Teaching the Boss by Mallory Crowe

You gotta love an office romance. There are just so many desks, stairwells and elevators where two lovers can find passion!

What’s it About?

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Business-school student April Morgan is ready to graduate–from school, from the secretary pool, and from never-gonna-happen fantasies involving Sam Hunt, her hunky billionaire boss. But when Sam’s girlfriend of the week pushes her too far, April finds herself quitting on the spot with only a mountain of student loan debt to keep her company. In steps Sam’s worst enemy, his father, with a job offer she can’t refuse.

Sam was born into privilege, but refused to live life with a silver spoon in his mouth. After a decade of hard work, he’s on the verge of taking his business public and proving to his tyrannical family that he can make it without their help. When he finds out that April is working for his father, he knows she’s been turned into a pawn in his father’s twisted games.

Despite Sam’s warnings, April is determined to prove she doesn’t need him to make in New York City. But when she finds documents that could lead to Sam losing everything he’s worked for, April realizes that she and Sam have to work together to save the empire they’ve both worked to build.

First Impression

This book certainly started strong, but sort of fizzled for me as it went along. I did love that the first kiss between Sam and April was in an elevator. The only way it could have gotten better was if they’d gotten stuck in said elevator, but we can’t always get what we want! What I didn’t particularly care for though with their first foray into tonsil hockey was that April was on the verge of quitting after hearing Sam discuss transferring her to appease his current jealous girlfriend, and when April was ripping him a new one he basically just kissed her because he knew it would shock her into silence. And then they both realized how much they liked it.

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Really? That’s the impetus for them taking things to the next level, he essentially wanted to shut her up? At least April had a rather longstanding crush on the guy. For Sam he acknowledges that he checked out her curves pretty soon after she started working for him, and that he came to rely on her professionally as his administrative assistant. Only when she decides to quit does he realize what he’s about to lose. Here’s the thing, I know their connection goes deeper than that. I knowwwww it. They just do a pretty poor job of verbalizing it to each other, to the point where it seems like she’s just happy to finally get him in bed and he doesn’t want to lose her as an employee. Not as romantic as I’d hoped.

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Welcome to Family Feud

The other primary feature of this novel was the feud between Sam and his father, Donald. In my opinion it went on for way…too…long. Sam has always had a troubled relationship with his father, who he insists is determined to make sure Sam fails in the business world, as well as in his personal life. This animosity is heightened even more when Donald buys the majority shares in Sam’s company just as he plans to take it public. Here’s the problem. It is unbelievably evident that Donald is actually a loving father who just doesn’t always go about communicating this to his son in the best way. Gee, another issue with verbalizing emotions. Sounds familiar, no? While Sam insists that Donald has underhanded intentions throughout the entirety of the novel, I personally thought it was obvious that Donald was just looking out for Sam.

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This made Sam’s resolve to hate his father seem rather immature and close-minded, especially towards the end of the novel when we see he’s willing to set his father up to spend time behind bars to pay for stealing his company out from under him. What bothered me even more though was that they both sort of used April as a pawn in their interactions with each other. Neither man seems capable of stepping up to lay all their cards out on the table. Instead they relay just a bit of information to April to disclose to the other, without ever revealing the whole story. This frustrates April to the ultimate breaking point where she eventually just confronts Donald to speak the truth. Unfortunately we have to wait around until the last couple chapters of the book for that to come about. For the rest of the novel I was tempted to start banging my head against a wall, or maybe force Sam and Donald to remain in a locked room with each other until they hug it out in a mess of filial tears.

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Series: Billionaires in the City, book 1. I’m not sure I’ll continue with this one. We are introduced to a rather intriguing character towards the end of the novel who will be the primary focus of our sequel, but it’s nothing I’ll rush out to pick up.

Final Impression: I’ve definitely read better, and I’ve also read worse. It wasn’t a terrible read by any means, but for a rather major part of it I was just kind of thinking to myself, “mkay…boop dee boop”. The story just didn’t grab me. There was one scene towards the end that was the most emotional moment in the entire novel for me, and almost brought me to tears. Funnily enough though it wasn’t because of the words or actions of either of our main characters, but rather a supplemental character. I guess it shows there’s potential for an added depth to the emotional connection of a future story, but it just wasn’t here for me in this one.

Smut Level: While I didn’t get the trapped in an elevator steamy make out scene that would have been fantabulous, we did get a rather delightful romp on Sam’s office desk.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Sprinters Press. 203 Pages.

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Connected by Kim Karr

Well…isn’t this a depressing start to a novel?!

What’s it About?

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What if a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ could happen twice? Suffering from a past full of tragedy, Dahlia London’s soul has been left completely shattered. Happily ever after is a far cry from reality in her world. But, when she is reconnected with her past, the bonds that form are irrefutable.

When River Wilde, lead singer of The Wilde Ones, comes back into Dahlia’s life, the intensity that fires their relationship combined with underlying feelings that have never died lead her to believe she has met her soulmate. Struggling with confusion as old connections fade and new ones begin, Dahlia’s grief begins to lift–but guilt remains. River wants to be the one to mend all that is torn within her. But with a past that is never really gone, can their future survive?

First Impressions

We start things off with a touching memory involving Dahlia going to a concert with her father, but then we find out in the next scene that her parents both died soon afterwards in a plane crash. Flash-forward a couple years and Dahlia is dating a guy named Ben, but has an unexpectedly passionate eye-connection and quick convo with a mysterious musician in a bar. I figured we’d proceed with a love triangle college romance. Not always my favorite, but I can deal. Well, hold your horses because we’re not done with the tragic set-up of the novel quite yet. We flash forward another 5 years to find that Dahlia and Ben are engaged, and while on the way to a party they’re approached by a gunman who shoots and kills Ben in cold blood. Good God can I get a shot of tequila or something before I attempt to read another chapter here?!

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Another Flash Forward

The first part of this novel focuses on Dahlia overcoming the death of so many loved ones before she happens to reconnect with River, the handsome musician she locked eyes with when she was back in college. After so many years apart, not to mention the multiple tragedies which she has encountered, when she reconnects with River she’s surprised there is still the same spark of connection, lust, and desire. Something which surprised me though during this reunion with River was how often Ben came back into her mind. True, this is the first man she’s thought about in a physical sense since the death of her fiancé. However, I guess I just figured that seeing as she’s been mourning him so deeply for so long, that maybe her time with River would cause the memory of her fiancé to slip ever so slightly from her mind. If anything, we see that the opposite happens.

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Instead of having River replace the memory of her dead fiancé, if anything she thinks about him more than she ever has in recent months. Their conversations are full of fun and laughter, yet they constantly make her think back on happy memories or connections with Ben. While I may not have been expecting this reaction, I must say I loved how realistic it felt. Ben was such an important figure in her lift since she was 5 years old, and I think it would have been so simple for the author to have River’s very presence push the tragedy of Ben to the sidelines. But instead we see the reality of someone moving on from tragedy, and the inner conflict Dahlia feels as she spends more time with River. Inevitably she starts to compare the two, and feels guilty as she contemplates whether or not Ben ever made her feel the way River does. Ultimately she’s able to start having happy memories again with someone new, but for a good portion of the book it’s almost as though the ghost of Ben is there as the third wheel in her re-connection with River.

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Quick Switch

The majority of the book is told from Dahlia’s point of view, from her tumultuous experience with grief, to her growing love for River, and even her arguments with River’s brother. I need to take a moment to say my God the disagreement and animosity between River’s brother and Dahlia was so unbelievably contrived and arbitrary with misplaced blame it was pretty ridiculous. Listening to it on my walks to work I’m sure other people probably thought I was having a seizure from all the eyebrow scrunches and crazy looks I was putting out there. Anyway, I digress.

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Even though Dahlia is our main storyteller for about 3/4 of the novel, I was surprised at a point of view switch so late in the game. At first I thought, well this will be a total waste to have waited so long to suddenly hear things from River’s viewpoint. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong! It was actually rather fascinating to see that underneath River’s seductive and confident exterior lies vulnerability and doubt over whether or not Dahlia will ever love him as much as she loved Ben. Sure, she says she loves him, but is he actually just an emotional rebound? He loves her so much, but is worried that he’ll constantly have to battle Ben’s ghost for her affections. In this instance, it was an unexpected yet surprisingly useful POV switch.

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Multiple Meanings

Mkay, the title. Connected. As the novel progresses it wants you to think that the connection that’s being referred to deals with the emotional link between Dahlia and River. And yes, I realize I just referred to the book as a free thinking entity. Their connection over music is especially strong, and this is definitely one of those books where an accompanying playlist would be particularly helpful to figure out who the heck they’re talking about. However, once River’s point of view takes over the narration we realize that there’s a different kind of connection going on, and it’s one related to all of our characters being connected in a way we never thought possible! Except it was actually slightly predictable 🙂 But!! The freakin’ epilogue leaves us with a holy shit Batman surprise that will knock your socks off. Ok, so I kiiiind of predicted this surprise too, but to have it confirmed was definitely a slap in the face, and it ends the book on a rather huge and intense climax.

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Series: Connections, book 1. Honestly, I’m kind of hesitant to proceed with this series, mainly because the cliffhanger ending implies that book two is gonna be one hell of a heartbreaking continuation that will involve some really difficult and depressing decisions on the part of Dahlia. Good luck girlfriend. I do not envy you this decision.

Final Impression: We have an unbelievably emotional and depressing start, and kind of a mind f*ck of an ending, with a middle section that kind of dragged a bit with all of Dahlia and River’s lovey dovey ooey gooeyness love connection. That’s one roller coaster of a sandwich cookie right there. Definitely double stuffed. In my opinion though we definitely could have used less filling.

Smut Level: The emotional connection between Dahlia and River isn’t the only thing that’s off the charts between them. River has been waiting to unleash his sexual prowess on Dahlia for years, and he’s not holding back this time around.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 370 Pages.

Setting Sail!

December has finally arrived, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for another family cruise vacation! We are setting sail this week for the beautiful sunshine of the Caribbean. See ya later 40 degree weather! Can’t say I’ll miss you at all.

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I’ve got my Kindle full of romantic beach reads, and I can’t begin to express how much I’m looking forward to getting my tan-on whilst reading the day away. Sure, the endless buffets of delicious food and desserts are also pretty awesome, but I’m most excited about getting away from the stresses of life. Nothing quite like getting off the grid, and telling work that you will literally be unreachable for a whole glorious week in international waters.

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From Costa Maya to Cozumel, not to mention the delicious rum of Belize, here’s to a week of fun, sunshine, and time with family. I imagine I’ll have finished quite a few books by the time the week is out. See you all in a week!

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Confessions of a Gigolo by Richard Godwin

With a name like “Paris Tongue”, you can expect all kinds of sensual delights from this gigolo.

What’s it About? 

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Set in five major European cities, this erotic novel absorbs cultural atmosphere against a backdrop of love, lust, betrayal and revenge.

Blonde. Dangerous. Gigolo.

Paris Tongue uses his looks to seduce wealthy women and introduce them to the Secret Hour, that hidden time when they can escape their lives. Using his inheritance to travel, he penetrates the erotic essence of different cities, from London, Paris, to Rome, Madrid and Dusseldorf.

His sexual escapades begin to catch up with him. He sleeps with the wife of a Mafia Boss and is hunted across Europe by hit men. The assassins find him in Spain. By then he is versed in the deeper philosophy of Eros and sees them off. He is, after all, the bastard child of a killer, who knows how to survive.

In Germany he meets Anja from Croatia, the first woman he wants to settle down with, then he realises he inhabits no city at all – just a place of intoxicated night and endless seductions.

First Impressions

Alright ladies and gents, I’m gonna be straight up with y’all right off the bat and say that this read simply was not my cup of tea. It basically just came across as porn to me, with some pretty stiff (pun absolutely intended) and graphic dialogue. Now don’t get me wrong, you all know I am an absolute lover of dirty talk, but this was even out of my realm of comfort. I know dirty talk isn’t for everyone, but at times I feel it can sort of encapsulate the passion of a main couple. But with this read it didn’t seem so much as passion, but rather just dirty for the sake of being shocking. I read this entire book during a 2 hour and 1 minute flight from Sacramento to Denver, and let me tell you I can’t remember the last time I clutched my kindle so close to my chest, with my cover flap acting as a shield, so that the passengers and flight attendants around me wouldn’t see some of the illicit language on the page.

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Gigolo vs. Con Artist

My main disappointment with this novel would probably have to be with our main character, and it wasn’t just because he was a gigolo. As a matter of fact, I think this was the aspect of the synopsis which really appealed to me the most! We sort of see through his troubled and uncharacteristic childhood how he fell into this habit of non-committed relationships. But what I was really hoping to see more of were the logistics of him connecting with women as a gigolo. That moment where he goes from flirting with women, to then having to ask for payment for his special kind of services. But we really don’t get any of that.

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Instead there’s a brief mention here and there of him being paid afterwards, but for several of the hook-ups which are described here it almost comes across as though he uses these women to get free lodging and gifts as he travels around Europe. Sure, I guess that can fall within the lines of payment, but I think what bothered me with this form of payment is that it wasn’t really evident to the women that this fling with our lead character was going nowhere. Some were so obsessed with him they were willing to leave husbands, and sometimes even commit murder in order to be with him. But he’s used to a life of non-commitment, so he would continually leave them behind to move onto his next city. At that point I almost had to question, are we really reading about the confessions of a gigolo, or a sexually adept con artist?

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Avoiding Commitment

Another important thing to keep in mind with this read is that it is far from a romance. Again, I went in with false expectations thinking that we’d meet a gigolo who might eventually find one woman so special he’d want to leave all his previous scheming behind him. Sure, I guess that kind of happens? But it’s more along the lines of one day he just sort of thinks to himself, “hey maybe I should try things out with just one woman”, and the woman he happened to be with at the time was the one he chose to embark on this endeavor with. It’s not like he chose her because he fell in love, or that she was different from every other women who came before. Hell, it didn’t even seem like he was entirely convinced it would last, but it was simply a new adventure he wanted to try out. Doesn’t really fill you with a whole lot of warm and fuzzy feelings.

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Temptations Beyond Marriage

One last important thing to keep in mind with this read, which I sort of alluded to earlier, is that it has a dark side to it. Our lead character specifically likes to set his sights on married women, and basically considers his presence in their lives as a service to break them from the shackles of marriage. He never really has to seduce or persuade any of these women to sleep with him, they all come quite willingly to bed, and they all have some pretty exotic tastes. He certainly attracts the same type of women, who can all go for hours on end and come countless times in a plethora of orgasms. But whereas he thinks he’s doing them a service by providing them with the sexual pleasure their husbands can’t provide, I must say I saw his presence as more of a curse. You see, things don’t always…end well for these women.

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A few end up killing their husbands, one kills her sister in a jealous rage over access to Paris’s body, and one woman even ends up killing herself. Paris himself also kills a few people who were hired to pursue him for having sex with their mob boss’s wife. Whether it be stabbing them in the chest with a butcher’s knife, or slicing their neck open with a pocket knife, we’ve got some disturbing confessions here. And throughout it all, it never seems as though Paris shows any remorse. True, he never really led these women on by making false promises of forever, and these women weren’t forced into cheating on their husbands. However, he spent a lot of time with these women carrying out the most intimate act two people can engage in. The fact he never looked back, but instead kept looking forward to his next conquest wasn’t that enjoyable to read about if I’m being entirely honest with you.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I can’t really give my recommendation with this one if you’re looking for a “romance”. If you’re looking for something really really out of the box, with a guy who goes from town to town and woman to woman leaving some pretty questionable results in his wake? Sure, give it a try! It won’t take you long. For my tastes though it was simply too over the top.

Smut Level: My god. This man’s penis must be made of gold with how frantic women can become in order to maintain their access to it. His tongue is also pretty decent. Every woman he comes across tastes like champagne and peaches, but the fancy references end there. We see a level of dirty talk that unfortunately was beyond my comfort level.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 117 Pages.

Against the Odds by Michele Solano

There’s only a handful of romance novels that make me want to give up city living and move out West to the quiet peace and seclusion of a Wyoming ranch. This is definitely one of those romances.

What’s it About? 

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Jace Nichols is the kind of cowboy every woman wants. He’s sexy, he’s strong, and he knows how to treat a woman to a good time. However, just like a wild stallion who cannot be tamed, Jace makes it a point to keep women at arm’s length, only offering casual dating, and never commits. He gave his heart out only once in his life, and that heartbreak had him promising himself he’d never risk that again. So now his life consists of hard work, time with the Michaels’ clan, and enjoying as many women as he wants without any risk, which suits him just fine. That is, until Scarlet James walks back into his life.

Scarlet James grew up a stone’s throw from Michaels Mob and loved everything about country life. She loved horses, she loved drawing, and she loved Jace Nichols. And when a devastating accident turned her world upside down and ripped her away from everything she knew and loved, including Jace, she never thought she’d set foot on the Mob again. But with her world being turned upside down with an impending divorce and a child to support, she returns to the Mob with the hopes of starting her life over, once again.

Heartbreak returns, secrets are revealed, and first loves reunite in this story of family, love and loss. Can Jace allow the one woman who broke his heart back on the Mob in order to start a new life for herself? Can Scarlet reconnect with the family who helped raise her and heal old wounds with Jace in the process? Can they both be in the same place after all this time and face the pain they caused each other all those years ago or are their wounds too deep to heal?

First Impressions

This series is unbelievably dangerous. Why, you might ask? Because the family matriarch, Grandma E., is so freakin’ adept at cooking and baking, every time I picked up this book I couldn’t help but feel the urge to bake either a casserole, or a pie. The fact I was away from home on work travel without easy access to a kitchen for the majority of this read caused me some rather intense mental anguish. Not to mention severe hunger. In this sequel to Have a Little Faith, we see that the entire clan from the first novel is back, but instead we get a different primary focus on Jace Nichols. He might not be a Michaels, but they’ve basically adopted him into their little family.

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He seems perfectly content to work the Mob with his surrogate family, never becoming tied down or committed to just one woman. But when an unexpected blast from his past comes sweeping onto the ranch to design a race track and stables for a new business venture, both he and Scarlet are forced to confront their former teenage love which ended in heartbreak. Throughout it all we see the couple from the first novel act as a shoulder to cry on, or even vent frustrations, but this tale is really all about Jace and Scarlet finding their way back to each other after so many years apart. The question is, will they be able to overcome the hurdles which separated them all those years ago, or will they prove too strong a barrier? Only one way to find out!

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Part One: Reconnecting

This book is essentially divided into two parts. The first focuses on Scarlet and Jace coming together again after she is hired to design a race track on his family’s ranch. The animosity between the two is palpable, and I must say it was quite a bit of fun to see them try to tip-toe around avoiding each other. However, in those inevitable moments when they’d come face to face, the bickering between them inflated the sexual tension to a delectable degree. You simply know it’s a matter of time before the two become reacquainted in the physical sense, and I rather enjoyed the suspense of wondering when it was going to come about. We do actually have to wait a while until roughly the halfway point before they go for a roll in the stable loft. Before that though, we are constantly wondering what it was that broke them up so many years ago when they seemed destined to be together.

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Normally I hate when we’re left in the dark for so long, but I must say the big reveal moment came about naturally and realistically, which was quite refreshing. We first get to see Jace’s take on events, as he relates them to a character from the first book who was so desperate to find out the truth she essentially cornered him and demanded an explanation. Gotta love this woman’s tenacity! And then we get the ultimate climactic moment when Jace and Scarlet finally square off to lay all their cards out on the table, and Scarlet discloses all the tragic details as to why she abandoned him all those years ago. It was an emotionally touching scene, and in that moment you really do feel for the characters.

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My one and only complaint was that more attention was focused on the explanation of what split them up years before, rather than having any real focus on the time that they were together as a couple. Sure, we get a few mentions of how they were inseparable for years, and that they had a secret hideout spot on the ranch to connect, but I think the story really could have benefited from a few flashback scenes wherein we could witness the emotional bond these two shared. If we’d had some of these moments interspersed with their bickering, we could have constantly been questioning how things could have ever gotten so bad for them to seemingly hate each other so much before finally building to the inevitable explanation. It seemed like we lost a bit of what brought them together in the first place to instead focus on what was bringing them back together now.

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Part Two: Dropping the Ex

The second half of the book switches focus rather dramatically, and I’m not exactly sure how, but it is both my favorite and least favorite part of the novel (I know, my mind is a scary and weird place where anything is possible). After the reconciliation between Jace and Scarlet, things remain primarily hunky dory between them, and we switch all of our attention to the nasty divorce proceedings between Scarlet and her hopefully soon-to-be ex-husband, Preston. In the middle of it all we find her son, Nicholas, caught in the cross fires of a bitter custody dispute. One way this part of the novel should be applauded is how we see a dramatic building of suspense where we don’t really know what is going to happen in terms of this custody battle, and what lengths Preston will go to in order to ensure Scarlet regrets the decision to try and make it on her own. He’s not afraid to use his son as a bargaining chip, and I was filled with worry and wonder as to how this final courtroom drama would play out.

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Something that I didn’t quite care for in the midst of all of this though was that for the most part Jace remains in the background as Scarlet tries to resolve this divorce back in Kentucky. He’s still uber supportive through multiple phone calls and FaceTime sessions, but it was kind of a stark juxtaposition to having Jace be such a major part of the first half of the novel, to see him become almost a secondary character in the second part. It’s also kind of an emotional whiplash for the surly and brooding Jace to suddenly transform into a romantic poet. That being said, with Jace remaining back in Wyoming for a portion of this, we do get to see the special connection that Scarlet has with her son, and also see her stand up for herself against her dick of an ex. It was nice to see such a strong female lead not having to lean on her man to solve all her problems for her. It demonstrates this mother-son duo working together as a unit before they can turn all of their attention to moving forward with Jace stoically standing by in their corner.

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

Series: Michaels’ Mob, book 2. There are plenty of sexy cowboys to be found on this here Wyoming ranch. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more highlighted in future books.

Final Impressions: This was a delightful continuation of the Michaels’ Mob series, and instead of portraying a newfound romance we get to see one that highlights the tumultuous path of having a second chance at love. I did enjoy the build-up we get at discovering what it was that separated Jace and Scarlet back when they were teens, as well as the growing suspense surrounding Scarlet’s bitter divorce with her ass-hat ex-husband. While the reasons behind their split were emotionally heartbreaking, I do wish that we had seen a few more tender moments behind the initial love story between Jace and Scarlet all those years ago. It was fun to see the entire Michaels clan back in action for this sequel, although I will say at times their familial connection seems almost a bit too perfect! I mean, is my family the only one that tends to argue around the holidays? No? Oh…well, never mind then.

Smut Level: Alright ladies and gents, you sort of have to wait a while before we eventually get to the good stuff, but once we do? Holy crap. We have some nookie in front of a fireplace, in a candlelit bathtub, not to mention some decent bedroom action. Seriously, I might need to find a Wyoming cowboy for myself.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 260 Pages.

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Chroma Crossing Chronicles: Blood Moon: Part 1 by S. Yurvati

The plot of this book is one I would categorize as “outside-of-the-box”. It’s unpredictable, and refuses to play by the rules.

What’s it About?

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Hunky pheromone-laden-man meets pretty accident-prone female—it should have been a love story with a happy ever after ending.
However, when the bored deities choose Candy and Thorne for an amusing game, the gods/goddesses put forth sets of circumstances that can tear the couple apart and wound them deep within their human souls.
City girl, Candy wanted to become a successful artist and maybe someday find a man who would make her feel loved and valued, a feeling she’d never known while growing up. However, with a name like ‘Candy Cane’, males never failed to remind her with a wink and snicker, how it sounded like she was a ‘professional’. And ‘professional’ held so many connotations, none of which she had in mind regarding relationships with men.
With her father’s sudden demise, Candy finds she’s inherited funds and a carriage house in beautiful historic Savannah. Not only can she now afford to go to SCAD, her future as an artist looks promising. Unfortunately her step-mom (and her disturbing son Todd) resides in the main house. When Candy gets her first commission for a life-sized portrait of a beautiful woman from a rather unsettling man, she soon questions what had seemed coincidental.
Candy is a modest female who has always found solace in her artwork, whereas her widowed step-mom, Cherry Ann, considers physical pleasure and money as her measures of worth. And as Candy pursues her art, Cherry Ann pursues a new lover who expands her world of sexual gratifications far beyond past parameters. Cherry Ann finds her new risqué sex life to be addictive and doesn’t recognize the danger of the man she’s invited into her life.
After surviving a couple of ‘accidents’, Candy realizes someone apparently wishes her harm. When she’s chased (by the one thing she fears most) Candy accidently, or so it seems, crosses into a new dimension, land or whatever. She finds herself in an unknown wilderness without resources, let alone a map, or GPS, plus she left her cell phone at home—again. Looking around she sees a curious terrain that is void of color, thus leaving the landscape looking like an old sepia photograph, hardly the Savannah spring day she’d left behind.
The artist in her wants to understand how primary colors could disappear to leave a land so colorless . . . so entirely beige-ish. How could such a phenomenal occurrence come about? A land without modern conveniences—almost as though she’d stepped into a time past, yet that wasn’t quite accurate either.
As Candy literally stumbles through the wild terrain, an intriguing hunter comes upon her. His presence makes her girlie parts beg to become ill behaved, and before she knows it, her hormones are arguing with her strict moral compass.

First Impression

I think we can all agree, that is one long and complicated synopsis. It’s really hard to determine based on the summary what exactly the novel is about, and I couldn’t help but feel as though this then transferred into the progression of the plot. It took a lot longer than expected for the story to actually get going. At the very beginning we get a glimpse of a god and two goddesses gathering together to wreak some havoc on two unsuspecting souls from different worlds as a twisted form of entertainment. We are then quickly introduced to our first character who is to be involved in this game of the gods, Candy.

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Unfortunately we don’t meet her counterpart, Thorne, until the book is pretty much over. In addition, after that initial set up scene we never hear from our scheming deities again, which was rather disappointing. I was hoping we’d see them come in and out throughout the book to provide commentary on how they thought their game was progressing. The fact that many of the chapters are told from the points of view of different characters, from our lead heroine Candy, to her best friend Liam, our villain Mark, Candy’s step mother Cherry Ann, Candy’s new kitten (the best POV in my opinion), and a couple of dead pirates in a cemetery, all contributed to the flow of the novel feeling rather choppy.

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Creating a Villain

The creation of a perfect villain is a tricky business. It’s almost a science, like baking a cake. You don’t want to overdo it, but you also don’t want it to fall flat. When it came to our villain, Mark, the scales tipped a bit too evil for my tastes. We get descriptions of rape, abuse, murder, and some sexual tastes that were rather sickening to read about. I definitely crossed my legs a time or two in discomfort for the abuse being reflected on the page, not to mention the fact that the sounds of a woman’s screams really get him off. Eek! I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with our villain, but I feel like sometimes we can be presented with a bad guy you love to hate. This one was so revolting I came to cringe any time we had a chapter told from his point of view. Entering that guy’s mind was less than pleasant.

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If you attempt this book here is my piece of advice, read the author’s note first. She goes into detail about how these characters are meant to be imperfect. Some crazy, others self-centered, and those who are completely deranged. While reading it I can’t say I was a fan of having so many flawed characters featured front and center, and sometimes with such disturbingly graphic detail. The author’s note definitely helps put things in perspective, as she mentions that at times you should sort of want to put the book down to take a break from some of the darker aspects of the book. While I can definitely appreciate that sentiment, I still think it could have been toned down juuuust a bit. If I put the book down there’s got to be something in there that makes me want to pick it up again. I do like to read in my spare time after all, and usually before bed. Don’t really wanna be risking nightmares here folks. You start messing with my sleep and I will not be a happy camper in the morning!

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Off-Balance

In my very humble opinion I felt as though the balance of the story was off. There were definitely some interesting pieces to it, but I felt as though certain aspects were highlighted more than they should have been, which lent a feeling of the plot dragging in some areas. For example, the character balance. Candy is our lead. She has been through a lot of turmoil throughout her life, and she is one tough cookie. However, at times I felt as though she sort of fell to the wayside as the main focus. Towards one point of the book there was so much focus on our villainous Mark developing a rather dark and demented sexual relationship with Candy’s step-mother, Cherry Ann.

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It just went on a bit too long for me, not only because it was kind of disturbing to read about, but I couldn’t really figure out how it fit in with the rest of the story. It’s possible their bizarre relationship will come back to play a bigger role in a future book, but if the point of the lengthy, multiple chapters told from Cherry Ann and Mark’s points of view was to highlight how depraved they were…yeah that was rather evident pretty early on. While it was nice to have some different chapters here and there every once in a while highlighting some of the supplemental characters, I definitely think it could have been cut back a bit to really push Candy to the forefront as our strong and admirable lead.

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The biggest imbalance for me though was the focus of the plot. It starts strong, with this interesting and cryptic meeting between a Sun God, Earth Goddess and Moon Goddess deciding to have some fun by bringing together two people from two different worlds. After this initial introduction to the game of the gods, we never actually see them reappear as part of our plot, which was kind of disappointing. It seems like we could have replaced a few chapters focusing on Cherry Ann, Mark, and even Candy’s best friend Liam, or her lover Joe, to see a few more moments of commentary from our deities.

What really shocked me though was that the meeting of our two characters from different worlds didn’t even happen until after the 80% point of the book. Throughout so much of the book I just keep thinking, where is this story going, and how does it relate back to that opening scene with our deities? We finally get to it near the very end of our book, and this is when the story truly came alive for me. If anything I feel like we should have seen this climactic meeting of our characters at about the 30% mark, so that the primary focus of the book could have been on Candy adapting to this new world she’s been thrown into, and the stranger who helps her find her way in this unexpected land so different from her own.

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

Series: Chroma Crossing Chronicles, Book 1. At about the halfway point I really did start to question if I’d want to continue on with this series. It’s a dark read at times, and I really couldn’t tell where our story was going. However, once we get to those final scenes where Candy’s world is turned upside down, this is where everything came together for me. I have a feeling that what I wanted to be a focus of this book is instead going to be a focus of book 2, and considering the somewhat cliffhanger ending to this first book I am intrigued to continue on with this series.

Final Impression: While I feel like there were some flaws as to the execution of our story, from the grammar to the pace and flow of the plot, it did start and end on a high note. I wish we had jumped into the journey of Candy traveling to this foreign world earlier on in the book, as this helps tie us back to the initial conversation between the god and goddesses at the opening scene of the book. The middle portion of the novel definitely takes a darker turn as we focus on the somewhat sadistic tastes of our villain. I’ll admit it crossed over too far into the disturbing realm for me where it was a challenge to keep going with the story. Hopefully we’ll leave some of the more demented aspects of our villain’s personality and history behind as an introduction in this novel, and instead have more of a primary focus on Candy connecting with this bizarre world she’s fallen into.

Smut Level: We get some detailed sex scenes, but unfortunately where you don’t really want to see them. For example, there’s a build-up to Candy exploring a relationship with  a guy named Joe. Just when they start to get passionate we switch to focus on the crazy sexual antics of her step mother, who even gets gang banged at one point. Not really the best chapter to end on before going to sleep one night. When we see Candy’s roommate Liam getting all nervously prepped for a date with a handsome guy from school we hope to see some romance, but instead switch to finding Candy’s step brother jacking off in her bedroom. Can’t we just get one nice sex scene? Please?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 379 Pages.

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Portal to the Land of Chroma

 

Dare to Surrender by Carly Phillips

He’s been waiting for her for years. Now that she’s free of her jackass of an ex, he doesn’t intend to let her go. Mkay, I could also see how this might be the start to a stalker-horror film, but we’ll run with it.

What’s it About?

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Isabelle Masters is done…

Done with her cheating boyfriend.

Done with his domineering ways.

Just done.

Taking off in her leased Mercedes to start over turns out to be the best decision she’s ever made — despite being arrested for grand theft auto and hauled off to a local police station. Being rescued by the most unlikely person possible, Gabriel Dare, makes it all worthwhile. After all, she’s yearned for the sexy man for years—yet now is her chance to finally take the plunge and dare to become the independent woman she’s always wanted to be. But can she be in control of her life if she surrenders to a man like him?

First Impression

Our novel begins with Isabelle breaking up with her boyfriend of a few years, after she caught him cheating on her. It’s only when she leaves him that we start to discover just how much control her ex had over her. It wasn’t just that he cheated, but rather throughout their relationship he cut Isabelle off from her friends, pressured her to quit her job, and take care of their household. While their relationship didn’t enter the physical abuse realm while they were together, it’s clearly evident that there was mental abuse going on. Then we have Gabriel who comes along as her knight in shining armor willing to rescue her from it all.

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After leaving her ex Isabelle has no place to go, no job, and just $500 to her name. Gabriel offers her a place to stay, and quickly reveals that he’s wanted her for so long, and that she’s different from any other woman who has come before. He doesn’t want her to leave the safety of his apartment. While their physical chemistry is off the charts, I must say I would have been extremely disappointed if she had fallen into his arms like he wanted. She simply would have been going from one gilded cage into another one, without ever having the chance to stand on her own two feet. It might seem bizarre for a romance heroine to turn her back on our six-pack ab hero before the halfway point, but I was actually pretty proud of her. I’m not saying she can’t be with him ever, but I was just happy she realized moving in with the dude so quickly after leaving an abusive relationship would have been a huge mistake.

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Three Months Later

But that’s not the end of their story! Far from it ladies and gents. Three months later their worlds collide once again when Gabe’s sister, Lucy, seeks out Isabelle to help decorate one of their exclusive night clubs on a secluded private island resort. Gee, I wonder if anyone else might be behind this little ruse? Yeah, it’s Gabe. We know it. She knows it. Lucy tries to shirk it off by saying she wouldn’t be risking the reputation of their club on the whims of her brother. But, yeah she is. Isabelle knows she’s being manipulated and that Gabe is behind the request that she travel to this private island. Lo and behold when she arrives there’s a certain devastatingly handsome man waiting in her penthouse suite.

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The funny thing is, she knew he was behind it, but she went anyway because she’s been thinking about him non-stop since she walked out on him 3 months before. They proceed to do some rather PG-13 activities, and she essentially thanks him for letting her walk away all those months ago so that she could walk back to him on her terms. At first I thought, oh honey you didn’t walk back to him, he pulled the strings to get you there. I couldn’t help but feel that she was once again being manipulated by a man who just wanted her in his bed. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that she really did hold all the cards. She knew he was behind it, and if she really didn’t want to get involved with him she simply didn’t have to go. But then I thought about how he pulled her work into it, and how her boss probably would have insisted she not lose such a big account or else risk losing her job. And then I really didn’t know what to think.

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Series: NY Dares, book 1. Follows the Dare to Love series. I question if I missed something in the previous spin-off novels, particularly how Isabelle and Gabe met. It’s mentioned briefly in the prologue, as though his first glimpse of her pulled him in so that he was just waiting around for the relationship with her boyfriend to end. If that’s the case, meh kind of creepy.

Final Impression: Honestly I don’t know how to feel about this book, or the romance portrayed in it. On the one hand I like to think that Isabelle is finally taking control of her life, and living it the way she wants. On the other, there’s definitely a fine line into manipulation that I think Gabe is guilty of crossing. Yes, they have a connection, but I think I much rather would have preferred if Isabelle had been the one to ultimately pursue Gabe when she determined the time was right, rather than allowing this ruse of a job offer push her into his arms.

Smut Level: He definitely likes to tie up her hands and slap her…nether region. As he likes to say his ultimate aim is to bring her mind-numbing pleasure. If she has to use her hands to get more pleasure, even if it means embracing him in the midst of love, it means he’s doing something wrong.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. CP Publishing. 230 Pages.