Cage by Harper Sloan

It seems like 9 out of 10 romance novels begin with a meet-cute that involves our male lead being first enamored with our leading lady’s eyes, or perhaps her lips. It draws him in like a tractor beam. But then there are still those select few that default to the tits, or the ass. In this book? It’s the tits.

What’s it About? 

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Greg Cage was born to protect. While growing up, he was his mother and sister’s shield against the world… until he failed. For the last decade, he has carried that guilt and need for vengeance around…until it was stripped from him. Now, with his best friend getting married and no longer needing his protection, he is even more lost, completely adrift, and desperate for some control. All he has ever known was how to protect: his family, his friends, and his country. Can he go against everything he has ever known, and give up that control?

Melissa Larson will never let anyone hold the reins in her life. She has been the rock in her family for more years than she can remember, and the fight to keep them together is her main priority right now. She has always been fiercely independent and proud. The last thing she will ever do is ask for someone else’s help. But when that choice is out of her control, forcing her to rely on others to save her and her family, and pick up the pieces that are left, will she be able to let someone else be her strength? The second Greg locks eyes with Meli, he knows that she is someone he needs. Someone he craves. Meli knew the second she met Greg that he would be nothing but trouble and heartache. Her life takes an unexpected turn, and that bitch Fate is back to wreak more havoc on another member of the Corps family.

All hell breaks loose, leaving Greg no choice but to call in a favor. He hooks back up with his old friend Braxxon Breaker from the Breakneck MC. Together, they make sure that nothing threatens anyone Greg loves again.

First Impressions

There are actually two things that initially draw Cage to Melissa. The first we’ve already covered: her tits. Romantic, I know. The fact that Cage first met her by taking the child of our couple from book 1 to the doctors office, and she was the attending seemed like a missed opportunity for a more…sweet first impression. How about she was really good with kids? The second enamoring feature is the fact that Melissa continuously turns down Cage’s repeated advances/requests to come back to his place for some naked R&R. Dinner and a movie are so last season. I can’t say I’m a huge fan when the impetus for a couple coming together is the fact that one is seen as a challenge. I don’t know, maybe because it makes it seem like a game of cat and mouse, and you have to wonder what will happen when he finally catches her? Will the allure wear off?

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Linked in Tragedy

As it turns out, our couple here has another connection that Cage discovers once he finally has Melissa in his bed. They’ve both tragically lost a sister before their time. And they both lost them to the same man. This last detail is something which Cage keeps to himself, as he thinks it is something which will distance this new burgeoning relationship with Melissa. We all know what that means! She’ll eventually discover it on her own, and it’ll cause alllllll the problems. Which it does.

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Personally I felt this linked sister tragedy was something that was never fully explored. We know that both sisters were abused at the hands of the same man, Simon, and both ended up dead. However, we never really get the full picture, especially when it comes to Melissa’s sister. It’s quite an important part of the story, as her sister’s death results in her and her mother being left to care for her nephew.

The Crazy Ex

As with any romance novel, it simply wouldn’t be complete without a crazy ex girlfriend who made more of her relationship with the male lead than was real. In this case, the trope of the psycho ex is taken to the ultimate extreme. I will say at one point I did feel kind of bad for this ex-girlfriend as it’s revealed she might actually have some kind of mental condition, and she’s been neglecting her medication. However, feelings of sympathy don’t last too long, as we are once again presented with a feature that I constantly bring up on this here blog of mine. Attention to all romance novel leading ladies: do NOT go to the bathroom alone in a restaurant and/or bar. You’re just asking to undoubtedly run into said crazy ex.

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Cage’s ex doesn’t just taunt Melissa though, she actually reveals the sister link which Cage kept hidden. And just like we knew it would, it causes Melissa to flee in despair. Shockingly though, this time apart actually provides Melissa and Cage with the opportunity to, well, act like adults. She feels betrayed at his keeping it a secret, but rather than face him with all her anger and pent up emotions, she takes some time to calm down before confronting him. Cage on the other hand is desperate to explain the truth and his reasoning for keeping it a secret, but at the good advice of Axel from book one, he gives her some time to mull things over. And then they come back together and all is well!

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Series: Corps Security, book 2. It was pretty nice to see the couple from book one reappear in this sequel.

Should you read it? I will say this series isn’t my absolute favorite. It’s full of pretty standard romance novel tropes, and at times it’s easy to see where the story is going. I will say though, the ending takes an odd turn with the introduction of a new character, and we don’t really get a clear resolution to some of the drama. Lastly, this book was literally never-ending! We have an epilogue, bonus chapter, deleted scene, and finally a bonus scene. Seriously, after the third extension I exclaimed, “Just end it already!!”

Smut Level: Melissa can only push Cage away for so long before she’s naked in his bed.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 240 Pages.

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Shooter by Dahlia West

This book definitely proved one of life’s most common sayings: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

What’s it About? 

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Chris “Shooter” Sullivan has returned to his home town of Rapid City, South Dakota to pick up the pieces of his life shattered by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He only wants to focus on holding what’s left of his old unit together, running his garage where he builds custom bikes and cars, and pretending that his murdered father’s motorcycle gang doesn’t exist. Hayley Turner is a young woman with her own traumatic past. Fresh off the bus from Nowhere, USA, all she wants is a job and a place to live, until it’s time for her to leave again. She doesn’t want to make friends, or enemies, least of all the ex-Army Ranger who obviously doesn’t like her. She bristles under his watchful eye. He’s even got her convinced she’s bad news. But circumstances force two people who don’t need anyone to need each other more and more. The more Chris gets to know Hayley, the harder it is to stay detached. And the more Hayley gets to know Chris, the more she realizes she’s been alone for so long she might never recover from it.

First Impressions

I seriously wanted this book to have a recipe section!! Consider this a friendly warning, don’t read this book on an empty stomach. You’ll definitely want some appetizers or cookies on hand to ensure you don’t salivate whilst reading it. We’ve got descriptions of succulent ribs, decadent chocolate cake, flaming baked Alaska and sweet peach cobbler.

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Upon first meeting, Chris is understandably wary of Hayley. She’s new to town, and he can easily tell she’s hiding details about herself and her troubled past. Hayley isn’t necessarily looking for friends when she arrives in Rapid City, but she doesn’t want Chris and his Army buddies to be suspicious of her either. So let the cooking begin! I will say after a while it did seem a bit over the top, what with Chris and his boys playing poker as Hayley is cooking away in the kitchen. Or this pack of alpha males working on bikes and Hayley bringing them all some home cooked lunches as they refer to her as “honey” or “darlin'”. It was nice at first, but after a while it became almost too Donna Reed for me.

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A Slowly Built Inferno

I really did enjoy the development of a friendship between Hayley and Chris, as well as with his other Army buddies. Having a friendship first means it does take a while before they enter into a sexual relationship. You definitely have to wait until after the half-way point before you get any juicy details. However, I think I preferred this scenario to them rushing into anything too quickly, especially considering Hayley’s own traumatic past. This is the first relationship Hayley has been in since going on the run five years ago.

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She’s kept her past a secret from everyone, including Chris, and we as the readers don’t discover what happened until the rest of the characters do pretty late into the story. At first, Hayley and Chris are strictly friends, but eventually they realize it’s time to take things to the next level. She’s hesitant considering how long she’s been on the run, but Chris convinces her he’ll protect her from any evil, and it’s finally time to stop running and take a chance. They start things off slowly with some kissing, rubbing, zero penetration whatsoever. But it doesn’t take long before he’s going full on dirty talk and demanding she sit on his face. Ohhh boy!

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The Life of a Biker

For the most part I liked Chris. He’s nice to Hayley, doesn’t push her to do anything before she’s ready, vows to protect her from her past, and even gets her a kitten for crying out loud! Something I didn’t appreciate though was when we ultimately discover he’s got a strained relationship with a neighboring biker gang, and that all of Hayley’s actions now reflect on him. If she makes a supposed mistake he could be the one to pay for it. Probably would have been something o share with her when you were convincing her to take a chance on you there buddy!! Then there’s a dramatic plot point with this motorcycle gang that didn’t really come full circle, and sort of fell flat for me.

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Series: Burnout, book 1. I did really enjoy the introduction of each of Chris’s Army Ranger buddies, and am excited to see each one’s eventual story.

Should you read it? It’s a sweet romance that has a strong foundation of friendship. There’s an intense climax at the end where Hayley’s past comes back to interfere with her present. I do think it could have been shortened slightly so that we not only get to the lovemaking earlier on, but also the drama of her past. Perhaps one less scene involving a mouthwatering culinary creation would have been conducive to the overall story.

Smut Level: Daaaaaamn. You have to wait about 60% until anything physical happens, but Chris has got a mouth on him, and he’s more than willing to show Hayley everything she’s been missing out on the last few years.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 472 Pages.

West of Forgotten by Lynda J. Cox

A secluded Wyoming ranch set in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like the ideal place for romance to bloom. I seriously need to take a trip to Wyoming.

What’s it About? 

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Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly. For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter. Unless she can learn to trust Harrison, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost.

First Impressions

The first half of this novel is all about Rachel and Harrison developing trust in their relationship. She’s been hurt before, and anyone who comes into both her and her son’s lives needs to earn her trust. Harrison is just the man to exhibit the necessary patience to win her over. Upon meeting the tantalizingly beautiful single mother, Harrison is determined that rather than take over the ranch completely, he wants to help her see it thrive again. To do so he determines their best option is to marry. Not only will it silence the gossips in town to see a man living with Rachel, but it also ensures she’ll get the entire ranch should something ever happen to him.

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Beyond just trusting him from a business partner standpoint, Rachel must also learn to trust him physically. She shies away from his every touch with fear in her eyes over what happened at the hands of his brother years before. Although their trust comes slowly, I must say it was built unbelievably well, with a hint of reality to it. It’s not like one day Rachel is wary of the stranger on her front porch, and the next she simply decides her fate is sealed and she’ll throw caution to the wind by trusting him completely. By developing it slowly over time their relationship is stronger for it, as it is built on something more stable and important than physical desire.

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A Troubled Past

I definitely appreciated this story emphasizing the importance of trust in a relationship, but in my opinion there was something which stood out even more. This is also a tale of survival. Rachel survived a horrific rape and abuse at the hands of a man who had the ability to charm an entire city into believing his version of events over hers. It was truly frightening to see how people treated her in the aftermath, as though she were the one to blame. That she led him on. How nobody believed her save a select few.

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What sickened me even more was to consider that this still happens today. This story might be set in the bygone era of the Wild West, yet it’s underlying horrors are still present. Rachel was ostracized from the community, but the one shining light throughout it all were those select few who believed in her. Although not related by blood, they were her family, and were willing to do anything to protect her and her son from the dangers of the world. Rachel is a strong, admirable lead character who drew on the love of her friends to help raise her son, and she could stand up to anyone who dared cross their path. Including a sexy U.S. Marshal.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? Yes! This novel isn’t just a tale of blossoming love. As Rachel receives threatening notes, and her ranch is plagued by arson, we discover that her abuser has returned. She must face her fears all over again, but this time she has Harrison by her side. An intense finish that will have you holding your breath and clenching your toes in anticipation. At least…that’s what I do when I get anxious reading a book!

Smut Level: Harrison is the ideal. He helps Rachel live her life again. He pushes her, but not too much. Harrison lets her make her own decisions, but helps to nudge her in the right direction. He also helps her explore her sexuality, and learn that there’s no shame in pleasure. They take things slow, but Harrison manages to seduce her with words, and holy hell is that man a smooth talker and sexy grinner extraordinaire!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 318 Pages.

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Maybe Matt’s Miracle by Tammy Falkner

This family has one of the best house rules ever: if a woman punches you in the face, you have to marry her.

What’s it About? 

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What he needed was a miracle…Matthew Reed has seen his share of problems. But he’s a Reed and Reeds can overcome anything. Matt is content working in his family’s tattoo parlor with his brothers surrounding him. The only thing he’s lacking is the ability to have a family of his own. Then his battle with cancer leads him to meet a woman who just might need him as much as he needs her.

She didn’t need anything…Skylar Morgan is happy. She has a boyfriend. Sure, he doesn’t make her heart pound faster and he really doesn’t support her when she needs it. But she doesn’t need much. Does she? She’s happy to be self-sufficient and she’s happy that she doesn’t have a tremendous amount of responsibility. She’s educated, has a great job, and she has enough money for a lifetime. But what she lacks, she doesn’t even realize until she meets him. And them. The ones who change her life forever.

First Impressions

Within just the first few pages of the novel you can tell it’s going to have all the feels. We’ve got cancer, secret families, orphans, and absentee fathers trying to make up for lost time. I mean…pretty much the only thing missing was a love triangle or a stalker to really mix things up. The book begins with the funeral of Skylar’s half-sister, whose children are now under her care.

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Honestly, I was surprised there was no real adjustment period upon her getting three children dumped on her when she’s so used to being on her own. It really distinguishes it from your typical Kate Hudson rom com with shenanigans in abundance. On the one hand I found it remarkably refreshing to have such a strong lead female character who could still function as an adult even though her life has just been turned upside down. That being said, it was still kind of surprising that there was no big issue there from a story standpoint.

All the Cards are Played

There are two people who really help Skylar as she’s thrust into motherhood. This includes the eldest child of the three, Seth, stepping up to the plate. The other is Matt. Our charmingly sexy male lead. Pretty much from the get-go, Skylar and Matt lay all their cards out on the table in regards to what they’re expecting out of this relationship they have decided to explore.

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While I couldn’t help but feel it was markedly bizarre that he’s declaring she’ll fall in love with him and want to marry him before they’ve even gone out on a first date, you also feel a sense of admiration at the both of them for being upfront right away about what’s really important to them. Matt acknowledges that the chances of them being able to have a baby together are extremely slim due to the after effects of his chemo. Skylar admits that her nieces and nephew are now a package deal when it comes to dating her, and she wants to know if Matt will be bothered by being seen with them in public because they aren’t white. Her ex-boyfriend openly admitted he had a problem with people making assumptions about their mixed race, which I think we can all admit makes him the ultimate uber jackass of the year.

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Past Flames

I was surprised that the main point of conflict in this story really didn’t involve Skylar’s parenting, or the boyfriend who was mentioned in the synopsis. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, or questionable starts to relationships when one of the players is already involved with someone else. However, this novel did a grand job of making us immediately detest Skylar’s boyfriend, and see that their relationship was already starting to fizzle out. In addition, Matt doesn’t attempt to make any move on his feelings for Skylar when she’s dating someone else, and it’s Skylar who ultimately makes the decision to drop the douche-hole all on her own with no interference from Matt whatsoever.

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Instead, our conflict doesn’t really come until the very end of the novel when both Matt and Skylar attend the wedding of his ex who cheated on him with his best friend. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was right around the time when Matt was first diagnosed with cancer. His family convinces him to attend the wedding as a form of closure. Now, I couldn’t help but draw an immediate parallel connection to Friends, and question whether or not he should have gone. Just like when Rachel debated going to London to attend Ross and Emily’s wedding. Personally, I found it rather weird that Matt chose to go. He doesn’t hide how much he hates these two people, and even though it’s no secret to them they still invited him to their wedding. Honestly, I think it would have been a better night for him to stay at home with Skylar and bang it out all night. So what exactly is the conflict? Matt forgot to mention the minor fact to Sky that they were attending his ex’s wedding. Can we say blindsided?!

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Series: The Reed Brothers, book 4. Happy to finally see Matt get his happily ever after.

Should you read it? The drama at the end with Matt confronting his ex was interesting, but I would have liked some more descriptions of Skylar’s adjustment to suddenly being a mother to three children. Something which surprised me was that my favorite moments in the book weren’t actually between Sky and Matt, though they did have some sexy scenes together. Instead, the heart-to-heart discussions between Skylar and her nephew Seth were outstanding. His difficulty adjusting to life without his mother, having to say goodbye to her for one last time as she dies from cancer…that tugs at the heartstrings right there.

Smut Level: We have a scintillating phone sex conversation, as well as a frenzied and passionate sex scene in a storage closet. Oh, and did I mention Matt’s one eyed snake is pierced?

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Night Shift Publishing. 316 Pages.