Wicked in a Kilt by Anna Durand

She has three rules in life: no sex, no love, no marriage. He intends to seduce her to break all three.

What’s it About? 

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Calli Douglas has avoided romance for five years, bound by a promise she never should’ve made to a man she doesn’t love. Now, he refuses to let her go. When she leaves her backwoods hideaway to attend her cousin’s wedding, Calli has no intention of meeting a man. But fate has other plans–in the form of one scorching-hot Scotsman.

Aidan “Don Juan” MacTaggart is the living embodiment of carnal pleasure and seductive prowess, but he longs for love and commitment. The moment he sets eyes on Calli, the stunning American captivates him. Though she’s sworn off sex and romance, unraveling the mystery of why tantalizes Aidan almost as much as her sensual curves.

As their passion for each other inspires them to explore their steamiest desires, a deeper bond takes root. But when secrets from both their pasts threaten their happiness, they must confront their fears or lose everything.

First Impressions

The meet-cute of our main characters was by far the best feature of this read. After all, there’s nothing quite like a case of mistaken identity where our male lead is thought to be the tardy stripper for a bachelorette party. Aidan might run away at the prospect of removing his clothes in front of a room full of ladies he doesn’t know, but he’s not afraid to run into the arms of Calli after this brief misunderstanding. Following this rather abrupt first meeting, Aidan is surreptitiously invited by the bride-to-be to attend the wedding, and he and Calli share a romantic dance or two. This is when things moved a bit too quickly for me. Calli goes back to Michigan after the wedding, and when Aidan calls her up from Chicago he offers to drive the 3-4 hours up to meet her so they can…hang out? Maybe this is why I’m still single. Calli saw it as a sweet gesture, I saw it as slightly creepy. Upon his arrival at her humble abode we see him try to woo her into taking a chance on him by throwing all of her steadfast rules out the window.

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It Runs in the Family

Playing a board game together. Sharing his favorite brand of whiskey with her. Making their first time special by lighting a bunch of candles. Sounds like some sweet and romantic ways to connect, don’t they? Of course they do! These are all the things which worked for Aidan’s brother, Lachlan, who was the male lead of book one as he successfully wooed Erica into being his wife. Aidan tries his darnedest to replicate as many of his brother’s romantic gestures with Calli in the hopes that it will tear down her walls, and she’ll open up to the idea of falling in love with him.

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That in and of itself was kind of…off-putting…considering he’s known this woman for all of about 2 days before he determines she’s destined to be the American wife he’s been searching for. The fact that he constantly references Lachlan and Erica’s relationship throughout their time together, and reveals that he’s employing some of the same tactics used by his brother makes it even more surprising to me that Calli didn’t throw this sexy-as-sin Scot out on his firm behind. He asks her to give him four weeks to try out a relationship, as that’s how long it took for Lachlan and Erica to fall in love. Even with this four week timeline he proposes to her after just one week, acknowledging that he doesn’t love her yet. Coming on a bit strong, buddy!!

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The Cat’s Outta the Bag

Similar to book one, this novel presents us with our two leads keeping secrets from each other which eventually come to light towards the end of the book. Calli’s secret is that she married a man right out of college so he could get a green card, and over six years later he refuses to give her a divorce as he’s always been in love with her. I must say, this side story was resolved so quickly and easily after it was revealed to Aidan that it felt like a wasted opportunity for more exciting drama. Aidan stays pretty much out of the ordeal entirely, which on the one hand was refreshing, as it allowed Calli to handle matters on her own. But on the other hand it never really felt fully incorporated into the story, so it was more like a side annoyance that never rose to the level of being truly important.

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As for Aidan’s back-story, and the climactic reasoning that threatens to end his relationship with Calli, all revolves around an ex girlfriend. This ex has been calling him a lot lately, demanding money as compensation for an accident that was in no way, shape, or form Aidan’s fault. When his ex reveals she’s pregnant, claiming the child is Aidan’s, he’s willing to give up his newfound love for Calli to marry his ex…an idea which is quickly abandoned before it even has a chance to fully take shape. However, that one moment of doubt causes Calli to start questioning the rapidity of their entire relationship, which Aidan subsequently judges her for. As a reminder…these people have only known each other for a span of two weeks. It was never clear to me why things had to be all or nothing for their relationship. Why does Aidan have to propose after one week even though he knows he doesn’t love her yet? Why are the only two solutions either getting married and moving to Scotland, or breaking up? Whatever happened to dating?

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Series: Hot Scots, book 2. Overall I enjoyed the romance in book 1 better, but I’m still intrigued to see what’s in store for our next MacTaggart brother.

Final Impressions: The progression of this novel was extremely similar to that of the plot from the first book, albeit it never quite reached the same level of excitement. I simply wasn’t as connected to Aidan and Calli as I was to Lachlan and Emily. Even when we compare the side stories of Emily being framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and Calli fearing the discovery of her sham marriage, Emily’s tale of misery was far more interesting. Something else which distracted from the romance between Calli and Aidan was the fact that we are introduced to their respective siblings later on in the novel who proceed to have a love affair of their own, and I must say I almost wanted to see more from that couple! I did enjoy the meet-cute, and some of the teasing seduction initiated by Aidan, but overall their relationship felt off and extremely rushed.

Smut Level: There’s nothing quite like finding a secluded spot after a soothing summer’s drive to appreciate the scenery…and maybe have sex against the car door.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Jacobsville Books. 228 Pages.

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A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

A Destiny Reborn by Rebecca Hefner

This series follows a team of time travelers who travel to 2035 to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. Considering how this year is going…maybe they should have set 2020 as their destination!

What’s it About? 

Thrust into a world they barely comprehend, two time travelers are forced to survive with only each other as allies.Claire Finch, the kind, bubbly scientist, has sacrificed her hidden dreams for the cause: to prevent the apocalypse and save the world.Cyrus Montgomery, a tough, stoic soldier weary from the battle scars of war and barren dystopia.Together, they traverse the unfamiliar circumstances, both fighting and denying their mutual attraction.But destiny can be manipulated by unseen forces, and as they navigate the uncharted timeline, they discover a united strength they never possessed apart…and learn that true love ultimately prevails if the warnings of the past are heeded with caution and diligence.

First Impressions

The first novel in this series focused on a team of scientists and other heroes who were determined to finish building a time travel device, and go back to 2035 to prevent the moment in history when everything went wrong. At the end of that first novel we saw some team members successfully travel back in time, but ultimately discover they were stuck in an endless loop of traveling back only to continuously fail in their pursuit, so that everything could start back up again from the beginning. This second novel opens with two members of the team who overshot the 2035 destination, and instead find themselves in 2002 separated from the rest of their team.

I’ll admit, I was a bit wary to discover this installment finds our lead characters separated from the rest of the team, as the family dynamic between all of the characters was one of the standout features of the first novel. Would Claire and Cyrus be able to provide enough of that chemistry to replace the connection we saw from the group? While I did miss some of that friendship we glimpsed throughout the team, believe me when I say that Claire and Cyrus have enough playful banter between them to keep you entertained, not to mention their solitude pushes the plot forward in other meaningful ways.

A Shining Light

My initial apprehension over the missing crew members quickly turned to pleasant surprise at the discovery that their absence would allow Claire to come into the spotlight and shine all her own. It seems as though even Claire was surprised to find that she’s a bad-ass in her own right. While she definitely appreciates having Cyrus there with her in this strange time to help guard over her, Claire never fully falls back on him to protect or rescue her from trouble. Living in this other timeline away from the group makes her realize an inner strength she never knew she had. She also has the chance to reflect on what she really wants out of life.

Even though they were shocked to find themselves essentially stuck in a time so distant and different than their own, Claire now acknowledges that she wants to stay in this timeline. She and Cyrus can help research and set the groundwork needed to help their team in the future, but there will no longer be this sole driving motivation of needing to save the world resting on their shoulders. They finally have the chance to live a life of their own choosing, not to mention be surrounded by enough bountiful food to have french toast for breakfast, lunch, or dinner whenever they feel like it.

Standing Right in Front of Her

Rather than being solely focused on time travel and saving the world, living in this other timeline also allows Claire to admit what she wants in life more than anything else. Cyrus. She’s loved him for years, and has always sensed an underlying attraction from him as well. Only when they now have the opportunity to spend time alone with each other does Claire discover just how much Cyrus has been pushing his feelings for her to the side. He continuously tries to push her away, declaring that she deserves someone better who is also closer to her in age.

Claire doesn’t know when or why Cyrus convinced himself that he wasn’t good enough for her, or that she wasn’t strong enough to go after what she wants. And she wants him. A life together with him. Claire refuses to let Cyrus push her aside, and it was unbelievably refreshing to see this woman find the strength within herself to no longer be relegated to a corner. She’s not afraid to fight for him, or show him all the reasons they belong together.

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

Series: Prevent the Past, book 2. I can’t wait to see where this series goes, especially in regards to whether or not our team can break the loop they’re all stuck in to succeed in saving the world.

Final Impressions: This second novel definitely starts and ends with a bang, but throughout much of the book we see Cyrus and Claire play more of an observatory role in relation to the dramatic events leading to the apocalypse. I’ve always considered romance novels as an escape from the harsh realities of the world, and while the connection between our two lead characters provided that pivotal escape at times, this series also demonstrates how far political aspirations and beliefs can plunge the world into absolute chaos. All things considered, it was a tad depressing at times to witness the realism lying within this futuristic plot. Nevertheless, you’ll fall in love with Cyrus and Claire, and hope that somehow this team will succeed in finding a way to prevent the past.

Smut Level: Cyrus’s broken ankle might have him limping around town on crutches, but it certainly doesn’t slow him down in the bedroom! We see a few dominant tendencies emerge from Cyrus, but nothing that goes too over the top. Their chemistry is simply delicious.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 176 Pages

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Here’s one more parting image of the wonderfully gorgeous Idris Elba for your viewing pleasure. The smile, the sprinkling of salt and pepper through the beard, sighhhhhh!!!

Djimon Hounsou was also considered for a considerably long time.

Driven by Fire by Eden Rayna

Who knew the sleeper cab of a semi-truck could be such a delectably sexy place an afternoon delight?!

What’s it About? 

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When Piper walks in on her boyfriend with another woman, she ends up alone, walking the highway leading into Fort McKay in Northern Alberta. Piper realizes how much she’s sacrificed for this relationship—her friends, her lifestyle, and most importantly, her career as a chef—and she determines to leave this small town behind and reclaim her independence. But when a semi-truck pulls up behind her and lurches to a stop, she fears her night is about to get worse.

Desperate for some respite from his gossip-worthy life, tech millionaire Brandon takes up long-haul trucking after a messy divorce. While driving into Fort McKay, he sees a woman walking on the side of the highway. Trying to be a gentleman, he pulls over and tries to offer her a ride. She refuses—yet the look in her eyes makes him feel protective of her at first sight.

When Piper and Brandon have a chance encounter the next day, the chemistry between them is undeniable. Neither is looking for love, but they end up spending a hot afternoon together. Brandon’s awaiting business in Edmonton and Piper’s newly-single mindset allow both to say goodbye quickly and get on with their lives. But wildfires raging in the area force Brandon to stay in Fort McKay, leading to a smouldering week with Piper. Despite Piper’s reluctance to depend on another man and Brandon’s determination not to fall in love, they both start to realize how incredible they are together. Piper opens up in ways she never knew possible, and Brandon remembers how it feels to love someone.

As the wildfires rage closer, evacuation orders pressure the lovers to decide on their future. Piper’s friend Danielle knows these two are falling in love and implores Piper to take a leap in this passionate relationship. But Piper has to make her own decision: Will she keep her promise to reclaim her independence, or will she follow Brandon back to his life in Edmonton?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the opening scene of this sexy romance reads like the start of a horror film. We have a young, beautiful woman walking alone by the side of the road on a dark and smoky night, as a semi-truck slowly follows behind before offering her a ride. If I were in Piper’s shoes I’d probably collapse in a mess of tears. Highlighting a sense of realism to the story, she does remain extremely wary of this driver, denying his offer of a ride to proceed on her path into town. Had she willingly jumped into his cab willy-nilly it probably would have been difficult to continue reading! However, this opening scene perfectly captures the personalities of our characters. Piper is a strong-willed woman with spunk who can take care of herself. As for Brandon, our truck driver, he’s actually a caring, compassionate man who puts his whole heart into those he loves. The question is whether or not Piper is prepared to receive the full force of his affections…not to mention his sexual stamina.

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Can You Make One Week Last Forever?  

After they both find their way into town, Piper and Brandon’s paths continue to cross, and they can’t help but exchange smoldering glances of lust which quickly turn to physical expressions of their desire. In the beginning, both are under the impression this will be a one-night stand to blow off some steam as a forest fire slowly encroaches upon this small mountain town. It doesn’t take long before they realize that something more meaningful is simmering between them. Brandon is more willing to admit to himself that they’re starting to develop a relationship which he wants to continue beyond his short stay in her town. He’s been single for so long following a nasty break-up with his ex, so he understands that the emotions stirring for Piper are uniquely special.

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Piper is definitely more timid in acknowledging that she wants more time with Brandon. Her feelings for him have evolved so quickly, and the last time she followed her impulsive nature for another man she wound up in a tiny oil town for 5 years, abandoning all her career ambitions along the way. While she would love to see where things with Brandon might lead, she also doesn’t want to make the same mistake in running away with him. She only just broke up with her boyfriend one week ago, a relationship which lasted for years and was all wrong for her in so many ways. The night of the break up was also the same night when she took that lonely walk along the side of the road that Brandon happened upon. Piper might try her darnedest to convince both herself and Brandon that they should keep their fling short and sweet, but he certainly delights in trying to persuade her that he knows how to treat her right.

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A Billionaire Trucker

The one feature of this read which I found a bit hard to swallow was the fact that Brandon was simply moonlighting as a trucker. He’s actually a wealthy tech billionaire, but following the publicly disastrous break-up with his ex he chose to get away from the stresses of his world by hitting the road. It provided him with a sense of anonymity and peace that he’d been craving for some time. I definitely understand plot-wise why Brandon has this secret other life. It lends a sense of suspense to his growing relationship with Piper, as she wonders how long they’ll have together until he finally has to leave town. We as the audience constantly question what Piper’s reaction will be when Brandon admits the truth about his wealth. Therefore, while I can’t say it was necessarily a realistic feature for this tech billionaire to turn to trucking, it did create some interesting twists and turns to the story. I almost wish though that he had simply been on a cross-country road trip of some kind, as it still would have allowed Piper and Brandon to cross paths while he hid his true identity.

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There’s certainly no hiding the sexual chemistry of Piper and Brandon’s relationship, as these two have trouble keeping their hands off of each other. A constant shadow over their shoulder though is the fire bearing down on their community. Brandon has plans to evacuate on a private plane, and he has every intention of bringing Piper with him. It was easy to assume that the discovery of Brandon’s wealth would strike a crushing blow to their relationship as a reflection of his inability to be completely honest with her. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional maturity we see towards the end of the novel as everything comes to light. While Piper was noticeably upset about Brandon’s secrecy, she can acknowledge that money isn’t a deciding factor in their connection. Instead the bigger wedge which comes between them is the fact that when the fire finally reaches them she doesn’t want to feel forced into choosing Brandon simply because they have to evacuate at the same time. True, their connection is stronger than anything she’s ever felt before, but things have still evolved so quickly in the span of just one week. Piper refuses to let a fire, or a billionaire with access to a private jet, sway her into making another impulsive decision in life that she doesn’t feel fully ready for.

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

Series: Driven by Fire, book 1. I’d love to see what comes next.

Final Impressions: Their meet-cute may have bordered the line of horror film vs. rescuing a damsel in distress, but these two soon develop a red-hot chemistry that is off-the-charts. Things do drag a little bit in the middle as their sexual escapades continue in a variety of unique positions, and they both have internal musings about how long this fling will last. You’ll fall in love with these characters along their journey, and sympathize with the difficult decisions they must make as the dangers of mother nature threaten to tear them apart. Piper realizes that she’s at risk of making another impulsive choice to follow a man she barely knows, and would rather choose him on her own terms, at her own time. Granted, we ultimately see Brandon come running after her in the end rather than the other way around, which was a tad disappointing. However, it was still a sexy and intriguing read!

Smut Level: From somewhat sleazy motel rooms, to kitchen counters and the cab of his semi-truck, these two can’t keep their hands, lips or tongues off of each other.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. FriesenPress. 341 Pages.

APTOPIX Canada Wildfire

 

If You Dare by Barbara Meyers

A leopard can’t change his spots. A tiger can’t change his stripes. Can Doug Winston change to prove himself a good father, a loving partner, and an overall decent human being?

What’s it About?

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Can he go from arrogant ass to Father of the Year? Doug Winston looks into his newborn daughter’s eyes and vows to become the kind of man and father worthy of her. But he first must navigate the mess he’s made of his life. Doug’s wife has left him. His baby mama dies and to avenge her death her sister, Josie, wants to prove him unfit and attain custody. The teenage son he raised despises him, the father he worships disowns him, and a child Doug never knew he’d fathered arrives on his doorstep.

As Doug embarks on his quest to live authentically, to make amends where he can and build relationships with his children and with Josie, he discovers that the father for whom he was never good enough is part of a vast criminal network.
Just as Doug and Josie cross the line from hate to love, and Doug has cobbled together the family he always wanted, can he bring the man he once idolized to justice in order to protect them all?

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, I was quite skeptical to dive into this read. After all, Doug Winston was essentially the villain of the first book in this series. So far he’s shown himself to be nothing more than a cheating husband, a lousy father, and a ruthless politician. Now we’re supposed to give him a chance as our male lead? I went in wondering if I could ever be convinced at his ability to change, but the author of this series completely blew me away in coming to appreciate and love Doug as our main character. The novel opens with him at the absolute lowest possible breaking point in his life. Doug’s actions in book one have left him completely alone, save for a baby daughter who has been unexpectedly dropped into his arms. His initial cockiness has melted away, leaving him emotionally shattered to a point where he literally has no other choice but to change. Doug’s ultimate transformation was both believable and heartfelt in its telling.

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Third Chances

At the end of the first book in the series we saw how Doug blew his second chance with the love of his life. He’s determined to make things work between them, but ultimately he’s left without the option of a third chance at love after she unexpectedly dies following the birth of their daughter. Doug is left feeling completely gutted and alone at her death, but sees his daughter, Trinity, as his last chance to put his life in order. It doesn’t take long though before the cousin of his deceased lifetime love comes tearing her way into town, determined to get custody of his daughter.

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Josie knows all about the history between Doug and his cousin. How he broke her heart repeatedly over the years, and she’s convinced he’ll be as awful a father as he was a companion to her cousin. However, their mutual love for Trinity brings them together, and Doug surprises Josie just as much as he surprised us with his ability to change, and their tense relationship soon demonstrates the thin line between hate and love. While I found the development of their relationship to be fantastically gripping, I also found myself even more enthralled by Doug’s personal growth as a person and a father. His efforts to finally make amends for all of his previous mistakes, admitting his errors and vowing to do better as a father was the most compelling part of the tale for me. The developing romance between him and Josie was great, but ultimately eclipsed by the love he felt for his children.

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

Series: Red Bud, Iowa; book 2. I never thought it possible considering who our male lead was for this second book, but hands down this read pulled me in even more than book 1.

Final Impressions: While Doug was our main character, I really enjoyed seeing different chapters of the book being told from the points of view of our various other characters, including Josie, Doug’s son Miles, and his long-lost daughter Liv. There’s also some drama and suspense mixed in with his father that was surprisingly intriguing. The evolution of Josie and Doug’s relationship from hatred to trust and companionship was thoroughly entertaining, but ultimately there probably could have been a tad more focus on how it finally evolved into one of love. Overall though, an emotionally gripping read.

Smut Level: As a massage therapist, Josie knows all of the pressure points and pleasure points needed for an entertaining evening.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Sandalstring Productions. 241 Pages.

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Shot Through the Heart by Andrea Downing

This is definitely a meet-cute for the record books. After all, how often does a female lead meet the man of her dreams by having to pull glass shards out of his finely-toned bum?

What’s it About? 

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Gunslinger Shiloh Coltrane has returned home to work the family’s Wyoming ranch, only to find there’s still violence ahead. His sister and nephew have been murdered, and the killers are at large.

Dr. Sydney Cantrell has come west to start her medical practice, aiming to treat the people of a small town. As she tries to help and heal, she finds disapproval and cruelty the payment in kind.

When the two meet, it’s an attraction of opposites. As Shiloh seeks revenge, Sydney seeks to do what’s right. Each wants a new life, but will trouble or love find them first?

First Impressions

These two definitely have chemistry that is off the charts! Even though neither was actively looking for love, once they find each other they discover it’s darn near impossible to stop thinking about the other. Something that I truly appreciated about this read was that while their attraction and connection was practically immediate, we’re really taken on a journey for Sydney and Shiloh to accept the other into their lives. Sydney especially has the most difficulty in acknowledging her feelings for this gunslinger.

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After all, she’s a doctor dedicated to saving lives, whereas he’s seemingly an expert at ending them. How can she align herself with such a man when their very morals are so out of sync? Shiloh also finds himself on a journey of acceptance when it comes to Sydney, ultimately coming to understand and appreciate the fact that she’s a female doctor. Considering the time period our novel is set in, men accepting women into the medical profession was less than standard, and Shiloh has his initial hesitancies upon first meeting this beautiful newcomer. However, he quickly comes to admire and commend her intelligence, as well as her dedication to saving others. He’s the first to admit that he wants this woman in his life forever, but he’ll have to exercise patience for her to realize the same.

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From One Part to the Next

The most compelling aspect of this read, other than the chemistry of our two lead characters, was the format. We’re presented with a story of love, revenge, and suspense, and what initially seems like the climax of the entire book is actually just the end of Part 1, falling at the halfway point of the overall story. There was so much more to come! The first part of the book really focused on Shiloh and Sydney coming together. Part 2 features Sydney figuring out her place in life and acknowledging that what is most important to her was vastly different than what she ever could have conceived. The third and final part features Shiloh’s ultimate revenge in seeking out his sister’s killer.

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Each section of the novel was just as intriguing and engaging as the one which came before it. The only disappointing feature of the format was the fact that for the two latter sections we see how Shiloh and Sydney spend most of the time separated from each other in a physical sense. Their connection was so strong in part 1, and while we get to see a few explosive instances of it in parts 2 and 3, the fact they were so far apart meant we noticed their lack of proximity even more fully. Throughout so much of the last half of the book I was craving their eventual reunion with every turn of the page.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: The characters in this historical western romance were an absolute treat, even though by the end you just wanted to push them both into a room and lock the door so they could resolve their differences once and for all. Beyond the characters you also have to appreciate the descriptive scenes of the wilds of Wyoming and Colorado. The land practically became another character, and it was easy to envision the scenes laid out before us any time we closed our eyes.

Smut Level: The flirtations between Shiloh and Sydney will keep you blushing, and this read is all about the build-up to their eventual physical connection.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 241. Pages

The Blood King by Abigail Owen

After fully investing yourself in this world, you’ll start to look at every rustle of the trees, every movement of the clouds, every shimmer of the water and wonder…will there be dragons?

What’s it About? 

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Ruthless dragon king Ladon Ormarr must keep his throne at all costs. And now, with war on the horizon, he’ll need a miracle. Luckily, the fates have dropped Skylar Amon right into his lap. Except he may have met his match.

The feisty Amon sister has no fear—of him or any other dragon shifter—is brash, doesn’t stick to protocols, and regularly offends his warriors and advisers. Skylar also has no intention of sticking around. She doesn’t believe in the whole destined mates thing and believes all dragon kings to be dangerous. But if it means taking out the High King who murdered her parents, she’ll put up with Ladon…temporarily.

But the fates have other plans. And when Skylar disappears in the middle of a battle, Ladon will burn down the world to find her.

First Impressions

I have been waiting so long for us to finally meet Ladon Ormarr, the infamous leader of the Blue dragon clan. Let me just say that after multiple books of waiting to witness him in his full glory, I was not disappointed! He possibly represents the most intriguing collection of juxtapositions we’ve come across from a male lead in this series so far, as well as in comparison to the companion Fire’s Edge series. A just, yet ruthless leader who never wanted to lead, but stood up for his people when it mattered most. An alpha-male to the extreme who is constantly overprotective of his mate, yet manages to push aside his possessive instincts by encouraging Skylar to follow her gut in battle. It’s the perfect blend of a warrior with a soft side, a caring lover who desires his woman, and a leader who is willing to give it all up for the woman he loves. Le sigh.

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From Enemies to Mates

A distinctly unique feature of this installment in the series is that Skylar and Ladon agree to mate fairly quickly after meeting. Normally, the mating scene between our male and female lead is one of the final climactic features of the book, as we wait with baited breath wondering if their bond will form successfully, or if one of them will die in a fiery mishap. In this instance though, the fact that Skylar is a rare phoenix means it’s less important that they be true, destined mates. The more important consideration for their mating is that Skylar willingly choose Ladon as her mate, an action which she is more open to after witnessing his nature as a leader. You can’t deny though the smoldering connection which exists between them, and it’s something which makes their mating process a bit easier to swallow.

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The fact that Skylar had to choose Ladon as her mate presents us with another aspect of this entire series which I’ve truly appreciated, which is that we’re constantly presented with female characters who are tough-as-nails, and know how to make decisions for themselves. They’re not afraid to run head first into battle, and aren’t willing to sit in the shadows as the action takes place around them. Rarely do they play the damsel in distress, but rather can get themselves out of many a nasty scrape, or can work as a team with their mate to solve the most pressing of problems. Our novel might begin with Skylar as a hard-headed and independent lady with plenty of spunk, but her bond with Ladon has a way of breaking down the highest of walls which she’s erected around herself. By the end these two are a connected force to be reckoned with…and Skylar still has plenty of sass to throw in Ladon’s direction!

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

Series: Inferno Rising, book 2. Once again we have a compelling read where I can’t wait to see what comes next. This installment further lays the groundwork for the progression of the series, and introduces us to the rest of the phoenix sisters who will undoubtedly prove to be formidable heroines going forward.

Final Impressions: I definitely recommend reading this series in order, and in conjunction with the Fire’s Edge series, as it helps to understand the world of characters and politics which have been presented to us thus far. We witness additional mayhem and brutality at the hands of our villain, and I’m excited to see how all of these heroines and heroes might join together in the fight for justice. More to come, and I’ll await with anticipation!

Smut Level: Ladon might initially see Skylar as the solution to his political fights, but he quickly realizes she’s also the answer to his deepest desires.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara. 416 Pages.

My Life in Shambles by Karina Halle

A fake New Year’s Eve engagement that turns into the love of a lifetime.

First Impressions

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They say bad things happen in threes. After my boyfriend broke off our engagement, I lost my apartment, and was laid off from my job, I can definitely attest to that.

They also say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures. So when my two sisters invited me to ring in the new year in Ireland, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and go for it. I was going to let “saying yes” be my new resolution. Little did I know I’d spend New Year’s Eve having a hot and dirty one-night stand with Padraig McCarthy, one hell of a sexy Irishman. I also didn’t know that the brooding and intense sex god was one of Ireland’s top rugby players.

A rugby player with a proposition for me: Come with him to his tiny hometown of Shambles and pretend to be his fiancé for a few days, just so that his ailing father can have some peace of mind. It sounded simple enough. It was anything but. Not when a town gets up in your business, not when the media hunts you down, not when your past comes back in the picture, not when there are real hearts and feelings at stake. Not when there are secrets that could break you. They say life is what happens when you say yes to new adventures. This is my life in Shambles.

WARNING: this book will pull at your heartstrings. It is recommended to have a box of tissues ready, and maybe some wine. But don’t worry, you’re in good hands. Also contains sex and foul language, sensitive readers be advised.

First Impressions

Let me take a moment to say the warning at the end of this synopsis is entirely warranted! Having a box of tissues handy is more than necessary, and a glass/bottle/cauldron of wine will be more than welcome. I was pleasantly surprised at the emotional depth which this book had to offer. From the description of this read I initially assumed it would be like any other light-hearted fake engagement story. Instead we are presented with a tale of true love, but also see how this bright spot can be interspersed with moments of sadness, anguish, and heartache at discovering how a life one has always planned for can be thrown to the wayside in the most unexpected of ways. It demonstrates the importance of taking chances, living life to the fullest, and opening your heart to someone new.

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The Journey to Shambles

Based on the title of this read it was pretty easy to assume that after our lead characters met we’d quickly be transported to the town of Shambles, where their fake engagement ruse could be featured front and center. However, I couldn’t be more thrilled to discover that Valerie and Padraig managed to develop a true connection in the short amount of time they spent together on New Year’s Eve. We clearly see throughout this first night how they are able to build an emotional foundation to their relationship and really get to know each other before they find themselves in bed, and the prospect of a fake engagement is eventually proposed. If we had gone immediately from a sultry glance at a bar to a tumble between the sheets, the fake engagement trope would have seemed irresponsibly forced. Instead we can wholeheartedly believe the progression of their relationship, and understand why Valerie even considered such an outlandish scheme.

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Upon first meeting, Valerie and Padraig were both looking to escape the realities of their lives which seemed to be falling down around them. For Valerie, a short engagement with her former fiance unexpectedly ended, quickly followed by the loss of her job. For Padraig, he’s suffered a career-ending injury as a rugby player, and is also dealing with the fact that his father’s illness has progressed to a tragic level. At first, they both present a distraction to each other, a means to forget the problems they’d rather avoid. However, it doesn’t take long before they realize that they can lean on each other, and lose themselves in each other when they have no one else to turn to. What started out as a fake engagement turns into something more meaningful when Valerie admits she’s willing to stand by Padraig’s side as things continue to worsen during their time Shambles. It would have been so easy for her to turn away, and fly back across the ocean to live her life, but she realizes that love is worth sticking around for.

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Series: Stand-alone, though I would absolutely adore a sequel to this story, even if it’s just a short novella!

Final Impressions: Prepare yourself for an emotional read, but it’s one worth reading. It demonstrates a selfless act of love, and a tale of lust which quickly evolves into friendship and ultimately adoration. There were a few details towards the end which I wish had been tweaked a bit, from Valerie leaving Padraig behind after he tells her to go back home, and ultimately the fact that he was the one to come after her. Valerie stood by Padraig’s side for so much of the novel, so if she had fought just a bit harder to remain by him at the moment when it mattered most this would have been a darn near perfect read. As it stands though, still a unique and insightful romance that deserves your full attention!

Smut Level: For two people who developed a deep emotional connection after such a short amount of time together I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they’d also have an intense sexual connection. From dirty talk to a bit of spanking, this heartfelt read still has plenty of steam!

Get in Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Metal Blonde Books. 350 Books

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Always, Almond Fudge by Charlotte O’Shay

“It’s never a bad time to tell someone you love them.” This novella is as short and sweet as a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream.

What’s it About?

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On a lengthy car ride to their annual seaside vacation, a mother recounts the true story of a sweet family tradition.

It’s the summer of 1941 in the seaside town of Langford, Rhode Island, and seventeen-year-old Meredith Franklin works as a server at Seymore’s Ice Cream Shoppe. When aspiring baseball player Anthony Fanelli strolls into the ice cream shop, his teasing banter leads to romantic sparks and dreams of forever love. Their whirlwind courtship comes to an abrupt halt on December 7, 1941, when America enters World War Two, forcing the couple to put their future on hold.

Decades later, a treasure trove of wartime letters details the romance of Merry and Anthony and the sacrifices of a generation.

First Impressions

How does one keep their bored teenage son entertained during a lengthy traffic jam in the midst of their summer road trip? Easy! There’s nothing better than sharing a family tale of summer love that takes place in the shadow of war. The bulk of this novella plays out during the summer of 1941, but it is juxtaposed against a mother telling her son, Sebastian, this story of romance during the present day. I must say these few brief scenes involving the mother and son were a delightful comedic break, especially when Sebastian requests that his mother gloss over the kissing parts of the tale to instead focus on the exciting baseball prowess of his great-grandfather. It was almost a fond call-back to the young boy in the Princess Bride who solemnly asks, “Is this a kissing book?”. As it turns out, the scenes involving Anthony and Merry weren’t filled too heavily with smooches, but it was a sweet tale that will put a cheesy grin on your face from their meet-cute over ice cream, to their letters of love exchanged during wartime.

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The Events of December

Anthony and Merry’s story of romance begins during the steamy summer months of 1941. Their attraction was instant, with zings of electricity felt throughout the small ice cream shop where they first met. As their relationship progresses we see their romance extend beyond the heat of the summer into fall. When they celebrate Thanksgiving together we sigh at how their summer fling seems to be turning into a forever kind of love. However, with the progression of the seasons, we increasingly start to hold our breath in anticipation of the tragic events of December which we know are lying in wait just around the corner. This novella might be brief, but you can’t help but commend Charlotte O’Shay for her ability to capture our attention from the get-go, and instill such a wide-range of emotions throughout the pages, from infatuation to suspense and an overall captivating level of enjoyment. If you’re looking for a quick, sweet summer read that has a hint of drama, then this is the story for you!

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

Series: One Scoop or Two. I would actually love to see this novella turned into a full-length novel. There is such strong content filled throughout this short novella that I could see myself becoming even more invested in their story the more time I spent with these characters.

Final Impressions: When I first received this novella I had every intention of saving it for the beach. However, I ended up finishing the whole thing before I could even get there! It only takes about 30 minutes to read, and has a little bit of everything you could possibly want in a summer romance. A small seaside town, sweet ice cream treats, a charming tale of love, a tad of wartime suspense, the importance of family, and a happily ever after that is simply the perfect cherry on top of the whole thing.

Smut Level: This is a clean read from start to finish. There are a few exchanges of blushing glances, a stroke of the arm, and a gentle kiss or two to make you sigh with appreciation.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 53 Pages.

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Dangerous in a Kilt by Anna Durand

“Be my American fling.” Give me a man in a kilt, and a line like that? I certainly wouldn’t need any more convincing!

What’s it About? 

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Four weeks. No strings. One hot mess.

Good-girl Erica Teague is out on bail, charged with a crime her ex-lover committed. A lifetime of sticking to the rules has left her broke, burned, and facing a trial and certain conviction, thanks to the evidence planted by her trust-funder ex. Desperate to experience one wild night of sizzling sex before her freedom is torn away from her, Erica heads to a notorious night club in search of a one-night stand — where a case of mistaken identity lands her in the arms of a hot Scot with a secret past.

The passion igniting between them is explosive, but Lachlan MacTaggart wants nothing to do with relationships or commitment. When he offers Erica one month of sex and companionship with no strings, she can’t resist succumbing to her electric lust for the Scotsman. Soon, though, Erica’s ex begins harassing her and Lachlan’s haunted past catches up with him. When their hot fling gets personal, the last thing either of them wanted may become the one thing that frees their imprisoned hearts.

First Impressions

This is one of those books that actively likes to keep you in the dark regarding the most important aspects of our characters lives. Plot-wise it’s definitely an attempt to build suspense, but in this case it also lends itself to the nature of Erica and Lachlan’s newfound relationship. They’re both at a bit of a crossroads in life, and the last thing they need is more drama. When they realize they can’t avoid their chemistry any longer, they decide a casual fling lacking any kind of real emotion is just what they need as a distraction. Erica doesn’t share any details with him about how she’s recently been framed by her ex-boyfriend for embezzlement, and might soon be seeing the inside of a jail cell. As for Lachlan, the details of his breakup with his ex-wife are kept from us as well as from Erica. No matter how hard these two try to keep things drama free and casual, they can’t help themselves from falling deeply for each other. Call it fate, destiny, or a fantastically sexy Scotsman in a kilt, you simply can’t turn your back on true love when it’s staring you in the face.

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A Non-Moving Plot

The characters in this book definitely shone through as a bright light, especially seeing as there wasn’t a whole lot of momentum in regards to the plot. Erica and Lachlan expend so much effort to avoid sharing any personal details about their lives that they essentially have no option but to resort to sex. In addition to this physical connection though, it was nice to see how they were still able to build a foundation to their relationship beyond the bedroom. It was an easy-going, cutesy link that was simply fun to watch. However, their insistence on keeping things light, and pushing aside the complicated aspects of their lives, meant that there wasn’t much to push the plot forward.

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As mentioned before, Erica has been framed for embezzlement by a former boyfriend, and this plot-line serves to be the main aspect of suspense for the entire read. The ex who framed her keeps snooping around, and we as the audience just know he’s up to no good. It’s obvious he’s not completely finished in his attempt to set her up, and Erica and Lachlan catch him several times trying to force his way into her home. Shockingly though, he always manages to take his way out of them calling the cops. The entire book is one long build-up to the moment where we know Erica will finally have to admit the truth to her Scottish fling. After so much anticipation I was rather disappointed at how quickly and anti-climactically everything comes together at the end. We don’t even get a fun-filled courtroom drama scene where justice can reign supreme. Instead there’s a couple of sentences describing the outcome of this embezzlement scheme, and it’s done. When all was said and done I was left wanting more!

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Series: Hot Scots, book 1. I’m definitely intrigued enough to continue on with this series.

Final Impressions: Overall this was a fun, cutesy read, but I think there could have been a better balance between Erica and Lachlan’s care-free relationship and the drama going on in Erica’s life. I did fall in like with both characters, especially Lachlan, and fully intend on continuing on with this series to see more from his relatives who like to don kilts of their own.

Smut Level: We always wonder what the man has on under his kilt. This romance let’s you find out first-hand 🙂

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Jacobsville Books. 224 Pages.

Nothing but Trouble by Amy Andrews

CC has never let her employer’s quarterback fame influence her view of him. But put that man on a farm, throw a cowboy hat on him, and all bets are off!

What’s it About? 

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For five years, Cecilia Morgan’s entire existence has revolved around playing personal assistant to self-centered former NFL quarterback Wade Carter. But just when she finally gives her notice, his father’s health fails, and Wade whisks her back to his hometown. CC will stay for his dad—for now—even if that means ignoring how sexy her boss is starting to look in his Wranglers.

To say CC’s notice is a bombshell is an insult to bombs. Wade can’t imagine his life without his “left tackle.” She’s the only person who can tell him “no” and strangely, it’s his favorite quality. He’ll do anything to keep her from leaving, even if it means playing dirty and dragging her back to Credence, Colorado, with him.

But now they’re living under the same roof, getting involved in small-town politics, and bickering like an old married couple. Suddenly, five years of fighting is starting to feel a whole lot like foreplay. What’s a quarterback to do when he realizes he might be falling for his “left tackle”? Throw a Hail Mary she’ll never see coming, of course.

First Impressions

CC has been working as personal assistant to former NFL quarterback, Wade, for almost six years, and we’re meant to believe she’s at her wits end in his employ. She’s seemingly just biding her time to finish out her contract before she can yell out “I quit!”, pack up her things, and move to California. That’s the plan. But her plan is thrown off kilter when Wade drags her to his small hometown community of Credence, Colorado to help out on his family farm following his father’s stay in hospital. This is when CC starts to view him in a new light, and finds herself having a few too many erotic dreams of her employer, which she begrudgingly labels as “farmer porn”. Overall a fantastic premise, but there were a few missteps in execution.

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The Un-bossy Farm Boy

CC makes it sound as though working for Wade the last five and a half years has been an absolute nightmare. However, we never really see him act the tyrant he’s supposedly meant to be. Sure, there are some unique quirks to working for this famous retired quarterback, like ensuring he’s constantly well-stocked in Nerds candies, and interceding phone calls from the women he dumps. This is all in addition to her regular PA responsibilities, so it’s not all ridiculous requests. There aren’t really enough moments of him being this supposedly uber-annoying employer for us to truly commiserate with her frustration and desperation to get out of his life forever. This then sort of transitions into the second aspect of the book that I found confusing, which was that after so many years under his employ, CC is suddenly starting to fantasize about being…under Wade in an entirely different sense.

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The reasoning for this is explained away as suddenly seeing him in a different, homey environment. Again, I think if we’d seen a few more glimpses of him being a hard-ass boss in the beginning, and then witnessing a total transformation to him having a softer side after going back home, then the evolution of her feelings for him would have made more sense. Instead we almost see the opposite happen, where Wade becomes more of a complainer after returning home as his mother and the town council strategize ways to entice single women to move to their small dying town. I was left wondering why, after over five years of an apparently unbearable working relationship, CC abruptly started to view Wade in such a different light. I think we can more fully understand Wade’s change of demeanor, as he’s suddenly presented with the prospect of a life without her. But can the change for CC really just be attributed to an erotic dream featuring Wade as the male lead?

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An Absentee Relationship

Aside from the confusion surrounding the transformation of their relationship from employer/employee to something more, I was extremely surprised to see how much of the book CC and Wade actually spent apart from each other. In a way, I appreciated that CC was constantly reminding us they’d worked together for almost six years. Otherwise I would have questioned how well they actually knew each other considering how little time they spend in each other’s company. The bulk of the book involves them contemplating their evolving emotions, and when they do eventually come together in the physical sense I must say I wasn’t thrilled with how it unfolded.

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I was hoping for some kind of passionate confession about their feelings, or maybe Wade would finally admit that he needs CC for more than his Nerds fix. Instead we see that following the untimely death of CC’s estranged father she ingests about half a bottle of tequila, and spends most of the night vomiting as Wade comforts her. They pass out in each other’s arms, and upon waking the next morning things get kind of steamy. After five years I think I was hoping for a more climactic scene full of emotion, rather than one steeped in alcohol.

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Series: Credence, Colorado; book 1. While I wasn’t thrilled with this first book, I was definitely a fan of the town of Credence, as well as some of the supporting characters. I actually had more of an emotional connection to the love story which involved Wade’s brother rather than the one involving Wade. Maybe I’ll see what book 2 has in store.

Final Impressions: I think we needed more of a glimpse into CC and Wade’s working relationship before the move to Credence. It was kind of difficult to fully stand behind the transition of their feelings when we didn’t get the entire picture of their interactions beforehand. It seemed as though the basis was going to be that CC finally saw Wade in a different environment which made her start to see him in a different way, but this wasn’t fully executed. The big issue here was that the characters spent so much of their time in Credence apart from each other, that it was difficult to understand how they could begin to develop a more romantic relationship.

Smut Level: Only two scenes of an erotic nature, and nothing too descriptive to make you blush.

Get it on AmazonClick Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Dreamscape Media, Entangled: Amara. 362 Pages.