Connected by Kim Karr

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Another Flash Forward

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

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

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Quick Switch

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

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

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Multiple Meanings

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

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

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

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

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

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Setting Sail!

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

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

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

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Confessions of a Gigolo by Richard Godwin

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

What’s it About? 

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

Blonde. Dangerous. Gigolo.

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Gigolo vs. Con Artist

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

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

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Avoiding Commitment

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

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Temptations Beyond Marriage

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

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

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

Series: Stand-alone

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

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

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

Against the Odds by Michele Solano

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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Part One: Reconnecting

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

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

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

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Part Two: Dropping the Ex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dare to Surrender by Carly Phillips

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

What’s it About?

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Isabelle Masters is done…

Done with her cheating boyfriend.

Done with his domineering ways.

Just done.

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

First Impression

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

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

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Three Months Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.