My African Craving by Audrey Flynn

Erica has gone from hailing cabs and dodging traffic in New York City to dodging fires and poachers in the African safari. Not sure I’d be up to the task honestly!

What’s it About?

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When Erica Knight arrives in Lebombo Game Reserve for her first African safari she has no idea that her life is about to be changed forever. As an executive for a mining company she believes that negotiating the mining rights for the Lebombo Reserve will be a slam-dunk, but she didn’t count on locking horns with the reserve’s enigmatic owner, Jean-Luc de Graaf.

In the heart of a wild African landscape full of beauty and danger, Erica and Jean-Luc both stubborn and passionate find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict. With the Reserve threatened by vicious poachers and runaway fires, they are thrown together unable to contain the scorching attraction between them.

Far away from the rat race of New York Erica feels the stirring of a different drum, ancient and irresistible. But surrendering to the wild would mean she would have to submit to the powerful attraction to Jean-Luc and she isn’t ready to give up control just yet…

First Impression

Full disclosure here folks. The concept of going on an African safari has never really been very high up on my bucket list. I tried to think of why that is, and honestly it was kind of difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. I love animals, and ever since watching the Lion King as a kid my adoration for lions, giraffes, and most other African safari mammals was cemented. Maybe it’s because deep down I like to think of myself as a city girl through and through, so a real-life safari seems a bit too hot and sweaty for my tastes? However, this short novel does a rather fantastic job of demonstrating the almost transcendental experience an African safari can be for some people. I think the fact that our heroine is also a city girl (and one who loves Cabernet Sauvignon on top of it!) made it easier for me to connect with her appreciation for this beautiful landscape brimming with life. The scenes where we see Erica stare straight into the black depths of these big cats’ eyes provides us with just a small glimpse at how special and ethereal that connection with nature is. Maybe I’ll have to move an African safari just a bit higher up on my bucket list after all 😉

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Business or Pleasure?

Erica’s purpose in traveling to Africa isn’t solely to go on safari. She’s actually there in an attempt to establish a mining venture in the heart of this magical Game Reserve. This brings her up close and personal with the dedicated owner, Jean-Luc. These two are seemingly enemies on opposite sides of the table. He insists that eco-tourism and maintaining the beauty of this landscape will bring more stability to the region than a big mining company ever could. Not to mention his insistence that preserving the Reserve is crucial to ensuring the safety of the animals. She on the other hand won’t give up on the argument that big business means lots of money and success for the people of the land. There is one crucial feature though which connects these two, even if it seems like it divides them on the surface.

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Erica and Jean-Luc are fighters. They fight for what they believe in. They fight to protect those they care about. She grew up in the city, while he grew up in the plains of Africa. She worked two jobs to support her family and herself through college. He came from wealth and a family of privilege. So different on the outside, but they’ve both been taught to take care of themselves. Jean-Luc’s father was supportive, yet always taught him to work hard, and that in the bush you have to take care of yourself. You won’t always have someone to come to your rescue. As for Erica, her father abandoned her mother, sister and herself when she was young. While she didn’t have the constant support of a father-figure, his departure was perhaps the greatest life lesson she’d ever received. She learned to take care of her family through her own hard work and dedication. She couldn’t wait around hoping he’d come back. This inner determination makes it hard for either Erica or Jean-Luc to back down on what they’re fighting for, but they both recognize and appreciate that fight in the other.

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Moments of Silence

This novel certainly packs a punch in just 138 short pages. We have the arguments over the mining establishment, the constant threat of poachers to the tranquility of the Reserve, not to mention an approaching bush fire that might just destroy the entire region. And in the midst of it all there’s a budding romance between these supposed enemies. There’s a lot going on, but each subplot really does play an important role to the overall story. The drama involving the mines establishes the initial animosity and distrust between our two lead characters, but the hazards of hunters and flames demonstrate a crucial softer-side to both Erica and Jean-Luc.

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Ironically enough, the most exciting moments for me were not the ones involving a dramatic retreat from a bush fire, or a showdown with poachers. No, instead it was the few scenes where we find Erica and Jean-Luc finding a moment of peace and alone time together. It’s almost like the whole world stands still, and they’re able to connect in their own solitary bubble, even if they both know that they only have limited moments together before that tranquility is interrupted. Whether it be a quiet picnic next to a secluded lake, or a passionate embrace in the shower, Erica and Jean-Luc can find a few precious moments where they don’t just put their differences aside, but their differences practically disappear completely. Hands down, my favorite scenes of the book.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I’d really love to see a continuation where different characters might find their own serenity and romance in the midst of the Lebombo Reserve.

Final Impression: There’s definitely a lot going on in this short novel, and while you can’t really remove any subplot without the overall story feeling slightly broken, I do think adding just a few more chapters could have provided us with more depth to these side dramas. I did sort of guess one part of the big final reveal in regards to the poachers, but honestly I was expecting more sabotage than what we got. Ultimately I’m happy my inkling was incorrect as it would have been pretty heartbreaking, but the actual climax was still slightly predictable. I did enjoy seeing Erica and Jean-Luc find their few moments of tenderness and solitude in the midst of all the difficulties they’re dealing with in life. They’ve both put up walls in an attempt to protect themselves from the hurt of Erica’s eventual return to the US, but as they get through these dangers together their walls start to fall down, and in the end they’re left with each other.

Smut Level: These two slowly explore each other in a shower. But not just any shower. An outdoor shower!!! Definitely upping the details of this sexcapade locale.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Inkspell Publishing LLC. 138 Pages.

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Rogue Dragon Rising: Part One by T.J. Shaw

Let’s kick off the new release extravaganza in style! Shifters and herbivores and a sexy-ass dragon, oh my! This novel is jam-packed with fantastical characters, and its cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more.

What’s it About?

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Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her.

Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy.

As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?

First Impressions

I’m definitely intrigued by this world! It literally pulls you in from the opening scene. But at the same time I can’t help but feel a little bit lost in it. There’s a lot going on! We have shifters, one-souls, sheep, dragons, herbivores, predators, half-breeds, Trinity moon, auctions, Eldians, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things here. Oh, healers! That’s another one. Rogues! Panthers! Gahhh, fantasy character overload! I thiiiiiiink I understand what most of it means, but I would have appreciated a few extra pages focusing on the unique features of this world so I could confidently understand how all the players fit together. Something that you don’t need a guide map to understand though is the electric magnetism bringing Amari and Jaxon together. At times they don’t even need to exchange words. All of their desire and fascination can be expressed solely in their eyes. It’s some pretty heady stuff at times, and it’ll keep you turning the pages for more.

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Who Are You? Who Am I?

In addition to all the fantastical elements at work here, there’s another unique added plot element of Amari having lost her memory. This takes place right at the very start of the book, so we as the audience are just as lost as she is in regards to who she is, or where she comes from. We’ve all encountered romances with this feature, but what makes it even more intriguing in this instance is that she can’t remember what her designation is. Herbivore? Predator? Who knows?!? Definitely not her! When she finds herself being sold at auction she unwittingly declares that she’s a sheep. This is something that Jaxon insists he and his dragon would never be attracted to, but he also can’t deny the intense desire he feels that is constantly pulling him towards Amari. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that she’s not really a sheep, but something else entirely.

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A Desperate Search

Interspersed with Amari’s desperate attempts to remember who she is, we also get a few scenes here and there providing us with glimpses of her family desperately trying to find her. We quickly discover through these side scenes that Amari isn’t a simple, helpless sheep. Far from it. She’s a drakaina. A dragon. Aka, something Jaxon and his dragon had pretty much given up hope of ever finding. It certainly explains to us as the reader why Amari isn’t afraid to look Jaxon in the eye, and even to challenge him at times. She’s his equal, and quite obviously his mate, even if neither of them realize it yet.

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Something I didn’t fully understand though, either through these side scenes with Amari’s family, or the main focus on Amari herself, was in regards to her visions. At the very start of the book when one of the trackers reaches for Amari to kidnap her, she seems to get a vision of how he’ll die. However, this unique ability is never really mentioned again. Why doesn’t it happen when she touches Jaxon? Is it because she’s lost her memory and can’t access this part of her mind? Again, this is another area where I wish we could have seen a bit more explanation, but I have a feeling I’m probably just too impatient at this point, and need to wait to see what book 2 will have in store!

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

Series: Outside the Veil, book 1. This book ends on a mini cliffhanger. Not the kind that will make you angry, but it leaves you on a point of lustful suspense. I don’t see how you can’t be seduced to find out what comes next.

Final Impression: I was quickly enchanted with this world, but I can’t help but feel as though I was dropped into the middle of it with an old compass to guide me instead of the fancy GPS I’m used to. I can see how more detail and explanation is forthcoming in the future books, especially in regards to Amari’s transition into her dragon form. Not to mention all the drama which might come with that, as her family seems to have kept her in the dark about some of this. That being said, I think a few more pages of set-up introducing some of the particularities of this world would have helped 🙂

Smut Level: We get a lot of smoldering, intense looks. A big build-up at the end as Jaxon pushes her up against a rock with his arms on either side of her. Running his lips along her neck. Pushing his hips into hers. Looks into her eyes to ask for a kiss. We’ll just have to read book 2 to figure out what other sexy good times might be in store!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing, LLC. 105 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: Within the Skin by Zara West. Multicultural Suspense.

Craving My Costar by Maura Rose

There’s nothing quite like simulated sex with your co-star to awaken the true desires lying just underneath the surface.

What’s it About?

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Robin’s a big star in Hollywood, and with his handsome face, hot body, and lengthy resume of blockbusters, he’s going nowhere but up. He’s cocky for a good reason, and he lives by the code “it’s not bragging if it’s true.” He’s made a name for himself, and he feels like he deserves every ounce of fame and fortune he’s got. The women chasing after him are just icing on the cake.

Lindsay’s a woman with daring dreams, high hopes, and a mouth that sometimes gets her into trouble. She’s got a heap of acting talent, but there’s just one problem: she’s a no-name. When she gets an audition for the film that’s destined to be the next big hit, her hopes and dreams finally become a reality when she nails it and lands the role.

When Lindsay and Robin first meet on set, she can’t stand his arrogance and he can’t believe her insolence. The two hate each other—but now that they’ve both been cast in the lead roles in the film, they have to work together…as lovers.

First Impressions

This is a sweet, quick read, with some definite sexiness thrown in there as well. It has a delightfully strong start, with a premise to die for. Who doesn’t love a tale of romance that starts out with enemies who become friends, and eventually even something more? At the start, you’d assume that Lindsay and Robin would get along fairly well, as they both have a clear passion for acting. They live for it, and are clearly dedicated to their craft. But it’s really more about their journey to this film they’re shooting together which causes the tension between them. For Robin, he’s always been a committed student, going to the finest drama and film schools in the world. It may have taken money for him to enroll in these places, but his raw talent is what helped him excel into a star of screen and stage. It may have also boosted his ego a bit to where he has too much pep in his step.

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As for Lindsay, this film is her first big break. She’s fought hard to get where she is, and has scrimped, saved, and clawed her way through countless failed auditions to finally be given the role of a lifetime. You can’t help but admire Lindsay’s tenacity and spunk. When she first meets Robin on set and he mistakes her for a lowly assistant, demanding she fetch him some coffee, she has no problem standing up for herself with a good ole oh hell to the no! Unlike her cast-mates, she refuses to be star-struck by the leading man on set, and what results is a delightfully entertaining clash of talent. Lindsay’s vulnerability and inexperience also shines through though, and this makes her an even more endearing character. The fact she tries to help the stagehands with the set setup? Love her!

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A Quick, Yet Slow Development

As I mentioned earlier, this is a nice quick read. However, I almost wonder if it was too quick, especially considering we were dealing with the huge production of a full-length, Oscar-buzz film here. I wouldn’t necessarily say it felt rushed, but instead we got more of a surface glimpse of things. And who knows? Maybe it really doesn’t take as long as you’d think to put together a high-budget film, but as a movie buff I would have loved if we were privy to some more of the behind the scenes elements involved in making a movie.

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What wasn’t rushed though was the development of Robin and Lindsay’s relationship from enemies to friends. Due to the initial clash between our lead actors, Lindsay is feeling rather isolated on set, as everyone else stands behind Robin considering he’s the big star. She can’t help but feel depressed, as she’s finally made it to where she’s always wanted to be, yet has discovered the reality of it might not be as wonderful as she’d predicted. Sure, she loves working with the director, and engrossing herself in her character, but the frustration of working with such an annoying co-star, not to mention being ostracized by her other co-stars has her in tears.

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When Robin catches a true glimpse of the sadness which was lying underneath all the anger she directed his way, Robin vows to turn things around. A friendship slowly starts to develop between them, and he even takes her under his wing by showing her the ropes of acting. He keeps an eye out for her, and pulls her into his circle of friends and cast-mates. Hell, the man even helps her shop. Umm, where can I get me a man like this?? I just loved how we got to see a true closeness develop between them, and show that sometimes initial bad impressions can eventually be remedied.

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No Hiding the Passion

While they start as enemies, one thing is for certain. The passion of the scenes they film together is undeniable! They dive right in by filming the most awkward scenes first: sexxx. Lindsay and Robin start out hating each other, but once the director calls action on their kissing scenes, they feel an incomparable draw to one another. Their scenes are no longer scripted, and they can’t help but explore each other. What’s funny is that while our lead couple never actually has sex, they certainly simulate it pretty damn well for the cameras. In those moments they put their hatred aside and give in to the passion, and even start to look forward to their amorous scenes. After they start to develop a friendship with each other, the scenes take on a whole other level of complexity.

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They don’t want the other to know how much they desire the other, as it straddles the line of professionalism. It could also compromise their friendship. Then the studio demands they ramp things up even more, and unfortunately that’s when we see both of them cross that line. This was my one and only disappointment with the story, but you can tell the characters regretted it too. Let’s just say things get a bit out of control when Robin realizes whilst filming how real Lindsay’s moans actually are. They start to indulge in their desires, and it results in both of them coming for real in front of a room full of people. I wish their first and only real romp in the whole book could have played out a bit differently. Perhaps they could have put their lust on hold for just a few minutes more until they could let it out in their trailer, away from watchful eyes.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I almost wish this was a series. I’d love a sequel where we see Lindsay and Robin dealing with their celebrity romance with the paparazzi, obsessed fans, and the stresses of filming. In this book we see the lengths Robin goes to in order to avoid having Lindsay deal with the paparazzi, and while it was refreshing to not have it be a main focus at all in this novel, it seems like an inevitable reality which could impact their relationship.

Final Impression: This novel definitely starts strong, but did not have my favorite…climax, if you know what I mean 😉 We wait so long for Lindsay and Robin to come together, and when they finally do it’s pretty unprofessional. I did enjoy the scenes of them really getting into their characters, and the friendship which blossomed between them. Some details could have been fine-tuned, but overall an enjoyable read. I liked that it was a quick read, but I think if it’d been a smidge longer some more details could have been fleshed out further, perhaps having the lovable supporting characters play a more prominent role in the story.  We do get an adorable final scene though which will make you go “awwww”.

Smut Level: These two may have hated each other at the start, but they couldn’t deny the pleasure they both felt at filming scenes of passionate kissing, foreplay, and intimacy. Hell, even I started looking forward to the moments they’d have to film one.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. TNA Publishing. 252 Pages.

Playing for Love by Ashlie Knapp

There’s nothing quite better than a fine-looking man who likes to give foot rubs and quote The Sandlot. I’ll have me s’more of that. And yes, I would like s’more even though I haven’t had any yet. For those of you who don’t see the connection here, for the love of God stop reading this and go watch the fabulous classic that is The Sandlot already!!

What’s it About?

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When Cassie Randall spun a globe several years ago and her finger landed on Oklahoma, she didn’t know what to expect. A native Alaskan, all Cassie had known her whole life was snow and ice…and fear. Running to a state thousands of miles away was her only way to survive. And it worked. Now, with new friends and teaching degree only one semester away, Cassie feels like she has the life she’s always waited for. When Jamal Jenkins, the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, walks into her life, Cassie isn’t impressed. In fact, she doesn’t even know who he is.

Jamal Jenkins is the consummate NBA player – cocky, confident and casual. That’s the media’s portrayal of him, at least. In reality, Jamal is nothing but an everyday guy trying to make a living for his family doing what he loves – playing basketball. When he is paired with Cassie to walk down the aisle at their mutual friends’ wedding, he isn’t excited to spend time with a woman people describe as a bookworm. After meeting her, however, he can’t get enough of the Alaskan beauty who knows nothing about sports or the fact he is a household name.

Cassie is running from her past. Jamal is trying to solidify his family’s future. What happens when their paths collide is anyone’s guess. Genuine, warm and funny, Playing for Love is a story about finding family, hope and new beginnings when it’s least expected.

First Impressions

On paper, it seems like Jamal and Cassie are polar opposites. She’s an introverted bookworm who couldn’t play a sport to save her life. Jamal on the other hand is a sociable, sarcastic and cocky professional basketball player, not to mention a single father. They seemingly couldn’t have less in common. But when they are paired to walk down the aisle together as part of their best friends’ bridal party, well…that’s practically a guarantee for these two to end up in the sack! Jamal is immediately smitten with the doe-eyed beauty he likes to call Bambi, but Cassie tries her hardest to keep the handsome sportsman at bay. After their first passionate kiss though, any attempt to have a platonic relationship with the man is thrown out the window. He’s a loving father, he’s funny, sensual, and apparently he bears a striking resemblance to Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously you guys I lost track of the number of times this comparison was made, and I now feel contractually obligated to show at least one photo of the man!

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Ok here’s another one.

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Aaaaaand just one more for good measure.

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Mkay, I think we’re all good now.

A Cut Above the Rest

There is one character in this novel who, without a doubt, steals the show above any other and that would be Jamal’s daughter JJ. She’s such a firecracker with a quick wit and sassy repartee. Even I want to hang out with this kid! And believe me, after years and years of babysitting I will say children can get on my nerves, so the fact I want to willingly hang out with this one is saying an awful lot. Personally I really appreciated that the author chose to feature JJ front and center rather then constantly try to hide her away at a friend’s house so Jamal and Cassie could have some alone time. This seems to be a convenient technique (aka the easy way out) employed by authors who don’t know how to effectively incorporate a child into a story line. JJ also proved a crucial figure for Jamal and Cassie to bond over, and helped to thaw Cassie’s initial hesitancy to spend more time with Jamal. Their open love and affection for JJ helps define their own love for each other, and is an essential element for their relationship to succeed.

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A Complicated Past

Throughout the novel we are presented with hints to Cassie’s tumultuous past, including references to darkness and bruises. As it turns out, Cassie had an extremely abusive and alcoholic father who was the sheriff of their small Alaska town, where nobody believed the claims that she or her mother made against him. Eventually this resulted in the death of her mother, and Cassie inheriting one million dollars. She knew this money would be an obsession for her father, so she chose to flee to Oklahoma in an attempt to leave her past behind. We quickly see how this complicated past has impacted her personal life. She never brought boys around when living with her father, and after she fled she was so focused on school and studying she never really had a relationship. This means she is still a virgin when good ole Jackson Avery, I mean, Jamal Jenkins comes around.

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One aspect of their relationship which I found particularly interesting was that, all things considered, Cassie was very quick to trust Jamal. You’d think that with the strained and abusive relationship with her father she’d have difficulty trusting men, but with Jamal that is never really a huge issue. Sure it may have been a slight cause for concern in the beginning, but after spending some time with him it is never something which comes between them later on. Instead her eventual inner debate over whether or not to end things with him results from the fact that she doesn’t want to bring her complicated drama and baggage into Jamal or JJ’s lives. She’s convinced that eventually something will happen that will cause her to leave them, and the last thing she wants is to abandon them just like JJ’s mother did. She tries to save their feelings and her own by keeping her distance from them at the start. Well…not if Jamal will have anything to say about it.

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Something I wasn’t a huge fan of was how Cassie’s complicated past eventually comes back to mess with her present. I must say it was a rather predictable ending, and we have to wait around so long for it to come about. Then when it does, it’s resolved so quickly! The climax hits at the 91% mark and is finished up by 92%. What comes after the drama though is a delectably sweet conclusion which highlights how important Jamal and Cassie are to each other, and as a family unit with JJ. A lot of thought and care went into the ending. And of course, there’s one last final dig at Cassie’s inability to play sports.

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

Series: Playing Series, book 2. We do get to see some scenes with the couple from the first novel. My God though the fact that the woman from the first novel is named Callie and this one is named Cassie, and they’re best friends who are often featured in the same scene? I’d say it wasn’t until the halfway point that I could definitively distinguish their names.

Should you read it? I did enjoy the fact that Jamal’s daughter played a prominent role in this book, and wasn’t just brushed aside to focus on all the lovey doveyness going on between him and Cassie. The dude is a single dad, his daughter comes with the territory!  That being said, the story is a bit light in the drama department. I feel like there was a slightly missed opportunity to incorporate more depth and suspense surrounding her father. I wish it had been more of a continual discussion throughout the book rather than providing a quick climax at the end. Also, it would have been great to see more focus describing Jamal’s life at 17 when he was left to raise a baby all on his own after his girlfriend abandoned them. We could have seen some more emotional drama on multiple fronts here.

Smut Level: Pretty clean read. A few smooches here and there, but nothing scandalous.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 274 Pages.

Inescapable by Amy A. Bartol

You shouldn’t confuse the angels featured in this paranormal romance with your stereotypical greeting card angels. These are warriors, fighters, soldiers. Aka, they badass.

What’s it About?

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My name is Evie Claremont and this was to be the making of me–my freshman year of college. I’d been hoping that once I’d arrived on Crestwood’s campus, the nightmare that I’ve been having would go away. It hasn’t. I may be an inexperienced seventeen-year-old, but I’m grounded…sane. I look for rational explanations to even the strangest circumstances. Since meeting sophomore Reed Wellington, however, nothing makes any sense. Whenever he’s near, I feel an attraction to him–a magnetic kind of force pulling me towards him.

I know what you’re thinking…that sounds fairly awesome. Yeah, it would be…if he liked me, but Reed acts as if I’m the worst thing that has ever happened to Crestwood…or him. But get this, for some reason every time I turn around he’s there, barging into my life. What is the secret that he’s keeping from me? I’m hoping that it’s anything but what I suspect: that he’s not exactly normal…and neither am I. So, maybe Crestwood won’t be the making of me, but it could be the breaking of me. I’ve been left to wonder if the dark future my dream is foretelling is…inescapable.

First Impressions

College can be a difficult time for most people. Oftentimes far away from home, having to make new friends, learn new things. It can be tricky to navigate. Well, Evie has the added burden of discovering that she’s only half-human, and she’s slowly starting to acquire some strange abilities as her half-angel side comes to the forefront. I must say I really enjoyed learning about the particularities of this world of divine and fallen angels. Evie is an anomaly in this world in that by being half-human she still retains a soul even though she’s an angel. She also has the ability to heal quickly, gains supernatural speed, and eventually even gets a pair of wings. I know they say you shouldn’t compare difficulties in life, but yeah I’d say Evie has me beat when it comes to having a stressful life. Not only does she have to deal with moving to college and becoming an angel, but she’s also encountering the unfortunate stress that so many young women get to deal with in college: men.

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Love Triangle

Come on now folks, you just know this wouldn’t be an official young adult college romance without a little love triangle. And this one has an additional complication added to the mix considering that of the two men fighting for Evie’s affections, one is human, and the other is an angel. Reed is our angel, and Evie finds that the butterflies fluttering around in her stomach every time he draws near is more than just puppy love. It’s some kind of paranormal link drawing the two of them together. He too experiences the same fluttering every time she’s around. Reed has lived on this Earth since life began, and this is the first time he’s every experienced feelings of love for someone else. Seems like their love would be pretty cut and dry, right?

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Nooope! Because then there’s Russell. He’s a human, which compared to Reed might not sound as exciting. But lo and behold, not only is he adorable and attentive to Evie, he just so happens to be her soulmate. As in…her actual soulmate. Reed believes that both Evie and Russell have consistently fallen in love throughout multiple lifetimes. Funnily enough, Evie has more trouble believing that she and Russell have loved each other in past lives than believing in a world of angels. This love triangle was initially extremely interesting, as it’s really hard to be “team” anyone. Both men have such great qualities, and both do actually seem like the right choice. Evie especially struggles with this, as her human soul is constantly seeking out its soulmate in Russell, but at the same time her angel side wants to reject this concept of the soulmate in favor of the drawing force linking her to Reed. Such an interesting predicament.

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Here’s the problem though. This struggle stretches on foreverrrrrrr. There’s a constant back and forth, back and forth, like a never ending tennis match that you just…can’t…leave. I’ll admit, I did like the concept in the beginning. There’s no clear front-runner in the race for Evie’s heart, and you find yourself simultaneously rooting for both Reed and Russell to succeed. But the fact that this becomes the major story line for like 3/4 of the book? Can’t we get back to the fallen angels and discovery of new abilities already? I mean, we start off with Evie preferring Russell when she’s not quite sure what Reed is. After the big reveal she embraces her own angel side which is reaching out to him. But then he pulls away to keep her safe, making her run back to Russell. But then Reed just can’t stay away. My goodness it got to the point where I just wanted them to set up an Evie time share. Have her alternate weekends with each guy or something. Hell, I’d even take a threesome at this point!

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Tales of Convenience

I’m always wary of college romances for one very big reason. They always tend to brush aside the whole “being in college” thing. You know, going to class, taking tests, studying. But what this novel conveniently does is utilize Evie’s new abilities as a reason for why her course work isn’t a prominent feature in the story. As she develops as an angel her cognitive thinking improves, meaning she can brood away in class just vaguely listening to lectures in the background, yet be able to repeat things word for word later on. She says it even makes midterms fun. Well, that would have been a nice ability to have with my own college lectures, thank you very much!! This isn’t the only time we get a convenient explanation for something that’s out of the ordinary.

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I just love how in most paranormal romances featuring an immortal like Reed, we always seem to hear an account of how they stop aging in their prime. How convenient. It also makes it considerably less creepy when picturing a dude who is multi-thousands of years old getting intimate with a 17-year-old. Another rather perplexing feature which was explained away pretty quickly was the fact that it didn’t take that much for Evie to guess that Reed was an angel. Basically she could tell he was mysteriously different, and then after seeing a block panel painting in art class about fallen angels driven out of heaven she quickly surmises that Reed must be a divine angel. Quite a big leap of a guess right there! However, it’s clever how they brush this aside by Reed attributing it to her impressive new intuitive abilities. Sure, why not?

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A Climactic Conclusion

If I had to find a silver lining to the seemingly endless love triangle debate which carried on throughout this book, it would be that it certainly lets your guard down. The majority of the novel has a very teen, young adult, non-dramatic feel to it. And then BAM! In the final act we are presented with an unexpectedly dark and gruesome twist to the story. By the end you have a floor slippery with blood and chunks of flesh. Angels gnawing on a human hand with the skin of their victim getting stuck in their teeth. Never before have I felt the need to floss so much in my entire life. It was such a shocking twist that I honestly did not see coming, and it has definitely piqued my interest to see what might be in store for our characters in the next book.

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Series: The Premonition, book 1.  I’m excited to see where the story will lead. Hopefully away from college life, and with more focus on the paranormal aspect than the love triangle side of things.

Should you read it? This first book is clearly laying the groundwork for the series. Gathering the characters together, introducing Evie’s struggle between Reed and Russell, etc. I really did enjoy learning about the particulars and unique dynamics involving angels. While at times Evie’s inner struggle between Russell and Reed was interesting, it didn’t take too long before it became tiresome and repetitive. If the second book continues with this back and forth of Reed vs Russell, it’s gonna get very old, very fast. I’m hoping we’ll see even more regarding Evie’s transition to becoming an angel, and all the possible repercussions that might entail. Maybe even some info about who her angel father is.

Smut Level: Just a few kisses. No hanky panky. Reed basically implies that if they had sex the probability of him hurting her was high because he had a certain strength as an angel she might not be ready for as a human. Aka, that’s one powerful penis.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. 393 Pages.

Here and Then After by D.M. Porters

Beth has been given a second chance at life, and in the process she also has a chance at love. It might be the truest love she’s ever experienced. In this lifetime…or her last one.

What’s it About?

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Retired tax accountant, Elizabeth Edwards is devastated when she discovers her husband of 41 years, has been unfaithful most of their married life. What’s worse, she discovers this after he passes away when deep, punishing secrets are revealed. She is left to struggle with the deception and the fact that her life has been a lie. Broken, tortured and alone, Beth decides to leave her life behind and start over with what little time she had left.

With a keen eye for antiques and her love of history, Beth embarks on a journey to England that will change everything for her, even time. She visits the countryside to explore its grand manors and estates. Then, the directions to a ‘hidden gem’ are disclosed to her, and she is inexplicably drawn to this estate – Taylor Manor.

Faced with her own sudden death, Beth is given a second chance to live. This time, however, it is in the body of a beautiful young woman living her own hell 200 years in the past. In a twist of fate, the haven she is sent to is Taylor Manor, where she is to work as a maid. There she meets the brooding Lord Samuel Taylor, who has lived through his own pain and suffering. Can Beth start over and learn to live in this new and dangerous world while resisting her growing attraction to handsome Lord Taylor? Can he allow himself to love while battling his own demons? Love truly has no boundaries, not even time.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a very unique and interesting twist to your typical time travel romance. Rather than simply traveling through time (seriously, who hasn’t in this day and age?), Beth has actually died in the year 2017 from a heart attack. As she’s traveling towards the white light of the beyond, she encounters a young woman named Sarah who is also moving along that same light. Beth then proceeds to inhabit Sarah’s body back in the early 1800’s. This added an interesting dimension to the whole time travel theme in that Beth doesn’t just have to adapt to living in a new time period, but she also deals with a flood of memories from this young woman’s sad and short-lived life. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a time travel romance such as this, and I must say I loved this twist. Instead of constantly wondering whether or not Beth will be able to return to her own time, because let’s face it that ship has sailed, we get an alternate drama of her having to cope with the events and tragedies that Sarah tried to escape from through suicide. We quickly learn that this woman was abused and raped at the hands of her drunken father, and while Beth is able to hide out in the countryside estate, Taylor Manor, we all know it’s just a matter of time before this abusive father comes to find her.

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A New Life

Beth doesn’t lament too long on the fact that she’s leaving her old life behind for good. After all, she was in her 60’s at the time of her death, and suffering from obvious heart problems. She now gets to inhabit the body of a beautiful 20-year-old, and the aches and pains of old age are no more. Beyond that though, she had also just learned that her recently deceased husband of 41 years was quite the philanderer, and even had a daughter she never knew existed. After learning of this betrayal, Beth decided to finally set out and live life for herself by exploring the beautiful country estates of England. She visits a rather hidden estate known as Taylor Manor, and feels an immediate connection to the house before keeling over dead from a heart attack. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in the 1800’s, and learns that to escape the clutches of Sarah’s lunatic father she will be hidden away as a housemaid in none other than Taylor Manor.

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Now, most people who find themselves in this type of situation would probably be freaking the eff out. However, you have to admire Beth’s tenacity and ability to look at this entire situation as a second chance at life. Sure, Sarah’s life was fraught with issues, but Beth still chooses to make the most of every day. The fact that she gets to spend her time in a beautiful manor house surrounded by glorious antiques is simply an added bonus! And sure, the devilishly handsome master of the house with whom she has an undeniable sexual chemistry isn’t half-bad either. However, I do feel that there was one missed opportunity here for some added fun. In her former life, Beth was a wealthy older woman who had worked a desk job as a successful accountant. Now she is suddenly a housemaid in the 1800’s doing dishes, cleaning, etc? I just wish we could have been privy to a few more scenes which focused on the difficulty of adjusting to this new life. I get that by waking up 40 years younger she probably has a bit more pep in her step, but it seems like she would have had a few issues here and there with having to put some elbow grease into her daily work.

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Life in the Manor

Of all the manors in England to end up in after traveling through time, Beth definitely lucked out being placed in Taylor Manor. The various characters of the house are such a delight, and you can’t help but fall in love with them. From the motherly love of the head-housekeeper, to the joyous affability of the cook, and especially the rambunctious innocence of the young stable boy. As soon as Beth steps foot into this house you can’t wait to get to know them all, and just like Beth you too will be swept up into the warmth of this friendly bunch of people. And then of course we get to the master of the house, Samuel. He’s a bit of a surly fellow. Kind of closed-off and grumbly, although he has a definite soft spot for his employees.

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We learn that his parents died in a tragic carriage accident when he was just a boy. The fact he witnessed the entire ordeal adds to the overall tragedy of the event, and obviously contributed to his seemingly outward lack of empathy as an adult. But at the first sight of Beth he is obviously smitten, and also surprisingly intrigued by her adept knowledge of math and balancing his ledgers. Beth is also surprised to feel such desire for a man again. I will admit at times I was prone to a slight giggle-fest when they eventually acted upon their desires for each other. What can I say? I couldn’t help but remind myself that in essence we have a woman in her 60’s getting down and dirty with a handsome English Lord in his 20’s. Sure, her body might be young, but this woman has lived, and she brings all of her experience to the table. Let’s just say she has a few tricks up her sleeve to bring this man to his knees. Well…she gets down on hers anyway!

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The Big Reveal

Alright, so the time has come which we know is inevitable in any time travel romance. The moment when our lead character admits to her love interest the fact that she isn’t from this time. Samuel has suspected pretty much from day one that Beth was hiding something about herself, but he never dreamed in a million years what she would come to admit. Now, typically when this reveal happens, a very common response is for the opposite party to think our time traveler is crazy. I definitely get it. But here was the one aspect of this novel that I wasn’t toooooo fond of. Normally when the person thinks the time traveler is crazy, they immediately start to treat them like delicate glass, and vow to get them the help they so desperately need. Well…we don’t get that here.

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Instead, after Beth admits she’s lived a life in the future, Samuel not only declares she must be mad, but practically insists that she get the hell outta his house as soon as possible. Dude, I understand it’s a tough thing to understand, but don’t throw the poor woman out on the street! Let’s assume for a moment that he does actually believe she is legitimately insane. Beth has already admitted to him that she (or at least the woman she’s occupying) tried to commit suicide after being abused and raped at the hands of her father. Why wouldn’t Samuel just think she’s going through some kind of post-traumatic meltdown, and somehow tried to create an alternate life as a way to cope with this trauma? While he quickly comes to regret his decision to kick her out of his house, and immediately runs after her to bring her back, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at his initial reaction to her admission. I expected more from you Samuel!

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

Series: Taylor series, book 1. I have definitely fallen in love with this family, and this manor. Can’t wait to see what comes next in book 2!

Should you read it? I will say it does take some time for our story to build up to Beth’s eventual death and travel through time. Quite a bit of time is spent on Beth interacting with her husband’s illegitimate daughter that I’m not 100% convinced was entirely necessary. Unless of course that story line comes back into play in a future novel? Who knows! That being said, once Beth makes the jump through time I was hooked. You have the drama and intrigue of her adjusting to life in the 1800s, falling in love with Samuel, and eventually dealing with the suspense of the abusive father. I figured we’d end with a happily ever after, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see how everything connects back to the future. The novel definitely comes full circle in a delightfully clever way, and I for one am excited to see what other inventive twists and turns we might encounter in a second book.

Smut Level: For a historical romance this book will definitely have you blushing. Sure, we get the typical mentions of trembling and bursting forth into ecstasy, but there are also a few more details in there to please our modern sensibilities.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 237 Pages.

Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

A vicious tornado whisks our heroine through the winds of time to unexpectedly drop her back in 1872. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! Or at least…not in modern day Texas anymore.

What’s it About?

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The past is her future, the future, her past, but can she save an innocent man’s life before history repeats itself? As long as Selena Tillman dreams of her ancestor, Mary, who disappeared without a trace in 1872, she’ll never find peace. As long as she dreams of the half-Native American army scout accused of killing Mary, she’ll never find love. Hoping to end the dreams and learn the truth, Selena goes to Texas where Mary and the scout died and sees more than ghosts. She sees a tornado kill Mary in real time before it jumps to the twenty-first century to pull Selena into its vortex and send her back to the nineteenth century. Selena believes she’s fated to prove Dylan’s innocence and save his life, but Dylan isn’t just the man of her dreams; he’s her destiny.

Fed up with the army, bigotry, and women—especially white women, Captain Dylan Casey dedicates himself to solving the mystery of Mary’s disappearance, proving his innocence, and trying to stop a war between the whites and the Indians. Then Mary’s cousin shows up, claiming a tornado killed Mary. Dylan doesn’t trust Selena, but she’s his only ally in Canyon Creek. Yet despite their common goal, growing mutual attraction, and a Comanche shaman’s prophecy of a white woman who will change his destiny and foretell the fate of the Indian Nation, Dylan refuses to take a chance on another spoiled, white woman—until fate changes his mind.

First Impressions

Yes, we are dealing with a time travel historical romance here. But more than that we are exploring some inherently deep-rooted and devastatingly tragic instances of racism in late nineteenth-century Texas. The supposed superiority of the white man over the “savage” Indian, and the downfall of the great Indian Nation at the greed of the white man. What I love about any Lilly Gayle historical romance is that we always learn about a unique chapter of history, and in most cases they are lessons which I never really had the opportunity to study fully in school. In each instance my interest is spurned to learn more! You can tell a lot of time and effort was spent researching this topic in an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of what it would have been like for a “half-breed” to live at this moment in history, not to mention the obstacles involved by falling in love with a white woman. After finishing this read I must say I’m inspired to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, especially considering it’s just a 15 minute drive from my apartment!

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Traveling the Winds of Time

One of my favorite aspects of any time travel story is discovering the rules of time travel which the author has chosen for their world. Will it be like Outlander, in which the events of the past are firmly set in stone? In these works we usually find the attempts of our characters to change certain events will instead directly cement the circumstances of history. Or will we maybe see something along the lines of Back to the Future where practically everything you do has a direct impact and influence on changing the outcomes of the future? In this novel we see an interesting blend of both.

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After being dropped in 1872 by a wayward tornado, Selena seems stuck in the past with no possibility of traveling back to her own time. She knows the history surrounding the fate of Dylan Casey, who stands accused of murdering her ancestor Mary. However, she’s just seen that the same tornado which carried her through time is responsible for Mary’s death, not Dylan. Can Selena possibly alter the events of history to prevent Dylan’s own murder which she has seen play out in visions since she was 10? Is Dylan fated to die, or is it Selena’s destiny to save his life? You simply never know what the rules of time travel might be in any given romance.

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An Argumentative Romance

Race is an extremely important discussion in this novel, especially in how it relates to Selena and Dylan exploring a romantic relationship. Living in a small Texas town, Dylan experiences hateful glances and racial slurs practically every day. He’s had friends and lovers desert him upon discovery of his mixed heritage. He once thought Mary (Selena’s ancestor) was the woman for him, but in the end the fact he was a “half-breed” proved to be reason enough for her to give up on them. When Selena drops into town she’s unlike any other woman Dylan has ever met. She has no hesitancy about exploring a physical relationship with Dylan, which is something he simply can’t wrap his head around. Why would a white woman risk her reputation pursuing a half-breed like him?

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All in all I’d have to say that my one complaint with this book is how much of Selena and Dylan’s time together is spent arguing. I feel like Selena had a closer connection to Dylan because of the visions she’d experienced of him throughout her life rather than from their interactions with each other. The fact that Dylan is a scout for the army also means that he and Selena spend pretty long periods of time apart from each other. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect between the feelings garnered from Selena’s visions to her actual interactions with the man.

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Selena has literally been dreaming of this man forever, and when she finally has the opportunity to meet him in person he’s…well…a bit surly. She continuously reiterates the fact that his race is of no consequence to her. Selena’s actions also speak towards her dedication, especially when she gives up the luxurious comforts of his parent’s house to instead make a home for them in Dylan’s small ranch house. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Dylan that she’s serious when she says his Indian heritage doesn’t bother her. He insists she could never love a “dirty savage” such as him.

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