In Your Corner by Sarah Castille

At one point in this novel Jake is helping Amanda correct her form and technique with push-ups. I gotta say…I don’t think I’ve ever come across a novel which has made this physical activity seem so damn sensual. What with all the grasping, pulling, pushing and rubbing. Oh good God the rubbing.

What’s it About?

18509673

He rules in the ring

Two years ago, Jake and Amanda were going hot and heavy. But when Jake wanted more, Amanda walked away. Jake immersed himself in mixed martial arts, living life on the edge. But that didn’t dull the pain of Amanda’s rejection-until a chance encounter throws them together.

A high-powered lawyer, Amanda was a no-strings-attached kind of girl. But two years after her breakup with Jake, she still hasn’t found anyone who gets her heart pumping the way he did. And then he shows up in her boardroom, hot as sin and needing help…

But can he rule her heart?

Jake is darker, sexier, and impossible to resist. As their chemistry builds, Amanda’s not sure if she can stay in control, or if she’s finally willing to let him claim her body and soul.

First Impressions

Ok ladies and gents, first things first. I think we all need to take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty of this cover art. I mean, my God, he’s like a sculpture! I never quite understood in romance novels when female leads expressed the desire of wanting to lick the tattoos of their male love interest, but after viewing this cover?! Yeah, ok I still don’t get the sentiment. Especially considering how sweaty this guy looks. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth if you ask me. But still! Beautiful man right there.

giphy.gif

Alright, now that that’s outta the way, we can begin! To give you all an idea of where my mind was at when starting this novel, I’d actually like to quote myself from something I wrote in my review of the first book in this series. Ahem, cue throat clearing noise, “If we ever have a future novel featuring Amanda as the female lead I’m gonna have some issues with it.” Lo and behold, who is the main character of book 2? Why Amanda of course! I must say, I really hated this character in the first novel. Here’s another gem of a quote from my last review, “Not gonna lie, this woman is a terrible friend, and quite possibly a terrible person in general.” Needless to say, I wasn’t quite looking forward to this read, but if I were ever to skip a book in a series I’m convinced the world would implode in on itself. Ok, I’m not that psychotic, but you get my point.

worldexplode

Expectation vs. Reality

Imagine my shock and awe when I started reading this book to discover Amanda really wasn’t that bad. Now, personally I think there are three main components which contributed to the reason she didn’t get on my nerves as much in this book. First, it’s been two years since the end of book one. Who knows, maybe she’s been able to mature in that time. Second, we do finally get to hear things from her point of view, and it definitely puts things in perspective. Growing up Amanda was never one to hear “I love you” very often from her parents, who also held her to impeccably high standards. She’s always been closed off, putting a wall up in her relationships in an attempt to numb herself to the pain of when she would inevitably be dumped. Must have added to the whole “selfish” personality trait which was so persistent in book one. Points one and two considered, I think there is one main overbearing reason though why it was easier to like Amanda in this book compared to book 1.

mujeres

Honestly, it was like we were introduced to a completely different character. I feel as though more of the infuriating characteristics of Amanda’s personality were either toned down, or even changed entirely in order for us to like her more as a main character. In looking back on my review of the first book, one of the reasons I disliked her so much was in her treatment of Jake when the two briefly dated. I discussed how she decided to slowly faze him out because he didn’t bend to her every selfish whim, and when he said “to hell with this” he decided to break things off, at which point Amanda immediately jumped into bed with someone else. But then in this book their break up is presented in such a different light, as though she pulled away from Jake because she was afraid of opening up to him. Seems like either their break up was not fully discussed in a coherent way in the first book, and I totally misread the situation, or we’re getting a toned down version of events so that it’s easier to sympathize with Amanda. Sure, I like to believe the version of events we get in this book, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect here.

couples-passionately-kissing-ben-lamberty-2-5875dfd46b0f9__880

Chasing the Climax

Amanda likes sex. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. The connection of two people, where for the briefest of moments she can finally feel loved and desired by someone else. It’s a feeling which comes crashing down in the light of day, and so she continually tries to chase that connection. When her boss discovers her penchant for sex he tries to use it as a way to blackmail her. Either she gets down on her knees to please him, or he’ll reveal her entire dossier of past sexual partners (and it’s a pretty thick dossier) to her parents. Not only that, but he’ll tarnish her reputation all over town by saying that she was the one to proposition him. Rock, meet hard place. Audience, meet a jackass in a position of power who thinks he can manipulate a woman into spreading her legs for him.

son-of-a-bitch-gif-3

The fact that this form of sexual harassment happens so often in the real world makes us want to stand behind Amanda in any way possible to support her. Also, the fact that Amanda chooses to say no, to walk away with her reputation in tatters but her integrity intact? Well that makes us root for her all the more. After telling her boss to go to hell Amanda makes the brave decision to strike out on her own. To fight back against the man who tried to take advantage of her, and so many others before her. Honestly I think I liked this part of the story a lot more than the romantic aspect! I almost wish these two separate story lines could have been blended together more. It isn’t until the very end when Amanda is about to face her boss again that Jake makes a quick appearance to say that he is in her corner, but it seemed like a missed opportunity for them to discuss it more throughout the rest of the book as something to connect over. Instead they connect over something else.

crazy-kiss.jpg

S…E…X

No more beating around the bush. Sex is a very important part of Amanda and Jake’s relationship. We discover that it’s the one way for Amanda to finally open about what she’s feeling. It’s important to remember that when our novel opens, Amanda and Jake haven’t seen each other in over two years. This ramps up their sexual desire about tenfold, as they’ve both been denying their sexual connection for quite some time. It makes every glance, every touch, that much more intriguing. But Jake wants so much more from Amanda than just sex. He wants a relationship, and for Amanda to open up to share what she’s thinking, feeling, and what she’s afraid of. Here’s the problem though. These two don’t know how to effectively communicate!

6f0d04011c40ee58150cdb6ece79cfed

In the beginning especially, Jake does a pretty poor job of telling Amanda exactly what he wants out of this relationship. They’ll be in the midst of a heavy make-out session when he’ll abruptly stop, say they both need to consider what they really want from this, and then turn around and leave. This makes Amanda mistakenly think he wants nothing from her. And then when Jake does finally communicate that he wants the whole kit and caboodle with her she suddenly pulls away because she doesn’t want to open up. My God girl do you want the guy or no?!?! I had trouble at times following her thought process.

361b81eb66a1f18c592b443942e8e226

When she and Jake start to explore a sexual relationship again after two years apart, she seems so desperate to ensure this isn’t just another notch in her bedpost. She wants that high she’s been chasing for so long to finally stick with someone who makes her feel wanted, and Jake appears to be that guy. When he eventually admits he wants the same thing though she puts her walls back up. She can’t give up control. In a way it seems like now she just wants sex from him, and I must say it was kind of uncomfortable at times how she’d ignore Jake’s feelings to get it. At one point Jake was trying to put a stop once again to their sexplorations so that they could talk things over. He’s begging her to stop, to take things slow, saying no over and over again, but she just keeps rubbing up against him until they give in to their desires on the floor of a MMA fight cage. Remember everyone, no means no. However, ironically enough it turns out that having sex is the key to getting Amanda to finally open up and talk about herself! Something about that post-orgasmic sleepy bliss gets her to talk about her feelings. I have an inkling Jake won’t mind too much in the long run using that technique to ultimately have an honest conversation with the woman.

Series: Redemption, book 2. You might not believe it, but I think I may have actually liked this book better than book one. I am also excited to see what comes next in this series, as I genuinely enjoy all of the remaining characters. Nowhere to go but up, right?

Should you read it? So, just like the previous book I can’t say this was my favorite read ever. Jake and Amanda seem like they are caught up in a never-ending circle of getting close and then breaking away into their separate corners for introspection before eventually coming together again. It got tiring and repetitive after a while. That being said, it starts and ends strong, as this is when we see Amanda stand up for herself against her boss, and go after what she wants in a relationship with Jake. It’s just that measly middle section where she starts to doubt anything and everything about her life. Could have been tweaked a bit.

Smut Level: Vibrating panties and a penis piercing. Enough said. She’s also never been spanked before, and Jake is more than happy to introduce her to it.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 302 Pages.

Advertisements

Gull Harbor by Kathryn Knight

This small coastal town harbors a deadly secret that one woman is determined to uncover. In order to do so she’ll need the help of a beloved local, her ex-boyfriend…and a ghost. Nobody ever said being a medium was easy!

What’s it About?

17413213

When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day.

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she’s facing a danger beyond the paranormal. When Claire risks everything to help a desperate spirit, Max must race to save her–before another tragedy tears them apart forever.

First Impressions

This novel blends together a second chance romance with a supernatural murder mystery. Claire has traveled to Gull Harbor to rid a beautiful home of the spirit of a young woman who met a tragic fate within the house at the hands of a drug dealer. As if that wasn’t a trying enough itinerary, Claire quickly discovers that this quaint town also contains her ex-boyfriend, Max, who deserted her years before with no explanation. Upon first reading, you immediately assume that in addition to dealing with the awkward end to their relationship, Max and Claire must also butt heads over her supposed supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits. However, something which I found to be rather refreshing when it came to this novel is the fact that we don’t really encounter any characters who doubt Claire’s ghostly abilities. We never come across a scene where Claire must desperately try to convince someone of her morbid gift, and I must say I absolutely loved this feature. From the beloved coffee shop owner, to the devastatingly handsome Max, and eventually even the murderer of our sad ghost, it really doesn’t take much for all of them to believe in her abilities. These characters have enough drama to deal with, we don’t need to add on another element of questioning doubt to the story.

cbs-CBS_GHOST_W_S04-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1504715409077._RI_SX940_

A Meddling Father

From the opening scene of the book, we are presented with two separate mysteries. The first revolves around the complicated history between Max and Claire. The two were inseparable towards the end of their collegiate careers, and yet for some inexplicable reason Max left her just when their lives together were about to start. What reason could Max possibly have for leaving town without a word, and will Claire ever be able to forgive him when the truth is eventually revealed? Only time will tell. The fact that Max can serenade the lass with a soothing voice, avid guitar skills, and a healthy sexual appetite…well let’s just say I’m confident the two will work it out.

8632f877dd2c4c95c23f80f8d2531380

We quickly discover that Claire’s father played a meddling role in ridding her life of Max all those years ago. There’s also an additional interesting ultra-side story involving Claire’s mother who has been stuck in a coma for years. While interesting, I couldn’t help but feel as though this drama revolving around her mother didn’t really fit in with the rest of the story. On the one hand I do wish we’d learned more about the dynamic between Claire and her father, but at the same time I feel like any more attention on this side story would have made the novel as a whole feel more disjointed. As it stands it’s sort of a weird limbo of not knowing enough, wanting to learn more, yet also wanting to get back to our ghostly haunting.

maxresdefault

A Tale of Woe

The second mystery of our novel is significantly more tragic, in that it deals with our mournful ghost with unfinished business. We discover the heartbreaking tale of a young woman named Maria who fled Mexico in the attempt to earn money which she could send to her family back home. Rather than find a land of opportunity, she is quickly used, abused, and pays the ultimate price with her life. The reality of the scenario is difficult to deal with at times, and yet I must say some of the best and most heartbreaking scenes of the entire novel deal with Maria sharing with Claire the experiences which led up to her death. The hopelessness, the fear, and even the moment when her spirit floats away to stare down at her lifeless body. But who was responsible for Maria’s death?

Szokeveny-szerelem--90101

Maria’s murderer is a sleazy drug dealer who once inhabited the home that Claire is now investigating. I must say, it seemed like a rather strange place for a drug dealer to be based. A cozy house in a small harbor town? It just seemed like he would have risked drawing unwanted attention to his nefarious activities seeing as he’s living in a quaint town where everybody knows everybody. Sure, access to the coast would be convenient when getting a drug delivery, or even the delivery of a young woman who unknowingly got caught up in human trafficking. At the same time though, it seems like the last thing he’d want is to possibly have a nosy neighbor coming by to deliver a pie.

02_EL_6_Art_of_pie_002

He Is Here!

This novel starts off particularly strong with the immediate tension between Max and Claire meeting again after so many years apart, especially considering their awkward end. Plus, you have the supernatural element on top of this where Claire is trying to connect with Maria so she can move on to a better place. While they encounter some communication difficulties at the beginning, eventually Claire discovers that Maria is lamenting the details of her death in Spanish. Once this language barrier is discovered the two ladies reach an understanding in that Claire is just trying to help Maria find peace. However, this is also the moment when the momentum of the story starts to slow down a bit.

Habla-Espanol-Spanish-Language-848x478

You’d think that once they figure out how to communicate, the truth surrounding Maria’s death would come to light fairly quickly. Instead we end up waiting around a bit for the final showdown of when Maria’s killer inevitably returns to town to try and shut up Claire’s snooping. A rather frustrating feature of the story is when the drug dealer sneaks into the house, and is momentarily scared away by Maria’s ghost. Maria proceeds to tell Claire just once in Spanish that “he is here”, and of course it had to be at a point when Claire wasn’t really paying attention. Maria then switches focus to urging Claire to find the location of her buried body, and the whole time you’re sort of yelling at Maria to re-warn Claire that the bad man is back in town.

woods_fine_picture_165852

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? In hindsight I think I almost would have preferred if Max and Claire didn’t know each other upon meeting in Gull Harbor. While I did enjoy certain aspects of their history, it did open up additional side stories involving Claire’s mother and father that weren’t really fully explored. If Max was just a sexy bartender in town who helped Claire get to the bottom of the ghostly mystery haunting this old house, I think it could have lessened some of those moments where the romance and supernatural aspects seemed disjointed. That being said, I found Maria’s story to be really interesting, and while I wish Maria had been more forceful in warning Claire of the reappearance of her murderer, it did result in an exciting and worthwhile climax to the novel.

Smut Level: Max and Claire usually get intimate at his place…or even in his office! Can’t blame them for wanting to avoid a ghostly audience!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.82. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 270 Pages.

The Beast of Aubyn Hall by Alex L. Michaels

A slightly quirky and accident prone bookworm? Check. A sexy as hell and overly confident alpha male? Check! You can definitely understand why this book would be part of the Bookworms & Alphas series!

What’s it About?36254272.jpg

The man they call the beast, sworn off love, meets the bookish beauty who thinks that love exists only in books. When Bronte Beltran finds out that her next assignment is cataloging the famous Aubyn Hall library, she’s ecstatic. But when she finds out they call the owner the Beast of Aubyn Hall, not so much. A week in a dusty library should be right up her alley. But a wrong word at the wrong time and she might just find out what exactly is beastly about the Beast of Aubyn Hall.

First Impressions

Holy crap this book is the epitome of sexual tension build-up. Practically from the moment that Bronte crosses the threshold into Aubyn Hall, and hears the dark and foreboding voice of Caine, aka our Beast, you can practically feel the air get thick with desire. That being said, prepare yourself to be teased, as we don’t get a full and final…climax to this desire until the very final moments of the book. You’ll want to scream out loud, “Just ravish each other already!”

45903d7bb59970c13bf6de3fbe3cb117.jpg

In a way, it sort of follows the same story arch of the first novel, where we were also presented with some delayed gratification. Whereas book one presents us with a plethora of being pushed up against a wall and being whipped around for an intense close-up discussion, in this novel we get the added glory of Caine continually coming up behind Bronte in the heat of an argument. Sexy whispers in her ear, not to mention that a particularly part of his anatomy is usually…digging into her bum. I will say, although we are being teased right along with the characters, this makes for a very quick read because you just keep reading on and on so you can get to the moment when they consummate this thing.

index

Sexy as Hell, buuuuuuut…

This book is sexy as all get out, but at the same time I also found the dynamic between Caine and Bronte to be somewhat worrisome. It’s clear that Caine is set and determined to have Bronte in his bed, and while she is obviously affected by his sexy whispers and passionate stares, she expends quite a bit of effort to convince both herself and him that she’s not receptive to his sexual ministrations. He’s also quick to boss her around, and while sometimes it relates to the fact that she’s working for him, in his home, cataloging his library, it also crosses the line of professionalism. Below is one quote which I found to be particularly concerning:

In fact, I don’t think he ever approached me in a kind or respectful manner. He just kept sneaking around me, provoking me, making me feel uncomfortable and sometimes he plainly insulted me. He also made me feel foolish, confused, insecure and sometimes plain afraid. But he also excited me enormously, that much I was able to admit to myself.

I mean, goodness gracious if it weren’t for that last sentence I’d be screaming at the woman to get the hell outta that house! At the same time though, whether she’s sexually excited by this man or not, I feel like the fact he sometimes made her feel “plain afraid”, can’t really be a good thing??? The last thing we want is to have an alpha male who borders the line into jackass. Although, I guess we were warned right in the title that we’re dealing with a beast here 🙂

ian-somerhalder-vampire-178346-216518-1280x0

However, based on how the novel progresses it becomes clear that Bronte is definitely attracted to this man, and she just doesn’t want to admit it to herself, so it results in Bronte continually running away from her feelings for this man. One of my favorite quotes from the book is said by another woman who has her sights set on Caine, and during one confrontation with Bronte she declares, “and you want him to get you whether you’re willing to admit this to yourself or not”. Such an intelligent statement that can carry over into so many romance novels. I guess I just wish there weren’t those moments thrown in where Bronte admits she doesn’t feel respected by Caine. It kind of throws a damper on the sexual fire that is spreading throughout the rest of the book.

superthumb.jpg

A Library in Disarray

Bronte and her team have been brought to Aubyn Hall in order to get Caine’s library in order for eventual public view. Maybe I’m just too much of a book nerd, but I sort of wish more time had been spent talking about the details involved with this work. I mean, what exactly goes into cataloging a library? Apparently a lot of heavy lifting, but what else? Alphabetizing? Writing down all the titles? Making sure there’s a designated romance section? This sort of ties in as well to my wish that Bronte and Caine had connected a bit more over their shared love of books. They both admit to the fact that they’re book lovers, but maybe having just one or two additional moments where they connect over books in the library might have transformed their relationship beyond just the obvious sexual connection.

austrian-library-4

A Beast with a Set Mind

Apparently Caine has a motto in life when it comes to Bronte, and that would be “I have set my mind on you.” This is his answer for everything when it comes to why he is constantly pursuing Bronte, and why he refuses to give up on her. No matter how many times she says no. Bronte is totally stumped when it comes to Caine’s pursuit, since she can’t understand why someone as gorgeous and rich as him would pursue a bookworm such as her.

d987c5e05d94f10c1269df32015ccbbd

This brings us to the inevitable confrontation and blow-up between Caine and Bronte. Just when they are starting to make some progress and headway to starting a relationship, it is revealed that Caine asked for Bronte specifically when it came to the work on his library. Apparently he had seen her once before, and this provoked his mind to be set on her. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble understanding why this was seen as such an offense to Bronte. She is immediately pissed, and explains that it was a way of Caine using his money to try and exert his control into her life.

giphy.gif

Which, ok, I can see is kind of weird. He could have just been a normal person, walked into the library where she was working and ask her out for a cup of coffee. But then we wouldn’t have a book, would we? 🙂 I guess her reaction seemed just a bit over-the-top considering this ploy to get her in his house was essentially his version of a pick-up line. My favorite comment on this entire situation comes from Bronte’s friend who states, “…boo hoo. So what? Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest type of seduction, but it wasn’t the worst either.” Amen sister!

giphy

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

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 2. You really don’t need to read the first book in this series to follow the plot of this one. The female lead from book 1 does get a mention towards the end of the novel, but there’s no plot carry over, so you should be all set! I’d love to see future books in this series focus on some of the supplemental characters from this book, as they are an absolute hoot!

Should you read it? This is sort of a different take on your classic Beauty and the Beast tale, in that our beast is actually gorgeous. He’s more beastly in manner, not to mention a beast in the bedroom. When it comes to building sexual tension this book has perfected it to a damn near science, but I wish we would have seen a bit more connection between the characters over their love of books. It’s sort of the only time we see a soothing to his beastly manner, and I just wanted more of it. I also wasn’t a huge fan of their dispute over why Bronte was brought to Aubyn Hall to begin with. While it provided conflict to the plot, I couldn’t really understand why she was soooo offended at the thought of being brought there because he’d seen her before.

Smut Level: Caine just loves to make a happy hour of Bronte, in that he has the tendency to pour his alcoholic beverages over her before lapping it up. While we have to wait quite a long time before they officially have sex, we get a delightful amount of dirty talk and teasing before then.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 153 Pages.

maxresdefault

The Search by Nora Roberts

This is a tale of intrigue, murder, and a copy cat killer on the loose. And yet, I must say I found one of the most disturbing scenes in this novel to revolve around a soft drink. At one point a friend of our main character goes over to her house and is offered a cold beverage, at which point the friend requests a Coca-Cola. Our female lead responds that she just has Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. And the friend…proceeds…to drink it. Now, whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi I think we can all view this scene as an affront to human nature! You can’t just flip flop between the two!! Let alone accept diet when you wanted regular (for the record Coca-Cola is the best).

What’s it About?

7076706

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life—a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school and a challenging volunteer job performing Canine Search and Rescue. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare. Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf Killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona has found the peace and solitude necessary to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s an intensely private wood artist and the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy named Jaws. As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

First Impression

This novel presents us with a rather odd blend of romantic comedy and murder mystery. On the one hand, we have Fiona, our strong-willed dog trainer who happens to find love with a new client who is having trouble with a rambunctious puppy. On the flip side, a killer has his sights set on Fiona, as she escaped from the clutches of this copycat’s mentor years before. I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of disorienting to be laughing at the crazy antics of our untrained puppy while also remaining fearful of the evil we know is lurking in the background. Personally I felt the novel focused a bit too much on the light-hearted romance aspect. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a cute romantic comedy, and it was refreshing at times to be presented with another funny furry shenanigan after a rather brutal murder scene. However, it was also jarring to have so many cute scenes, and then suddenly switch gears to a short chapter involving our demented killer. In my opinion, the novel would have benefited from a more evened balance of romance vs. suspense.

gif

Give it To Me Straight

Now, I know what you all are wondering. Sure, we have a killer out there terrorizing young college females out for solitary runs through the woods. But…do any of the dogs die? Don’t lie, that’s exactly what you were wondering! Well, to all those pet lovers out there, let me take this moment to give you a brief spoiler alert so you know whether or not to give this novel a chance. When it comes to the question of whether or not any beloved canines lose their lives, the answer is…sort of. Ok, yes, a dog dies. BUT! We only hear a quick retelling of a story where a dog dies by getting shot. It’s not a dog that we develop any emotional connection to. That being said, if you’re anything like my mom, I’m sure some of you will see this as a reason to avoid this book entirely. However, trust me when I say you can get past it! The dogs in this story are adorable, strong and heroic. You might even pick up on a few training techniques, so it just might be worth the read!

labrador-colors

Red Scarf Killer 2

While our killer was in no means a fun character to be around, I felt that we didn’t get enough of a focus on him to truly understand his drive behind these killings. When it comes to the original killer, we are presented with a clear motive which revolves around a troubled childhood and a neglectful mother. For our copycat though, we are briefly introduced to a familial undercurrent, but the desire for fame and celebrity status apparently overrides all else. However, considering he hadn’t committed any crimes before coming into contact with this original killer, it seemed like we missed the driving force, the impetus if you will, behind why he felt the need to suddenly carry out such violent and devious crimes. Unless the true reason really was to make a name for himself. In which case…well that’s just freakin’ depressing.

cinemagraph4.gif

The Final Confrontation

In the midst of all our puppy training and developing romance, we know that the whole book is gearing up to a final confrontation between Fiona and the copycat killer who has slowly been making his way closer and closer to her island sanctuary. Our killer starts out his murderous spree in the exact image of his mentor, but as things progress he diverges more and more from the original killer’s teachings, and his killings become increasingly violent. Consider yourself warned that some scenes are pretty disturbingly graphic, dealing with the killer’s dark desires surrounding pain, torture, and even rape. When we finally get to the ultimate confrontation between Fiona and our copycat killer, I must say it wasn’t as climactic of a final face-off as I was expecting.

600px-Bonescolt

Kind of a let down considering we spent the last 400 pages or so waiting around for it to come about. I will say though, in the end it was probably more realistic that Fiona wouldn’t be caught alone and unawares to be kidnapped by a psychotic killer for a second time in her life. Pretty much from page 1 we see how Fiona is the ultimate bad ass, trained in self-defense, and is constantly surrounded by her three loving canines who would do anything to protect her. Throughout the novel I became increasingly worried that we would ultimately be confronted with a scenario where Fiona would suddenly be found separated from her dogs, friends and new lover to be left as a sitting duck for our Red Scarf Killer. While that doesn’t happen, and our female lead does retain her bad ass status when eventually confronted with the killer, it made for a less exciting finish than I was expecting after so much build-up. In the end, the confrontation ends pretty quickly, and without much mystery or surprise.

Dog-walk_2819616b

Series: Stand-alone.

Should you read it? Oddly enough, we probably could have removed the killer element completely from this story, and still have been left with a perfectly well-rounded romantic comedy. It was kind of bizarre to have this darker murderous element built in at such seemingly random times. In the end I’d have to say the biggest setback to this being a well-balanced suspenseful romance was the length of the novel. If it had been about 100 pages shorter, and with a handful less dog training scenes, it would have been damn-near perfect. The lead characters, both human and canine, have extremely strong and loving personalities. At times our male lead is a bit too fearful of admitting his feelings of love and commitment to Fiona, but in the end they have a special bond that even a killer can’t break.

Smut Level: You’d think it’d be tough for these two to find a moment alone, considering all the dogs constantly surrounding them. But…well that’s the benefit of a shower, now isn’t it?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. $5.88 Hardcover Price. Berkley Publishing. 497 Pages.

Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley

I’ll admit it was kind of cute to see the domestic side of a romance novel, especially when a hard core biker is involved. Shopping for a refrigerator, arguing over who is responsible for doing the laundry. Feels so realistic!

What’s it About?

16163690

Tabitha Allen grew up in the thick of Chaos—the Chaos Motorcycle Club, that is. Her father is Chaos’ leader, and the club has always had her back. But one rider was different from the start. When Tabby was running wild, Shy Cage was there. When tragedy tore her life apart, he helped her piece it back together. And now, Tabby’s thinking about much more than friendship…Tabby is everything Shy’s ever wanted, but everything he thinks he can’t have. She’s beautiful, smart, and as his friend’s daughter, untouchable. Shy never expected more than friendship, so when Tabby indicates she wants more—much morehe feels like the luckiest man alive. But even lucky men can crash and burn…

First Impressions

Shy is the ultimate alpha motorcycle dude with a cave man persona and everything. I’ll admit that my initial reaction to some of his comments made the inner woman in me want to cry out in protest. He’ll never do the laundry? Excuuuuuse me? You think I wanna wash your dirty underwear, I don’t think so! But what this novel does pretty well is that Shy is rather quick to then verbalize why he’s coming off as a seemingly difficult guy. For example, with the laundry we discover there’s actually a sad back story to his laundry aversion revolving around having to live with his uncle and tyrannical aunt following the death of his parents. It seems like in so many romance novels you’ll have some kind of argument like this, and our lead characters will just get all pissy about it and refuse to speak the truth about the matter for days. To Shy’s benefit, he sort of breaks the mold in that he insists Tabby listen to his explanations. True he could still probably tone things down a smidge, but you gotta give the guy some credit for not closing himself off.

udkWWa

 From Repetition to Time References

I will say I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the writing elements employed here. Firstly, the book was quite repetitive when it came to the wording of a particular scene. Either the same emotion or action would be stated in a slightly different way, or it would just be blatantly repeated. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize I am also 100% guilty of doing this, and I do it often. I do it all the time. I do it in a plethora of different ways. You could even say the number of times I do it is rather numerous. See what I’m doing here? Saying the same thing three-four times over, but it builds my paragraph length and sometimes lets me look up some fun new words in a thesaurus. And even though I know I myself am guilty of this technique, it was kind of irritating to see it utilized so many times throughout a full-length book, which is already pretty long at roughly 400 pages.

image001

Another feature which left me kind of lost was that each chapter, and even sometimes multiple times throughout a chapter, we’d be introduced with some kind of time progression. 3 weeks later, 2 days later, 6 weeks later. I’m sorry, am I supposed to be keeping track of all this? Because I stopped paying attention about 7 months ago. Towards the beginning I think it was helpful when tracking Tabby’s relationship with another guy, and the length of time which passed after this guy’s untimely death before she and Shy became an item. Other than that, kind of unnecessary.

giphy

One final confusing aspect was that we would have a sudden introduction of a person or event as though we were supposed to know the full back story of what was going on. But of course we don’t, so we then get multiple pages of description and background before finally getting back to the present predicament. Again, if this had happened once or twice, I would get it, but it was a recurring theme which would often make it even harder to understand the timeline of where we were in the story. To be introduced to a character for the first time, then learn about the history of the main character with this new character, then hear about some of the different events from this new character’s past even before meeting the main character which made them the person they are today, to finally getting back to why this new character had to be introduced in this particular scene in the first place. Exhaustion!

raw

Brushing Aside the Action

For the most part, this book is just an exploration of Tabby’s evolving relationship with Shy, as well as the two of them getting used to each other’s quirks and habits. And bodies!! We have two moments in particular which are pretty drama-filled, but I must say I was disappointed in how they were handled. In both instances, the details are kind of left feeling unfinished. Seeing as the rest of the book isn’t too action-packed, it was kind of frustrating that the few instances where we do have it we never get a full resolution to matters.

ear-scene.jpg

In the first instance Shy is finally allowed to confront his parents’ murderer, and some body-beating goes on, but then we sort of switch gears entirely to him having an honest confrontation with his aunt and uncle. Um, I’m sorry but what happened to the guy you were just mercilessly beating? Did you kill him? Remove an extremity? Leave him to die somewhere?? The second instance was especially frustrating as we are introduced to an intense feud between the club and a rival gang in which Shy is even left slightly injured. I was expecting a final confrontation or battle. Showdown between key members. Something! But again it’s brushed aside and the book basically ends. There’s the implication this will continue on in future novels in the series, but I wanted more! Now!

lzbdgxjgc6qp0jfwwg7r

Series: Chaos, book 1. This book wasn’t my favorite thing ever, but I gotta say it was probably one of the most enjoyable novels I’ve read from Kristen Ashley so far. Don’t have much to go on of course, but still! I could see myself continuing with this one.

Should you read it? As it turns out, I unknowingly broke the cardinal rule of romance novel reading. I didn’t do a thorough enough background check to see if this was part of a series. I simply saw that it was book 1 of the Chaos series and assumed I was good to go. Well, you know what they say when you assume something! Turns out there’s some fine print to that, which states that this is an offshoot of the Dream Man series, and that it recommends you read Motorcycle Man first so you can follow along with some of the events which are referenced. Oops! At times I was kind of lost when they quickly referenced what must have been huge story points from this other novel. The problem is I’ve read a few of the novels from this other series and I wasn’t a huge fan, so I’m not as motivated as I should be to go back and complete that series.

Smut Level: Good Lord it was shocking how some of these chapters started! Normally with Shy’s head between Tabby’s legs. Yowza!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 405 Pages.

A Sense of Belonging by Laura Branchflower

This book practically takes place in my backyard. It would have been a crime not to read it!

What’s it About? 

35958042

Casey Jansen is celebrating her twenty-first birthday when she catches a glimpse of the older man she’s been secretly obsessing over since passing him on a running trail. When her sister identifies him as Tony Prossi, a well-known Washington, D.C. attorney, Casey instantly wishes she was older. There is no way he is going to be interested in a college student. At least that’s what she believes until their eyes meet. As a partner in a top D.C. law firm and son of a powerful U.S. senator, Tony Prossi understands the importance of image. There is certainly no place in his life for a woman as young as Casey Jansen, especially not when he’s considering running for his father’s Senate seat. But one night with the Georgetown University student ignites a hunger he can’t seem to quench. And Tony will have to decide whether being with Casey is worth the risk to his reputation and family.

First Impressions

I visit Georgetown at least two times a week. My best friend lives there, and it’s about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Now, on the whole, I must admit it’s probably my least favorite part of DC. The sidewalks are too narrow, it’s too crowded, and everyone walks at a snail’s pace. It tries my patience which then explodes in a ball of fury. That being said, it was fun to read a novel that is set so close to home, and for the most part has a pretty accurate description of DC and Georgetown living! From the running paths through Rock Creek Park, to the high-priced homes of the wealthy. However, I must say there was one aspect of this story which made me pause. Our female lead, who is also a college senior, owns a car? Seriously?! In gtown?!?! Where the hell does she park it? How can she afford parking? Why doesn’t she walk, take the bus, or metro?! Ok granted Georgetown doesn’t have a metro, but I don’t even own a car in this town and I’ve lived here for 6 years. You wanna get rid of an unnecessary expense, don’t have a car in DC. Believe me!! Sorry, silly and unnecessary thing to get riled up about 🙂

georgetown-street-56a239175f9b58b7d0c80a31

Prince Charming? 

So this was an interesting romance, because for about the first 50% of the novel I honestly didn’t know if our lead couple was going to end up together. Scratch that, I didn’t even know if I wanted them to end up together! At times I felt like Tony was just a closed off guy who would be a tough nut to crack before admitting his true feelings of love and affection for Casey. But then there were other times where I couldn’t help but wonder, wait is this guy going to end up being a villainous douche-bag or something? Casey is so unbelievably smitten with him from the get-go, but he remains entirely closed off to entertaining the idea of anything but physical with her. He doesn’t even want to introduce her to his son. Combine this with the fact that she’s a graduating senior and he’s about 15 years older than her and I wondered, is this guy really just in it for the sex, and eventually Casey will end up heartbroken yet also having learned a valuable life lesson of some kind????

mujer-atribulada-llorando

Ok so the answer to that is no. Eventually Tony does come around, and they’re all happy lovey dovey couple. But I almost wonder if it came “too late” to the story. Not necessarily “too little” too late, as you really do get the sense by the end that Tony is all in when it comes to their relationship, but it definitely made it harder to trust him in the beginning. Or maybe Casey’s full love and devotion for this guy was just too fast and intense up front. The fact that their first date consists of them exchanging about two sentences of pleasantries before she leads him to her room and she gives him her virginity, followed by Casey admitting her love for him about a week later? Ummm…yeah it kind of made me wonder if Casey was a bit too young and naive to enter into this relationship.

tumblr_m8jzmaKncq1rd94nho1_500

From Questionable to Happily Ever After
 
There were times when Casey’s best friend would try to warn her that her feelings for Tony were so strong simply because he was the first man she ever slept with, and that he was just interested in her because she was a hot and sexy young co-ed. I feel like normally when we’re presented with this kind of outside friendly advice in a romance novel we usually push back on behalf of our loving couple and insist, “no you just don’t understand their love!!! Leave them alone.” However, in this book I was kind of like, girl I get where you’re coming from, there’s just something that doesn’t feel right about this guy. Honestly it was like a mind game!! It seemed like we either could have had a nice and sweet romantic ending (like we did), but I also wouldn’t have been too surprised if we’d gone full out in the other direction with a stalker-suspense tale where Casey goes crazy over Tony’s lack of affection and insist he love her after breaking into his house, or something.

giphy.gif

I know…my mind is a scary place. Imagine having to live with it every day. The last 1/3 or so of this novel really came together for me though. This is when we finally see Tony admit his true feelings for Casey, and while he initially wanted to hide her away we now see him fight for their relationship. This is also when Casey finally graduates from college, and I don’t know why but it just sort of made the age difference seem less apparent. As though she were finally a woman of the world once she had the diploma in hand! We also see some intrigue surrounding Tony’s relationship with his parents, and there were a few twists and turns I didn’t necessarily see coming. A strong finish for sure!

tumblr_ni6uoqnHqO1t0yc1vo1_500.gif

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? While the start of the novel and development of Casey and Tony’s relationship wasn’t my favorite, the book definitely ended strong. I eventually found myself rooting for their love to succeed, but it took a while. Unfortunately I can’t say that Casey was my favorite character. She came across as rather immature at times, and some of her actions and decisions relating to Tony made me cringe. Like when she sits in her car waiting outside his house. However, you can’t help but feel sorry for her family’s treatment of her, and in the end you’re glad she manages to find a happily ever after. I also would have preferred if Tony had showed a bit more warmth towards her in the beginning, rather than it just being a physical connection which brought them together.

Smut Level: Things start off rather slow seeing as this is Casey’s first sexual experience, but after a bit of persuading she manages to convince Tony that she’s more than willing to learn what comes next. And he’s quite the teacher. Wink wink 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 365 Pages.

I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre

Looks like the nice twin has a little bit of naughty to her after all!

What’s it About?

13144229.jpg

Sophie Sullivan, a librarian in San Francisco, was five years old when she fell head over heels in love with Jake McCann. Twenty years later, she’s convinced the notorious bad boy still sees her as the “nice” Sullivan twin. That is, when he bothers to look at her at all. But when they both get caught up in the magic of the first Sullivan wedding, she knows it’s long past time to do whatever it takes to make him see her for who she truly is…the woman who will love him forever.

Jake has always been a magnet for women, especially since his Irish pubs made him extremely wealthy. But the only woman he really wants is the one he can never have. Not only is Sophie his best friend’s off-limits younger sister…he can’t risk letting her get close enough to discover his deeply hidden secret. Only, when Sophie appears on his doorstep as Jake’s every fantasy come to life—smart, beautiful, and shockingly sexy—he doesn’t have a prayer of taking his eyes, or his hands, off her. And he can’t stop craving more of her sweet smiles and sinful kisses. Because even though Jake knows loving Sophie isn’t the right thing to do…how can he possibly resist?

First Impressions

We finally get to see a novel featuring one of the female Sullivan siblings! Needless to say it’s interesting to see how different the approach is to the story line. First off, overprotective brother overload. There are 6 Sullivan brothers who all want to protect her from the world, and only see her as the nice librarian. On top of this we also get the protective mode from her twin sister, nicknamed “naughty”. Well, Sophie is ready to take things into her own hands and go after what she’s wanted for years.

2531_medium

And what should happen when she finally takes a chance by going after what she wants and exploring her sexuality? Accidental pregnancy! With twins no less! I kind of see now how inconvenient it can be to be a Sullivan female. Despite the overprotective siblings and apparent repercussions of having sex as a Sullivan woman, I did enjoy this book. The dynamic between Jake and Sophie was interesting to behold. They have both loved each other for years, and while she’s the one to make the first move by pursuing him, he’s eventually the one pursuing her to take a chance by spending the rest of her life with him.

vineyard

Duty or Desire?

The main discussion point of this book surrounds the relationship between Jake and Sophie in that upon learning of her pregnancy he wants to marry her immediately. Although this is something Sophie has always dreamed of, she refuses to say “yes”, thinking that he’s simply feeling honor bound to wed her after knocking her up. What she doesn’t know is that Jake has desired this union for years, and now that it’s within his grasp he wants to move at the speed of light. Jake asks that she give him just one week to prove they are meant to be together. He now must prove to her that he’s not just fulfilling his duty to marry her because she’s pregnant, and also that their connection isn’t just physical. I mean…sure it doesn’t hurt to explore all the ways they are physically compatible, does it? Both Sophie and Jake are willing to add that feature to the mix. Using their hands, tongues and…other extremities.

sexy kiss

Took Ya Long Enough

Considering Sophie and Jake have both desired each other for years, it also begs the question why they never acted upon their feelings before now. And this is where I think the novel was a bit lacking. First, there’s the family element. Jake was brought into the family years beforehand as almost the 9th Sullivan child considering his own abusive home life. When Jake’s best friend, Zach (who also happens to be Sophie’s older brother), discovers their relationship he is immediately pissed and a fight ensues. Here is something I never understand in romance novels!! If this is your best friend, wouldn’t you sort of be happy that he could become a brother in a truer form through marriage? It’s in this fight that we realize it’s not just that Sophie’s family thinks Jake isn’t good enough for her, it’s that nobody is good enough for her. And I can’t help but roll my eyes at that. Look, you know this is a good guy, he’d treat her well, take care of their children, and you’ve already known him for years. Do you really need to enter into a bout of fisticuffs?

tumblr_mqcz4v10Xo1qchlp2o2_250

The secondary reason a relationship was never pursued was much more intriguing in that it actually relates to the interests and abilities of our 2 main characters, which always seems like such a minor component to most romances. You see, Sophie is a librarian; her whole world revolves around books, and she has the tendency to trip over the stacks of novels strewn about her apartment. Something I can relate to. Jake though? He has a profound difficulty with reading which has plagued him for years. If he focuses hard enough he can string words together, but it’s a struggle which he is afraid to admit to Sophie he suffers with. Surely when she finds out he “can’t read” she’ll see him as an idiot and break things off for good, right? Well, when he powers through What to Expect When You’re Expecting in one night, and eventually admits his impediment with Sophie, she realizes just how far he’s willing to go to prove he loves her. Sigh!

174703

Series: San Francisco Sullivans, book 4. A definite improvement from the last few, though kind of unfortunate to see all the unexpected mishaps which can befall a Sullivan female in love.

Should you read it? An intriguing love story about two people who finally get what they’ve always wanted, even if it was an unexpected pregnancy which brought them together. One aspect I didn’t really care for was this idea of proving to Sophie in a week that they are destined for each other. Like, what’s the rush here people? Also the idea of keeping the relationship a secret from the family. We’re all adults here, they’re just gonna have to deal with it!

Smut Level: Gotta love those pregnancy hormones making everything more sensitive, right?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Oak Press, LLC. 176 Pages.