Beta by Jasinda Wilder

Book 1 in this series featured a budding relationship between an alpha male and a reserved female exploring non-vanilla sex for the first time. This second book completely switches gears into something like a Jason Bourne movie. Such a stark and jarring contrast!

What’s it About? 

22041497

Roth and I are on an open-ended tour of the world. Roth being Roth, this means missionary in Morocco, reverse cowgirl in Calcutta, bent over the bow of a houseboat in Hanoi, slow and sleepy on St. John. Anywhere and everywhere, in every conceivable position, and some I didn’t know were possible. Life was pretty incredible. Until I woke up in his chateau in France, alone. On the bed next to me was a note. There were only four words: He belongs to me. ***This book contains sexual scenes and situations that may make some readers uncomfortable.***

First Impressions

Now, full disclosure here people, normally when I include the synopses of books I feature on this here blog of mine, I tend to cut out the little disclaimer that is often found at the bottom which basically says “Warning: Sex Ahead”. Let’s face it people, we all know that sex is mostly likely involved in every novel I choose to review. Heck, sometimes I’ll complain if there’s a lack of it. However, I usually always leave the disclaimer in if rape is involved, and when it came to this novel I just couldn’t remove it. There are a lot of scenes of male rape and torture that seemingly go on forever. From water boarding to a Viagra pill from hell, consider yourself warned that this novel is uncomfortably graphic. Additionally, I think that the characters almost try to minimize the trauma of this extended rape scenario seeing as we are dealing with a male victim who was being abused by a female.

v1.bjs0MjYwNzU7ajsxNzUwOTsxMjAwOzIwNDg7MTUzNg

If You Have an Erection Lasting Longer than Four Hours…

This second novel initially starts off with a lot of boozing and f*cking. At the end of the first chapter though we discover that not all is right in paradise, as Roth has been abducted by an unknown kidnapper. As Kyrie explores their French villa in search of him she reminisces on all of the different places throughout the house that they’ve had sex, and in all of the different ways. Come on now woman, focus!! There are more important things for you to focus your attention on right now.

fifty-shades-freed-trailer-10

We eventually discover that Roth’s ex-girlfriend, Gina, from 10 years ago is behind the kidnapping, and she wants to use his body sexually before killing him. Ummm, I’m sorry but what’s the motivation here? Why did she wait so long before eventually going after him? Why now? Surely there are easier ways to get good sex than having to drug, kidnap, rape and abuse your ex? We come to learn that even back in the day when they were a couple Gina used to abuse Roth sexually, and use sex as a weapon to get him to do her bidding. After getting her hands on him yet again she proceeds to tie him down, and drug him with what is basically an advanced version of Viagra that turns Roth into a sex-crazed maniac. The scenes that follow are utterly disturbing in how graphic they are.

Viagra-pills-made-by-Pfizer

Kyrie to the Rescue! And then Roth! With Harris Tagging Along!

Rather than getting the police involved, Kyrie and Roth’s butler/chauffeur, Harris, decide to infiltrate Gina’s fortress to rescue Roth on their own. I have to say, it was ridiculous how useless Gina’s henchmen were. We basically have the equivalent of Star Wars storm troopers with absolutely zero aim. Not only are Kyrie and Harris successful in breaking into the fortress and retrieving Roth, but when Gina eventually kidnaps Kyrie as revenge she is also rescued rather easily due to the sub-par guarding skills of these hired guns. Seriously, someone needs to invest in a security system update.

BFZv-PkCAAIPrqr

Facing Your Fears

One of my main issues with this novel was what happened when Roth was first rescued. He is understandably extremely hesitant to engage in any sexual activity with Kyrie. The guy was literally just sexually tortured and raped for days on end after ingesting what can best be described as the Energizer Bunny’s nightmare version of Viagra. He’s simply not ready to do anything physical with Kyrie. However, it’s decided pretty quickly that the only way he could possibly get over this trauma is to just face his fears and start screwing like a wild animal.

rs_600x600-161216090044-600.fifty-shades-darker-3.jpg

 

I’m sorry, but I just can’t get on board with this. Kyrie and Roth barely talk at all about what he just went through at the hands of Gina, and don’t seek out any external help either. If ever there was a need for a therapy session or two, now would be a good time! Roth has barely had any time to recover (we’re talking like a day or two here), and now he’s being pressured into having sex when he openly admits it’s not the right time. It doesn’t seem like the best way to get over an emotional sexual trauma, and I feel like it also demonstrates how their relationship is purely sexual if that’s their way only to connect after a kidnapping. And oh yeah, Gina is still after them!! Maybe they should take a break from their continual orgasm-fest to form a plan on how they’re going to permanently escape from this crazy psycho who’s chasing them.

elektra_king

Final Considerations

There were two other aspects to this novel that weren’t my cup of tea. Firstly, the narration. I listened to this as an audiobook, and I’m sorry to sound harsh or inconsiderate, but the narration was laughable. Neither the male or female narrator could voice the passion of the sexy scenes. Seeing as this book has a ridiculous amount of sex scenes and dirty talk, it was kind of a problem when both sounded like robots reading from the phone book. The accents between the characters were also totally off. The male narrator makes Gina sound Greek, whereas the female reader made her sound slightly British. It was the little details like that which interrupted the flow of the novel.

rock.it_1

Another aspect of this novel I didn’t particularly care for was the financial one. Roth has a seemingly endless amount of money. Even when he and Kyrie are on the run at the end of the novel to escape the wrath of Gina’s father, he still seems to have pretty easy access to all of his bank accounts. Roth even buys a super yacht for them to sail away on. I’m sorry, but it just seemed almost too easy, not to mention a terrible way to cover your tracks. I think if Mr. Billionaire Valentine Roth suddenly found himself on the run with a lack of money it would have added another layer of suspense to the tale.

Series: Alpha, book 2. Honestly, not really looking forward to the third book in this trilogy, but I’m sure I’ll get around to finishing it at some point.

Should you read it? I was already kind of on the fence with book 1, and this second book just rubbed me the wrong way in so many different places. I couldn’t help but feel that the issue of rape was resolved almost too quickly with very little time for Roth to heal. Again, it sort of came across as though because he’s an alpha male he should just push past it and jump into the deep end. There was definitely a disconnect between these first two books, as this sequel feels like an action movie with a crap ton of sex thrown in. As for the motivation of our villain Gina, we never really discover why after ten years of ignoring Roth she suddenly had the desire to go to the ultimate extreme by capturing and raping him.

Smut Level: Roth and Kyrie certainly don’t need a magical Viagra drug to screw at all hours of the day and night.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 406 Pages.

Advertisements

The Dark Side by DB Kennison

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

What’s it About?

34814928

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

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

First Impressions

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

complex-whimsy-piece-300.jpg

Who Dunnit? 

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

anigif_sub-buzz-10728-1475898171-3.gif

A Bump in the Road

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

1280_bones_0209

Cell Phones and Breaking Bad

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

breaking-bad

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

83810b3449304a9c7b27f5428f82cbee--dark-fantasy-tea-cups

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

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

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

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

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

Weary of Running by Adrienne Morris

The summer was off to such a good start for Buck Crenshaw. Unfortunately, all of that falls apart with the arrival of Milford Streeter to the West Point Military Academy.

What’s it About? 

weary of running

When West Point Military Academy opens its doors to black candidate Milford Streeter in 1884, Cadet Buck Crenshaw’s moral ambivalence is tested. Will Buck keep his place in the yearling pecking order or throw it away on a stand for Streeter? After Cadet Streeter sacrifices Buck’s reputation to safeguard his own, Buck escapes to his sister Thankful at Fort Grant, Arizona and meets an old rival, William Weldon. Buck must make a decision about the sort of man he wants to become while witnessing the downward spiral of his favorite sister’s romance with a dashing army lieutenant. Weary of Running is about the dangers of moral ambivalence and the redeeming power of love and friendship in an imperfect world of mixed emotions and foolish decisions.

First Impressions

This book held so much promise in the beginning, but unfortunately things quickly got out of control to the point where it was no longer my cup of tea. I was excited to read about what I thought would be an ensuing friendship between Buck and West Point’s first ever black candidate, perhaps standing up against prejudice in a military establishment so soon after the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, while Buck is initially open to the idea of a black cadet at West Point, it doesn’t take long before the influence of his brother, fellow cadets, and Streeter’s own actions to turn Buck into, well, a racist. And this sort of brings me to my main issue with this novel; I really could not find any one main character that I liked. Every single character presented in this novel is extremely flawed, and that makes it almost impossible to root for any of them to succeed.

analecticusma

The Disappearance of Buck

According to Goodreads, this novel is referred to as “A Buck Crenshaw Novel”. Therefore, I assumed that the majority of the novel would be about…Buck Crenshaw. Shockingly enough though, after about 10% of the novel he completely disappears from the story, and doesn’t return until the book is almost finished. Umm, what? I thought this was mainly going to be all about him and Streeter. And while Buck comes back into the tale much later on, we never hear about Streeter again, or even really get a resolution to that part of the story. Definitely a let down.

sadbat_large

The Arrival of Thankful and William

So I would say Buck disappears for a good 60-65% of the book. Not gonna lie though, I wasn’t really sad to see him go. We see how others mistakenly assume he’s being soft on Streeter, and everything just spirals down from there to the point where Buck himself comes to despise Streeter. Buck and his brother, Fred, even go so far as to beat up Streeter and leave him for dead. Yikes! The novel then switches gears to follow Thankful out West, as she’s pursuing a childhood crush, William, who recently moved out there.

old west

Alright, maybe this is where some romance will come into the story? Unfortunately…not so much. William is a raging alcoholic, which was spurred on by an accident from his childhood that left him with memory problems, headaches, and a crooked leg. But that doesn’t stop people from showing him zero sympathy, and constantly making fun of him for being a cripple. Thankful also turns away from him in the pursuit of another army officer who is good looking and showers her with compliments and trinkets. Man, this is just getting depressing!

Buck and William

Although these two characters barely spend any time together in the pages of this novel, their situations are quite similar. Basically, we see how they are ostracized from their comrades, supposed friends, and even their family due to a long string of misunderstandings, and a ridiculous amount of over-reacting from others. They become social pariahs, and while you’d think this would garner some sympathy from us as the reader, it’s also pretty hard to do.

giphy

I’ll admit, there were times that I felt somewhat bad for both Buck and William as their lives totally spiraled out of control into dark depression. This was probably more true in my opinion of William rather than Buck though, who at least had some legitimate medical reasons behind his behavior oftentimes getting out of control. The problem though is that as soon as I’d kind of feel bad for them, it wasn’t long before they’d proceed to say something racist, sexist, or just downright rude. Heck, at one point William even hits a woman! While these may have been common actions and opinions in the 1880s, it’s just not something I want my main characters to indulge in.

Supplemental Characters

If I had to pinpoint the main characters of this novel, it would be Buck, William and Thankful. The majority of the supplemental characters are the familial relations of all of these characters, and my God are they a handful. It was almost comical, yet also annoying, how quickly and constantly they would rush to the most outlandish of conclusions, and over-react to every possible scenario without hearing out what would actually be a very simple explanation. It’s like nobody wanted to listen to reason. At one point Buck’s family even wants to put him in an asylum because he keeps getting into trouble. Buck and Thankful’s brother, Fred, is particularly deceitful by always blaming his own crimes on others, and the whole lot is pretty shockingly rude.

tumblr_n6fo43Ma7E1sgl0ajo1_500

Whether it be children berating their parents, or parents being openly hurtful to their children, we are dealing with some characters that I had a really tough time liking. There were definitely some complicated family dynamics at play. To give you just a glimpse of some of the hurtful things these characters would say, one mother yells at her daughter, “I tell you all the time that there’s a great deal of difference between plump and downright fat and you have long since crossed that line.” When speaking of Indians a character states, “The savages should be sent from this earth-every last one of them.” Eventually I realized that practically every female in this novel reminded me of the mother in Pride and Prejudice. We’re talking Colin Firth movie version here; very over-the-top emotional, eccentric, etc.

P&P 1995 mrs bennet

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

Series: The Tenafly Road Series, book…? This is listed as book 1 and book 2 in a few different places.

Should you read it? I hate to say it, but I had a tough time finishing this one. It was just one unfortunate event after another, with no real light at the end of the tunnel. Look, I get it. We are dealing with a novel set in the 1880s. It was a different time. But the historical novels that I like are the ones that rise above social prejudice, and highlight characters that go against the social norm to come out on top. Is that perhaps an unrealistic and fairy-tale like hope? Sure! But when I’m reading something in my spare time I’d like at least one happy thing to happen to a character I somewhat like, and unfortunately I found that lacking in this read.

Smut Level: There’s one quick jaunt behind a pile of wood, and another scene or two involving a…lady of the night.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 327 Pages.

Unteachable by Leah Raeder, Eliott Wake

A clear lesson to all the ladies and gents out there: when it comes to sex, don’t lie about your age. Just…don’t.

What’s it About? 

unteachable

Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future. But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.

When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside. That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.

Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.

First Impressions

You guys, I had a lot of problems with this book. It all starts with the first introductions we have of our lead characters. Honestly, not the best. They meet at a summer carnival, which is just so Grease I can’t even help myself (not that that’s a bad thing). As the evening progresses, they both ask the other how old they are. Each has a coy response of “old enough…”. Mkay, here we go. Let’s start with Evan. I’m sorry but if you’re flirting it up with a girl who seems young enough where you find yourself questioning her age, and she comes back with that response?! You turn the other way and run as fast as you can.

finding nemo

For Maise, she knows that Evan is older than her, and that’s what draws her to him in the first place. She’s not interested in having casual sex with someone her own age who will be finished with the act in 24.3 seconds and lament over having to wear a condom. Damn, gives a pretty unfortunate generalization of teenage guys here. Not only does Maise lie about her age (says she’s 21, actually 18) and occupation (says she’s a stripper, actually a high school student), but Evan’s inability to admit what he actually does for a living (high school teacher!!!) could have avoided this whole mess from the start. It doesn’t paint them in a very good light for a first impression.

Daddy Issues

You guessed it! It all comes back to the father figure. Even Maise admits this is why she’s attracted to having casual sex with older men. Maise was abandoned by her father when she was little, and left to live with her drug addicted mother. When it comes to relationships, Maise leaves these older men by the time the night is over so they aren’t the ones to leave her. Phew, that’s a lot of family drama right there! I think this is presented as the primary reason we are supposed to sympathize with Maise’s character. My problem with this is that she has the tendency to treat everyone around her like utter crap, including her best friend. Maise seems desperate to convince herself and others that she’s an adult. She gives off this arrogant persona as though she’s better and smarter than everyone else around her, specifically when it comes to her classmates. However, in my humble opinion this attitude of hers, in addition to her actions with Evan, truly bring her immaturity to the forefront.

Carnival_Rides.jpg

After having what she thought would be a one-night stand with Evan, she comes to discover that he is actually her high school film teacher. When they both realize this unfortunate coincidence it doesn’t prevent her from continuing to pursue him. If anything, it spurs her on. When Evan tries to explain that continuing anything with him wouldn’t be good for her, Maise states that he couldn’t possibly do any more damage to her than has already been done. Powerful words, yet nowhere in her speech does she acknowledge the damage this relationship could cause him. Maise believes that the worst case scenario with carrying on this relationship is that he gets fired and she gets kicked out of school. The best case scenario? She literally has no answer. She simply asks herself that question and moves on, even admitting, “This is all to high school for me.” Even when commenting that Evan could get fired was done with a seemingly “oh well!” attitude. It highlights that she’s just thinking of herself in this scenario.

film

That Being Said!

Now, don’t assume that I forgot about our boy Evan here. This is all a two-way street remember. You wanna talk immaturity, let’s look at Mr. High School Teacher having sex with his student. Come on man!! DANGER ZONE! Not only did you refuse to follow your gut when you thought this girl was too young for you, but then when you found out the truth you really didn’t put up much of a fight when she proceeded to seduce you. From the very start of this novel I kept thinking to myself, “If something happens and you two are discovered I really have no pity.” They even go to a motel together to have sex. God, could this be any more cliche?

motel

There was one statement from Maise that I could actually appreciate, and that was when she questioned how screwed up this guy must be to get mixed up with an 18 year old. Exactly!! But then she goes and ruins it by insisting the two can be discreet about their relationship, and continue having sex. Not only do they go to a motel together in broad daylight, but they also make-out in his classroom during lunch, send each other naughty pics, and she even has him pick her up when she’s drunk at a party with a bunch of her classmates. Discreet? Looks like a vocab lesson might be necessary?

The Immaturity Continues

Maise admits very openly that she was initially drawn to Evan because of his age, then to the fact that he’s her teacher. She constantly refers to him as Mr. Wilke, both when having sex and when thinking of him if they’re apart. The sense of the forbidden was what solidified their relationship. You have to question if she even likes him as a person! After they are almost caught having sex in his classroom by another student, Maise delights at the idea of people knowing about their relationship, yet having no way of proving it. Umm, what?

giphy

Evan does make a sad attempt at one point to hold off on continuing their relationship until after she leaves for college, even suggesting she drop out of his class. This causes Maise to become off-the-rails offended. She’s adamant she must stay in his class if she’s going to get into film school, seeing as she needs to create a short film for her final project. Sorry to say this, but I kind of doubt just one film class your senior year is really going to make a difference. Also, if you were really serious about film school you’d probably already have some kind of portfolio built up, and you’d continue making this film even if you had to drop out of the class. As for Evan, have some self control to keep your hands off a student for the rest of the year!

In Conclusion

How the hell are we supposed to view this relationship????? Are we supposed to root for them to have a happily ever after together? My main complaint wasn’t so much about the age difference. We get it, you’re 18, technically it’s legal. My issue was with the ethical dilemma. He’s her teacher; she’s his student. And yet she felt the rules didn’t apply to them, or her in particular. Maise saw herself as better than everyone else, more mature and hardened, so why shouldn’t she be able to pursue a relationship with her teacher? Ugggggghhhhhh! Maise never owns up to her actions. There are seemingly no consequences to having an affair with her teacher, not to mention some of the other stuff she does in this book. At one point, she is even seemingly rewarded for some of her questionable activities.

Head in Hands

They also always seem to be putting on a role/facade when they’re with each other. Pretending to be other people, or acting out something like a scene from a movie. We’re supposed to think this relates to their shared interest in film, but I couldn’t help but question if it demonstrates their entire relationship is just an act. Are they really attracted to who the other person truly is? It seems that whenever they start to uncover something too “real” about the other person they quickly switch to their fake character personas. No joke you guys, the characters annoyed me so much I literally rolled my eyes every…single…time I listened to this audio book. I think I may have actually offended someone on the subway who thought my eye roll was intended for her.

homer-simpson-doh.png

Series: No.

Should you read it? Blarg. To give one positive point to this novel, I will say the author was quite poetic with the writing. However, while the sentences might be strung together eloquently, that wasn’t enough to save what are essentially unlikable characters with no moral compass. Not to mention a pretty boring plot line. I didn’t even get into Maise’s treatment of her best friend, or how we discover Evan has a past that makes my opinion of him even worse. Didn’t know that was possible. All in all, I just could not like either of the main characters, which made for an almost painful read. If anyone out there enjoyed this one, I’d really love to get a discussion going! What am I missing here?

Smut Level: I don’t really wanna go there.

Get it on Amazon:  Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Atria Books. 321 Pages.

Close to the Skin by Zara West

A hardened criminal? Or a loving protector? Bella debates whether she should turn to the intimidating Vernon for help considering his past, but she can’t deny how he looks at her with love in his eyes.

What’s it About?

35661826

Never back down, never turn your back, and never fall in love. Head of a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise, Vernon Newell doesn’t let family ties or misplaced sympathy get in his way. But there is one chink in his armor—Sirena Patras, the beautiful young Greek girl he seduced and deserted eight years ago. When Vernon discovers that Bella Bell, a prospering tattoo artist in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is actually Sirena, he sets out to woo and to win her. Despite her attraction to the fabulously sexy man, Bella wants nothing to do with a hard-headed, ruthless criminal. But when threatening messages start arriving, and Vernon disappears, Bella must choose to abandon the man she loves, as he did her, or risk her life to save him.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a fascinating debate of whether or not to love a “former” hardened criminal. I think a quote from this book which perfectly encapsulates our heroine’s struggle is “Could a man who touched her with such love, kill over and over again in cold blood, and still have a heart left in him?” It’s basically a question of whether a killer can transform into a passionate lover. However, as the novel progresses we also question if the two personas can coexist at the same time. Such an intriguing dichotomy that doesn’t necessarily have a nice answer.

4dc2d52a978d019bbb9ac37ec11da787

Falling for the Criminal

First of all, Vernon is charming as hell. He and Bella have a ton of chemistry, not to mention a passionate past, and he draws on it every chance he gets. He’s intent to marry her, constantly trying to convince her of his worth, and how amazing their lives will be together. On the one hand, you really do want them to be together, as they seem like kindred spirits. At the same time though, you completely understand her hesitancy to get involved with him. It almost reminded me of a mob movie, like Goodfellas, where you almost scream to the woman on the screen, “Why are you risking your life to get involved with this man?”

o-GOODFELLAS-facebook

The last thing Bella wants is to get mixed up in Vernon’s criminal world. You just never know when his former enemies might come looking for him, or possibly torture her to get to him. Vernon insists he’s given up that world. That he’s gone straight. The fact that he constantly has a bodyguard with him reflects that danger still lurks behind every corner. I will say, he’s so charming and convincing that even I believed him. Unfortunately, we quickly find out that he wasn’t necessarily telling the whole truth.

CRM_0989.NEF

Stretching the Truth

Sooooo, Vernon basically straight out lies to Bella regarding his criminal activities. While he’s not necessarily his father’s heinous henchman anymore, he still hasn’t removed himself entirely from that world. Definitely an interesting set up for a main character. When Bella initially pushes Vernon away we want her to overcome her hesitations, and realize he’s the only one for her. However, when we see how he lies to her we also question if she deserves someone better. Probably the most intense up and down of an emotional roller-coaster regarding my opinion towards a main character ever! I didn’t really know as the novel progressed what my final opinion of him would be, or if he could redeem himself in Bella’s eyes. Or mine for that matter! Fascinating progression to be sure.

fingerscrossed_article

Burning Fire

Bella has a fiery personality, which also equates into a burning temper. She’s often quick to pounce on Vernon, and jump to conclusions with those closest to her. We also see how this “quick to assume the worst” attitude carries over into her business life. When she has the opportunity to design tattoos for a new TV show, she’s convinced she doesn’t have the time to draw them all and still maintain her tattoo parlor. But, she does. When she loses those designs she laments over the fact she could never possibly recreate all that hard work in such a short amount of time. All is seemingly lost. But, she does.

778397

It shows that when she sets her mind to something she can accomplish the most seemingly impossible of tasks. At the same time though, when it occurs repeatedly throughout the novel it also makes us wanna tell her to “calm down girl, have some tea and take a deeeeeep breath”. When Bella also insists that she could never possibly love Vernon because of his violent past, and determinedly swears they’re over it’s easy to question how steadfast she’ll really be.

Some Additional Minor Points

Vernon has a pretty strange relationship with his younger brother. He’s tried to keep him out of the criminal world, but to no avail. Their relationship is almost in limbo as Vernon struggles to acknowledge that his little brother isn’t necessarily sweet and innocent. I don’t want to give away too much of this story line, but I will say it didn’t seem 100% resolved to me by the end of the novel. It does however allow for Vernon to make a choice of what is more important to him: Bella, or his family and extravagant lifestyle.

Castle-2-56-mark.jpg-nggid041911-ngg0dyn-990x0x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010

 

Lastly, I’m sorry to admit that I did have some trouble remembering all of the details surrounding Bella and Vernon’s relationship from the previous novel. I read a lot of books, okay?! 87 books to be precise since I read the first one. I think a brief summary at the start of the novel would have been extremely beneficial, especially concerning the dynamic with Vernon’s deceased brother who kidnapped Bella. While the story does eventually come full circle, answering a lot of the question marks from book one, it came together a bit too piece meal for my liking. At one point I even found myself rereading some of the end of the last book to try and remember some of the details.

book-piles

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

Series: The Skin Quartet, book 2. I am absolutely in love with the supporting characters in this series, specifically our band of graffiti artists. If a future novel features one of them as the lead character I am sooooo reading it.

Should you read it? I did prefer this over book one, even though we do see some of the same themes carry over into this novel as well. Most significantly, our main characters aren’t always 100% likable. They have flaws, just like we all do. However, whereas this feature in book 1 made it difficult for me to relate to said characters, I felt it was developed so much more prominently in book 2. It demonstrates our feelings towards the characters are fluid. One minute you want Bella and Vernon to have a happily ever after. The next you wonder if Bella is right to keep her distance. So interesting that as Bella contemplates her feelings for Vernon, we too can sympathize with her debate.

Smut Level: Nothing like a little hanky panky on the kitchen floor!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 264 Pages.

Don’t Toy with Me by Barbara Barrett

Am I the only one who wishes it was socially acceptable to still be able to play with your childhood toys as an adult? Seriously, give me a few Barbies and a Polly Pocket or two and I’ll entertain myself for hours. Actually…probably more like days.

What’s it About?

don't toy with me

Repossession of your car in Los Angeles is like breathing without lungs. It can make an unemployed management consultant like Jordan Wright do crazy things, such as accept a job beneath her skills on a reality competition show and pretend to be a spy for a competing outfit.

Even though he sees through the undercover story, the show’s executive producer, Bart Underwood, is intrigued by it as well as the woman spinning her tale. Creativity is not one of his strong suits, and he has found himself in over his head with this new production. Unable to ask directly for Jordan’s help, he takes advantage of her need to prove herself in hopes she’ll rescue his baby. But despite their growing attraction to each other, even she can’t save a reverse beauty pageant titled Ugly as Sin.

When several stunts go awry, she suggests a new approach, challenges based on toys designed by Bart’s toymaker uncle. Though interested, Bart must first deal with his useless partner, who has been blackmailing him to stick around. The man’s resentment of Jordan threatens to not only disrupt her growing involvement with Bart but also risk the viability of the new show, Don’t Toy with Me.

First Impressions

When it came to this book my first impression surrounded the synopsis. Goodness gracious there’s a lot going on here! The novel has a rather complicated start, which I think is perfectly reflected in the synopsis. In my opinion, it did seem a bit overly elaborate at times. For example, we have a rather complicated meet cute of Jordan trying out for a show which she thinks is a beauty pageant, and instead of admitting outright that she didn’t know what the show was about she creates an elaborate scheme about spying for a competing production company. Bart knows she’s lying, yet decides to play along even after she admits the truth. Phew, I’m exhausted already! It felt like maybe it could have been that Jordan was in need of a job to pay for her car, so she takes a job she wouldn’t normally take as an assistant on a reality show. Bing, bang, boom, still fun and interesting, yet not as many moving pieces.

exhausted

We All Know!

The feature of this novel which confused me the most was Jordan’s creation of this rival production company. It seemed like such an unnecessary story when she could have admitted, “sorry, didn’t know what this show was about, my bad.” Sure, not as interesting, but perhaps a tad more realistic? What I had more trouble understanding though was why Bart would choose to continue playing along with this story even after she admits she lied. Then, as the story progresses, Jordan starts to assume that Bart knows she was lying, yet she also doesn’t confront him about her assumptions. I couldn’t help but compare it to a Friends episode where they don’t know we know they know we know, sooooo….

they don't know.gif

Big Reveals and Motivations

Another unfortunate aspect of the synopsis was that it sort of revealed too much of the plot. We know from the outset that the premise behind this reality show is crazy. The concept of demonstrating how terrible society can be to ugly people, and that the ugliest contestant on this show wins is troubling to wrap your head around. Throughout the whole novel we wonder how Jordan or Bart could possibly turn this around into a winning idea. Problem is, we already know how. The synopsis demonstrates it’s just a matter of time before the show transitions into a reality contest centered around Bart’s uncle’s toy creations. If this little tidbit hadn’t been revealed in the synopsis I think we as the audience would have really been stumped on how this show could possibly make a turn for the better.

teddy-bears-31a

Another reveal in the synopsis which confused me a bit was the reference to Bart being blackmailed to continue on with the show. This really doesn’t become a feature until the very end of the novel. Kind of a spoiler for me! The fact that his partner doesn’t try to blackmail him until pretty late in the game makes you question for the majority of the novel why Bart would bother putting up with such a terrible show, and terrible person, for so long. He knows the show is crap, yet he sticks with it, and has a seemingly strange sense of devotion to his partner. If this blackmail feature had been introduced earlier on, I think it would have helped us understand Bart’s motivation as to why he was refusing to throw in the towel with this crazy show.

The Puppet Master

Unfortunately, although I tried my best I ultimately found it rather hard to like Bart as a character. We all know that he’s testing Jordan. He recognizes her creativity almost immediately, and believes she could be the answer to making this terrible reality show a success. However, rather than admit, “we could really use your help in making this show better”, or “let’s collaborate to improve the premise” he instead kind of treats her bad. Bart sends her on a multitude of crazy errands as a way of testing her resolve, and basically berates her any time she has a suggestion which strays from the ugly beauty pageant concept. Talk about frustrating! Especially because he secretly agrees with all her suggestions. While this strategy definitely allowed Jordan to shine and prove her worth, it sort of made me see him as, well, a coward for not vocalizing his concerns to her or his partner. In a sneaky way, it makes his partner look on Jordan as the intruding villain, when in reality Bart is the puppet master orchestrating the downfall of his “friend’s” concept. Again, such an elaborate scheme.

puppet

A Love Blooms

Bart and Jordan have a growing attraction to each other as they invest more of their time in this show. I think some more development in their chemistry would have been beneficial. As it stands it seemed like one minute they were kind of flirting with each other, a few longing looks, a brush of the hand, and the next they were going at it on his office couch. While I’m all for office loving (assuming the door is locked!), it seemed kind of rushed to me. I guess I just had a hard time believing their connection.

couch

That being said, there was another relationship blooming in this novel that I found to be particularly compelling, and that was between Jordan’s aunt Sheila, and Bart’s uncle Andrew. I’ll tell ya, I’d definitely read a book where their love was the main focus! They were so freakin’ adorable I immediately perked up any time they entered a scene. Both lost their significant others years before, and for Andrew the circumstances were extremely tragic. They’ve been hesitant to interact too much with others for years, yet when Sheila and Andrew meet they are able to come out of the shells they’ve trapped themselves in. They learn to live and love again with each other. Ahhhh, sigh.

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

Series: I could see the potential for a series. A brief novella for Sheila and Andrew would be my everything!!

Should you read it? I wish we could have had more scenes involving stunts with the toys. It was such a unique concept, yet we really only got one up-close toy scene in the competition. As for our lead characters I truly admired Jordan’s ability to stand up for her opinions in front of Bart. Not my favorite male lead when all was said and done though. I think if we had been privy earlier on to his motivations behind this show, specifically in relation to his feelings of guilt surrounding his mother, I probably would have liked him more as a character. Sheila and Andrew definitely stole the show for me, and I just wanted more of their adorableness!

Smut Level: Some office couch time, but nothing too over the top.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 244 Pages.

Fractured by Sydney Landon

After the dramatic end of book one, you can’t help but be drawn into this next novel in the Lucian and Lia series.

What’s it About?

23015904

Desire brought them together; tragedy may tear them apart…Lucian and Lia attempt to deal with the aftermath of the violent attack on her by her stepfather. As events unfold in their lives, Lia finds that she can no longer be patient with the man that she loves, because his secrets are tearing them apart. Lucian cannot deny the fact that he’s fallen in love with the brave and beautiful woman who has lived a life of horror. He wants nothing more than to protect her, but soon realizes that he may be the person who will hurt her the most. To be together, they’ll have to fight demons from their pasts that threaten to tear them apart.

First Impressions

This was a rather depressing read, but considering the subject matter you can’t be too surprised. This book opens with the immediate aftermath of Lia’s attack by her step-father. It was brutal, and although we never really witnessed anything during the attack itself, we are subject to the gruesome details as told by Lia after the fact in the hospital. It’s a heartbreaking retelling and quite difficult to stomach. What we see in the following days are Lucian’s attempts to cope with almost losing the love of his life, even if he can’t admit it out loud, all while going cold turkey on his cocaine addiction. We also see Lia’s attempts to cope with life as a survivor, and the difficulty of feeling “lucky” to just be alive.

o-WOMAN-IN-PAIN-facebook

Surviving

This was an emotional read to be sure, as we experience how helpless Lucian feels as he just has to stand by and watch as Lia struggles to survive in her hospital bed. When Lia finally awakens we also see how her life will never be the same again. They find strength in each other, but Lucian’s continual secrets about his own past threatens to break the connection the two have.

star137

Setting Up

It did seem as though a large portion of this novel is setting up for some ultimate climactic reveal about everything that happened in Lucian’s past. Seeing as this was also a rather prominent feature in book one, I couldn’t help but feel that this second novel was rather repetitive and slightly boring.

David-Gandy-MS-03_GQ-15Apr14_pr_b

There are some interesting developments going on between other characters in the novel, which is obviously a set up for some future books. After a while it’s kind of like, quit with the build-up and just get there already! I will say though, the ending of this book was fantabulous, as Lucian’s secrets finally push Lia over the edge. Can’t wait to see how it’ll all come together in the next book!

Series: Lucian and Lia, book 2.

Should you read it? I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as book one, but I’m hoping that everything will come together in the next book for an exciting finish.

Smut Level: Lia might have a broken nose and a cast on her arm, but that just means she and Lucian have to get a tad more creative when doing the nasty.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price, or whole series for $4.99. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. 358 Pages.