Close to the Skin by Zara West

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impressions

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

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Falling for the Criminal

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

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

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Stretching the Truth

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

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Burning Fire

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

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

Some Additional Minor Points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Train Through Time by Bess McBride

One of my favorite features of time travel romances is the moment when our hero or heroine discovers they’re not in Kansas anymore. Most simply go with the flow and adapt. Others have that brief moment of denial before eventual acceptance. In this novel, Ellie has a minor freak out, and continually insists she’s dreaming rather than acknowledging the harsh truth. Probably the most realistic scenario of the three!

What’s it About? 

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College teacher Ellie Standish thinks she’s on a sleek modern train heading to a conference on women’s studies in Seattle, but she awakens from a night’s doze to find herself on a bizarre historical train full of late Victorian era reenactors who refuse to come out of character. When the leader of the group—handsome, green-eyed Robert Chamberlain—finally convinces her the date is indeed 1901, a skeptical Ellie rejects any eccentric theories of time travel and presumes she is smack dab in the middle of a very interesting historical dream. She turns the directorial reins of her dream over to the smitten and willing Robert, only to realize that dreams cannot last forever. Someday, she must wake up to reality, though Ellie no longer has any idea what reality is. She only knows that Robert must play an important part in her future. But how can he…if he’s only a figment of her imagination or worse yet…a man who belongs to an era long past?

First Impressions

I really loved the start of this novel. Ellie is adamant she hasn’t traveled through time, instead thinking she’s woken up surrounded by a strange troupe of Victorian era reenacters. When she eventually realizes that theory holds no weight she moves on to the idea that she must be dreaming, and sticks with it for pretty much the rest of the novel. Rather than our heroine admitting the truth that she’s traveled through time, Robert is actually the one who puts it together first, and tries to convince her of it. It felt like such a unique departure from most time travel romances, where our traveler is usually the one who must come up with the most compelling argument to convince others that they are from a different time. Normally those in the past are the skeptical ones, and I just really loved how this novel chooses to take that trope and flip it on its head.

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A Dreamy Man

Robert could have easily had this strange woman committed for acting so bizarrely, but instead he chooses to play along with Ellie’s delusion that she’s simply dreaming. It was actually a humorous way to show how smitten Robert was with her from the very beginning. He becomes convinced that Ellie was meant to travel through time to find him, and for them to be together. Now he just has to convince her that it’s true. At first Ellie is determined to “wake up” from this crazy dream. However, as she spends more time with the dashing Robert her fondness for him also grows, and she starts to hope that this wonderful dream will continue.

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Shockingly, at one point in the novel when Ellie falls asleep she does actually wake up from this dream in her own time for the briefest of moments before waking up again back in the Victorian era. She then becomes determined to stay away from Robert before they fall too hard for each other, or else risk crushing his heart once she does leave this time for good. This is definitely a unique time travel twist in that although the train sort of acted as the device of her travel, it was more the act of falling asleep that was the impetus for it. This makes her presence in the past all the more suspenseful, as you never know when she might wake up again in her own time. Is she truly destined to remain with Robert forever in the past? Or is she just visiting for a brief moment in time?

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The Standout

The characters in this novel are everything. From Robert’s snarky grandmother, who I couldn’t help but compare to Trix from Gilmore Girls, to his delightfully chipper sister. Even the supplemental characters who don’t have that much impact on the overall story are so much fun, and you can’t help but become enthralled in this world. The development of some characters was also fascinating. We are introduced to one woman at the beginning of the novel who is set up to be someone who will become a thorn in Ellie’s side, potentially ruining her happily ever after with Robert. Instead, we surprisingly see how this woman comes to becomes one of Ellie’s best friends, who is so unbelievably kind and sincere. So delightful, and it definitely keeps you on your toes!

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Corsets and Hairdos

I can’t think of a better juxtaposition than having a Women’s Studies professor being thrust back in time to the turn of the century. The land of corsets, elaborate hairdos, and always having to lean on a man’s arm. At the start of this novel I was thoroughly entertained with how Ellie expressed her horror at having to squeeze herself into a corset, and jumped for joy at how she wasn’t afraid to talk with Robert about how different her life is in the future as a modern woman.

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Some of my favorite scenes though were when Ellie would have a heart-to-heart with a woman from the past, and discover how they see such fashions of the time as freeing compared to what they were years before. We can see how one can criticize the past when compared with their current life, but at the time also see how illuminating it can be to compare those circumstance with those that came before. It really helps to put everything in perspective, and give the professor a lesson as well.

From Outspoken Woman to a Lady of the Times

My one main criticism of this novel is how Ellie’s character evolves, or devolves, throughout the book. She eventually comes to fit in almost too much with the times. What I loved so much at the outset was how Ellie stood out compared to those around her, and that she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself as a woman. As she spends more time in the past however, we see how she starts to internalize more of her opinions, and almost becomes complacent in her interactions with Robert. I still love Robert as a lead character, but when she avoids making eye contact with him, becomes tongue-tied in his presence, or runs away from her feelings for him she almost seems like a turn of the century woman who needs a fainting couch. Or maybe some smelling salts to help her with the vapors! I wanted her to remain a headstrong female from start to finish, but instead at one point she’s almost like a blushing wall flower.

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Series: Train Through Time, book 1. I got this one for free on Bookbub, and I immediately went and bought the 2nd book in the series.

Should you read it? A fun, quick, simple read that is entertaining throughout. I will say it does drag at one minor point when Ellie tries to distance herself from Robert, but it all comes together for one exciting finish! I do wish Ellie’s character had remained outspoken and spunky throughout, but overall I really enjoyed this one. It does take some unique approaches to the traditional time travel romance genre that made it fun and interesting.

Smut Level: Ellie and Robert have one rather passionate kissing scene, and he is really quite the flirtatious debonair leading lad. Nothing scandalous takes place, even though Ellie does admit she’s no virgin.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 200 Pages.

 

A Call for Historical Romances!

Hear ye, hear ye! This is a desperate plea to all my historical romance readers and writers out there. I am in serious need of your assistance!

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I have approximately 788 unread books on my TBR list. Excessive. Disgusting. I know. And yet, believe it or not I am asking all of you out there to send me more. Why, you ask? Because of those 788 tomes silently waiting in my Kindle for selection, only a meager 18 of them are categorized as historical romance. The fact that I have over twice as many sports romances as historical romances fills me with a particular kind of dread and sadness.

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I have always been a fan of historical reads, whether it be romance, fiction, non-fiction, or essays on archaeological digs in Egypt. History is my jam. As a matter of fact, the first novel to ever get me fascinated with the romance genre was a historical read set in Russia during the start of WWII. Sadly, as the years wore on, Goodreads lists multiplied, and review requests came in, the contemporary world took hold. Now I see a definite hole in my blog posts of historical reads, and I mean to change it!

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So send me your suggestions! What are some of your favorite historical romances? Some of my ultimate favs include The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simmons, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and the entire Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters. I’d be happy with Highlanders, swashbucklers, Regency era lords and ladies, soldiers preparing or returning from war, time travelers and explorers. I will say of the minimal number of historical reads I do have on my Kindle, and those which I’ve posted recently, there’s a decent number of westerns featuring cowboys or frontiersmen. I’m pretty much set with those!

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And to any romance writers out there with a historical work on your hands, I’d be happy to read a copy for review. Be sure to check out my “Review Policy” tab above for some notes to keep in mind, and how to submit your work for consideration. Looking forward to seeing what some of your favorites are, and what you recommend I check out for myself!

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Bad Boy, Big Heart by Andrea Downing

The trickiest thing when it comes to summer romances? There’s always a time limit. Sooner or later, the summer must come to an end.

What’s it About? 

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When New Yorker K.C. Daniels heads to Wyoming for a summer job, she wants nothing more than to fit in with the staff of the Lazy S Ranch. Yearning to be independent of her mom and dad, and have a taste of the west before she starts her Master’s degree, getting involved with a cowboy is the last thing on her mind—especially when she’s greeted with warnings about ‘Bad Boy’ Chay Ridgway.

High school dropout Chay Ridgway sees summer as his time to be a rodeo star and win a girl in his life, while facing the responsibilities he has for his father. Although working to bring in cash to help his dad, he’s never had a problem finding a woman who’s happy to be that summer love—until K.C. Daniels appears on the scene. As two different worlds collide in a season that will end all too soon, is this going to be another summer romance or a love that will last for years?

First Impressions

Upon first meeting Chay, we as the audience have the same assumptions about his character that K.C. does. He’s a player. A bad boy. A high school drop out. He might be a good fling for a summer romance, but for an actual relationship? Probably more work than it’s worth in just the span of the summer. However, as the summer progresses, we learn that underneath Chay’s carefree attitude is a loving man who has his hands full. He had to take on the responsibilities of an adult early on in life. Taking care of both his ailing father and his crumbling homestead proved too difficult to tackle in addition to high school, hence his decision to drop out. Since then he’s had a one track mind of building up his family home to it’s former glory. Having a relationship with a woman beyond just a summer is something he has no interest or time for. Until of course K.C. comes along. We see that his number one priorities start to shift as he gets to know this city girl.

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The Difficulties of a Summer Romance

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As with any summer romance novel, emotions develop rather quickly between Chay and K.C. They recognize early on that something about their attraction to each other is different than anything they’ve experienced before, and they want to take a chance on a relationship. The switch from summer fling to full on relationship is something I wish had been explored just a bit more. As a novella, it’s already a pretty short read, and it seemed like one minute K.C. was debating whether or not to give Chay a chance, and the next she’s willing to change her future plans to accommodate him into her life for the long haul.

Leaving the Nest

What I particularly liked about this novella is that it wasn’t just a summer romance. It was also a summer for growing up, and this applied to both our lead characters. K.C. has come to Wyoming to get a break from her overbearing parents. She feels she has to do what they say as they paid for her undergraduate education, and will soon be paying for her MA degree and living expenses for graduate school in New York City. Definitely a pretty penny right there! Her time with Chay though shows her that some things are worth fighting for, and she’s willing to break out on her own from her parents if it means a possible future with the cowboy.

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Chay too grows as a person during his summer with K.C. He’s finally willing to give his heart to a woman, and take a chance on love. As the novella progresses it seems damn near impossible that they’ll end up together considering everything standing in their way. Will she give up school to be with him? Will the rugged cowboy take on the skyscrapers of the Big Apple? Can they try a long distance relationship for two whole years? And then you have K.C.’s high class parents who decide to come out West for a little visit with their daughter. What else could possibly happen?

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

Series: Heart of the Boy, book 1. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this series.

Should you read it? I think I would have preferred if this were a full length novel instead of a novella. While I really did love the story and the delightful characters, I also couldn’t help but feel that certain elements were a bit too rushed. From the romance itself to some interesting dramatic moments, I guess I just wanted more! I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series though, which will be full-length and continue on in the romance between our city girl and her cowboy.

Smut Level: Nothing too scandalous.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 94 Pages.

 

Vengeance by Shana Figueroa

What makes this female private investigator different than any other? Well…her magical vagina for one.

What’s it About? 

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Corruption. Greed. Illicit sex. Murder. Private investigator Valentine Shepherd thinks she’s seen it all, and her strange ability to glimpse the future gives her an edge no one else in the world has. But when her fiancé is killed trying to exonerate his client, billionaire Max Carressa, Val makes it her personal mission to bring the people responsible to justice, no matter the cost. Convinced the two men are linked by more than attorney-client privilege, she enlists Max’s help in her investigation and gets more than she bargained for. On the run, Val and Max must uncover who wants them dead and why. The answer leads them to a conspiracy that has Val herself at its center. She doesn’t understand how or why, but time is running out to expose the truth and escape the danger she knows is coming . . .

First Impressions

Mkay, you just know that when a book starts off with a magical vagina it’s gonna be unique. And when we find out that Val isn’t the only with supernatural genitals? Well, stand back ladies and gentlemen. How exactly are Val’s lady bits special? She has visions of the future whilst getting it on. Definitely a party trick you don’t see very often. The one downside to this “gift” is that Val never really gets to experience the pleasure of an orgasm. She gets the build up, and the aftermath, but the boom moment causes her to pass out in a vision. Not sure how I’d feel about that to be honest. Especially considering her visions usually involve seeing someone’s death.

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On the Run

While Val’s visions can sometimes prove useful, she discovers they aren’t always accurate. Case in point, when she envisions her lawyer fiancé question a possible witness who could help with one of his cases, she never saw him get run down and killed by an unknown assailant. In an effort to uncover the truth about his death, she eventually crosses paths with Max Carressa, a mysterious billionaire accused of murdering his own father.

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Needless to say, it’s been a rather stressful week for Val Shepherd! Not only is she witness to her fiancé’s murder, but she’s trying to avoid being killed herself as she attempts to solve his murder. All of this is further complicated by the fact that, in a way, Max is someone she’s been searching for for a large portion of her life. Or someone like him anyway. He’s the first person she’s ever met who has the same abilities that she does. Val does put up a valiant effort to fight her growing attraction to Max, but when they discover they both share the same sexual gift, we know it’s just a matter of time before they get busy seeing visions together. With an ability grounded in sex, it seems meeting someone else with the same gift heightens their feelings of arousal. Poor girl didn’t stand a chance!

Magical Genitals Collide

As the novel progresses I was curious to find out if Max and Val’s eventual first time together would be out of necessity to find out key information in a vision, or from a development of real feelings for each other. Interestingly enough, it’s sort of a combination of both. Val senses a growing attraction to Max that can no longer be ignored, so she kind of uses her gift as an excuse to finally get physically close to him.

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Something I did find particularly interesting about their supernatural power is how it influenced their sexual dynamic. In most romance novels, we often see a male lead who wants to make himself last as long as possible, while giving his woman as many orgasms as possible. However, for Max and Val they both try to delay the inevitable in order to prolong their pleasure. The fact is, they each only have one shot before they literally pass out in a vision. In their efforts to make it last, they often talk about other topics to keep their mind off it. In addition, they can’t necessarily come together, or else risk passing out on top of each other and squishing some rather important bits and pieces. Like a true gentleman, Max lets Val come first before taking his own pleasure with a desperate attempt to try and pass out beside her.

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One benefit to their strong libido is that although they can only come once at a time, they can quickly regroup after their visions and go at it again. Seeing as Val often foresees death of some kind you’d think it would kind of spoil the mood, but nope! They are ready and raring to go pretty quickly.

Building Suspense and Leading Characters

While Val and Max explore their visions together we also have the underlying story line of her fiancé’s murder, and uncovering a conspiracy rooted in politics and greed. There’s quite a lot of suspense towards the end which lasts for a good chunk of the novel. Definitely nice that it wasn’t a wam, bam, thank you ma’am kind of deal. I was also initially worried that their ability to see the future might make the end of the book less exciting, but that wasn’t the case either as both Val and Max desperately try to alter the course of events which could lead to their deaths.

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I will say there are a LOT of moving pieces in this novel, including a plethora of different characters, motives, and a seemingly endless number of interconnecting story lines. At times it was tricky to keep everything straight, and you can tell some aspects weren’t fully explored so that they can be featured more prominently in a future novel. While I definitely understand the appeal of this for certain plot points, I felt it sort of detracted from us getting to know our main leading lady on a deeper level.

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Considering Val was a former sergeant in the army it means she’s literally a bad ass, and one woman I would never want to cross. Unfortunately, it was also a smidge difficult to like her at times, or connect with her on an emotional level. After mourning the loss of her fiancé it seemed like Val sort of shut off her emotions in order to move on and focus on finding his killer. In a way this also closes herself off to us as the audience. Honestly, I couldn’t help but see Max as a more compelling character due to the fact that we uncover a significant portion of his back story, and get a good glimpse of his hardships and inner turmoil. I wish we had been offered the same for Val, specifically in relation to the impact of her sister’s untimely death, and her developing relationship with Max. It’s definitely possible we’ll see more of this in future novels, but I think a brief window into her personality would have helped us connect with her.

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

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Series: Valentine Shepherd, book 1. There’s an unexpected twist at the end which sets things up for a sequel. Not a cliffhanger per se, but it will leave you wondering what happens next.

Should you read it? The ending of the novel was definitely my favorite, as we see all the various plot points come together for one climactic finish. It does take a while for the story to develop, and with there being so many different characters and interwoven plots it sort of feels like you’re being unwillingly pulled in a multitude of different directions. In addition to the magical genitals, there is also a larger supernatural connection which is briefly touched upon towards the end of the novel. Not really sure how I feel about it at this point.

Smut Level: This book has pretty much every combination you can imagine under the sun. We’ve got m/f, f/f, m/m and m/m/f. I guess the only version missing is f/f/m?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Forever Yours Publishing. 336 Pages.

 

To Win Her Smile by Mackenzie Crowne

A contemporary romance featuring a quarterback football star who eventually dons a kilt by the end of the novel. Ummm, yes please!

What’s it About? 

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When sultry British Baroness Piper Darrow falls on desperate times, she needs a diversion—and cash. As a talented photographer, she jumps at the chance to travel to the U.S. for a Manhattan Marauders football event. But she gets more than she bargained for when buff quarterback Wyatt Hunter’s errant pass lands . . . in her face. And when it results in Wyatt’s comeback of a lifetime, the superstitious athlete is convinced Piper is his good luck charm . . .

With his sights on the Super Bowl, Wyatt will do anything necessary to keep Piper close. The fact that she’s a feast for the eyes is a bonus. And as they get closer, he discovers that beneath her proper English surface is a sweet, sexy seductress. Soon the notorious playboy finds himself genuinely smitten, and surprisingly open to love—until his powerful family uncovers something about Piper that threatens to shatter his trust. Now he’ll have to decide whether to team up with his fears, or his heart.

First Impressions

I’ll admit, when this novel first started I was initially quite concerned. Our opening scene features a football game, and the stakes are high as Wyatt plays our lead quarterback competing to hopefully set the gears in motion to advance his team to their fourth Super Bowl win. So why did this concern me? I don’t do sports! Least of all football. Believe me, growing up in a Midwestern state that was all about sports rivalries I’ve more than had my fill. At the start there was quite a lot of detail involving passes, end zones, and lines of scrimmage that had me cringing in a kind of PTSD sports haze. But alas! I ended up loving this one! Our lead football star proceeds to throw his ball 60mph directly into the face of a stunning British photographer on the sidelines, and things simply go up from there!! Filled with humor, drama, sexy kitchen and elevator fun times, as well as family issues for both parties. What’s not to like?

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A British Baroness and Good Luck Charm

Piper might be a baroness, but she’s in desperate need of money to get an annoying cousin off her back who’s seeking a half million dollar inheritance. Piper risks losing her family home if she can’t pony up the pounds, but along comes a flying football to her nose to change things up. Wyatt sees her as his good luck charm, seeing as his team won a close game after the minor nose accident, and he’s willing to pay her a pretty penny to have her attend the rest of his games for the season.

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He also commissions her to photograph a calendar featuring him and his hunky teammates to raise money for Down syndrome research. However, Wyatt also makes it clear that he’s burning with lust to take the gorgeous redhead to bed, and he’ll do anything to convince her to take a chance on their blatant sexual chemistry. I must say I was rather surprised there was no initial hesitancy on Piper’s part with a possible comparison to…well…prostitution. After all, he is paying her with the intention of eventually getting her into bed, and his claims for her photography services sort of blur the lines on what exactly it is he’s paying for. To get a chance to photograph that beautiful man though? Mmm mmm mmmmm.

Secret Former Flings

For Wyatt, he’s definitely got a type in his attraction to redheads, and Piper fits the bill to perfection. As they get to know each other however, we see that his connection to her goes far beyond the physical. Wyatt is comfortable around Piper to a degree that he’s never had with another woman, and he’s willing to share things with her about his life that he’s never opened up to anyone else about. His family secrets, his home, and even his love.

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For Piper, she’s concerned entering into a relationship with Wyatt seeing as her last foray with a professional athlete ended so terribly, with the British gossip rags dragging her name and reputation through the dirt. I will say I was mildly disappointed that Piper didn’t choose to share any of this background with Wyatt until pretty late in the game. True, they initially agreed to keep things casual with no strings attached. However, as they get closer, and Piper sees the true Wyatt through her camera lens, I wanted her to willingly share more of herself with him beyond just her body. Only when he asks her to does she open up to him.

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

Series: Players, book 5. I shockingly really enjoyed this one, even with it being steeped in the world of sports. I also kind of want to go back and read the other novels in the series too!

Should you read it? A fun story, albeit with a somewhat cheesy ending. When you’ve got a hottie in a kilt declaring his love though I’m 100% in. I also found Wyatt to be a highly admirable character. His father is running for president, and he knows it’s only a matter of time before his staff uncovers the history of Piper’s appearances in the press. Even though their relationship is new, and it could be so much easier to break ties, Wyatt instead chooses to stand by her. Sigh.

Smut Level: Give me a passionate scene in an elevator any day.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Lyrical Shine. 232 Pages.

to win her loveto win her trustto win her heartto win her backto win her smile

West of Forgotten by Lynda J. Cox

A secluded Wyoming ranch set in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like the ideal place for romance to bloom. I seriously need to take a trip to Wyoming.

What’s it About? 

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Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly. For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter. Unless she can learn to trust Harrison, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost.

First Impressions

The first half of this novel is all about Rachel and Harrison developing trust in their relationship. She’s been hurt before, and anyone who comes into both her and her son’s lives needs to earn her trust. Harrison is just the man to exhibit the necessary patience to win her over. Upon meeting the tantalizingly beautiful single mother, Harrison is determined that rather than take over the ranch completely, he wants to help her see it thrive again. To do so he determines their best option is to marry. Not only will it silence the gossips in town to see a man living with Rachel, but it also ensures she’ll get the entire ranch should something ever happen to him.

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Beyond just trusting him from a business partner standpoint, Rachel must also learn to trust him physically. She shies away from his every touch with fear in her eyes over what happened at the hands of his brother years before. Although their trust comes slowly, I must say it was built unbelievably well, with a hint of reality to it. It’s not like one day Rachel is wary of the stranger on her front porch, and the next she simply decides her fate is sealed and she’ll throw caution to the wind by trusting him completely. By developing it slowly over time their relationship is stronger for it, as it is built on something more stable and important than physical desire.

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A Troubled Past

I definitely appreciated this story emphasizing the importance of trust in a relationship, but in my opinion there was something which stood out even more. This is also a tale of survival. Rachel survived a horrific rape and abuse at the hands of a man who had the ability to charm an entire city into believing his version of events over hers. It was truly frightening to see how people treated her in the aftermath, as though she were the one to blame. That she led him on. How nobody believed her save a select few.

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What sickened me even more was to consider that this still happens today. This story might be set in the bygone era of the Wild West, yet it’s underlying horrors are still present. Rachel was ostracized from the community, but the one shining light throughout it all were those select few who believed in her. Although not related by blood, they were her family, and were willing to do anything to protect her and her son from the dangers of the world. Rachel is a strong, admirable lead character who drew on the love of her friends to help raise her son, and she could stand up to anyone who dared cross their path. Including a sexy U.S. Marshal.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? Yes! This novel isn’t just a tale of blossoming love. As Rachel receives threatening notes, and her ranch is plagued by arson, we discover that her abuser has returned. She must face her fears all over again, but this time she has Harrison by her side. An intense finish that will have you holding your breath and clenching your toes in anticipation. At least…that’s what I do when I get anxious reading a book!

Smut Level: Harrison is the ideal. He helps Rachel live her life again. He pushes her, but not too much. Harrison lets her make her own decisions, but helps to nudge her in the right direction. He also helps her explore her sexuality, and learn that there’s no shame in pleasure. They take things slow, but Harrison manages to seduce her with words, and holy hell is that man a smooth talker and sexy grinner extraordinaire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 318 Pages.

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