robin considering he’s the big star. She can’t help but feel depressed, as she’s finally made it to where she’s always wanted to be, yet has discovered the reality of it might not be as wonderful as she’d predicted. Sure, she loves working with the director, and engrossing herself in her character, but the frustration of working with such an annoying co-star, not to mention being ostracized by her other co-stars has her in tears.

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When Robin catches a true glimpse of the sadness which was lying underneath all the anger she directed his way, Robin vows to turn things around. A friendship slowly starts to develop between them, and he even takes her under his wing by showing her the ropes of acting. He keeps an eye out for her, and pulls her into his circle of friends and cast-mates. Hell, the man even helps her shop. Umm, where can I get me a man like this?? I just loved how we got to see a true closeness develop between them, and show that sometimes initial bad impressions can eventually be remedied.

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No Hiding the Passion

While they start as enemies, one thing is for certain. The passion of the scenes they film together is undeniable! They dive right in by filming the most awkward scenes first: sexxx. Lindsay and Robin start out hating each other, but once the director calls action on their kissing scenes, they feel an incomparable draw to one another. Their scenes are no longer scripted, and they can’t help but explore each other. What’s funny is that while our lead couple never actually has sex, they certainly simulate it pretty damn well for the cameras. In those moments they put their hatred aside and give in to the passion, and even start to look forward to their amorous scenes. After they start to develop a friendship with each other, the scenes take on a whole other level of complexity.

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They don’t want the other to know how much they desire the other, as it straddles the line of professionalism. It could also compromise their friendship. Then the studio demands they ramp things up even more, and unfortunately that’s when we see both of them cross that line. This was my one and only disappointment with the story, but you can tell the characters regretted it too. Let’s just say things get a bit out of control when Robin realizes whilst filming how real Lindsay’s moans actually are. They start to indulge in their desires, and it results in both of them coming for real in front of a room full of people. I wish their first and only real romp in the whole book could have played out a bit differently. Perhaps they could have put their lust on hold for just a few minutes more until they could let it out in their trailer, away from watchful eyes.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I almost wish this was a series. I’d love a sequel where we see Lindsay and Robin dealing with their celebrity romance with the paparazzi, obsessed fans, and the stresses of filming. In this book we see the lengths Robin goes to in order to avoid having Lindsay deal with the paparazzi, and while it was refreshing to not have it be a main focus at all in this novel, it seems like an inevitable reality which could impact their relationship.

Final Impression: This novel definitely starts strong, but did not have my favorite…climax, if you know what I mean 😉 We wait so long for Lindsay and Robin to come together, and when they finally do it’s pretty unprofessional. I did enjoy the scenes of them really getting into their characters, and the friendship which blossomed between them. Some details could have been fine-tuned, but overall an enjoyable read. I liked that it was a quick read, but I think if it’d been a smidge longer some more details could have been fleshed out further, perhaps having the lovable supporting characters play a more prominent role in the story.  We do get an adorable final scene though which will make you go “awwww”.

Smut Level: These two may have hated each other at the start, but they couldn’t deny the pleasure they both felt at filming scenes of passionate kissing, foreplay, and intimacy. Hell, even I started looking forward to the moments they’d have to film one.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. TNA Publishing. 252 Pages.

Playing for Love by Ashlie Knapp

There’s nothing quite better than a fine-looking man who likes to give foot rubs and quote The Sandlot. I’ll have me s’more of that. And yes, I would like s’more even though I haven’t had any yet. For those of you who don’t see the connection here, for the love of God stop reading this and go watch the fabulous classic that is The Sandlot already!!

What’s it About?

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When Cassie Randall spun a globe several years ago and her finger landed on Oklahoma, she didn’t know what to expect. A native Alaskan, all Cassie had known her whole life was snow and ice…and fear. Running to a state thousands of miles away was her only way to survive. And it worked. Now, with new friends and teaching degree only one semester away, Cassie feels like she has the life she’s always waited for. When Jamal Jenkins, the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, walks into her life, Cassie isn’t impressed. In fact, she doesn’t even know who he is.

Jamal Jenkins is the consummate NBA player – cocky, confident and casual. That’s the media’s portrayal of him, at least. In reality, Jamal is nothing but an everyday guy trying to make a living for his family doing what he loves – playing basketball. When he is paired with Cassie to walk down the aisle at their mutual friends’ wedding, he isn’t excited to spend time with a woman people describe as a bookworm. After meeting her, however, he can’t get enough of the Alaskan beauty who knows nothing about sports or the fact he is a household name.

Cassie is running from her past. Jamal is trying to solidify his family’s future. What happens when their paths collide is anyone’s guess. Genuine, warm and funny, Playing for Love is a story about finding family, hope and new beginnings when it’s least expected.

First Impressions

On paper, it seems like Jamal and Cassie are polar opposites. She’s an introverted bookworm who couldn’t play a sport to save her life. Jamal on the other hand is a sociable, sarcastic and cocky professional basketball player, not to mention a single father. They seemingly couldn’t have less in common. But when they are paired to walk down the aisle together as part of their best friends’ bridal party, well…that’s practically a guarantee for these two to end up in the sack! Jamal is immediately smitten with the doe-eyed beauty he likes to call Bambi, but Cassie tries her hardest to keep the handsome sportsman at bay. After their first passionate kiss though, any attempt to have a platonic relationship with the man is thrown out the window. He’s a loving father, he’s funny, sensual, and apparently he bears a striking resemblance to Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously you guys I lost track of the number of times this comparison was made, and I now feel contractually obligated to show at least one photo of the man!

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Ok here’s another one.

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Aaaaaand just one more for good measure.

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Mkay, I think we’re all good now.

A Cut Above the Rest

There is one character in this novel who, without a doubt, steals the show above any other and that would be Jamal’s daughter JJ. She’s such a firecracker with a quick wit and sassy repartee. Even I want to hang out with this kid! And believe me, after years and years of babysitting I will say children can get on my nerves, so the fact I want to willingly hang out with this one is saying an awful lot. Personally I really appreciated that the author chose to feature JJ front and center rather then constantly try to hide her away at a friend’s house so Jamal and Cassie could have some alone time. This seems to be a convenient technique (aka the easy way out) employed by authors who don’t know how to effectively incorporate a child into a story line. JJ also proved a crucial figure for Jamal and Cassie to bond over, and helped to thaw Cassie’s initial hesitancy to spend more time with Jamal. Their open love and affection for JJ helps define their own love for each other, and is an essential element for their relationship to succeed.

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A Complicated Past

Throughout the novel we are presented with hints to Cassie’s tumultuous past, including references to darkness and bruises. As it turns out, Cassie had an extremely abusive and alcoholic father who was the sheriff of their small Alaska town, where nobody believed the claims that she or her mother made against him. Eventually this resulted in the death of her mother, and Cassie inheriting one million dollars. She knew this money would be an obsession for her father, so she chose to flee to Oklahoma in an attempt to leave her past behind. We quickly see how this complicated past has impacted her personal life. She never brought boys around when living with her father, and after she fled she was so focused on school and studying she never really had a relationship. This means she is still a virgin when good ole Jackson Avery, I mean, Jamal Jenkins comes around.

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One aspect of their relationship which I found particularly interesting was that, all things considered, Cassie was very quick to trust Jamal. You’d think that with the strained and abusive relationship with her father she’d have difficulty trusting men, but with Jamal that is never really a huge issue. Sure it may have been a slight cause for concern in the beginning, but after spending some time with him it is never something which comes between them later on. Instead her eventual inner debate over whether or not to end things with him results from the fact that she doesn’t want to bring her complicated drama and baggage into Jamal or JJ’s lives. She’s convinced that eventually something will happen that will cause her to leave them, and the last thing she wants is to abandon them just like JJ’s mother did. She tries to save their feelings and her own by keeping her distance from them at the start. Well…not if Jamal will have anything to say about it.

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Something I wasn’t a huge fan of was how Cassie’s complicated past eventually comes back to mess with her present. I must say it was a rather predictable ending, and we have to wait around so long for it to come about. Then when it does, it’s resolved so quickly! The climax hits at the 91% mark and is finished up by 92%. What comes after the drama though is a delectably sweet conclusion which highlights how important Jamal and Cassie are to each other, and as a family unit with JJ. A lot of thought and care went into the ending. And of course, there’s one last final dig at Cassie’s inability to play sports.

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

Series: Playing Series, book 2. We do get to see some scenes with the couple from the first novel. My God though the fact that the woman from the first novel is named Callie and this one is named Cassie, and they’re best friends who are often featured in the same scene? I’d say it wasn’t until the halfway point that I could definitively distinguish their names.

Should you read it? I did enjoy the fact that Jamal’s daughter played a prominent role in this book, and wasn’t just brushed aside to focus on all the lovey doveyness going on between him and Cassie. The dude is a single dad, his daughter comes with the territory!  That being said, the story is a bit light in the drama department. I feel like there was a slightly missed opportunity to incorporate more depth and suspense surrounding her father. I wish it had been more of a continual discussion throughout the book rather than providing a quick climax at the end. Also, it would have been great to see more focus describing Jamal’s life at 17 when he was left to raise a baby all on his own after his girlfriend abandoned them. We could have seen some more emotional drama on multiple fronts here.

Smut Level: Pretty clean read. A few smooches here and there, but nothing scandalous.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 274 Pages.