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? 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Phantom by Barbara Meyers

Zoe is torn between her newfound relationship with a dashing man named Aaron, and her sexual escapades with a mysterious man she refers to as the “phantom”. Little does she know these two men are actually one and the same.

What’s it About? 

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A desperate woman. A disillusioned spy. A doomed mission.

Zoe Bradford will do anything to find her brother Ben, a missing missionary in Latin America. Even if it means sleeping with an anonymous stranger in order to finance a rescue mission.

Covert operative Aaron Manning doesn’t believe a “normal” life is possible for him. But the bizarre arrangement he creates with Zoe makes him more determined to step out of the shadows permanently in order to achieve his dream.

Zoe wants to believe in Aaron’s promise to save Ben, but she finds it impossible to fully trust him. When she blunders into the carefully orchestrated op, her interference nearly kills them all.

Aaron must fake his own death to start a new life, but Zoe still needs answers. And when her phantom lover makes contact again, a pregnant Zoe knows the only way to move forward is to learn his true identity.

When she discovers the man she’s in love with and the phantom who duped her are one and the same, will she be willing to forgive them both?

First Impressions

First things first, let’s start things off with the synopsis. I remember reading this overview right before cracking open my kindle to kick off the book and thinking, my goodness that’s a lot of detail jam packed in there. So I just soldiered on with the read, not thinking much about the synopsis once I got started. However, looking back on it now I must say it’s almost too much detail in that it gives away a few crucial plot points! Some of the specifics it mentioned were in fact some of the bigger surprise moments of the read for me, so in hindsight I’m kind of happy I forgot about all of the things the synopsis revealed ahead of time. Does this mean you should skip the synopsis? Nah, not necessarily. But maybe just give it a quick glance before you dive into the world of our characters 🙂

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A Love Triangle for Two

There are a lot of plot points going on throughout this book to keep you engaged. From Zoe’s missing brother to Aaron’s dangerous job, old enemies and lost loved ones. And yet, the most fascinating aspect of the whole story for me would have to be the psychological component behind this love triangle which emerges between Zoe, her mystery phantom, and Aaron. Our novel begins with Zoe in desperate need of money. She needs to build up some savings to hopefully pay a ransom and retrieve her missing missionary brother. Salvation apparently arrives in the form of an envelope filled with cash, and instructions for Zoe to travel to a discreet location. If she offers her body to the man at this locale, keeping the lights off throughout, and remaining silent, she’ll get even more money. What starts off as the most unusual of meet cutes quickly develops into a relationship of passion between Zoe and her “phantom”.

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And then Zoe meets Aaron, a seemingly nice guy in a bookstore who wants to get to know her. Unlike her primarily physical and transactional relationship with the phantom, her time with Aaron is spent getting to know each other, and has an emotional foundation. Not to mention the ability to actually converse with one another. However, it’s truly captivating to see Zoe struggle to take things further with Aaron, and her loyalties seemingly lie with the phantom who came into her life first. We see that beyond their sexual relationship, the phantom provided Zoe with a sense of autonomy and independence which had been lacking in her life for so long. She learns to live again, be desired again, and the phantom is continually providing her with the financial means necessary to take matters into her own hands by rescuing her brother. The fact that Aaron and the phantom are actually the same person lends even more depth and fascination behind this supposed love triangle, and constantly makes you question what Zoe will do when she uncovers the truth behind their identities.

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A Rescue Mission Gone Wrong

While Zoe’s inner musings regarding her relationships with Aaron and the phantom proved to be most captivating, the drama surrounding the rescue of her brother from mining criminals presented a bit of a quandary. I could both understand Zoe’s approach to this rescue mission, yet also couldn’t help but feel that she was being rather nonsensical at times. When Zoe discovers that Aaron is a covert spy, she implores him to do whatever is necessary to save her missing brother. She’s even willing to give Aaron all the money she’s saved from her sexual exploits with the phantom. When Aaron initially rejects her request for help, we see the first fracture of their relationship. After more pleading, Aaron eventually acquiesces, but says he won’t collect the money until after he returns from his attempt to retrieve her brother. Seems like a fairly sympathetic offer, yes? Yeaaaah, not so much. Zoe becomes enraged at the fact Aaron won’t take her money, not to mention that he refuses to allow her to tag along on his journey through the jungle.

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How can she trust that he’ll actually go? How does she know he won’t come back after a week’s vacation, and say he either couldn’t find her brother, or that he was dead? Mkay, totally logical concerns. Although the fact he didn’t immediately jump at the chance to take her money means he probably didn’t have any intention to just walk off with it. However, my biggest confusion came once Zoe decided to just traipse off on her own to locate her brother, and ultimately runs into Aaron in the jungle with his bad-ass team of spies who have also set out to rescue her sibling. Now, if it were me, and I ran into 4 burly, surly commandos in camouflage and carrying some intense firepower, I’d probably trust them to get the job done. As for Zoe? She’s still determined to try and ditch them in an attempt to rescue her brother by herself. But…why? At this point Zoe merely suspects Aaron and her phantom might be one and the same, but it’s not confirmed 100%, meaning she really has no reason to distrust Aaron when he says he’ll do whatever he can to bring her brother back home. It was an argument I had trouble wrapping my head around!

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: All in all, this was an interesting read that presented us with some rather fascinating psychological debates. From Zoe’s difficulty at opening herself up to love again following the death of her husband and child, to her questioning loyalties for the two men she’s grown to care for, we’re constantly wondering how things will come to pass. Looking back, I will say the synopsis was far too revealing in some of the exciting plot developments which took place throughout the story. At times it was tricky to follow the reasoning behind the decisions of our lead characters, including Aaron’s initial ruse to give money to Zoe in exchange for sex in the dark with no conversation, as well as Zoe both asking for and then refusing Aaron’s help to save her brother. Overall though, it portrays two characters who aren’t necessarily perfect, who battle with their inner demons and past traumas, but can find love and comfort in each other’s arms.

Smut Level: They may have kept the lights off, but Zoe’s sexual delights with the phantom were red hot!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sandalstring Productions. 364 Pages

Other Works by this Author

Taken From Love by D.M. Porters

Gabriella and Gil venture out onto the high seas in search of adventure. Little did they know that love would be the greatest adventure they’d encounter.

What’s it About? 

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You may take my body, but you will never take my soul. At twenty-two years of age, beautiful Gabriella Taylor felt as if life was passing her by. She feared, in the end, she would be forced to settle for a man she did not love. Would such a man understand her adventurous nature and allow her the freedom she so needed? Highly unlikely. An unexpected voyage to the French Coast would change everything.

Lord Gilbert Ramsay rarely paid attention to the many women who would look his way. Eager to follow in his father’s political footsteps, Gil’s focus was on understanding the plight of the common man hoping to one day represent them. He would trade his London fineries and join the crew of a merchant ship, his identity hidden from the others, of course. Never did he expect to meet the likes of Gabriella Taylor.

Knowing it was wrong, Gabriella was drawn to the handsome but irritating crewman. He was like no man she had ever met. Gil, although initially annoyed with the spirited girl, could not help but be intrigued. What began as an exciting journey of emotional awakenings for Gabriella, would turn into a harrowing ordeal. Taken by ruthless pirates, she would face the challenge of her life, wondering if she would ever see her family or Gil again. It would seem her wish for adventure had become painfully true. Oceans from home, she would need all her courage and that of a gorgeous sailor to help her make it back to the life she so wants.

First Impressions

Gabriella has grown up surrounded by love. Her parents are the guiding force to demonstrate that true love is not only possible, but also long-lasting. Her brother William has also found his own romance with his wife, Alexa, showing that love can be full of passion and excitement. Being in the presence of such loving couples is an inspiration to Gabriella, yet ironically also fills her with melancholy as she wonders why she hasn’t fallen in love yet herself. Surely if she hasn’t found romance yet, it couldn’t possibly be meant for her, right? Her wise mother knows that Gabriella is simply longing for more from life, and thinks a trip across the sea is just what she needs. Little did she know that she’d be sending Gabriella into the arms of the future love of her life, not to mention the arms of some cutthroat pirates. Even though it takes some time before Gabriella and Gil cross paths on this ill-fated journey across the English Channel, once they do it becomes nearly impossible to put this book down.

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You can’t help but wonder how everything will proceed following Gabriella’s abduction. Will she be violated by the wealthy foreigner who has purchased her? Will Gil succeed in rescuing her from the Moroccan harem she’s found herself in? And most importantly, will these two young lovers ever admit how much they truly care about each other? It’s an enchanting read, but one thing I wish we could have seen more of was the journey of Gabriella and Gil falling in love. After meeting on the ship, they have an initial animosity towards each other which isn’t fully explained, but is delightful nonetheless. They try to convince themselves they can’t stand to be around each other, but we all know that’s far from the truth. After spending one evening staring at the starry night sky together it seems as though they suddenly fall head over heels. As the story progresses we don’t doubt their devotion to each other, but it feels like we missed a bit of their romantic tale.

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Another Side of the Story

When we look beyond the romance between Gabriella and Gil, we notice some other interesting aspects of the story which bring an emotional depth to the plot. Perhaps most fascinating was when Gabriella found herself trapped in the harem of the man who purchased her from her pirate captors. She’s desperate to escape, and hopes that the many wives of her new captor will assist her in finding her way back to Gil. Surprisingly though, she discovers that these women are actually happy to be where they are, and try to convince her how lucky she is to have been brought into this world.

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For Gabriella, and even for us as the reader, it seems like a barbaric land she’s found herself in, yet for these women they live like queens, and are pleased nightly by their handsome and sexually talented master. They don’t seek rescue like she does, and instead view the outside world as a cruel place with no one to protect them. It was an eye-opening juxtaposition that presented us with a situation we didn’t necessarily have to agree with, but rather could appreciate that some people are happy in the different lives they lead.

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

Series: Taylor series, book 3. It’s sad to see this series end!

Final Impressions: This novel proves to be a sweet, final conclusion to a series which has taken us on a journey across time. I love how this third book incorporates the couples from the first two books, and at the very end we manage to come full circle back to how the series first started all the way back in book one. We might see the most exciting plot in this final story, what with pirates and exotic foreign lands for our characters to encounter, but when all is said and done I think the romance from book one still remains my favorite. The author succeeds to combine heartfelt sentiment with painful loss in each novel, and I can’t help but let the tears flow every time. Again, I wish we could have seen a bit more focus on Gabriella and Gil falling in love, but at the end of the day it was a fun and sweet read that has you on the edge of your seat, yet also sighing in delight.

Smut Level: There may not be many love scenes in this historical romance, but the ones we do get are delightfully steamy. Let’s just say Gabriella picks up a few pointers from the ladies of the Moroccan harem, and Gil is eventually quite thankful that Gabriella was such a dedicated student. .

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 361 Pages

The Darkness Within by Rebecca Hefner

If you’re looking for a romance novel featuring a conflicted hero and a tough-as-nails heroine, then look no further. This paranormal read has everything you could possibly want and more!

What’s it About? 

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Arderin, princess of the illustrious Vampyre kingdom, has always marched to the beat of her own drum. Motivated by a calling to heal others, frustration consumes her since her brother, King Sathan, doesn’t understand her desire to study medicine in the human world. Moreover, the son of the Dark Lord Crimeous has moved onto their compound and he seems obsessed with driving her absolutely insane. Hating him for his sharp tongue and dark nature, she tries to squelch her unwelcome attraction to him.

Darkrip has been enthralled by Arderin since the night he knocked her unconscious and sent her down the river, prompting the end of the War of the Species. Never has he met a woman more beautiful and passionate. Frustrated by her dramatics and consumed by his desire for her, he vows to stay away. For the son of Crimeous, with his malevolent blood, could never have children or a normal life.

When Crimeous threatens both their lives, forcing them into a shared captivity, they do everything they can to escape and survive. As their connection grows, so does their attraction. Knowing they have no future together, and the consequences of furthering their relationship would be disastrous, they forge ahead in the conflict against the Dark Lord. But the Universe is fickle and can muddle with even the best laid intentions…

First Impressions

I have been impatiently waiting for the book which would highlight this stubborn couple since the first novel in the series! At last, said book has been delivered and does not disappoint. Arderin and Darkrip are delightfully strong-willed, and at first glance appear to have an intense animosity towards each other which impacts their ability to even be in the same room. But when they’re forced to spend time together through either mission or complication, we finally see them having to confront the deep emotion and attraction which is constantly pulling them together no matter how hard they try to push each other away. I mean, what’s not to love with that set-up!

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Beyond the Romance

If we push the intense and sometimes controversial romance between Darkrip and Arderin aside, there are a few other key features presented in this novel that I really appreciated. First and foremost, the importance of family is highlighted through a variety of different relationship pairings. From Arderin and her over-protective brothers, to Darkrip’s complicated interactions with his sister and half-sister, to the couple from the first novel finally welcoming a child into their lives. Each pairing has it’s own complexities, yet throughout it all we see this group of slayers, vampyres and deamons come together to form the most unlikely of families.

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The other theme that this series has continuously grappled with is the concept of time for our Immortals. In the last book, we saw how time was explored in a way where our characters felt they had all the time in the world to eventually admit their feelings for each other, yet simultaneously discovered how fraught and limited time can be in this violent world. In this third book, time is once again featured as a focal point which can impact the relationships of our characters. When you live forever, you can’t help but question what is your true purpose in life? For Darkrip, he looks at his life as being divided into two parts: a time before and after Arderin. Before her, he simply floated along. He lived in an endless, mindless world of killing and raping. After her, he finally feels as though he has a purpose, even if it’s something as simple as making her laugh. It is because of her that he remembers the small pleasures that life has to offer, and this troubled deamon finally starts to live again. It was such a complex and beautiful point to examine that never felt too “in your face” with its scrutiny.

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The Cave of Wonders

There is a point in this novel where Arderin and Darkrip find themselves trapped in a cave by his evil father, Crimeous. This Deamon King is intent on forcing our two leads to mate, resulting in a child with both deamon and vampyre blood running through its veins that he can then manipulate and train to become his ultimate weapon. Hands down, these scenes involving Arderin and Darkrip’s imprisonment were the most revealing and poignant moments of the entire book. For it is during this time that they have nowhere to run or hide from confronting how much they actually care about the other. All their cards are laid out, face up on the table, whether they want to or not. And it’s during this time where we discover how vulnerable these two characters truly are. They may put on a facade of toughness to those around them, yet underneath all the stubbornness and sass are two sensitive souls who can no longer deny their feelings.

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It’s also during this time in the cave that we see how strong and inspiring they are. For her part, Arderin refuses to give up hope that they’ll make it out of this seemingly hopeless situation alive. For Darkrip, we see his desperation to do whatever is necessary to keep Arderin alive. Even if it means she’ll see a window into his entire past, and every dark deed he’s ever committed. The only way to save his vampyre is to give her his blood, which will thereby link her to him by viewing snapshots of his entire life. To ensure the survival of the love of his life, he must allow her to see how much evil has coursed through him, and risk her never wanting anything to do with him. Again, such a beautifully revealing moment to see this cocky, strong deamon crumble under the fear of being alone, and of possibly losing Arderin forever. Either he’ll lose her through death, or through his attempt to save with his blood. He sees it as a lose-lose decision, but one he can’t ran away from.

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The Troubled Hero

Darkrip is a troubled soul in every sense of the word. He refuses to see the good in himself, and also refuses to hope for a future with Arderin. He’s spent so long living in the shadow of his evil and cruel father, that it’s difficult for him to envision a future of peace. Growing up, whenever Darkrip allowed himself to feel or love it would always result in pain. His father would repeatedly rape and abuse his mother and sister as Darkrip was forced to watch on. He’s scared that if he allows himself to acknowledge his love for Arderin, she’ll become a target for his father to focus his wrath upon. He’s not willing to risk that.

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Darkrip was so convinced that by providing Arderin with his blood in the cave that it would result in her pulling away from him. However, we see the opposite come true in that it actually causes her to pull him closer. Yes, there was evil in Darkrip which controlled his every action for the first 200 years of his life. But through the love and influence of his mother he successfully changed his ways to fight against that inner darkness, and refused to let it overtake him again over the last 800 years. That strength, that willpower, is what draws Arderin to him even more. He might be convinced she deserves better, and try to push her away with all his might, but she’s just as stubborn and strong-willed to keep him in her life.

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 3. Three books down, just one final installment to go. I can’t wait to see how everything will come together in what is bound to be a climactic and exciting conclusion!

Final Impressions: Looking back at the entire series up until this point I would say this is probably the one which featured the least amount of direct confrontation with our primary villain, Crimeous. This is kind of interesting when you consider the fact he’s Darkrip’s father, and the two definitely have a long and troubled history. That being said, the emotional and psychological impact of this toxic father/son relationship is still featured prominently in this third book. In a way this is really Darkrip’s tale of learning how to see the good in himself, and acknowledging that he is worthy of Arderin’s love. These two have a commanding presence that will captivate you right from the get-go, whether they’re in a scene together or solo.

Smut Level: This is by far the steamiest book of the series so far. As a deamon, Darkrip experiences pleasure from pain, and while we don’t get any scenes that are overly kinky, that sort of speaks to the fact that this deamon isn’t a slow and gentle lover. There’s plenty of dirty talk and alpha male direction in the bedroom to keep you blushing and satisfied!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 232 Pages.