All of Me by Rose Grey

Charlotte and Jock never thought love was in the cards for them. But when they’re thrown together amidst life-changing surprises, they come to realize that love just might be right in front of them.

What’s it About?

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Jock Durrell hopes the surprise baby his ex-girlfriend left behind at his office isn’t his. Still, someone has to care for it. So while he waits for DNA test results, he advertises for temporary help. Preferably Mary Poppins. By the time Charlotte Aubin arrives to interview, Jock’s too tired to be choosy. True, Charlotte dresses like a Goth and throws things when she loses her temper. On the other hand, as far as he knows, she’s not an ax murderer. So he gives her a chance. Because at this point he would sell his soul for just one night of unbroken sleep. But Jock isn’t the only one with a complicated life. Charlotte’s past is closing in fast. When danger looms, Jock will have to choose between protecting the safe life he has crafted or risking it all for a woman who has stolen his heart.

First Impressions

When our novel opens I wasn’t even sure if Charlotte and Jock were meant to be the romantic focus of the book. The authors does a great job of presenting us with two people who aren’t looking for love. They’re both so focused on treading their way through life that upon first meeting they seem more determined to be annoyed with each other than to see the possibility of romance. However, it would seem fate had more in store for these two after their initial meet cute, and no matter how much they tried to steer clear of each other, they both eventually acknowledged that they could help one another by sticking together.

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The set up of this story was everything. Charlotte and Jock are both dealing with their own problems in life, and yet somehow these distinct issues they’re both confronting prove to be the impetus in bringing them together. Jock is struggling with the fact his ex-girlfriend just dropped off a baby on his doorstep, claiming he’s the father. Charlotte has her own problems in life, from unloving parents to a somewhat sadistic step brother who seems determined to see her fall apart. They were both such independent, selfless characters who never really had the opportunity to enjoy life for themselves. They were always living one day to the next, and yet after fate throws them together both Charlotte and Jock are finally able to live in the moment, and learn how to laugh with each other.

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From Baby Jane to Brother Dearest

Jock has always pushed aside his own wants and desires in order to care for his brothers following the death of their parents. No woman has ever really tempted him to put his own wishes first, until he meets Charlotte of course. While his younger brother, Ronan, proves to be a source of humor at certain moments throughout the novel, I would have liked to see his brothers play a larger role in the overall story. We really don’t see much from them in terms of helping him cope with the emotional impact of suddenly having a daughter, and his brother from book one is almost absent entirely.

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“He had spent ten years creating a stable environment for his brothers. Ignoring his own desires had been a crucial part of that and a measure of his self discipline. But he couldn’t seem to summon the same vigor now.”

The drama that Charlotte experienced throughout the book in terms of her unloving parents and creepy step-brother was definitely the most compelling aspect of the story. Her troubled relationship with her family meant she never had a reason to trust others, especially considering those who were meant to love her most in this world continually brushed her aside. Charlotte has never deigned to try loving someone. Jock is the first one to cause her to hope for something better. While her relationship with her step-brother was a fascinating element that held your interest, and overall was carried out very well, I felt it could have been pushed one step further. The ending was fantastic in that it allowed for Charlotte to finally stand up for herself, but I wanted us to see more about the motives and thoughts behind her family in order to more fully understand their actions. This would have provided one more additional push to the book that would have been near perfect in execution.

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“She hadn’t ever fought for what she wanted…What if the reason she didn’t fight for what she loved was because she was afraid of what losing might do to her? She didn’t like thinking of herself as a coward, but it seemed the inescapable conclusion.”

Afraid of Love

Our love story ultimately culminates with some rather big misunderstandings that result in Charlotte running away from her feelings. Both she and Jock were hesitant to voice how they truly felt about each other throughout the entirety of the novel. We see that it wasn’t just their employer/employee relationship that caused them to pause, but also their inability to believe they could devote themselves to someone wholeheartedly. I’ll admit it was kind of frustrating to see them both internalize their anger towards the other for closing themselves off from love, while simultaneously acknowledging their own inability to dive deep into the relationship.

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I was pretty worried this inability to confess their feelings would negatively impact my appreciation for the book up until that point. However, I’m happy to say we do eventually see redemption with how they both are willing to fight and stand up for what they want in life, and their refusal to have others walk all over them. It’s almost as though they both reach a breaking point where they’re fed up with being alone, and even though they’re terrified of being rejected, they’d rather face the music than risk not knowing how the other person feels.

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“…one way or the other, she was done running.”

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

Series: Durrell Brothers Trilogy, Book 2. I may have liked this second book even more than the first book in the series!

Final Impressions: It was interesting to see two such independent characters learn how to finally allow someone else into their lives. It’s a difficult journey full of ups and downs, but they eventually realize that the mere presence of the other person brings joy to their day. Charlotte and Jock have a relationship that isn’t built upon lust or sex, but instead almost a mutual respect for how hardworking and selfless the other is. Incorporating more depth to Jock’s relationship with his brothers, as well as Charlotte’s background with her parents and step-brother could have elevated the emotional side of the plot, but overall it was a compelling read.

Smut Level: We never see anything too sensual in description, but you’ve gotta love the circumstance of being trapped together in a house during a snow storm. I can certainly think of a few ways for them to keep warm.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Simply Romance Press. 272 Pages.

Destiny’s Dark Light by Sara Dobie Bauer

What do you do when you finally meet the man destined to be your one true love, but he’s already in love with somebody else? Check out this witchy paranormal romance just in time for Halloween!

What’s it About? 

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In modern day Charleston, two fated lovers meet at the beginning of a world-ending witch war…

Cyan Burroughs is a lonely light witch prophesied to battle the dreaded Dorcha—a dark sorcerer with the power to rule the world. There’s one problem: Cyan doesn’t have any powers of her own. An unknown witch flips a trolley and causes mass carnage, and Cyan’s dormant magic awakens. When she drags handsome Irishman Liam Cody from the wreckage, she recognizes his face from her aunt’s psychic portraits. He is the man Cyan is destined to love.

As she and her magical family seek to unveil the murderous witch who caused the accident, Cyan and Liam grow closer, but Liam’s mysterious past is not the only thing keeping them apart. Dark witches and light will soon fight to the death, and Cyan must face her calling. How can she protect Liam and win the war when her immense powers are barely under control?

First Impressions

I always say it takes a lot to surprise me, but this witchy read had me guessing pretty much from start to finish. We know that Cyan is the Loach of prophecy, a light witch destined to defeat evil so that good can prevail. Her enemy is referred to as Dorcha, a dark witch of immense power. Cyan’s destiny is not only to fight and defeat this Dorcha in a violent war of light against dark, but her one true love has also been foreseen by her seer of an aunt who’s been painting his portrait for as long as Cyan can remember. One day Cyan finally meets her one true love, but it’s in the midst of a terrible accident where they both struggle to pull his girlfriend from a burning car.

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Cyan has to watch on as the man who is her destiny pines after a woman he’s loved for years who is now in a coma. There are so many twists and turns in this novel that you never know what direction it might go. It’s clear the Dorcha has arrived, and caused the accident that finally brought Cyan and Liam together. But who is he? You’ll find yourself questioning everyone!! Sure, Liam might be Cyan’s true love, but does that mean they’ll necessarily get a happily ever after together? You want them to find love, but at the same time you find yourself heartbroken with his sense of hopelessness over his girlfriend’s injuries. As the war between good and evil approaches you never really know who is friend, who is foe, and who is one’s true love.

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Building a Love Story

Ever since Cyan was a little girl, she’s known that she was destined to love one man, and she’s known what that man would look like. She comes from a family of light witches, and her aunt is a seer who has painted the image of this man many times whenever he’s appeared to her in a vision. When Cyan finally sees him in the flesh she’s absolutely floored. He might be in love with another woman, a woman he was planning to propose to, but Cyan can’t deny her love for this man.

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Throughout the novel you’re constantly wondering how this romance might develop between Cyan and Liam seeing as his heart already belongs to someone else. Will Cyan really pursue a man who is grieving over his girlfriend in a coma? If something does happen between them, would it simply be a coping mechanism for Liam in an attempt to numb his pain as he watches his girlfriend slowly dying in front of him? And above it all, you can’t help but wonder if the draw that Cyan feels for Liam is truly love, or if it’s simply the fact she’s always been told this man would be the love of her life. Is she falling in love with the man, or the prophecy? Is it love, or her destiny? Is there even a difference between the two?

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

Series: Stand-alone. I want this to be a series!!

Final Impressions: This is an engaging, quick read that will keep you on your toes from start to finish. I wasn’t too far into the book before I found it harder and harder to put down. The characters draw you in just as much as the story itself. The whole book is sort of a slow build towards the ultimate battle between Loach and Dorcha, and while I definitely enjoyed the journey, the climax was almost over too quickly. We’re introduced to some new minor side characters towards the end, and the war is really just one battle. Maybe I’m greedy, but I would have loved an additional 50 pages to elaborate more on some of the dark witches who enter our tale late in the game, as well as the details and fallout of the war itself.

Smut Level: Our characters have new powers to deal with, not to mention a war to prepare for. Not exactly a lot of spare time for sexy fun times. I mean…there’s definitely some time. Just not a lot 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Pen and Kink Publishing. 196 Pages.

The End of Hatred by Rebecca Hefner

Get yourself a copy of this exciting paranormal romance NOW. It’s got Vampyres, Slayers and Deamons. What else could you possibly need to get you in the mood for Halloween?

What’s it About? 

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These are dangerous times on Etherya’s Earth…Slayer Princess Miranda, heir to the throne, has hated the Vampyres for a thousand years. Since the Awakening, she’s fought to protect her people, choosing to be a warrior more than a royal. When a female Vampyre washes up on the shore of her compound’s riverbank, she seizes the moment to take the offensive.

Sathan, King of the Vampyres, distraught at his sister’s disappearance and captivity, agrees to travel with Miranda to resect the Blade of Pestilence, also hoping to change his people’s state of endless war. Although the woman hates him due to the constant raids on her compound for the Slayers’ life-giving blood, he can’t help but admire the stubborn and strong princess.

As their journey progresses, both begin to understand that they are aligned in their hatred of Crimeous, leader of the Deamons, as well as their hope for peace between the Slayers and Vampyres. Determined to fight their growing attraction, they forge a tentative truce. But old wounds run deep and trust is scarce. Their faith in each other must remain strong or all will be lost…

First Impressions

Wow, wow, this book pulled me in from opening bell and simply would not let go. When I first read the synopsis I thought, mkay a beautiful bad-ass female slayer falls for a sexy alpha male vampire. Let the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel comparisons begin. Not that there’s anything wrong with that mind you, I was definitely looking forward to it! What I didn’t expect though was for the author to succeed in creating a unique world that manages to not only incorporate some of the paranormal elements we’re familiar with when it comes to blood-sucking entities, but even more than that to develop an enchanting mythology to provide a history for why Slayers and Vampyres have been pitted against each other for centuries. It’s an addictive read that is so much more than a battle between species. It involves putting aside long-held animosities, learning to trust enemies, standing up for what’s right, and sometimes questioning that which we always believed to be true.

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Finding Peace…to go to War

Miranda, Princess of the Slayers, is fed up with the constant fighting plaguing her people, and she’s determined to finally bring peace to her land. Unfortunately for her, succeeding in this endeavor will require her to partner up with those who she’s been taught to hate her entire life. The dynamic between Miranda and Sathan, the Vampyre King, is definitely one of the highlights of this novel. I loved that they didn’t just throw away centuries of hatred after one lustful glance, but rather their road to trust, and eventually love, is a long and difficult one. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there are still moments of doubt which arise throughout which make us question if they’ll ever succeed in their quest for peace. Eventually they realize that they must rely on each other in order to achieve their common goal, and it’s only after they start to trust each other that they allow themselves to acknowledge the stirring of lust which has been humming just below the surface.

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Another aspect of the novel that I appreciated was the fact that their journey for peace is also a tumultuous one filled with twists and turns, as well as a slew of compelling characters who will capture your attention with the turn of every page. There are times where you never really know who you can trust, or if Miranda and Sathan will eventually come out on top in their desire to destroy a common enemy, the Deamon King. It’s in their arduous search for the ultimate weapon that Miranda and Sathan learn to put aside their differences, but this leads to yet another difficult task in convincing their people to do the same. We do reach a point in the middle of the book where things start to drag a little bit as Miranda and her army trains for the final battle against the Deamon King, and she also struggles to teach her people how to forgive their Vampyre enemy. However, at the same time this was an absolute necessity to demonstrate that the end of hatred isn’t easy or quick.

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 1. I needed book 2 like, yesterday. This first novel lays the groundwork for each of the couples who will be featured in a future novel, and I honestly can’t say which one I’m looking forward to the most!

Final Impressions: This is a unique world that manages to turn some classic elements of Vampyres and Slayers on their head. It’s definitely not a predictable read, and presents us with some lovable characters, yet also some flawed ones who don’t always get a happily ever after. We’re presented with a delicious build of anticipation throughout the book, and while things culminate in a heart-stopping battle, the larger war is far from over. I’m excited to see how this theme might continue throughout the rest of the series!

Smut Level: The road for Miranda and Sathan to go from enemies to lovers is a complicated one, and while it takes some time before they eventually fall into bed together, we do get some mouthwatering teasing and flirting that will make you grin with delight. Once they do finally give into their desires, my goodness will it cause your toes to curl. They’re passionate, possessive, and not afraid to rough things up a bit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 330 Pages

Awakening by Kelley Heckart

Sexy actor with a Scottish lilt? Check. Secluded cabin? Check. Snowstorm? Yasssss!

What’s it About?

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Sometimes, the end is really the beginning. After destroying her successful music career, the close friendship with her bandmates, and her marriage, author Kaitlyn Storm, aka Kate Wolf, former bassist for the all-female rock band Hecate’s Fury, is given a second chance. She receives an offer to turn her book series into three movies, but her troubled rock-star past continues to haunt her. She never expected to find love or a way back. When she is trapped in a haunted cabin during a snowstorm with Kane Devlin, the hot Scottish movie star playing her hero, their rising passion for one another ignites. What they awakened will change their lives, but before she can move on, Kate must let go of the guilt and shame keeping her from claiming her shared destiny. For she may not know it yet, but she and her bandmates are chosen.

First Impressions

Kate is desperate to get her life back on track following the epic decline of her music career, and her failed relationship with her husband. She finally has that chance when her romance book series becomes a huge success, and she’s headed to a secluded cabin to begin working on the script with a team of writers, not to mention the sexy lead actor, Kane Devlin. Kate and Kane are the first to arrive at the cabin, and it’s not long before an intense blizzard traps the two of them before anyone else can arrive. I don’t know about you, but being trapped in a snowy cabin with a Scottish actor in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot cocoa in hand sounds like a panty-melting party! Too bad they have a couple of party crashers in the form of two lovesick ghosts. One thing’s for sure though, Kane and Kate won’t let some spooky apparitions get in the way of their sexy time.

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Setting the Mood

Kate and Kane are determined to help these ghosts resolve their unfinished business as quickly as possible, especially considering one of them in particular isn’t the nicest dead soul you’ve ever met. Rooms shake, furniture spins about, there are unexpected bursts of light, and one apparition goes so far as to possess Kane’s body. Kate is particularly determined to hunker down and do some research to discover the identities and untimely ends of these two ghosts. A task made exceedingly difficult considering the power outage caused by the snowstorm, resulting in a lack of internet and the default necessity of using old town newsletters as primary sources.

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In spite of all this paranormal activity, Kane and Kate aren’t too distracted from exploring each other’s bodies as much as possible. Not gonna lie, it seems like they could have put their sexual attraction on hold for just a few days until they could escape from this haunted dwelling. They definitely have an intense connection drawing them together, but spooky ghosts kind of scream “mood killer” in my humble opinion. We’re not exactly dealing with warm and cuddly Patrick Swayze in Ghost here! While our apparitions don’t necessarily seem to want to cause our couple deathly harm…you never know when they might be sneakily observing some of Kate and Kane’s more amorous activities.

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From Paranormal Activity to the Trials of Fame

Surprisingly, even though they lack an internet connection to speed along their research, it doesn’t take too long before Kate and Kane have uncovered the past history of our two ghosts. They even succeed in helping the one ghost find peace, and are well on their way to resolving the issues of the other ghost before the snowstorm eventually breaks, and the rest of the writing team arrives. Unfortunately, this is when things kind of fall flat for our plot in my opinion. After all, our paranormal issues are practically resolved at a third of a way through the book. What could possibly be left? As it turns out, some pretty typical Romancelandia relationship issues. Kane and Kate proceed to experience trust issues galore, from false rumors in the tabloids, to Kane’s jealousy over Kate continuing to work with her ex-husband.

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While they struggle to navigate the impact of Kane’s fame on their relationship, we almost struggle to remember that there’s still one final unresolved paranormal element for our second ghost simmering in the background. In a way, it felt like we had two different books which had been smashed together into one, and I’m not sure the various stories always meshed well into one cohesive plot. On the one hand we have a contemporary romance detailing the complications of dating someone famous. The other is a suspenseful paranormal tale of ghosts trying to move on in the afterlife. Perhaps there would have been a more balanced progression of events if the story had been told in reverse. We could have started out with Kane and Kate meeting, and after beginning a romance they experience issues of trust related to his fame and her past. They then go to a secluded cabin to be with each other in solitude, but shockingly encounter a couple of ghosts, and through their journey to help these ghosts move on they discover Kate’s supernatural abilities.

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Shadow-Walkers

It’s not until the very end of the novel that we discover Kate and her former bandmates have supernatural abilities. She’s a shadow-walker, or someone who “can move safely between the realm of the living and that of the supernatural or shadow world”. By this point in the story, all of the major plot points involving Kate and Kane’s relationship, as well as our ghosts, have been resolved. This additional detail of Kate being a shadow-walker, and her bandmates also having special abilities, seemed like an afterthought that was just thrown on at the end of the story. I really wish it had received some more explanation and attention to highlight what this means for Kate, as well as Kane.

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

Series: Shadow-walkers, book 1. Consider me intrigued to give the next few books a try.

Final Impressions: This paranormal romance certainly started off with a spooky bang! The time when Kane and Kate were trapped in the snowy cabin with two ghostly apparitions was undoubtedly the highlight of the book. It’s not like they could just escape out into the snow storm to get away. Unfortunately, our lead couple is almost too adept in their role as ghost busters, and the most suspenseful and intriguing aspect of the story is over fairly quickly. The rest of the novel deals with Kane and Kate navigating the pitfalls of his fame with her previous decline as a female rock star, and we only get the briefest mentions here and there of their experiences in the cabin. Overall we needed fuller integration of the different plot lines, specifically the paranormal aspects and the hurdles of establishing their relationship due to their jobs and past loves.

Smut Level: A couple of ghosts don’t stand in the way of these two getting all sudsy in a bath tub. Kane is also happy to take some of the movie-set costumes back to his hotel room for some role-play and cheesy dialogue with Kate.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 220 Pages.

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Out Too Far by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

An exciting and humorous conclusion to the Love Overboard series!

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Rania Elsaeid is the brilliant engineer aboard the 115-foot yacht, the Bonnie Blue. She’s also a deadly, well-trained security guard. She keeps her cool when everything around her heats up. Morris “Moj” Johnston, internationally famous music producer, is on a much-needed vacation cruise through the islands of the Indian Ocean. He’s not looking for love but trying to heal a broken heart. When Moj meets Rania, everything changes. Suddenly, they find themselves on the run from pirates, lost on a deserted island, and dangerously close to going…OUT TOO FAR!

First Impressions

It’s always sad to see the end of a series, but this final installment in the Love Overboard trilogy manages to keep you giggling as Rania and Moj navigate their love in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Both characters are dealing with the stresses of life. She’s lying low, trying to keep off the radar so her crazy ex doesn’t find her. As for Moj, he’s keeping busy as a famous music producer, trying to keep his mind off the recent and untimely death of his wife. Neither is looking for love, but once their eyes lock during a crowded music festival, there’s no going back. The connection between them is immediate. While they’re initially hesitant to explore anything physical between them seeing as she’s working on the yacht he’s chartered, it’s not long before fate pushes them to take things to the next level.

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Funnily enough, the moment when they decide to finally give into the desire which has enveloped them since they first met is not the moment I would have guessed would be the most opportune for sexy fun times. Moj and Rania find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island with kidnappers, albeit hilariously incompetent ones, hot on their tail. This is the moment where I’d be freaking out, convinced that starvation and dehydration would soon portend the end of it all. However, Moj and Rania take an entirely different approach, seeing this deserted island as an opportunity to finally get some privacy from all of Moj’s fame. Sure, they need to explore the island for water, food, discover whether or not it actually is deserted, but they first choose to look at the silver lining of the situation. Beautiful beach, just survived an adrenaline inducing escape from kidnappers…seems like the perfect time to get naked, no? Priorities people!

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“There is maybe one chance in hell we’re going to survive this ordeal. I say we make the most of the time we have left…”

The Need to Stand Aside

Something I really loved about this read, and the series as a whole for that matter, was that we were presented with a strong female lead character. Oftentimes throughout the books we find it is the ladies who are stepping up to protect the gents, or help them out of a sticky situation. This holds true in the character of Rania, a strong woman who can take care of herself, and has been trained by the very best to do so. Moj on the other hand, is a man who was determined to take care of his first wife who died from cancer. Caring wholeheartedly for others is part of his very nature, and the concept of stepping aside to let Rania take care of herself is one he’s struggling with. Where his first wife needed him, Rania doesn’t really need him at all. Even though their time together has been brief, it’s not long before Moj can’t imagine what life would be like to have Rania pulled away from him so suddenly.

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By the end of the novel, Moj finally accepts that when it comes to attempted kidnappers and matters of international espionage, his interference would probably cause more harm than good. He succeeds in stepping aside to allow Rania to shine in all her bad-assery. The final scene is quite funny even though it’s the climax of everything coming together, and it’s described in such perfect detail I could practically see it playing out in my head like a movie. Moj still worries for Rania’s safety, that’s something that will never go away completely, but he can learn to let her take care of herself when necessary. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t need him at all. She needs his presence in her life, she needs his love and support, but she doesn’t need him to treat her as a damsel in distress. If anything, Moj is the one who needs her protection and strength in certain moments. There are many times where they learn to place their full trust in the other person in order to make it out of a sticky situation, and acknowledge that there are some things they can’t do all by themselves. Sometimes they need a shoulder to lean on.

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

Series: Love Overboard, book 3. It’s always fun to see the earlier characters from the series come back in the end, although it was kind of disappointing that the couple from book 2 never made a surprise guest appearance.

Final Impressions: This was a sexy, funny read, and a great conclusion to the series. Some scenes were a bit over the top, and other areas could have been explained more fully, such as Rania’s past with her ex. However, it’s still a fun and silly read that’ll have you giggling along. Aside from the delight of having a strong female lead character, my other favorite part would have to be our would-be kidnappers. At the start you worry about how they might cause trouble for Moj and Rania, but as the story progresses you see they are hilariously inept at being criminals, and I was shocked to find myself liking them more and more with each new scene.

Smut Level: The first time Moj and Rania do the deed it’s on the beach of a deserted island they’ve been stranded on. I can’t imagine how much sand must have gotten into some extremely uncomfortable places.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 211 Pages.

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Love From Amanda to Zoey by Ian Mark

An emotionally heavy read which examines life, loss, love, and how interconnected those topics can truly be.

What’s it About?

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Everything comes easy for Zach Johnston. Only 24 years old, he’s got it all– the girl, the high paying tech job, and the rent-controlled apartment in the Village. But when his best friend overdoses and his girlfriend leaves him, his inability to connect with other people overwhelms him.

Desperate to hide his pain from Amanda, the ex who met “11 out of 13 criteria” on his friend’s most important checklist, Zach plasters on a smile as he rejoins his single friends chasing girls at seedy bars and grungy apartments, hoping the emptiness inside him will disappear if he pretends it doesn’t exist. As he descends into a haze of weed, booze, and hallucinogens, Zach recognizes his remaining friendships for what they are— partnerships of convenience, forged long ago simply on the shared desire to get high and get laid, continuing to this day because the effort required to replace them is too great. He also turns his judgmental lens inwards and begins to understand the consequences of his one night stands and shameless flirting, and the perils of assuming everyone he meets is dumber than he is.

At the peak of this crisis of confidence, Zach meets Zoey Mclemore, the beautiful, intelligent woman he has always told himself he could love and marry. Eating caramels sober with her is better than being drunk or high with anyone else. But when Zoey finds Zach drunk and alone with Amanda, he knows he must show Zoey he is ready to be an adult, or face never watching Spongebob with her again.

First Impressions

Zach is at a dark point in his life. After proposing to his girlfriend, Amanda, he’s surprised to find that her rejection of his offer has now resulted in the end of the longest romantic relationship he’s ever been in. He’s now trying everything he can to “come out on top” in their breakup, and demonstrate that he’s not heartbroken over her refusal. He’ll be just fine without her in his life. At least, this is Zach’s initial explanation to himself of why he’s losing himself every night in women, booze, and drugs. We soon come to find that his pain runs much deeper than a surface-level breakup with a long-time girlfriend. As it turns out, Zach is not just losing himself in these activities, but rather numbing himself. His downward spiral into drugs and alcohol is a desperate attempt to forget the tragic death of his best friend, and the confusion and turmoil which has plagued him ever since. His recent breakup with Amanda was just the icing on the cake of his pain.

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The Anti-Hero

Zach isn’t always the most likable of characters. We see that he’s prone to say and do some rather stupid things, and he’s certainly not without his flaws. However, this is also what makes him a realistic character. He’s stumbling through life, just like we all are. Throughout the novel we constantly question whether or not he’ll ever have an epiphany where he’ll wake up to see what truly matters in life. It’s a slow realization which comes as he spends more time with Zoey, a woman his mother was determined to set him up with. Eventually Zach discovers that he’s at risk of losing Zoey completely if he doesn’t clean up his act. I appreciated that he didn’t immediately push aside all the drugs and alcohol after his first meeting with her, or even after the first time they said they loved each other. That would have been too easy, and if Zach’s story teaches us anything it’s that life isn’t easy.

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It’s full of ups and downs, twists and turns, but ultimately it is possible to find someone who can help to lessen the pain. Zoey proves to be that salvation for Zach. It was interesting to see the progression of their relationship, from the first date where he was so nervous at the prospect of making a bad first impression, to an eventual fight that risks signalling the end of their love altogether. Zach reflects how his fear of losing Zoey is so much more terrifying than the fear he had over looking like a fool on that first date. Back then she was simply someone he might like to spend time with, but she eventually comes to represent the person he wants to spend the rest of his life with. She is his future. The question is, will he be able to show Zoey that she means more to him than all the drugs and alcohol that he’s filled his life with up until this point?

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A Second Death

At the start of the novel we see how Zach’s life was consumed with grief and guilt over the passing of his best friend, and as Zoey becomes a more permanent presence in his life we see an almost conflicting process of healing. Zach is slowly moving on from the debilitating grief that has plagued him since the death of Brian, and he’s surprised to notice that some days can eventually pass without him thinking at all about his best friend. His ability to cope is undoubtedly a healthy step in the healing process, yet it also fills him with sadness at the realization that he’s starting to think less of his friend. He’s even struggling to picture Brian’s smiling face clearly in his mind’s eye. Zach has vowed to never forget his friend, to never stop saying his name, as he feels to forget him would almost be like putting Brian through a second death. The death of his memory. It’s a rather poignant look at loss and the various stages of grief.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This book certainly left me teary-eyed a time or two when Zach’s grief over the death of his best friend became all consuming. A good portion of the story focuses on Zach lamenting over Brian’s death, getting lost in drugs and alcohol to numb his pain, as well as pursuing various women to get over his break-up with Amanda. While it’s a gripping progression of events, we also could have spent more time witnessing Zach and Zoey together as a couple. He can sense his feelings for Zoey are different than all those who came before, and they seem to have a similar sense of humor and ability to just be with each other, even in silence. But most of the time we merely see Zach reminiscing on their time together rather than us seeing scenes of them together and connecting emotionally. It could have provided a nice additional layer of depth to the story.

Smut Level: Zach and Zoey definitely connect physically, and can go all night long. Nothing to overly graphic or detailed though.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Omnific Publishing. 188 Pages.

On the Market by Audrey Wick

She’s a vegetarian. He owns a barbecue joint dedicated to all things meat. They say opposites attract! Let’s put that saying to the test.

What’s it About? 

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Valerie Perry has just inherited her grandmother’s home in Last Stand, Texas, a far cry in the country from her city life as an organic grocery buyer in San Antonio. Her methodical daily routine suits her just fine, so she aims to freshen up the property, sell it, and take her funds back to the city. She’s only got two weeks during her vacation to make this happen. Now is the time to cash in and get out.

The oldest Hutchinson son, who people around town know as “Hutch,” is a third generation local who is poised to take over the family business with his brother, Cole. The barbeque brothers have very different ideas about the future of their restaurant, “The Hut.” Just when he thought his biggest headache was his job, Hutch meets Valerie and both their worlds are upended. He’s drawn to this fish out of water, but Valerie’s time in Last Stand has an expiration date.

Their sweet and saucy styles don’t mix, but can they both find the recipe to a happy future?

First Impressions

This is a sweet romance that will put a smile on your face, and is the perfect beach read. The progression of Valerie and Hutch’s relationship seemed so cute and natural that it almost felt like we were witnessing the romance of two friends rather than two fictional characters. At first they engage in some light verbal sparring after Hutch fells a tree into Valerie’s yard. It’s definitely some good-natured sparring, and never crosses the line into rude or demeaning. Valerie’s “…ability to dish right back what Hutch was serving was a trait he probably wasn’t used to in women”, and this unique feature of her personality draws him in and won’t let go.

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As Hutch attempts to fix her yard after the damage he caused, Valerie sees a sweet side to this barbecue boy, and it doesn’t take long before they both can’t stop thinking about each other. They slowly get to know each other, and open up about personal details of their lives. We never see anything over-the-top sexual, and there are no instances of being pushed up against a wall in a fiery moment of passion. Instead we see delicate kisses in the warm Texas countryside with fireflies flitting about. Soft touches and intimate caresses. We’ve really been provided with a window into the developing relationship between this couple.

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Brotherly Love

The relationship we see between these barbecue brothers was just as interesting as the relationship forming between Valerie and Hutch. They may be brothers, but they’re at odds over the future course of their family’s restaurant. One is steeped in tradition, the other is dedicated to changing with the times. Both have the best interests of their family’s legacy at heart, and yet it causes a rift to form between them in regards to which avenue they should pursue. The combative nature of these two brothers was quite entertaining, and perhaps a bit more focus on them having open and honest conversations about their wishes for the restaurant would have been a delightful addition. We see them have heated arguments, which perhaps highlights the true nature of their relationship rather than one of sweet brotherly affection. Towards the end of the novel they do find a kind of compromise, but just one more scene of them conversing one-on-one in a non-argumentative manner would have been great.

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What is a Home?

One feature that this novel focuses on at length is the question of what is a home. For Valerie, home is merely a place. It’s wherever you hang your hat for any period of time, and while she’s putting the finishing touches on her grandmother’s house she sees herself as biding her time before she can return back “home” to San Antonio. For Hutch, home is much more significant than the four walls that might surround you. It’s about the community that surrounds you. It’s about the people as much as it is about the place, and this small town of Last Stand is and always will be his home. When he discovers how vastly different Valerie’s concept of home is to his own, he questions if their differences might be more serious than simply the hurdle of physical distance which separates Last Stand from San Antonio. Perhaps their values in life pose more of an issue. However, as Valerie starts to transform her grandmother’s home into one of her own, and this small community also starts to envelop her as one of their own, perhaps her values might be changing to a point where she could envision a future in this small Hill Country town.

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

Series: The Texas BBQ Brothers, book 1. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Hutch’s brother, Cole!

Final Impressions: This is a quick read that’s ideal for the beach. It never gets too steamy, but instead there’s a sweet side to the natural romance developing between Valerie and Hutch. The community of Last Stand is an integral part of this relationship, and the additional aspect of Hutch and his brother fighting over the future of their family’s business was just as intriguing. Overall it’s a cute read that will leave you hungry for barbecue and sweet tea!

Smut Level: No sex, but we get some pleasant kisses between our vegetarian and our carnivore.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing. 180 Pages.