Carved Wooden Heart by Elizabeth Horton-Newton, Starla Hartless

Goodness gracious this book is an emotional roller coaster! It’s an exploration of how fate takes a hand in one woman’s love life so that she experiences the highest of highs, and lowest of lows with two men at different points in her life.

What’s It About? 32063600

A sexy encounter with a talented native artist, a broken heart, and a knight in shining armor are just the beginning in this passionate erotic romance. Dani Stone never expected to fall in love with carver Jesse Wolf Carver. She certainly didn’t foresee the results of her intense one night stand with the sexy hunk. From the wealth of New York City to a small southern community, follow Dani as she journeys the winding path fate has laid out for her.

First Impressions

Dani and Jesse initially come together as she interviews him for an article she’s writing on native art forms, and then proceed to imbibe in alcoholic delights before spending a few passionate days wrapped up in each other. She never expected her life to change forever after falling into the arms of this devilishly handsome, and sometimes hot-headed artist. But an unfortunate misunderstanding, not to mention his proclivity for alcoholic indulgence, forces Dani to run from him. Little did she know he left her with something more permanent than some memories of hot and intense sex. Soon after putting Jesse behind her, she starts to explore something new with another man who simply wants to look after her. Throughout the whole thing you wonder, how is this ride going to end? Will Jesse and Dani ever come back together to rediscover what brought them together in the first place?

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From Start to Finish

I do think this book could have been organized a bit differently to hep with the overall flow of the story. We are introduced to Jesse at the very start of the novel when he re-enters Dani’s life after an obviously lengthy time apart, and we then proceed into a flashback about how he and Dani first met. I have nothing against flashbacks, but instead of coming back to the present after discovering how they first met, almost the entire novel is a very extended flashback showing how Dani must move on in her life to explore a relationship with another man. All the while, Jesse is notably physically absent for the majority of the book. Throughout the whole story we remember Jesse in the back of our minds, and we’re just wondering how long until we reach that moment from the start of the novel where they reunite in the present.

 

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Unfortunately I do think it was almost too much of a separation from Jesse and their few days together in the past. The two had an obvious connection, and Jesse himself was a pretty intriguing character, I guess I just wanted more scenes that had him and Dani together in the same room! He isn’t reintroduced as a main character until almost 80% of the novel is complete, and honestly during all that time I sort of had trouble remembering why their brief relationship fell apart to begin with. Perhaps we could have started right away with how Dani and Jesse met, and proceeded forward chronologically as though it was happening in real time? Or I might have even liked the opposite, where we see more returns to that moment where Dani and Jesse reunite with flashbacks interspersed throughout. Just a thought!

So Freakin’ Cute

Hands down, my absolute favorite character in this entire novel would have to be a young precocious child named Dylan. He was so freakin’ adorable, and quite funny for such a young lad. His intelligence and artistic talent just added to his personality, and you can’t help but love him. Just like with Jesse, I would have liked to see more from Dylan as well, specifically in his interactions with some of the adults in the novel. He’s seemingly quite mature for his age, and if he had been given the chance to have more one-on-one moments with some of the other characters, I think he could have helped them discover things about themselves they may not have known before.

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Short Chapters

Another feature that I saw as both a blessing and a curse to the organization of the novel was the chapter length. For the most part, the chapters are quite brief which is something I usually love! It makes it so much easier to read during commercial breaks whilst watching TV in the evening. However, when you combine this with the fact that we have over 400 pages divided into about 6 parts and 104 chapters, the novel starts to feel a bit broken up and staggered.

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Many chapters would often end with a feeling of dread, or a hint of things to come. When you have so many chapters ending on this note, it kind of starts to wear on you after a while. Just when you think things will start to turn the corner for the better, you’re basically told to not get your hopes up. There’s a part in the middle of the novel where it seems like every chapter ends on a note of, “little did I know the happiness wouldn’t last”, or “I thought the worst had come, but little did I know…”. It was just too much anxiety after a while by constantly waiting around for the worst, and then the eventual ultimate worst, to come.

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Back to the Present

When we do finally catch up with the present, it was kind of shocking how quickly everything came together. We just sort of jump right back into how the novel started, with very little recap after having spent so much time apart. After spending the majority of the book going over what Dani went through for the last few years separated from Jesse, I felt like we never fully discovered what he went through in the interim.

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We do learn a few details, but I couldn’t help but wonder if he too ever spent time with someone else? Why did it take so long before he finally sought out Dani in person? It seems like we never really learn the answers to these questions. I also would have liked to simply learn more about Jesse’s past, and how he came to be the man he is today. Most of the book’s attention is focused on Dani, which is definitely understandable, but maybe having a few more chapters focus on Jesse could have provided us with a window into his oftentimes complex personality.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read. It shows how fate can be both generous and a heartless bitch in the same vein. I will say it really seemed like this was mainly Dani’s story, and an exploration of her growth as a character more than anything, or anyone else. I think the story could have been structured a bit differently to help with the overall flow, but it’s still an interesting tale of newfound love, love lost, and love found again. Some of you might want to have a few tissues on hand when you read this one!

Smut Level: Phew! Jesse is a bad boy with a motorcycle, and you can definitely sense he has a naughty and flirtatious side to him. The heat between him and Dani is delectably sultry, though not too over the top in description.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Createspace Publishing. 435 Pages.

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A Drop of Paradise by Alex L. Michaels

Ahoy ladies and gents! In this steamy romance we have white sand beaches, crystal clear blue water, a city girl outside her comfort zone, a ruggedly handsome boat captain willing to show her a good time, and a few bullets flying past their heads. I mean, pretty much everything you need for a beach read!

What’s it About? 

She needs peace and quiet. He’s a distraction.

She wants to be left alone. He’s inevitable.

She has a writer’s block. He might be the cure.

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The only thing Jessica Slade wanted was some peace and quiet, and to finally finish her book. So, a place called A Drop of Paradise was supposed to do the trick. With its stunning sandy beaches, crystal clear, aquamarine waters and tropical sunsets, it was supposed to cure more than a writer’s block. But, when an unfortunate series of events leaves her stranded on a remote island with an overbearing, arrogant, roguish, but ruggedly handsome stranger, her life starts to seem much more like the romance novels that she writes about. Broad-shouldered Mike Stone is irresistible, sexy and cooler than a mojito in your hand, and maybe even a perfect, muscled ideal for the cover of her next novel, but not all the imagination in the world could prepare her for what can happen between two strangers on a spit of sand, when sparks start to fly and anger turns to lust.

First Impressions

Within the first few chapters of this novel I couldn’t help but compare it to a combination of Romancing the Stone and Six Days, Seven Nights. Our heroine is a successful romance novelist who’s seeking some peace and quiet on a beach far removed from the stresses of her life, both professionally and personally. She quickly encounters a ruggedly dashing boat captain named Mike who is determined to show her a good time, both socially and sexually.

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The two proceed to get lost and stranded on a few different islands in the Caribbean. Nothing too overly dire, but definitely some adventures that put a wrench in Jessica’s plans to relax. Throughout this time our leads run into a variety of oftentimes kooky characters with their own personalities, not to mention some elements of danger as storms approach and bullets fly. Quite the engaging read!

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Let’s Talk About Sex…ual Tension

For the love of all that is holy these two have a sexual attraction that is hotter than the Caribbean sun. Practically from the moment they meet Mike turns on his flirtatious charms, and while Jessica tries her best to keep him away from her enticing lips, well, let’s just say she fails miserably. It’s not long before these two engage in some powerful make out sessions. I seriously lost count of the number of times Mike either stomped up to Jessica to grab her face in his hands and crush their lips together, or she would try to turn away from him only to have him grasp her arm and spin her around into his chest for a heady lip-lock.

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However, something that initially adds to the overall comedic aspect of the novel is the fact that these two are always interrupted from taking things further. Oh don’t get me wrong, they definitely have their moments of grinding on each other, nipple brushes, and legs being lifted up higher for the optimal rubbing angle. Unfortunately, whether it be flying bullets, an old island man seeking help with his rusty boat, or friends walking in on them, the two never seem to have the chance to get each other completely naked. After a while I actually questioned if it would ever happen, and if it did I assumed we’d be privy to one quick scene and that’d be it. Boy was I wrong! Towards the very end of the novel we sort of switch gears from adventurous comedic romance to full on erotica. Somewhat disjointed, but I for one won’t complain.

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Let’s Take a Look at Them Bullets!

As I’ve mentioned a few times now, there are moments when Jessica and Mike will be locked in an intimate embrace, or perhaps even arguing with each other, when a bullet will fly overhead. There are a few other minor suspicious things that take place, but all in all I’d have to say this dramatic side to the story never really came full circle for me. I think it was introduced well enough, as we wonder why anyone would possibly have something against this well-known romance novelist.

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But then this element disappears from the story for a pretty large portion of the novel, and is then quickly resolved with very little explanation at the last moment. I feel like we never truly get to understand the motive behind this hidden gunman before it’s simply brushed aside. If it had been more fully incorporated into the overall story I think this really would have had a huge, positive impact to the arch of the plot.

A Hesitant Heroine

Outside factors are often the primary inhibitors to our lead characters reaching sexual fulfillment. That being said, there were also a few moments when Jessica herself would put a stop to things. To say that this would cause Mike an exorbitant amount of frustration is quite the understatement. She had the tendency to go from burning up fever hot to frigid cold in .05 seconds with no explanation whatsoever. She’d usually just run away from him if she could. At the end of the novel Jessica sort of explains that she was just scared to feel anything too much for him after being alone for so long. I gotta say though I wasn’t really buying her explanation. It lacked any real momentum behind it to the point where, similar to our hidden gunman, I feel like we never really learned her motivation/reasoning behind constantly pushing Mike away.

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

Series: I don’t think so, but there are a few secondary characters that I would just love to see featured in their own novel.

Should you read it? This is a quick, fun read. Certain details could have been expanded on a bit more, specifically why Jessica was so hesitant to pursue an intimate relationship with Mike, as well as the motivations of our villain. There were also a few grammar mistakes, but I’ve heard they’ve since been updated! Overall, a fun read to take to the beach. Just be sure you have a few Mai Tai’s on hand to cool off!

Smut Level: At first I questioned if we would ever get around to the good stuff. Then before you know it, BAM! We’ve got sensual scenes on beaches, dining room tables, and in showers with plenty of dirty talking description. Definitely worth the wait.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 285 Pages.

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Esmeralda and the Second-Hand Suitor by Hebby Roman

This novel taught me a very valuable lesson. Apparently, I have been misspelling the name “Esmeralda” ever since I first saw the Hunchback of Notre Dame cartoon over 20 years ago. 20 years of thinking it was “Esmerelda” instead of “Esmeralda”. Oh, it also teaches that it’s never too late to fall in love, but still. The whole name thing really left me shook.

What’s it About? 

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What’s a forty-year-old virgin doing in a predicament like this? Looking for a husband because her late father’s will decrees she must marry or forfeit her orchard, her only means of support. Hank McCall, as a perspective husband, leaves a great deal to be desired—he’s twice divorced and older than Esmeralda. Scarred by their pasts and challenged by the gap in their ages, Esmeralda and Hank struggle with their new-found relationship. But when Hank is faced with losing Esmeralda or surrendering to her yearning to have a real family, their fates hang in the balance.

First Impressions

Personally, I could really identify with Esmeralda’s rather cynical approach to dating. It was almost like I’d found a kindred spirit in her pessimism! Upon first meeting Hank she immediately focuses in on the negative things about him. He’s older than she would have liked; he’s twice-divorced; he jokes about how he’s bad with the stock market, etc. Why does he seem so interested in her? It must be because he’s after something. Perhaps he’s enamored with her money. He must be a fortune hunter! Phew!! That’s a lot of cynicism to cram into a first impression.

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I think for many people their default assumption in regards to Esme would be that she must be bitchy or catty to not even give him a chance. But that’s so far from the truth here people! Her obsession with pointing out his every supposed flaw says so much more about her own character than his. It reveals her insecurity with herself. It makes her think, hey this guy is showing me attention, but why would anyone want to show me attention? I’m so plain and boring there must be something wrong with him if he wants to spend so much time with me. Girl, I feel you. A lot of us feel you. And I love it soooooo much!

The Real Hank

Esme’s first impression of Hank obviously isn’t all that positive, and she almost doesn’t give him a chance. However, it doesn’t take long for us to discover what an amazing guy Hank is, with such a loving, sensitive side to his personality. In addition, you can’t help but feel bad for the poor guy! He’s like a little puppy dog, and so patient when Esme is unsure of herself, especially in regards to their sexual relationship. Eventually Esme is able to overcome her own insecurities, and comes to trust Hank for who he truly is. But our tale of romance can’t just end there!

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When Esme starts to feel like she can take a leap with Hank the fortunes of fate turn the tables, and Hank starts to question if he can trust Esme considering she kept the terms of her father’s will a secret from him. When he discovers she must marry someone within the next week or risk losing half of her orchard to her cousin, Hank wonders whether or not Esme truly loves him for him, or for the fact that he could be the answer to her financial woes. I will say at times their constant back and forth of should they or shouldn’t they started to get a bit tiring, but it also goes to show that new romances can be full of questions and second-guessing.

An Exploration of Intimacy

Technically we never actually have a scene where these two have intercourse. That being said, holy Toledo are they smokin’ hot. Esme is basically exploring her sexuality for the first time ever, as Hank is finally someone she feels a modicum of comfort with in regards to intimacy. Yes, this means she is a virgin. Yes, she is 40 years old. Yes, they both make reference to the fact that this counters the film 40 year old virgin. And yes, I did giggle with that delightful little quip.

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In my mind, this aspect is what actually cemented my positive opinion of Hank. It wasn’t just that he didn’t want to pressure a woman into entering a sexual relationship with him before she felt ready. Instead, it was that he didn’t feel the need to either pressure her to give up her virginity, or on the flip side feel the need to bolt in the other direction when faced with the pressure of deflowering a 40 year old virgin. He chose to stand by her, and go at her own pace. Hank never made her feel guilty for taking things slow, or weird over the fact she’s never had sex at her age. You a good dude Hank. Cue the slow approving head nod.

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The Villainous Hector

One aspect of the novel that I wish had been explored a bit further was Esme’s relationship with her cousin, Hector. This is the man who will inherit half of her orchard if she fails to marry someone three years after the death of her father. All things considered, Hector’s a pretty important character, yet we really only get 2 short scenes featuring him. I would have liked to further explore his relationship not only with Esme’s father, but with Esme herself. What is it that brought such animosity between them, and why could they not come together and overcome it as family? Was it solely tied to Hector’s greed? His drinking? It could have added an extra layer of depth to the story if we’d been given more of a chance to explore Hector and Esme’s past together.

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

Series: Snowbirds, book 2. It was nice to get a continued glimpse of the couple from book 1, as well as an introduction to our heroine for book 3.

Should you read it? This is a tale of a quick romance. Hank and Esme really don’t know each other that long, but they are quite open with each other in regards to their pasts. At times, there was almost too much detail about setting up IRAs, investments, and Esme’s natural gas deposits. Definitely informative, but also kind of distracting from the “A” story. It’s still a sweet romance though showing that it’s never too late for people to find each other, and have their dreams come true.

Smut Level: Goodness gracious! These two have some passion!! They kiss, pant, rub, grab, moan, and suckle some things too. Quite nice.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 189 Pages.

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The Weekend by Alan Winnikoff

A short novel about two people who take a weekend to get to know each other better. And the best part? You can easily finish this read in the span of a real weekend, no problem.

What’s it About? 

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One autumn Friday in New York in 1995, two people come together in a luxury apartment for a glass of wine. They already know each other, not well, but well enough to have shared a couple of kisses. They wind up spending this particular weekend together. Over the course of two days, we learn much about them – they are alternately petty and generous, brave and fearful, self-absorbed and giving. At the end of the weekend they go their separate ways. Was this a one time thing or will they find each other again?

First Impressions

Well, I had the absolute wrong first impression whilst reading this entire short novel. Just taking a first glimpse at the cover art, and then hearing that our male lead, Jeff, works in the World Trade Center? My immediate thought was…well, I hope you get the most out of your weekend because unfortunately things are about to go downhill very quickly. You see, I made the mistake of reading the Goodreads synopsis instead of the Amazon one, which fails to specify that this takes place in the mid-90s rather than 2001!

I was needlessly on pins and needles the whole time, looking for clues in all of the scenes which might imply whether or not the story was taking place in September. What’s the weather like? There’s a mention of autumn. She’s wearing a scarf. He’s watching the baseball finals. For the love of God when the hell do the finals of baseball normally take place?!?! Damn my lack of sports knowledge!! We get to the end of the weekend and I just think, oh God here it comes! And then…nothing. No reference at all to 9/11. And that’s when I made the genius decision to check out the synopsis on Amazon. Well, I almost feel like I need to re-read this now.

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Friday to Sunday

Now for the actual story rather than my crazy imagination. Honestly, I loved this format for a novel. It’s quick, concise, and the format itself also tells a story. This short novel is all about two people who want to see if it’s worth exploring a relationship beyond friendship with each other, and they do it in the span of a weekend. Literally. The novel starts on a Friday after work and ends on a Sunday afternoon. In that time, we see our lead characters question if they want something more than what they have, and explore what is most important to them in a partner.

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Flaws and Flirtations

Not gonna lie, all things considered I can’t say I’m entirely pleased with how things develop, and how they chose to test their compatibility. But that’s what’s so brilliant about this short format. I don’t think it’s really set up for us to necessarily like or dislike these characters. Instead, it’s almost like we are looking through a window at their interactions with each other. We see how they are imperfect beings, as both are currently in relationships with other people. The fact that either is even considering the pursuit of something new with the other should reflect that neither is exactly happy with what they currently have. But are they willing to make the leap to something official, or will they settle for what they already have? The ending isn’t necessarily 100% concrete with an answer to that question, in a way feeling sort of unfinished, but I think we can guess at what will happen with these two.

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An Apartment for Two

In addition to a more firm ending I think another change I would have liked to see was in regards to the setting. Carolyn is cat/house sitting for some family friends of hers (something I can personally connect with), and invites Jeff over so they can explore their feelings for each other. On Saturday though, there’s a time where they leave the apartment to eat and go shopping. Personally, I would have preferred if the entire book had taken place within the apartment.

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I think it could have given off a vibe of a stage play, while also heightening their actions and emotions when confined to a single apartment in such a large city. Then to end the weekend with them both emerging from the apartment could have been such a symbolic gesture of them taking the next steps in their relationship to either go off in the same direction arm-in-arm, or part ways. Emerging into reality as it were. Just a thought!

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

Series: Nope. In a perfect world I would love to see what comes next, but I think what also makes this work unique is the fact that we are offered just a brief glimpse.

Should you read it? It’s a quick read. I think it could have come together a bit more concisely towards the end. Also, I really wish they had stayed within the apartment for the whole weekend. It would have eliminated any possible distractions from the outside world, and allowed them to truly focus on the other.

Smut Level: We have about 1.5 scenes with some detail. It’s hard to revel in them though considering both are in relationships with other people.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Publisher: Books to Go Now. 131 Pages.

A Model Engagement by Charlotte O’Shay

Alright, after reading this book I have one very important question that must be answered immediately. Is Maryland actually considered to be part of the South?? Our female lead apparently has a southern accent that comes out when she lets her guard down, and she hails from Maryland. The reason I need this question answered is because as someone who lives in Washington, DC, right on the border with Maryland, I need to know if I should start implementing more “y’alls” into my daily vocabulary.

What’s It About? 

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Lacey Reed jumps at the chance for independence with a career in the big city. But her naivety and ambition blind her to the lure of a blackmailer. With her savings gone, she has nowhere to turn when she literally runs into financier Connor Devlin. Though dazzled by Lacey, Connor sees the desperation she tries to hide. His gut tells him to help, and he hires her as his fake fiancée. Now Lacey has a job, and Connor has put a bandage on a family crisis. When the blackmailer ups the ante, Lacey resolves to face him down—no matter what the consequences. Does that mean Lacey will lose the only man who’s ever seen who she truly is?

First Impressions

A passionate romance at a beach house in Montauk? Count me in! This is the second novel in the City of Dreams series, and something I really do appreciate about these tales of fake fiancées is how the author presents us with characters who truly seem to have no other option. I think it’s safe to assume that not many of us could imagine a scenario in which we would enter into a fake engagement with someone who is a near stranger. Surely there must be some other way to get over whatever hurdle is presented, right? However, I was surprised to find that in both of these novels the female leads clearly had no other choice, and in order to look out for themselves and those that they love they have to do something kind of crazy. Heck, I even found myself wanting to yell at them, “What is there to think over? The solution is right in front of you, just take it already!” Who knew I’d be so supportive of fake engagements?!

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A One Day Fiancée 

In this novel, Lacey agrees to become Connor’s fake fiancée in order to help him care for his mother who would otherwise refuse the help of someone hired to be there. She’s willing to enter into such an absurd arrangement because she’s desperate to pay off a blackmailer who has a video tape of her in a rather compromising situation. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely understand how Lacey’s desperation to prevent this tape from ever being released could push her into accepting this completely unorthodox position. Connor on the other hand?

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Connor has known Lacey for basically just one day. In that short amount of time he can clearly identify she’s desperate for money. But to have him trust her enough to take care of his ailing mother, and also suggest they pretend to be engaged? After just one day? I guess I found it easier to believe her motivations rather than his. I did like that later on Connor admits his suggestion that they enter into this ruse so quickly was one of the dumbest ideas he’d ever had, but in that moment where he first tells Lacey she’ll be his fake fiancée I couldn’t help but think, “Woah, that was fast”.

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Past Deeds Impact the Present

Shockingly, I found myself more enthralled with the story of Lacey’s blackmail rather than her romance with Connor. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved ALL the sexual tension going on with her and the hunky gentleman, but it seemed that Lacey’s growth as a character was more linked to this other story going on with her ass of a blackmailer. To summarize, Lacey used to be a model, and when she started coordinating on a new ad campaign with a man who was highly regarded in the industry, he drugged her and filmed the two of them in some non-consensual sexual scenarios. This man then proceeds to blackmail her, demanding payment which reduces all of her life savings to nothing.

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The absolute best part of this book was seeing Lacey transform herself from a victim into a survivor. She was able to stand up for herself on her own two feet, and face the piece of shit who abused and blackmailed her. Lacey had the courage to say, “no more”. What was even better was that she came to this decision completely on her own. Nobody had to convince her of it, or push her into it. I think her budding relationship with Connor did act as a sort of catalyst, showing her how good her life could be if she just gets rid of the dead weight dragging her down. To see a woman who was at the end of her rope decide to rely on herself to escape the torment of her past was truly admirable.

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Mamma Devlin and Communication

There were two aspects of this novel that I felt could have been more fully accentuated. The first was the character of Connor’s mother. In a way, she is one of the primary factors that brings our main characters together. She is slowly going blind, and Connor wants to find someone who can help her through her day-to-day activities. Enter Lacey and the start of their fake engagement. While it is clear that she and Lacey get along, I simply wanted more scenes of the two of them spending time together. Towards the end of the novel we do get a glimpse of how sassy Connor’s mother can be, and if we had seen more of that side of her throughout the novel it might have added an extra layer of depth to Lacey’s interactions with Connor’s family. I think what I enjoyed so much about the first novel was the incorporation of our female lead’s younger brother into the dynamics between her and our male lead to truly cement their relationship. Connor’s mother could have acted as a similarly crucial supplemental character in this second novel, yet in the end it seemed like we never really got to know her.

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The second aspect revolves around the communication between Lacey and Connor. Throughout the book, we are privy to a lot of inner monologues of these two characters which reveal so much about their personalities. With Lacey, we learn all about how she branched out from her small home town in Maryland, and became a model in the big city as a way to rebel against her parents. We also see how she’s going through so much mental anguish over the issue of being blackmailed. With Connor, we uncover how the discovery of his father’s secret gambling life after his death influenced Connor’s relationship with his family. He had to become the protector and the provider. I just wish that Lacey and Connor had shared more of this with each other, rather than having it seemingly reserved for us to know as the audience. So many of these stories are glimpses into the thought processes of our characters. By having more heart-to-heart conversations throughout the novel rather than saving it all for the end could have acted as a real emotional bonding experience for our main couple, and strengthened their link beyond a basic physical connection.

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

Series: City of Dreams, book 2. I have a hunch over who the male lead of book 3 will be, and if I’m right then I just can’t wait!!!

Should you read it? Overall, I think I preferred book 1, mainly due to the more cohesive link between our main couple and supplemental characters. The story arch involving Lacey’s blackmailer was heartbreaking, yet also captivating. I wish there had been more of a resolution to how Lacey’s family responded to the blackmail. Not gonna lie, I kind of want to give her mom a good talking-to. Or maybe a slap. The ending of this novel was so freakin’ adorable though! After how quick their relationship started I really appreciated the patience Connor employed to go at Lacey’s own pace, so that she didn’t feel pressured into doing anything she wasn’t comfortable with.

Smut Level: These two have some intense make-out scenes that will have you fanning yourself! The one in the barn?! Phew!! My oh me oh my!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 210 Pages.

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Underneath it All by Bethany Bazile

Holy mother of all dirty talkers! It’s been a while since I read the first book in this series, Insomnia, so I sort of forgot that our main character Xander is the king, nay the emperor, of dirty talk. He also takes the term “alpha-male” to an all new level, but not necessarily in a good or healthy way. This book definitely had more substance than the last one, and although there was still a decent amount of build up in regards to the plot, there was less of it. I actually enjoyed that there was less build up because it consistently held your interest throughout, whereas nothing really happened in the first book until the last few pages. I’ll tell ya one thing though, the author definitely likes dirty talk and cliffhangers.

Beautiful men looking through window and thinking positivelyBefore we continue on with my review of this book, it might help if we do a recap of book one, just as a reminder. You can also read my review of the first book here. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Dum dee dum. Ok, nice to have you back. So in book one we met Xander, a Hollywood superstar, who had trouble sleeping due to the constant nightmares plaguing him from some mysterious incident in his past. He copes with these nightmares by having sex. Definitely not my go-to remedy after a bad dream, but whatever works for ya! At the urging of one of his lovers, he goes to a sleep therapist, Avery, who has secrets of her own, and the two proceed to bump uglies. Book one ended with a ridiculously amazing cliffhanger that I definitely didn’t see coming, so I was beyond excited to start book two to see how everything plays out. Overall, I think I enjoyed this second book more than the first one, but in regards to how it handled the cliffhanger from Insomnia it was extremely disappointing.

Alright, so I’m gonna spoil the cliffhanger. It turns out that the lover who suggested Xander go see a sleep therapist in the first place was Avery’s foster sister Ellie! Say what?!! Oh, and Ellie is a stripper, unbeknownst to Avery, which is how she and Xander first met. Are there any characters in this book who don’t have a mind-blowing, life-altering secret of some kind!?! At the end of book one Avery was nervous but excited to introduce her beloved foster sister to Xander, and the book ends right when the two meet and Xander realizes who Ellie really is. Enter book two, and I’m already sitting at the edge of my seat to find out what’s gonna happen. A screaming match perhaps? A big reveal that results in a cat fight between Ellie and Avery? Uh, no. Basically, Xander and Ellie pretend that they’ve never met, and the entire situation is sort of swept to the side with no resolution throughout the entire book. Well boo hicky! There was all that intensity and build-up for nothing.

So let’s get to the good stuff shall we? In the first book Xander definitely demonstrated his proficiency in the arts of dirty talk, but the eventual sex between him and Avery was kind of quick and unsatisfying. Well, for me anyway. They seemed plenty satisfied. But cheese and ricecakes did they go at it in this one! He alpha-maled the crap outta her, and she was pretty alpha-female (is that a thing?) herself. He would become a raging fit of jealous testosterone every time another man interacted with her, and Avery would also seethe with resentment whenever another woman attached herself to Xander’s arm. Seriously, the two might as well have just gone ahead and peed on each other to mark their freakin’ territory. It would actually probably be the best solution for them, because I personally know I wouldn’t step near a guy who smelled like piss.

We never really learned much about either character in Insomnia, just that they both had secrets. However, in this book Xander really opens up to Avery about where his nightmares stem from, and we are sort of offered a glimpse as to why he is so possessive and controlling when it comes to women. That being said, we still don’t learn much about Avery, which was extremely annoying. Here is Xander, opening up like he’s on Oprah Winfrey’s couch for crying out loud, and yet Avery remains tight lipped to the very end. Even after the two exchange “I love yous”, she doesn’t share how she ended up in foster care, or how her life was affected because of it. Out with it already woman!

There is another big reveal at the end of this book, which was definitely an OMG moment, but less climactic than the first one. Even though it’s been a while since I finished book one, I remember after reading it I was like, “Holy shit, where’s the next one!”. Now, I’d say I’m mildly intrigued to find out how all of the lies and deception between our various characters will come together in the final installment of the series. You pretty much know it’s gonna blow up in a nasty way.

Series: Sexual Misconduct series, book 2

Should you read it? It’s another short read at only 92 pages, so if you’re bored one afternoon with nothing else to do you could probably read the whole series. Be prepared though that this book was a bit more frustrating than the first, mainly because of Avery.

Smut Level: Soooooooo smutty.

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Sizzle by Sheridan Kesselman

Note to self: whenever I come across a book where the first sentence is, “I am a sociopath”, I need to shut my Kindle, put it down on the nearest flat surface, and walk away slowly. Scratch that, I need to run like a bat out of hell in the other direction. Believe it or not, this is now the second book I’ve encountered with that damning first sentence. I hated the first book that used it, and I must say I really, really, really…really didn’t like this one either.

Boy is that an introductory paragraph! Despite how this review started I am going to add a very important disclaimer right here: if you are really interested in reading about the darker psychological aspects of relationships, specifically related to sexual dysfunction and family issues, well then get in line because this book will be right up your alley. If you’re a psychology major you’ll probably find it fascinating, and could write a term paper about the lead character. You should also just ignore the rest of this review. Although please do come back again because I love having you around. On the other hand, if you are looking for a romance between two people who fall in love with all their hearts, then this book definitely isn’t for you. Personally, I had three main issues with this book, which I will proceed to outline below.

1. The Plot

sizzleBasically, there wasn’t one. The synopsis reveals that Mackenzie Stark is a woman who travels halfway around the world to sleep with Damian, a man half her age. He wants her, she wants him, you get the picture. After spending a few days with him which culminates in an intense night of passion, she returns home to start a journal of her life at her therapist’s request. Now I’ll admit, the first 20 pages or so of this book were interesting by discussing her flight to Europe to be with Damian. However, just when we were getting to the good part between the two of them she switches to talk about her “life”, which is basically just a retelling of sexual conquest after sexual conquest. That’s it. There is no real story being told. She literally goes from one man to the next. We don’t find out how all of these conquests led her to seduce Damian. He’s pretty much just another conquest like all the rest of them. At the beginning of the book, Mackenzie even reveals that she is divorced from her husband, and has a daughter, yet nowhere in this journal of her life does she ever mention meeting her husband, getting married, or having a child. Based on this journal, her life is literally just about sex, and a shitty relationship with her drunken mother. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously love reading books that contain an element of sex. Hell, just read any one of my other book reviews. But this book is just sex with no real feelings, let alone love, involved. That is something I don’t care to read about.

2. The Lack of Organization

Good God in Heaven this was the most frustrating aspect of the book for me. So, Mackenzie starts her journal with a discussion of how she met Damian whilst (I love using that word) flying to Europe to visit her daughter. Then she skips ahead a year to when she flies over again just to meet up with him. Right in the middle of her seduction of the young lad she backpedals to her first sexual experience, which happened to be fantasizing about gripping another boy’s hair. Hair fetish, who knew? She then proceeds into a ridiculously long dialogue detailing all of her other sexual escapades with pretty much everyone in the state of California. Then she jumps ahead to Damian for a page and half only to go back in time again for another 50 pages, and then we get another Damian paragraph before going back further in time once again to a time that was before the first time we went back in time. Are you getting frustrated just with my explanation of this? Mackenzie describes a lot of her life around the age of 15, and slowly moves forward in a linear path in age, but just when you think we are getting somewhere she goes back again to another sexual episode years before. For crying out loud, keep to a timeline! And poor Damian. He’s the focus of the first 30 pages, as well as the synopsis of the book, but then he only gets brief mentions here and there, only to completely disappear from the story for the last half of the novel. It’s only in the last few pages that he makes a comeback to have sex with Mackenzie. Then they both go their separate ways, seemingly without any intention of meeting again. This disorganization made the book so extremely difficult to follow because I could never keep straight if she was in high school or college, who she had already slept with, and where the hell Damian was supposed to fit into all this mess.

3. Mackenzie

Mackenzie was definitely not a fun character to read about, especially for 340 pages. Let me put it to you this way. When I get home after a long day of work, I like to curl up in bed with a nice romance novel so that I can live in a dream world where there are nothing but happy endings and true love. Yeah, I realize that’s delusional, but what can I say? I love reading about the fairytale. I do not however like reading about a woman who had her first sexual awakening at the age of 6, how she later went on to have sex with her first cousin, had affairs with married men but felt no remorse whatsoever, 12-year-olds humping like rabbits, or how she took part in a sex show with yet another cousin in front of a live audience. That’s right. ANOTHER cousin! Not just one, but a second one. Sure, this one was a distant cousin, but still! Too icky for my tastes. I remember one scene in particular (although I can’t remember which cousin it was with, Yuck!) where Mackenzie and her cousin are flirting like mad while her parents are in the other room, and just before they enter she tries to think of a way to steer the conversation to a more “cousinly” topic. Maybe you should talk about the fact that you two are related and how messed up it would be were you to ever have children!! Ok, I need to regroup. Anyway, what I really didn’t like about Mackenzie was that she made it seem like this whole journal was a build up to sleeping with Damian, but once she finally manages to successfully seduce him and have sex it still seems like she has no real feelings for him. Again, he’s just another conquest. So what was the point of this whole journal in the first place?

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

Series: No.

Should you read it? If you are looking for romance, hell to the no. However, the author has been a practicing psychotherapist for many years, with a focus in family issues and sexual dysfunction, so I’m sure this book could be an excellent study of that topic. It just isn’t something I want to read in my spare time.

Smut Level: Honestly, pretty disturbing. I had to stop reading at 50% and read another book before coming back to finish this one. There are threesomes, kind of a foursome, cousin sex, affairs, being tied up, being tied down, getting turned on when a guy shoots someone else, and pretty much everything else in between.

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