Going Down on One Knee by Christina Hovland

For a cute, romantic, funny read…hot damn was this thing surprisingly sexy!

What’s it About?

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Number-crunching Velma Johnson’s perfectly planned life is right on course. That’s a lie. Sure, she’s got the lucrative job. She’s got the posh apartment. But her sister nabbed Velma’s Mr. Right. There has to be a man out there for Velma. Hopefully, one who’s hunky, wears pressed suits, and has a diversified financial portfolio. He’ll be exactly like, well… her sister’s new fiancé.

Badass biker Brek Montgomery blazes a trail across the country, managing Dimefront, one of the biggest rock bands of his generation. With the band on hiatus, Brek rolls into Denver to pay a quick visit to his family and friends. But when Brek’s sister suddenly gets put on bed rest, she convinces Brek to take over her wedding planning business for the duration of her pregnancy. Staying in Denver and dealing with bridezillas was not what Brek had in mind when he passed through town, but there is one particular maid-of-honor who might make his stay worthwhile.

Velma finds herself strangely attracted to the man planning her sister’s wedding. Problem is, he ticks none of the boxes on her well-crafted list. Brek is rough around the edges, he cusses, and doesn’t even have a 401(k). But trying something crazy might get her out of the rut of her dating life–so long as she lays down boundaries up front and sticks to her plan…

First Impression

Every once in a while, my sister will ask for romance novel recommendations from me, and sometimes she’ll say she’s in the mood for something “cutesy”. Cutesy is sort of a level beyond cute, where some scenes are just so freakin’ adorable you want to giggle and squeeeee in delight. This novel perfectly embodies the definition of a “cutesy” read! It didn’t take long at all before I started to have a permanent grin on my face whenever I opened this baby up on my Kindle. Sure, it started to hurt after a while, but in the most fabulous way possible. The banter back and forth between our lead characters is everything, not to mention their dynamics with the lovable secondary characters. The fact that one of Brek’s good male friends is a florist, so he and his buddies all converge at the flower shop to drink some beers and discuss Brek’s love life was such a hoot. Your toes will inevitably curl in delight with this one!

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A Biker Handles Bridezillas

Brek had just planned to be in town for a short visit when his sister unexpectedly ended up on bed rest towards the end of her pregnancy. She’s desperate to have her wedding planning business succeed, so who does she enlist to help her out with some upcoming weddings but her unbelievably supportive badass biker brother, Brek. The first wedding he’s in control of basically crashes and burns in a rather over-the-top way. From a dog gagging on a pearl necklace, to the mother-of-the-bride sitting down on a box of melted chocolates, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. This was perhaps the one part of the book that I thought, mkay let’s tone it down juuuust a bit. Overall though these weddings are really the linchpin that bring Brek and Velma together as a team when she agrees to help him out with the planning logistics. They go from meager acquaintances to unexpected roommates, unlikely friends to passionate lovers. It’s fun to see their relationship play out and develop into something special that neither was really expecting.

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From Avoiding Commitment to Seeking it Out

An interesting feature of this read was both Brek and Velma’s approach to commitment, as well as to their own newfound relationship. Basically, both see this thing as short term. He doesn’t check any of the boxes in her 5-year plan spreadsheet for a possible groom, but she sees this as an opportunity to live life a little on the wild side and break out of her comfort zone. For him, he’s insistent that he’s just passing through Denver. True, his family and close friends are here, but his life is on the open road managing a band. Settling down just isn’t in the cards for them.

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As their time together lengthens though Brek comes to discover that, “He wanted Velma. He also wanted freedom. The two wouldn’t mesh well. But he wasn’t willing to give up either one. There had to be a third solution.” What I found so interesting in this romance was that Brek was the first to consider making changes in his life for Velma, and as a matter of fact is the first to say “I love you”. They both seemed so set in their ways, and while we knew they’d break eventually I guess I just never thought it would be Brek to be first.

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The Doomed Spreadsheet

Keeping in line with her accounting ways, Velma keeps a spreadsheet with an algorithm to determines her suitability with men she’s gone on dates with. We can all see that this spreadsheet of hers is gonna come back to bite her in the ass eventually. Brek ultimately discovers his entry in Velma’s spreadsheet, and his measly score of a 4 out of 10. According to the spreadsheet rules that’s not even good enough for a second date (even though they’ve been going out for a while now). What follows is a romance novel trope that I must say I’m not a huge fan of, and that’s when one person refuses to listen to an explanation by the other. Velma goes after Brek several times to explain that she loves him, and that she’s finally realized the spreadsheet could never account for feelings and emotional connection. And yet, Brek continually turns his back on her.

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Mkay, here’s my problem. I know it must have hurt like a son of a bitch to see his name on that sheet, and with such a low score to boot. Velma should have deleted the thing long ago, and the fact she even bothered to fill out the columns with his information was a low blow. But, he loves this woman. He’s considering making huge changes in his life for her. She’s already hinted at how she doesn’t hold as much weight behind the spreadsheet as she once did. If you truly love this woman as much as you say you do, the least you could do is treat her with enough respect to listen to her when she’s trying to speak to you. Don’t throw a temper tantrum and essentially tune out what is obviously an honest and heartfelt plea for understanding.

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

Series: A Mile High Matched Novel, book 1. I am definitely going to continue with this series, just try and stop me! But please don’t. I am so ensnared with the supplemental characters in this book I can’t wait to see them get their own shot at a happily ever after!

Final Impression: This is a delightfully fun and lighthearted read, not to mention a perfect option for the beach. Velma and Brek are such lovable characters that you root for them throughout the entire novel. Although slightly predictable, it’s just the kind of cutesy read you need to put a smile on your face.

Smut Level: Just because it’s lighthearted doesn’t mean this thing won’t get steamy! These two come up with some pretty clever sex locales, including Brek’s motorcycle! The scenes themselves never get too dirty or raunchy though. Just some good steamy fun!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 314 Pages.

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Sleeping Dragon Stirs, part 2 by TJ Shaw

Jaxon likes it when Amari strokes his dragon horns from base to tip. Tee hee hee, chuckle chuckle. If that’s not sexual innuendo then I don’t know what is.

What’s it About? 

sleeping dragonAs the day of her awakening nears, Amari Hawke struggles to control the beast inside her. Basking in the energy of the approaching Trinity moon, her animal’s strength has increased to the point it can control Amari’s mind and body. Fearing she is about to slip into madness, Amari is forced into a tough choice.

In a desperate attempt to save Amari and her beast, Jaxon Blackthorn encourages his cadre, the men in his trusted circle, to establish mental links with her, but when his plans fail and Amari’s animal exerts control, he must fight for the beautiful woman who is lost to her beast. Together, can Amari and Jaxon’s developing bond for each other overcome the urges driving Amari’s animal as they also thwart an unseen enemy vying to keep them apart?

First Impressions

This novel picks up immediately where we left off at the end of the previous book without missing a beat. Seriously, it’s almost like book one ends with us taking a deep breath, and book two commences with our exhale. Normally I’m not always a fan when we have this kind of immediate continuation in a series, as I always enjoy a slight summary of events from the previous novel. That’s why I was absolutely tickled pink with the excellent job this novel does of recalling the major events from the previous book so that we can jump right back into the story. It flows together so seamlessly you can’t help but appreciate it. Hands down my favorite feature of this novel though was the increased focus on how Jaxon is dealing with Amari’s presence in both his life, and his dragon’s life. It was fascinating to read how Jaxon talks about his dragon, as though it’s a completely separate being even though it is contained within him. Sure, it seemed slightly schizophrenic in that regard, but somehow in a completely logical way at the same time!

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Stuck in Place

While we do see some big steps between Amari and Jaxon in regards to their relationship, I do wish we had made a bit more progress with the development of the overall storyline happening outside the veil. If anything I feel like I have even more questions now than what was answered by the end of the first book. Again, it was really interesting to see Amari and Jaxon grow closer together through their mental link, and for Jaxon to finally acknowledge that he wants this woman as his mate even if he isn’t sure of her designation. I guess that’s what I wanted more advancement on though, what is her designation (although I think we can all guess at this point), when will she get her memory back, etc.?

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And then one of the major aspects we did get progress on was kind of brushed aside, and that was the scene when Amari finally admitted to Jaxon that she couldn’t remember her past. This was a moment that had been building throughout the series, and I was really looking forward to that vulnerable confession where Amari must risk the possibility of Jaxon rejecting her when she admits that she lost her memory. But instead it’s mentioned in a brief sentence simply to say that it happened. All in all I must admit I was kind of disappointed we didn’t have the opportunity to witness it directly. I think it could have been a really revealing moment for Amari, and an important sign of her trust in Jaxon.

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here we go, Here We Go, HERE WE GO!!!!

One thing this series does brilliantly is build up the anticipation. Trinity soon approaches when first time shifters transform into their inner beast. The fact that Amari can’t remember her beast designation, and has received zero training on how to handle the transition means that Jaxon and his dragon cadre fear Amari will become stuck in transition and go rogue. Essentially she’ll go mad from it. With the turn of every page Trinity grows nearer, Amari starts to exhibit some puzzling and disturbing qualities related to transition, and we fear and question what madness might ensue when Trinity finally arrives. Trinity is coming people!! Although the fact we don’t really see a resolution to many of the questions which were raised in part one was kind of a let down, you also can’t deny that it significantly adds to the building suspense of what might be lurking just around the corner in wait for Jaxon and Amari.

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

Series: Outside the Veil, book 2. This part of the series definitely seems like a suspense builder, gathering everything together for what must be one heck of a Trinity finale. The next book is the last one in the trilogy, where we’ll finally reach the climax where sh*t goes down!

Final Impression: While we might not find a resolution to Amari’s beast designation in this novel, we definitely see her resign herself to the fact that she isn’t a sheep. She starts to break away from that herb designation and in the process her feistiness really shines through. Whereas part 1 saw things more from Amari’s point of view, and her frustration at not being able to remember her past, I loved that in this part we see more of Jaxon’s thoughts regarding this tempting redhead who has come under his care. It’s a window into Jaxon’s soul and beast, and we see him realize that this woman is meant for him. Nothing will stop him from seeing her safely transition and ultimately becoming his.

Smut Level: Their first time together is surprisingly in a dream rather than in real life. It’s rather convenient to be able to just think the clothes away, lemme tell ya!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing, LLC. 157 Pages.

 

 

 

My African Craving by Audrey Flynn

Erica has gone from hailing cabs and dodging traffic in New York City to dodging fires and poachers in the African safari. Not sure I’d be up to the task honestly!

What’s it About?

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When Erica Knight arrives in Lebombo Game Reserve for her first African safari she has no idea that her life is about to be changed forever. As an executive for a mining company she believes that negotiating the mining rights for the Lebombo Reserve will be a slam-dunk, but she didn’t count on locking horns with the reserve’s enigmatic owner, Jean-Luc de Graaf.

In the heart of a wild African landscape full of beauty and danger, Erica and Jean-Luc both stubborn and passionate find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict. With the Reserve threatened by vicious poachers and runaway fires, they are thrown together unable to contain the scorching attraction between them.

Far away from the rat race of New York Erica feels the stirring of a different drum, ancient and irresistible. But surrendering to the wild would mean she would have to submit to the powerful attraction to Jean-Luc and she isn’t ready to give up control just yet…

First Impression

Full disclosure here folks. The concept of going on an African safari has never really been very high up on my bucket list. I tried to think of why that is, and honestly it was kind of difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. I love animals, and ever since watching the Lion King as a kid my adoration for lions, giraffes, and most other African safari mammals was cemented. Maybe it’s because deep down I like to think of myself as a city girl through and through, so a real-life safari seems a bit too hot and sweaty for my tastes? However, this short novel does a rather fantastic job of demonstrating the almost transcendental experience an African safari can be for some people. I think the fact that our heroine is also a city girl (and one who loves Cabernet Sauvignon on top of it!) made it easier for me to connect with her appreciation for this beautiful landscape brimming with life. The scenes where we see Erica stare straight into the black depths of these big cats’ eyes provides us with just a small glimpse at how special and ethereal that connection with nature is. Maybe I’ll have to move an African safari just a bit higher up on my bucket list after all 😉

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Business or Pleasure?

Erica’s purpose in traveling to Africa isn’t solely to go on safari. She’s actually there in an attempt to establish a mining venture in the heart of this magical Game Reserve. This brings her up close and personal with the dedicated owner, Jean-Luc. These two are seemingly enemies on opposite sides of the table. He insists that eco-tourism and maintaining the beauty of this landscape will bring more stability to the region than a big mining company ever could. Not to mention his insistence that preserving the Reserve is crucial to ensuring the safety of the animals. She on the other hand won’t give up on the argument that big business means lots of money and success for the people of the land. There is one crucial feature though which connects these two, even if it seems like it divides them on the surface.

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Erica and Jean-Luc are fighters. They fight for what they believe in. They fight to protect those they care about. She grew up in the city, while he grew up in the plains of Africa. She worked two jobs to support her family and herself through college. He came from wealth and a family of privilege. So different on the outside, but they’ve both been taught to take care of themselves. Jean-Luc’s father was supportive, yet always taught him to work hard, and that in the bush you have to take care of yourself. You won’t always have someone to come to your rescue. As for Erica, her father abandoned her mother, sister and herself when she was young. While she didn’t have the constant support of a father-figure, his departure was perhaps the greatest life lesson she’d ever received. She learned to take care of her family through her own hard work and dedication. She couldn’t wait around hoping he’d come back. This inner determination makes it hard for either Erica or Jean-Luc to back down on what they’re fighting for, but they both recognize and appreciate that fight in the other.

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Moments of Silence

This novel certainly packs a punch in just 138 short pages. We have the arguments over the mining establishment, the constant threat of poachers to the tranquility of the Reserve, not to mention an approaching bush fire that might just destroy the entire region. And in the midst of it all there’s a budding romance between these supposed enemies. There’s a lot going on, but each subplot really does play an important role to the overall story. The drama involving the mines establishes the initial animosity and distrust between our two lead characters, but the hazards of hunters and flames demonstrate a crucial softer-side to both Erica and Jean-Luc.

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Ironically enough, the most exciting moments for me were not the ones involving a dramatic retreat from a bush fire, or a showdown with poachers. No, instead it was the few scenes where we find Erica and Jean-Luc finding a moment of peace and alone time together. It’s almost like the whole world stands still, and they’re able to connect in their own solitary bubble, even if they both know that they only have limited moments together before that tranquility is interrupted. Whether it be a quiet picnic next to a secluded lake, or a passionate embrace in the shower, Erica and Jean-Luc can find a few precious moments where they don’t just put their differences aside, but their differences practically disappear completely. Hands down, my favorite scenes of the book.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I’d really love to see a continuation where different characters might find their own serenity and romance in the midst of the Lebombo Reserve.

Final Impression: There’s definitely a lot going on in this short novel, and while you can’t really remove any subplot without the overall story feeling slightly broken, I do think adding just a few more chapters could have provided us with more depth to these side dramas. I did sort of guess one part of the big final reveal in regards to the poachers, but honestly I was expecting more sabotage than what we got. Ultimately I’m happy my inkling was incorrect as it would have been pretty heartbreaking, but the actual climax was still slightly predictable. I did enjoy seeing Erica and Jean-Luc find their few moments of tenderness and solitude in the midst of all the difficulties they’re dealing with in life. They’ve both put up walls in an attempt to protect themselves from the hurt of Erica’s eventual return to the US, but as they get through these dangers together their walls start to fall down, and in the end they’re left with each other.

Smut Level: These two slowly explore each other in a shower. But not just any shower. An outdoor shower!!! Definitely upping the details of this sexcapade locale.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Inkspell Publishing LLC. 138 Pages.

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The Boss by Abigail Owen

Finn’s scent is subtly smoky, with additional undertones of Bourbon and Coke. My God I think I’ve died and gone to dragon shifter Heaven!

What’s it About?

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Finn Conleth leads his team of enforcer dragon shifters with an iron fist and a cold heart. Every dragon seeks his destined mate, but the process to turn the woman he once thought was his killed her and devastated him. He will never risk his heart again. His team is his family now. When his body eventually gives out, he’ll leave, living his last days alone.

Delaney Hamilton moved across the country to escape the freak fires that plague her. But when another suspicious fire erupts and rapidly escalates around her, her hopes for a new life go up in smoke. She has no choice but to turn to the mysterious men who come to her aid.

Finn knows the fire is dragon-caused, which puts Delaney’s problems directly in his jurisdiction. No matter how her wounded grey eyes call to every part of him, he refuses to risk her life in the mating process. Until another dragon threatens to claim Delaney for his own, and Finn has to sacrifice everything to keep her alive…

First Impression

Our story here takes place concurrently with the events from the prequel, The Mate, and it was quite fun to see how the two story lines wove together into one cohesive drama. In our short story prequel, we got just a small taste of the intricacies of the dragon world, with the primary focus instead being on the official mating process between a dragon and his mate. In this book we finally get the fuller description that I was hoping for in regards to the details of the different dragon clans. We also get more detail about the importance and difficulties involved in hiding their presence from humans, so I was pretty thrilled to find this novel answer some of my logistical questions from the prequel.

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I really did enjoy the short prequel involving Finn’s brother Fallon discovering his mate, Maddie, but there was one component of this premiere novel which I think gave it a slight edge over the first one, and that would be the introduction of the Enforcers. We meet such a lovable team of characters, each with their own unique personality, and I for one can’t wait to get to know them more throughout the rest of the series. I have a feeling though that I might get slightly heartbroken, as you really do fall in love a bit with each of them, yet we know that there is one enforcer among them who is an informant for a former teammate gone rogue. There are some members of the group that we get to know better than others, but through it all you can sense that even though these dragons all come from different clans they have formed their own little family.

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When Mating Goes Wrong

Finn has spent the last few hundred years mourning the death of his supposed mate, Phoebe. The book opens with the moment the two tried to mate, but rather than it resulting in a successful link we instead see how Phoebe burned to ash in his very arms. She had looked upon him with such trust and love which quickly turned to the most brutal agony. Needless to say, Finn has had a rather difficult time getting Phoebe out of his head, and it’s easy to understand why they say that choosing a wrong mate doesn’t just result in the death of the female. A part of the male dies as well. He hears her screams every time he considers sleeping with another woman, or any time he thinks about finding his true mate. In spite of his immediate connection with Delaney, it will undoubtedly take some time before he can look into her eyes without his mind picturing the frightful way Phoebe burst into flame.

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His previous mating experience resulted in intense mental anguish, and a change in his personality. As he spends more time with Delaney though, Finn’s surly demeanor changes to one of possessiveness and desire. It’s something he tries to quell with all his might because when he sees the potential path it might lead him down with Delaney he once again just sees Phoebe burning. While I understand why his mind would be switched off to the idea of going through the mating process again, I must say it was kind of surprising how looooong it took for Finn to realize that Delaney was his mate. True, he lost a part of himself when Phoebe died, and he’s worried about the possibility of choosing wrong once again. However, surely he must realize that this connection he feels with Delaney, this pull between the two of them, is so much stronger, so much different than whatever it was he felt with Phoebe?

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Clan Drama Infighting

I do wish we had progressed just a bit further along with the drama of the coup d’etat involving Finn’s blue dragon clan, but we pretty much end at the same point that we concluded with in the prequel. It sort of feels like we’re moving up a mountainside, and just when we think we see a crest in view where maybe we’ll move along further, instead there’s more hill in front of us. I really wanted to see our characters connect directly with their new king who staged the coup, but that story still sort of remains in the background. At one point we even see an emissary of the king arrive, and it seemed like he would request Finn and Delaney travel to his hideout to meet him, but instead they remain behind to conclude the drama of Delaney’s stalker. The novel doesn’t necessarily end on a cliffhanger, but it definitely ends on a moment which will peak your interest to immediately want to dive right into the next book. The fact that I can’t has me itchy with anticipation!

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The ending implies that Finn, Delaney, and the rest of their dragon team aren’t necessarily out of the woods of danger. We also have quite a few plot questions left unanswered. We know that there’s an informant in the middle of Finn’s team. While I definitely have my suspicion of who our informant might be, we never receive a big reveal aha moment. Our story also ends with the implication that there’s someone else out there spying on the characters we’ve come to love throughout this book. Most importantly though, we never really figure out why Delaney is so different as a dragon mate. Normally, when a dragon mate is located, breathing dragon fire on the back of her neck produces a faint outline of which clan her mate will belong to. However, Delaney has no such mark, which is why Finn was adamant for so long that she was just a human. While we eventually see her emit other signs of being a dragon mate, we never discover why she never had the tell-tale mark on the back of her neck. Curious-er and curious-er. We’ll just have to see what answers, and maybe even further mysteries we’ll encounter going forward!

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be continuing on with this series. I also have a feeling I’ll want to make a T-shirt of all the cover art from the series because…well my God just look at it for crying out loud!

Final Impression: While I wasn’t expecting it to take so long for Finn to entertain the idea of Delaney being his mate, I must say the depiction of his inner struggle over whether or not to complete the mating process with Delaney perfectly captured his turmoil. He doesn’t want to risk the possibility of Delaney suffering the most excruciating kind of pain to burn and die in a pile of ash, but at the same time he doesn’t know if he can survive the rest of his life without her. We want to believe that the two are destined to be together, but we also can’t help but hold our breath as they consider whether or not to take that risk together in each other’s arms.

Smut Level: Well well, we have a little dirty talker on our hands. Since the death of Phoebe, Finn has certainly kept himself at arm’s length from other women, but that doesn’t mean the man has lost his touch! As for Delaney, she gets off on the idea of the rest of the enforcer team watching on as she and Finn make some flames in between the sheets. Finn is definitely too possessive to ever see that fantasy come true, but he’s more than willing to create the picture in her mind to bring them to the ultimate pleasure. You naughty little fire starter you!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 286 Pages.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*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!

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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!”

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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*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.

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