Beyond Farwin Wood by Drea Damara

Wickrits, stroomphblutels, and skithers oh my!

What’s it About? 

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Agatha Blinney’s curse is unleashed when Franci Doltman dresses up as her favorite movie star. Now the storeowners on Blinney Lane must rally together to save Franci before the possession claims her forever.

Valerie Millville is tired of her controlling mother, disappointing men, and being misunderstood. Determined to escape her life on Blinney Lane, she and troublemaker Ricky Allister volunteer to find a cure by venturing inside one of the cursed weeping books.

From mythical lands to peculiar allies to other worldly creatures, Valerie learns not all stories are written in stone—or even in one dimension. Can she and Ricky save Franci in time or will their friend become another casualty of the curse that binds Blinney Lane? Will Farwin Wood show them secrets undiscovered or are mysteries merely in the eye of the beholder? Get ready for an adventure that will transport you into the pages of a fantasy world beyond reality.

First Impressions

This book was almost like if Dr. Seuss had an influence in creating the world from the NeverEnding Story. Needless to say, there’s some interesting lands and creatures to discover here! The residents of Blinney Lane exist in what we would identify as the present day, albeit with some intense supernatural elements at work, as they are impacted by an old witch’s curse that restricts them to living within a 3 block radius of this small Salem town. However, some of the residents have successfully traveled to a faraway place: the land of Farwin Wood. This world is more fantastical yet also historical in nature, and it doesn’t exist in this dimension. Rather, one must fall asleep on top of a magical weeping book which describes this fictional world in order to go there.

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At first, I wondered where the heck this story was going! We have so many characters introduced rather quickly that exist in two different worlds linked together through magic and the written word. I wasn’t sure who or where the focus would lie. However, it’s when we see these two worlds collide that the story truly comes alive. Farwin Wood ended up being a delightfully intriguing world that I couldn’t get enough of! We didn’t know what might lie around the corner in wait for our characters with every turn of the page. We feel like we’re going on the adventure right along with them discovering new lands, new creatures, new maladies, and even new passions.

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Setting the Scene

So let’s do a crash course in the plot of this book. We begin with Franci, who is a bit of a misunderstood wall flower on Blinney Lane. She’s just lost her mother, and is desperate to break out of her shell. Franci decides to dress up as her favorite movie star from the golden years of Hollywood in the hopes of acquiring just a bit of her moxie. But because this is Blinney Lane, where the curse of a witch from hundreds of years before haunts its residents, Franci becomes literally possessed by the personality of this long lost Hollywood starlet, and her friends on Blinney Lane fear the real Franci might be lost to them forever. They have only one option. Some of them must travel to the mystical book world of Farwin Wood in the hopes of finding a magical remedy to Franci’s possession.

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Enter Valerie and Ricky. Valerie ends up being our primary female lead character. She has a background in potions, lotions and herbal remedies, so she feels she’s the best person to travel to Farwin Wood in search of a cure. She’s also looking for an escape from her overbearing mother, as well as the monotonous day-to-day of being trapped on Blinney Lane. She’ll need a guide to get her through the book, which is where Ricky comes into play. He’s the younger nephew of the lead character from book one, and has been to Farwin Wood before. I initially assumed we’d see a romance develop between Ricky and Valerie, but there’s actually a man of Farwin Wood whose path she’s about to cross. This is when the adventure truly begins!

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Ranthrop is one of the rulers of Farwin Wood, looking for adventure following the end of a war which had been waged throughout the land for over 20 years. This violent war ended at the end of book one, and peace now reigns supreme. He’s restless, and desperate for something to capture his attention. Who should come along but two visitors from the mysterious faraway land of Blinney, looking for a cure to help their friend back home. Ranthrop knows where this cure might be found, but it’s a several day’s journey to another land which the residents of Farwin Wood fear above all else. He’s determined to accompany Valerie on her quest, not just because it will provide him with some action following the end of the war, but also because he can’t deny his immediate attraction to the young and outspoken woman who has ventured into his world.

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Where Worlds Collide

This was such a fun adventure, and I can’t deny that I wore a stupid smirk on my face for a large portion of this read. The chemistry between Ranthrop and Valerie was enchanting, and you can’t help but be seduced by their verbal sparring matches. She’s convinced upon first meeting that he’s a brute, seeings as he initially mistook her for a new wench in his castle keep. However, throughout their journey she starts to discover the caring and selfless side to his character. Valerie also sees how Ranthrop must confront the errors and guilts of his war-filled past with each passing day. Their journey may have started off with Ranthrop acting as Valerie’s protector, but by the end their roles have almost been reversed. She must step in to comfort him as he faces all the pain he’s caused others through years of war. Valerie questions if she can really be falling for a man in a story book. Surely he’s pure fiction, but then why do the feelings she’s starting to develop for this soldier seem so real?

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I must say I was personally enamored with Ranthrop. He’s obviously a very masculine and physically strong character, yet he also has this kind of sweet innocence and genuine curiosity about his nature. You can tell he’s eager to learn everything about something new he happens upon, so when Valerie makes her way into his world he’s immediately enthralled. As for Valerie, she’s outspoken and full of spunk. Far from the demure and soft-spoken ladies that you’d expect to find in Farwin Wood. She’s not afraid to speak her mind in front of Ranthrop, and let him know when he’s being an ass. For his part, Ranthrop can’t quite understand what it is about her that intrigues him so, but by the end of their journey he’s come to realize that he’s finally met his match in a woman. His other half. You couldn’t ask for a more entertaining couple.

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Back on Blinney Lane

At the same time that Valerie and Ranthrop are roaming the world of Farwin Wood, we have another side romance happening between Franci and another character back in the real world of Blinney Lane. At first I was worried how these multiple story lines would blend together, especially considering we have the couple from the first novel coming back into play as well. I wondered if it would be too many story lines going on at once. I will admit, at the beginning it was kind of tricky to keep all the plots and various characters straight, but over time you really do get to know everyone, and know them well.

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We become fully invested in every story, and you really don’t want any of them to end. Throughout the book we would focus on Valerie and Ranthrop in one scene as their journey through Farwin Wood progressed, and then we’d switch back to see the progression of Franci’s madness on Blinney Lane, as well as how a young man becomes fully invested in helping her survive. To see how this man starts to develop deeper feelings for Franci, a woman whose friendship he’d always taken for granted, was just as entertaining as the journey through Farwin Wood. It was a fun dynamic back and forth between these two worlds that never felt forced or unnecessary.

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

Series: Blinney Lane, book 2. I would probably recommend reading book 1 before starting with this one. It helped that I received a crash course of the events from book 1, but even then I felt like I missed out on some of the background details for our character’s personalities. That being said, I’m fully in love with Farwin Wood, and can’t wait to visit again in the future.

Final Impressions: It takes a bit of time to set up our story and learn how to distinguish all of our characters, but once we see Valerie fall through the book into Farwin Wood it really does become a fun adventure. Farwin Wood was such a unique world full of fun and entertaining characters, I really didn’t want to leave it! Although, if I actually happened to find myself within this mystical world full of wickrits and skithers, I’d probably want to get the heck out of there as fast as possible!

Smut Level: Very tasteful. Nothing overly smutty.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. BHC Press/Indigo. 288 Pages.

The Rookie by Abigail Owen

Aidan has convinced himself that he’s not worthy of ever finding a mate. And yet the need he feels for Sera is undeniable. When he discovers she carries the sign of being a dragon mate, he starts to hope that Sera could be his.

What’s it About? 

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To escape exile, Aidan Paytah has had to prove himself worthy. Every second of every damn day. He fought with everything he had to earn his precarious place on the Huracán team of dragon shifter enforcers. He can’t fail or afford distractions, no matter how temptingly sweet. Total loyalty to the clans and dedication to his team is the only way.

Sera Morrison lost her parents and her husband in short order, leaving her a single mother running her family winery alone. Nothing could ever have prepared her for the discovery that she’s a destined dragon mate. But once she finds out, there’s only one man she wants—the one who walks away.

However, the Alliance Council has its own agenda. They want to use her as a political pawn and force a mating that could ultimately kill her to save the High King. Aidan has no choice but to kidnap her, even if it means their close proximity reinforces their own mating bond. And mating with him could end up being a far worse fate for Sera….

First Impressions

It’s pretty clear to us readers that Sera isn’t just your average widow looking to protect her young son, Blake. She’s a dragon mate, and her mate is Aidan. Bada boom bada bing. No mystery there. That being said, it’s still a fun ride to see the process of Sera and the rest of the Huracán enforcers discover the truth of what she really is. Something I really appreciated about this book was that it added some surprise elements which truly distinguished it from the previous two novels in the series. We aren’t just dealing with another woman who discovers she has a significant role to play within the world of dragons.

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The sign of being a dragon mate is that the brand of the dragon clan the mate is destined for suddenly appears on the woman’s neck. The fact that Sera has not just one dragon clan brand on her neck, but three, throws everyone for a loop! What could it mean? Could she pick and choose anyone from among those three clans? Could she possibly have three mates instead of one? Not to mention we all question what her sign as a dragon mate might mean for her young son, who is a mere mortal. The truly brilliant aspect of this novel though was that we didn’t just see these events carry out from Sera and Aidan’s perspectives. There’s a third villainous character whose identity remains a mystery, but he’s convinced that Sera is meant for him. She appears to him in his mind, and he’ll do anything to have her as his mate in real life. The added problem is that we learn he’s one of Aidan’s fellow dragon shifter enforcers. Duh duh duhhhhh.

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The Risk of Mating

Sera has always been wary of the connections she’s felt to Aidan, which is stronger than any she’s ever felt before. Even when compared with her late husband, and the father of her son. However, she and Aidan have an undeniable chemistry, and when she’s told that one of the dragon brands on her neck is the blue color of Aidan’s clan, she starts to wonder if they’ve been destined to end up together all along. The fellow enforcers inform her that she’ll feel the link with her one true mate in her gut, and her thought immediately goes to Aidan. The fact that he’s always treated her son Blake as a treasure rather than a nuisance makes her realize the importance of her mate accepting her and her son as a package deal. And yet, there’s still a sense of doubt.

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She’s fully aware of the dangers of what could happen if Aidan isn’t her mate, and the two attempt to come together. She’ll burst into flames, die a painful death, and Aidan would be able to do nothing but watch on as she turns to Ash in his arms. Not the prettiest picture here! When Sera realizes the distinct possibility of death should she choose the wrong mate, she really doesn’t express any immediate concern over her own life. Instead she immediately thinks of Aidan. The pain it would cause him to watch her die in his arms, and the loss of half his soul should it turn out that they aren’t actually mates. She worries about how he’d survive after something like that. Who would comfort him? The fact she was more concerned with his well being rather than her own demonstrates how truly selfless she is. She can’t help but notice though that Aidan doesn’t seem too excited at the thought of seeing his clan’s blue color on the back of her neck.

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From Dreams to Reality

As for Aidan, you’d think that the frequency of sex dreams he’s had recently featuring Sera would have been a sure indicator to him that this human was his mate. However, he just assumes she’s the star of his wet dreams because of his physical desire for her. He never allowed himself to hope that it signified she belonged to him. After all, he’s an orphan. A nobody. He’s had to fight his way up to become an enforcer and earn the trust of his teammates. The death of his parents when he was a youngster turned him into an outsider within his former community. Never in his wildest dreams, even though they featured Sera, did he every think he’d be worthy to be selected as someone’s mate. That must be an honor reserved for those who are leaders in their community. Especially when he discovers that one of the three clan brands she carries on her neck belongs to the High King who is near death for lack of a mate. Surely an outcast orphan like himself could never stand a chance compared to the king of kings.

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A Broken System

The broken system of the mating process really comes to the forefront in this book. It was hinted at previously in books one and two, but really wasn’t as much of a focus as we see here. We’re starting to understand a bit more regarding the inner workings of this world, and the political aspirations of the Alliance Council which brings possible dragon mates together for the official mating process. In addition, we see how the sheer desperation of these male dragons to find a mate is so strong that it even has the ability to pit teammates again each other. This Huracán team consists of dragon shifters that have fought and flown together for years. They are brothers in every sense of the word. And yet, when Sera appears with the brands of three different dragon clans on the back of her neck, each team member of the relevant clan is overcome with an intense feeling of jealousy and possession over the right to mate with her.

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They’re desperate to finally feel that pure emotional and physical connection with another, and the fact it stops them from aging is an added bonus. We can understand how this desperation which has been built into their society could impact one’s ability to determine if someone was actually their true mate, or if their hope at finding her would turn into an unhealthy desire to mate with anyone who might give them that link. The repercussions of mating with someone who isn’t your true mate brings disastrous and traumatic consequences to the extreme. Seeing someone you were convinced was your one true mate burn to ash in agonizing pain in front of you. To live through that, and then be presented with the possibility of another mate? It’s clear how that might make someone go crazy with need.

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The Hidden Villain

This brings us to our “villain”. I must say the constant hinting as to the hidden identity of this person was brilliant!! We don’t know who it might be, but then we see the list of possibilities narrowed down to being just one of the other two men whose brand she wears on her neck. While we see things from his point of view, and hear his delusional inner musings about how Sera must be his destined mate, his identity is kept a secret until the very end of the book. Just when you think that maybe a chapter or scene will end with a big reveal of who is thinking these thoughts, we switch to focus on something else. It ramps up the suspense to an amazing level!

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I was constantly switching back and forth from thinking it was one dragon, and then in the next scene you start to wonder if it might be the other one. Talk about suspicion whiplash!!! Throughout so much of the book we see this “villain” as someone who has lost grip with reality. You want Aidan and Sera to figure out who it is, and for them to succeed in realizing that they are destined mates. But by the end you see how easy it could be in this world to be overcome with the hope of finding a mate that you could go slightly crazy in the search for it. That desire ultimately pitted this man against his brothers, and it was such a heart breaking realization for him to make in the heat of battle. It’s eventually a surprisingly emotional and touching reveal, I definitely had tears in my eyes.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 3. Why isn’t book 4 in my hands right now? I have a feeling the next one is going to be an emotional roller coaster from start to finish.

Final Impressions: I really appreciated the fact that this book started to tear away at the intrigue and political deviousness of the Alliance Council. It’s something that’s been hinted at and touched upon quite briefly in the previous books, which were much more focused on the process of a dragon finding his human mate, the shifting process, etc. We also finally uncover the identity of the spy within this group of enforcers. In spite of all the espionage and political discussions at play here, I was shocked at how emotional of a read this book ended up being. I was NOT expecting that at all, and it knocked my socks off.

Smut Level: It might take a while for Sera and Aidan to come together in the waking world, but these two engage in some dream sex that is guaranteed to set the sheets on fire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 298 Pages

Alpha Dragon Awakes by TJ Shaw

Find out if Amari and Jaxon will both survive when her dragon tries to make an appearance.

What’s it About?

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Part three and the exciting conclusion to the epic fantasy romance serial trilogy, Rogue Dragon Rising, marking the beginning of the Outside the Veil series. With no memories to guide her, Amari Hawke seeks to discover the identity of the animal trapped inside her. Days away from Trinity, when her beast will appear for the first time, she must learn to communicate with her animal or she’ll turn rogue from an unsuccessful shift.

Both Jaxon Blackthorn and his stubborn dragon have succumbed to Amari’s charms even though her animal designation is unknown. Determined to use the power of his beast, Jaxon faces the impossible challenge of saving Amari while protecting her from rogue shifters determined to capture her. Can the strength of their love achieve what has never been attempted in the shifter realm, a successful transition of Amari’s animal and acceptance of her true heritage?

First Impression

The entire series has been building towards this climactic finale, and it’s basically everything we’ve been waiting for! Trinity moon, the arrival of Amari’s parents to bring her back to the Veil, her memories coming back full force, the big reveal of her dragon designation and even the dreaded transformation to her inner beast. Yessssss!! This is everything I wanted to see, and it all comes crashing together for one suspenseful conclusion that will have you holding your breath for so much of the book in anticipation. When Amari’s father comes to take her back to the Veil we see how dependent Jaxon, as well as his entire cadre have become towards her. Their vulnerability at the prospect of her departure is so moving and heartbreaking you wanna gather them all up in one big dragon family hug. Mind the claws, fellas.

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The Secret Dragon

After all this waiting we finally get an explanation as to why Amari’s parents chose to hide her dragon identity from her. Apparently, Amari sustained an injury when she was just a toddler and she expended all of her energy to save her dragon instead of herself, which would have resulted in her death. Her parents realized that she never would have survived her transition phase during the Trinity Moon awakening, as all of her energy would have been spent to see her dragon safeguarded through the process. As a result, they constructed mental barriers to keep her dragon chained within her mind. Only by staying within the confines of the Veil would the effects of the Trinity Moon be diminished, allowing her to survive maturity into adulthood. Jaxon adamantly declares he can guide her through transition, but everyone around him insists it’s never been done before, and the risk to both of them is too great. So what will Amari decide? Will she remain outside the Veil with her mate, and risk both of them dying when her dragon emerges, or will she return to the safety of the Veil by leaving Jaxon behind? Her decision will shock you.

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A Mysterious Mastermind

There was one aspect of this book which prevented it from achieving damn near perfection status, and that has to do with our villain. We finally get a glimpse of the madman who has been seeking out Amari since the start of the series. Personally I felt this introduction should have come earlier on in the second book. We learn about how he ordered his henchmen to lure Amari and her sister out of the safety of the Veil in order to kidnap them. His experiments on shifters are demented, as we know from the fact he was responsible for the years of torture to one of Jaxon’s cadre members, Slade. I couldn’t help but wonder how everything would come together with this villain and our heroes. Would he ultimately succeed in capturing Amari? Will Jaxon rush to her rescue? Will Slade find his way back to seek vengeance on the madman who tortured him for years on end, and rescue the other innocents still under his control??? So much suspense and so many questions!!!

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Whelp, turns out those questions will go unanswered, as just when our villain’s dastardly plans are starting to come to the forefront, he fades once again into the background. We never see a final confrontation between him and Amari, Jaxon or Slade. Instead the focus shifts back to Amari’s transition, and we never see him mentioned again for the rest of the book. This is the conclusion of the series, how do we not get a conclusion to the villain?? Maybe this will come back if we get a spinoff series featuring Slade as the main focus? And btw, I would totally read that in a heartbeat. But here’s the problem. This whole series started because this villain lured her out from the safety of the Veil, which in turn made Amari meet Jaxon, discover her dragon, etc., etc. To not bring the story back full circle to the driving force of how the story started left the series feeling unfinished. I wanted more!!

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

Series: Outside the Veil, Part 3. I gotta say, this might just be my favorite book in the entire series. Although…dang the first book was pretty good too, but this one is such a delightful climax to everything that’s been building throughout the last two novels. I do hope we get some kind of spinoff series, maybe with cadre member, Slade, as the focus. He is such a troubled and mysterious character with a complicated history, I’m desperate to learn more.

Final Impression: While this novel might be a fantasy with dragons, shifters and Eldian magic, one thing that feels unbelievably true is the love and connection between Amari and Jaxon. There is one scene in particular where Jaxon simply wants to hold Amari in his arms in the hopes of spending just a few more moments with her, and I gotta say it touches the heartstrings! This book answered so many questions that were presented in the previous two books, and yet also had some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I will say I was disappointed that we didn’t get to learn more about the mastermind behind Amari’s kidnapping back in book 1. It was the one thing that prevented the series from forming a completely full circle, but it came pretty damn close!

Smut Level: Hot damn, things definitely come to a head in this one. Not only are we presented with a few sex scenes in this book involving Jaxon and Amari in the waking hours (considering their first sexploration was during a dream-state), we even see Jaxon and Amari come together at the same time as Jaxon and Amari’s dragons come together. I’m not sure if technically that counts as a foursome, but it was intense either way!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing LLC. 200 Pages.

 

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

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

What’s it About?

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

First Impression

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

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

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Creating a Villain

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

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

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Off-Balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Portal to the Land of Chroma

 

Sleeping Dragon Stirs, part 2 by TJ Shaw

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Stuck in Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Boss by Abigail Owen

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impression

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

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

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When Mating Goes Wrong

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

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

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Clan Drama Infighting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mate by Abigail Owen

Finding a mate as a dragon shifter isn’t easy, and if you just happen to pick the wrong one you might die in the process. Jeez…and I thought my dating life had its complications. Maybe they just need some kind of app to bring them together. Dragonsonly.com, unlock the fiery passion within, and hopefully you won’t burn to ash.

What’s it About?

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Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it.

To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.

First Impression

I’d have to say this short prequel certainly does it’s job. First of all, it’s a fantastically quick, yet exciting read. I was able to finish it in one sitting during the time it takes to fly from DC to Columbia, South Carolina. I know because, well…I did it. We’re provided with a brief, and interesting introduction into this world of dragon shifters and enforcers. It doesn’t get too bogged down with unnecessary details, but instead lays the groundwork of what, why, how, and who wants to kill who. Whom? The simmering passion between Maddie and Fallon is palpable to the point where you’ll want to start fanning yourself to relieve some of the heat. A sexy and possessive dragon shifter who loves to tease, use sexual innuendo, has scorching blue dragon eyes when he gets riled up, and likes to refer to our female lead as “luv”? Seriously, somebody crank up the air conditioner in here, because these fiery dragons are setting my Kindle on fire!

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From the Mate to the Boss

This prequel also does a great job of piquing your interest for what will come in the next book, The Boss, which just so happens to come out on Monday! We are briefly introduced to Fallon’s troubled brother, Finn, who is the main focus of the next book. We are provided with a glimpse into Finn’s tragic back-story in which he tried to mate with a woman who wasn’t actually his mate. Turns out when you do that the woman goes poof into ashes. That’ll certainly put a damper on your evening. Although our time with Finn is brief in this novel, we can already tell he’s wise, endearing, and slightly broken. Gotta love a troubled male lead! I just can’t wait to find out what might be in store for Finn, and hopefully learn even more about this tragic event which has so greatly impacted his outlook on life.

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However, I have a pretty good feeling we’ll see him find his true mate after all. Something I’m assuming we’ll see more of, or at least I’m sincerely hoping, is more of an in-depth description and explanation of the dragon world dynamics. We are introduced to a fair number of key players in this novel, including a few kings with names I certainly can’t pronounce correctly, a variety of clans, families, blue dragons, red dragons, etc. I can’t say I fully understand how everything fits together, especially the dragon and human interaction, but I also don’t think we necessarily need to know all of that detail at this point. Again, I imagine this prequel is really laying the foundation for the next piece in the series where hopefully we’ll dig into things a little deeper.

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A Missing Meet Cute

Now, an important thing to keep in mind with this read is that while it’s definitely an entertaining prequel, it’s not necessarily a stereotypical one. I feel like in most instances when we have a prequel we are either presented with an introduction to how our lead couple met or will meet in the premiere novel, or we see just one side of the couple present their story. That doesn’t really happen here. As a matter of fact, we sort of get the opposite in that we basically walk into the middle of Maddie and Fallon’s relationship. We never really witness their initial meet cute first-hand, and the details of the first few months they spent together before eventually going separate ways is discussed sort of piecemeal.

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Apparently they investigated some arson cases together, and had already developed a cute rapport and physical interest. But our opening scene presents them to us months after they’ve split because Fallon thought she was a human that he could never claim. It’s almost like we’re missing the prequel to our prequel! Do I feel like we need a whole separate book showing us how Maddie and Fallon first met and what exactly happened during their time together before splitting? No. Do we need an extra 100 pages of set up to provide a more chronological view of their relationship from the start? Not really. A prologue may have been nice though. Something to establish right off the bat why their meeting in this castle is so profound.

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Breaking the Prequel Mold

Another way this differs from your typical prequel is that from what I understand of the synopsis of the next book, Maddie and Fallon really won’t be the main focus. Instead Fallon’s brother is. I imagine we’ll see mention of Fallon and Maddie somewhere in The Boss, but for the most part it appears as though that is a full Finn focus. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m excited as hell to read Finn’s story. Normally with a short prequel like this though, it’s meant to provide us with a brief introduction to what the main focus of the next book will be.

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In a way, it almost seems like your standard series progression would be a prequel showing how Maddie and Fallon first met, fell for each other, but then split because they didn’t truly understand who or what the other was. The premier novel would then be what we saw here, where Maddie and Fallon meet months later to pick up where they left off and go through the mate selection process. Then maybe we’d see a sequel with Finn as the lead. I’m not saying it’s required to follow this progression, and honestly it’s pretty refreshing to mix things up a bit! However, I think one initial scene which either showed Maddie and Fallon meeting, or splitting would have helped to create a fully comprehensive story arch.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 0.5. This prequel has definitely sparked my interest to see what might happen next for our blue dragon clan, and thankfully we don’t have long to wait! The Boss releases Monday, September 24, and hopefully I’ll have a review up and ready to go.

Final Impression: This novel might be short, but I think what draws you in and holds you tight is how we witness the progression of Fallon’s desire for Maddie. When he first arrives at this luxurious castle to meet a potential mate, he brushes it off as an impossibility. But then when he sets his sights on Maddie, and discovers it’s the “human” he fell for months before, his jaw hits the floor. We see an almost alpha desire and need for possession take hold of him. As we move along, and the possibility of Maddie choosing someone else as her mate comes to the forefront, we see Fallon’s initial desire turn to desperation. He knows with every fiber of his being that he and Maddie belong together. This teasing, confident man is suddenly overcome by the need to mate with this woman, and he’s even willing to go so far as to get down on his knees and beg for it to come about. To see this mating process surrounded by a growing tension of clan disputes and questions of loyalty, not to mention a final dragon battle, provides us with a delightful mix of lust, romance and action.

Smut Level: In order for two dragons to complete the mating process, the male dragon must fill the female with his fire. I’m sorry…but if that’s not a hint, hint, wink, wink moment then I don’t know what is.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Entangled: Amara. 114. Pages.

Extravaganza Conclusion: This is the final review this week as part of my marathon post extravaganza! Thanks everyone for playing along 🙂