Wild Hunger by Suzanne Wright

They haven’t seen each other since they were children, but one look as adults is all it takes for Trick to realize that Frankie is his destined mate.

What’s it About? 

When half–wolf shifter Frankie Newman receives an e-mail from a family member she didn’t know existed, a secret is revealed: as a child, Frankie witnessed her father killing her mother…and then himself. Frankie was torn from her pack by her mother’s human relatives, and the trauma was erased from her memory. Realizing that she’s been lied to her entire life, she’s never felt more alone. Until she catches the scent of an old friend—warmly familiar and intoxicating.

Trick Hardy, enforcer of the Phoenix Pack, can sense the rush of mutual attraction when he sees Frankie again. He knows immediately that she’s his true mate. But he also knows that, given her fragile state, he needs to tread with care—no matter how fierce his surging desires.

As aroused as Frankie is by Trick’s darkly dominant air and simmering desire, her priority right now is her past—not her future, no matter how tempting. But as more secrets emerge and Frankie’s life is threatened, Trick must do everything he can to keep her close and safe. After all, it’s their destiny.

First Impressions

We’ve been introduced to a slew of different couples throughout this series so far, and while each has traversed their own unique path to discovering that they are destined mates, one shared component is that it usually takes a decent portion of the book before our lead characters uncover the mating link drawing them together. Whether it be because they’re too busy fighting off a common enemy, one of them insists true mates aren’t real, or perhaps one mistakenly thought they’d already found and lost their mate years before, there’s something which has caused our characters to put up a mental block against recognizing the person they’ve come to desire is meant to be theirs for the rest of time. A refreshing element which sets this seventh book apart from any of the installments which have come before is the fact that Trick identifies Frankie as his true mate almost immediately upon first setting his sights on her after many years apart. As for Frankie, her realization of their fantastical connection is just a few short weeks behind Trick’s.

Neither of them tries to deny the truth from themselves or each other. The only thing preventing them from taking that final step to cement the link is that Trick acknowledges Frankie is already dealing with enough in her personal life, from finding out her grandparents lied about how her parents perished when she was just a young girl, to the fact they also hid the fact she has loving wolf family members out there who would want nothing more than to bring her into the fold of their pack. Trick has been hoping for years that he would find his destined mate, yet when she’s finally standing right in front of him he realizes she needs time to heal and reconnect with family first. Finalizing their connection can wait, and he thinks it will be a good idea for them to spend time getting to know each other first before taking that big step. Considering all we know about how strong that mating pull can be, it’s probably one of the more beautiful expressions of caring we’ve seen so far in this series. 

Sexuality

Another interesting aspect of our couple’s relationship was the history of Trick’s sexuality. We’ve seen in previous novels that Trick has been sexually involved with men, at one point even with one of his fellow packmates. It’s something that Trick reveals to Frankie fairly early on after they start having a physical relationship, primarily so that she won’t be blindsided should any troublesome characters try to use it as a way to push a wedge between these two destined mates. Frankie isn’t bothered by his admission, but she does experience a brief moment of hesitation wondering if there will ever come a time when he might desire something physically that she won’t be able to give him. He squashes any of her concerns by insisting that she’s the one he’s been waiting for all this time, and there wasn’t a romantic component to any of his previous partners, whether they were men or women.

I do wish we could have gone a bit deeper into discussing Trick’s sexuality beyond just describing his previous interactions with men as “scratching an itch”. It seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity to finally highlight a non-heterosexual male lead in more detail within this series. In terms of his exes, you also can’t help but wonder if the mere presence of Trick causes others to lose their minds with obsessive infatuation. Whether it was a woman from his past who repeatedly insisted that he was her destined mate, to a former male sexual partner who asserts that Trick is actually gay and therefore it’s impossible Frankie could be his true mate as a female. Frankie never doubts that Trick will be true to her, and it was nice to see there wasn’t a single moment where she questioned if he might leave her for someone else, but if I were Frankie I might be concerned over how many other unstable exes might be making their way out of the woodwork!

Drama on Two Fronts

As with most books in this series, our couple is faced with dramatic elements emanating from two separate fronts. One impacts the pack as a whole, where a rival wolf and his ragtag pack insist on claiming Phoenix pack territory. They approach the Phoenixes under the guise of wanting to form an alliance, but they can all recognize a scheming enemy when they see one. The villainous Morelli lurks in the background through most of the novel, but will pop up every now and again before instigating a final climactic battle at the most inopportune of moments. The fight with this rival pack is just a smaller piece of the larger war that Morelli is trying to start between wolves and humans, as extremists on both sides are shockingly coming together in the hopes of bringing down all of their enemies so they can finally rule over whoever is left standing. As we progress through the series we’ve seen these extremists become more daring in their efforts, and we can’t help but wonder if the final installment will finally bring about this aforementioned war, or crush it down once and for all. 

The more emotional dramatic plot point of this novel involves Frankie’s parents who died when she was just three years old, and the story that all have come to believe of their deaths is that Frankie’s father brutally murdered her mother before dying by suicide. Frankie’s grandparents kept these gruesome details from her, and upon learning the truth from some of her other long lost family members, we see her embark on a tragically compelling journey of confronting the details of this unfortunate tragedy. While this emotional exploration was certainly fascinating, especially as we see how uber alpha Trick can soften his surly demeanor to comfort Frankie when it matters most, this story was rather disappointing in the plot twist it tries to surprise upon us towards the end of the book. Not only is it crystal clear to us as readers that something else must have happened the night these untimely deaths occurred, but it’s kind of shocking that it wasn’t obvious to the rest of the pack back when it first happened. They can all acknowledge that it was unbelievably out of character for Frankie’s father to cause harm to his wife, but it’s also essentially unheard of for a wolf to harm their true mate. So…why would they have readily accepted this inexplicable explanation? The fact they never questioned that someone else could have been involved is quite ridiculous. Also, these are wolf shifters we’re dealing with here! How did none of them smell the remnants of another person in the house that night?! Simply preposterous!!

Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 7. We only have just one more packmate to explore next in what will be the final book of this series. And Dominic just so happens to be the most flirtatious wolf of the pack. Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Final Impressions: This was an exciting addition to the series. In glancing through some of the other reviews of this novel, it appears a common criticism amongst some readers is that the author continues to follow a clear formula for each installment where you always know what to expect. Honestly, fair assessment! Alpha male meets sassy female, physical desire and multiple horizontal mambo sessions ensue, drama threatens, they ultimately discover and cement the mating bond, final climactic battle, sexy fun times. And you know what, I love it! There might be a formula, but I’ve never felt as though we see the same couple, or even story, on repeat each time. We see so many unique personalities, and everyone has their own history which sets them apart from those who may have come before. If anything, I find that formula comforting rather than boring. I know what I’m getting into, that it’s going to be an entertaining and sexually-filled ride, and each character will bring something new to the table.

Smut Level: How these two didn’t pass out from exhaustion considering all the delicious deeds they got up to in a hot tub is mind-blowing. Also, as with almost every other book in this series so far, we do get some description of anal sex. Something to keep in mind for those of you who are or aren’t fans of that act!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 322 Pages.

Irresistible by R.L. Mathewson

After a one-night stand results in pregnancy, Melanie learns that carrying a Bradford child not only leaves her craving allllll the food, but also craving the man who is reluctant to be the father. 

What’s it About? 

Aidan Bradford never wanted a family, but after having a one-night stand with the woman that he hadn’t been able to resist, he’s going to find himself getting exactly what he needed in this romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author R.L. Mathewson.

There weren’t many things that Aidan regretted, but that night he’d spent with the woman that he couldn’t stop thinking about was definitely one of them. He’d always been careful, always did the right thing, and now…

Now, he had to figure out a way to fix this before it was too late.

Melanie still couldn’t figure out how one night could change the rest of her life. She should have done a lot of things differently that night. She should have turned him down, should have spent the rest of the night wallowing in self-pity like she’d planned, but that’s not what happened and now, she needed to figure out how she was going to survive this pregnancy with a Bradford doing everything in his power to make her fall in love with him.

First Impressions

Any good Neighbor From Hell book will contain a particular set of hallmark features which are emblematic of this classic laugh-out-loud series. From fraught neighbors turned lovers, to food consumption that borders on the obscene, and hilarious prank-filled family dynamics that leave you wanting more. This eleventh installment contained all of the above, albeit some were displayed a bit more prominently than others, whereas others you kind of had to dig a bit deeper to find the connection. It certainly felt like the entire Bradford family was present in this novel, including siblings, cousins, parents, spouses and children, that your head can’t help but spin at all the previous characters who make a reappearance, not to mention a few new ones who will clearly be the focus of a future novel.

While I appreciated the attempt at including a family tree at the start of the novel, the presentation of it in a simple list form rather than as an actual tree which showed how all the different branches inter-connected felt like a missed opportunity for clarity. Aidan, Melanie, and their little one were lovable and welcome characters to add to the tree, but with so many faces popping up throughout this novel it was hard to keep track of who was a relation versus a potential love interest. While I typically love seeing previous couples making a reappearance, it became a bit overwhelming in this eleventh book. I think we’ve reached a point in the series where some characters are clearly more memorable than others, and maybe highlighting just a select few rather than every single couple that came before would result in a bigger nostalgic impact. This was definitely a fun read where I enjoyed getting to know Aidan and Melanie, but I have a feeling going forward they probably won’t be standout memorable characters to add to the tree. 

Rejecting to Embracing Fatherhood

The concept of the novel was intriguing as we are thrust into the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, with Melanie finally finding the courage to admit to her one-night stand from months ago, Aidan, about the little bundle he left cooking in her oven. Why has it taken her this long to confront him? It’s explained away as a combination of long-lasting debilitating morning sickness with the fact that Aidan made it strikingly clear the morning after their drunken night together, upon realization that their condom broke, that the last thing he wanted was to become a father. I was hoping we would have the chance to more fully explore Aidan’s hesitancies and fears regarding fatherhood, but ultimately we are really only presented with a surface level explanation that he worries he’ll either 1) never live up to the wonderfulness his parents represented or 2) somehow become like his uncle who abandoned his cousin when he was a child…? You can’t help but feel that neither excuse was legitimately warranted, as backed up by the fact that upon hearing these comments Melanie openly admits he’s being pretty stupid. The honesty and witty sarcasm these two lovebirds hurled back and forth at each other was entertaining, but you never get the sense that there was any real development to who they were as characters. We knew from the beginning that Aidan was a good guy, who in no way hated or begrudged children in any way, so it was no surprise to see him jump fully on board with fatherhood almost immediately upon Melanie walking back into his life. 

Sugary Sweet Neighbors

The two other fundamental elements to any installment in this series involves: food and living arrangements. Let’s start with the first. Goodness gracious golly me, the food obsession involved with women who are pregnant with a Bradford spawn is no joke. Seriously, it was repeatedly featured in almost every single chapter of this book to the point where you are basically left worrying for the physical health of Melanie and her unborn child. The fact that the sight of any vegetable has her running to worship the porcelain throne was pretty funny at the beginning, but to see how the crux of her diet involves the consumption of sugar mixed with sugar, piled high with sugar and then rolled in sugar became…kind of nauseating after a while. Your stomach will practically churn from the constant description of Melanie’s obsession with junk food during her pregnancy, and I kind of feel like I need to eat an apple to counteract the sugar high I got from reading this one. 

And now for the feature that really let me down. Neighbors. It’s right there in the title of the series. You expect to see two neighbors, oftentimes with a tension-filled background, slowly turn from enemies-to-lovers. Two tropes for the price of one! Alas, to say these two spent any time as neighbors was definitely a stretch of the imagination, and I’d say they liked to teasingly push each other’s buttons rather than classify them as “enemies”. At the start of the novel we see Melanie worrying over the fact her best-friend roommate has now moved out, and she can no longer afford the two bedroom apartment on her own with a baby on the way. When Aidan finally discovers the truth of her condition, he insists she move into the apartment building he owns so he can keep an eye on her, especially seeing as her doctor has ordered strict bed rest throughout the next stage of her pregnancy. What could be more convenient than moving in across the hall from him? Well, it feels as though they live “next door” to each other for about a minute. It doesn’t take long before Aidan is sharing her bed, initially for the purpose of providing her snuggle comfort during her pregnancy, but things quickly evolve into cohabitation. I felt like I missed out on the fun and craziness of the somewhat toxic neighborly relationship this series is known for. 

Series: Neighbor From Hell, book 11. While the last two books in this series have been mild letdowns, it’s still a fun-filled series as a whole. I’m definitely excited to dive deep into the next installment, as it involves a Bradford who is a single father, and has sworn off love until his children are fully grown. Yeah…like that’ll work!

Final Impressions: This is a fun addition to the Neighbor From Hell series, though I did feel like we missed out on the “neighbor” aspect which I love so much from this author. The book leans heavily into the comedic side of things rather than the dramatic, even when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. While I appreciated this light-hearted tone, it was kind of confusing how potential elements for drama would keep being introduced, but then never fully developed. From Melanie’s potential financial woes, to Aidan’s initial rejection of fatherhood, a deceitfully trouble-making sister to an ex who might not want to be an ex after all. Some of these dramatic plot points went nowhere, and others didn’t seem of much concern to our two leads. Instead the focus is on Aidan and Melanie sharing funny details about their pasts and getting to know each other so they could be on a solid foundation of friendship before their child arrived. Friendship quickly turned to love, and the rest is history. 

Smut Level: This was possibly the most compelling aspect of the entire book, as every steamy scene between Melanie and Aidan occurred when she was quite far along in her pregnancy. Following months of bed rest Melanie is finally given permission by her doctor to engage in more rigorous activity, and sex just so happens to be at the top of the recommendation list. To see how Aidan still desires Melanie more than anything with her rounded belly, swollen ankles and frightening food demands was both refreshing and adorable. These two get all kinds of steamy and creative in their positions. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Rerum Carta Industries, Inc. 275 Pages. 

Mai Tai’d Up by Alice Clayton

After breaking up with her fiancé on their wedding day, Chloe soon crosses paths with a blue-eyed, ginger-haired beauty who sets her heart aflutter. How does she know if he’ll prove to be the love of her life, or her rebound of the moment? 

What’s it About? 

The gossip mill in the seaside community of Monterey is churning about Chloe Patterson, the newcomer who is starting a sanctuary for rescued pit bulls. It’s rumored that she’s a former beauty queen (true) who ditched her fiancé the morning of their wedding (also true). And that while she’s not looking for a new man, the good-looking local veterinarian has his eye on her. Absolutely, positively true.

When Lucas Campbell isn’t at the family veterinary clinic, he’s paddle boarding in Monterey Bay. Recently single, he’s definitely not in the market for a new relationship, but he still can’t resist taking a second, third, and fourth look at the recent arrival of Miss Golden State.

Neither Lucas nor Chloe has any interest in being tied down. Being tied up, however—now there’s a thought. But are a few Mai Tais, a moonlit night, and the music of Frank Sinatra enough to allow them both to forget their past? Let’s hope Ol’ Blue Eyes knows what he’s doing.

Mix one part tiki, one part kinky, and a splash of old black magic matchmaking, and it’s time to be . . . Mai Tai’d Up.

Quick Review

Looking back on this series as a whole, it’s difficult to fully recreate the incandescent magic captured within the first novel, Wallbanger, but this fourth book perhaps gets closer than any other installment so far. The chemistry between Chloe and Lucas is strikingly electric from the first moment they catch eyes with each other across the mirror behind a bar, and the sizzling intensity simply continues to grow from there. They are both moving on from the aftermaths of broken relationships, both of which ended on their respective wedding days. While they can openly acknowledge the attraction which exists between them, neither wants to fall into a quick rebound fling with the other, but they also don’t want that to impact their ability to spend as much time with each other as possible before Lucas leaves town for 12 weeks as part of Vets Without Borders. The teasing banter and flirtatious quips exchanged between our two leads were some of the highlight features of the novel, and definitely hearkened back to some of that original magic we saw presented in book one. 

Sly smirks, brushes of the hand against one’s back, and even a hip check or two, it doesn’t take long before you’re practically salivating for these two to get together. Our anticipation builds with every turn of the page. And yet, the fact it takes almost the entire length of the novel for our solitary steamy scene to emerge was another mark of cleverness at how the plot ultimately evolved. The author could have easily had these two try and enter into a no-strings-attached fling from the very beginning. However, by allowing them both the time to process the end of their previous relationships, and spend time getting to know each other beyond their  physical chemistry, we’re more convinced than ever by the time Chloe and Lucas fall into those sexy fun times that they are finally doing so for the right reasons. 

All in all this fourth book was shaping up to be a stellar read, but unfortunately throughout the entire novel we were waiting for one obvious point of conflict to emerge, which was the fact that upon learning Lucas’s ex-fiancée left him standing at the altar on the day of their wedding, Chloe couldn’t bring herself to admit that she had left her own ex on their wedding day. I secretly kept hoping there would be another point of contention to arise between them, such as the concern about maintaining a long-distance relationship while Lucas was abroad for several months, or maybe even the fact that Chloe put herself in potential harm’s way by rescuing a battered pit bull at the center of an illegal fighting ring. But alas, it was in fact the super duper uber predictable secret that caused the drama to implode. The fact that this slight detail of omission held such strength for Lucas to threaten this beautiful relationship really put a damper on things, especially after Chloe clearly articulated her reasons and sincerely apologizes for keeping it from him. We do eventually get a happily ever after, but it was so disappointing to see the impressive arch of this novel interrupted with such a disappointingly predictable and unnecessarily over-exaggerated plot point.  

Series: The Cocktail Series, book 4. The first book is clearly the best, with this fourth book coming in second. Each book is light-hearted, and you’ll probably find yourself chuckling aloud a time or two with the silly antics our lead characters find themselves in. 

Final Impressions: Looking back at the synopsis of this book it’s kind of surprisingly deceptive. This small community doesn’t really seem absorbed at Chloe’s arrival into town. If the gossip mill were truly at work then the truth of how Chloe ditched her fiancé would have made it’s way to Lucas’s ears, thereby preventing the eventual blow-up argument between them about how she kept it a secret. There’s also an insinuation in the synopsis that there might be some possible kink to their relationship, especially considering the thought of “being tied up”. Alas, there is no tying up of lovers to be seen. The majority of the sensuality between Lucas and Chloe lies within their delicious flirtatious banter rather than physically coming together, which is reserved to just one scene towards the end of the book. You’ll find yourself smirking in delight every time they come together for a cocktail and some witty repartee. If the final point of drama between our two leads didn’t feel so contrived at the end of the novel, or perhaps could have stemmed from a less predictable area of contention, then this book would have been near perfect. 

Smut Level: You have to wait for it, but it’s worth the wait. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $8.99 Kindle Price. Gallery Books. 273 Pages. 

The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen

Meren has lived her entire life in the shadow of her twin sister, waiting for the moment when she might need to step in front of danger to sacrifice herself. Now the shadows have come for her, and she must sacrifice everything she thought she understood about the world around her. Buckle up folks, you’re in for quite the ride. 

What’s it About? 

Everything about my life is a lie. As a hidden twin princess, born second, I have only one purpose—to sacrifice my life for my sister if death comes for her. I’ve been living under the guise of a poor, obscure girl of no standing, slipping into the palace and into the role of the true princess when danger is present.

Now the queen is dead and the ageless King Eidolon has sent my sister a gift—an eerily familiar gift—and a proposal to wed. I don’t trust him, so I do what I was born to do and secretly take her place on the eve of the coronation. Which is why, when a figure made of shadow kidnaps the new queen, he gets me by mistake.

As I try to escape, all the lies start to unravel. And not just my lies. The Shadowraith who took me has secrets of his own. He struggles to contain the shadows he wields—other faces, identities that threaten my very life.

Winter is at the walls. Darkness is looming. And the only way to save my sister and our dominion is to kill Eidolon…and the Shadowraith who has stolen my heart.

First Impressions

In a word, this teen fantasy romance is simply mind-blowing. I have been a long-time fan of Abigail Owen’s adult dragon romance series, so I was excited to step into another world with her. I’ll admit I had a few hesitations in the beginning, wondering if this young adult novel would skew too young for me, or if the evocative cover art would potentially hold too much promise of what would lie within. I’m happy to say I was proven wrong on both accounts. Readers of all ages can appreciate this story, and the dramatic juxtaposition of flowers against skull on the cover simply hints at the wondrous magic in which you’re about to find yourself entranced. Ms. Owen is a master world-builder, and it’s hard to articulate just how refreshing it was to be immersed in a fantastical land unlike any I’ve ever come across before. 

From the powers of our characters, to the monsters of the various landscapes they traverse, everything was a constant surprise from one page to the next. As the novel progressed I couldn’t help but feel as though I had entered somebody’s dream world where fantasy and nightmare blend together to create something entirely unique. The rules of this world aren’t terribly difficult to understand, but in hindsight I wish I had paid a bit more attention at the beginning when the details were first being discussed. We’re provided with something of an info dump early on in the book, so something I’d recommend is maybe jotting down a few notes for reference later so you fully understand the differences between things like Vexillium, Imperium, hyloraes, enfernaes, etc. Some fantastical elements were explained more fully than others, and I get the sense we’ve been teased with the mention of some things we might not see until later on. 

Shadow and Glass

Meren is the standout lead character of our novel. A second-born twin princess whose identity has been hidden from the world, save for a chosen few who can be trusted, she’s expected to stand in for her sister whenever the possibility of danger arises. It’s on the eve of her sister Tabra’s coronation as Queen when a man composed of shadows mistakenly kidnaps Meren, thinking she’s the highborn princess whose powers can change the fate of their world. The dynamic between Meren and this Shadowraith was electric, with an obvious animosity towards each other slowly developing to respect, and ultimately something even more powerful. While she might be totally out of her element by being kidnapped across lands unknown to her, Meren isn’t afraid to stand up against him. She refuses to go down quietly, and the frustrations evoked by both her and the Shadowraith when they repeatedly throw verbal barbs at each other was positively delicious. It was the perfect blend of comedy, fearlessness, foreplay and even emotional vulnerability. Their combined presence on the page quickly became the foundation of the story going forward, and you never wanted to see the two of them apart. 

Perhaps the most enigmatic feature of the book was witnessing Meren come into her own by stepping out of the shadows she was forced to hide behind. She’s always been something of a rebel. When she was told to never use her powers, Meren would often sneak away to practice transforming sand into glass. Ordered to live hidden away in a small house, she found ways to escape into the wide-open vastness of the desert. And yet, these few instances of rebellion were hidden from her keepers, and she’d always walked the line set before her. It was never out of subservience, but rather out of true love and protection for her sister that she continued to do what was expected. When the Shadowraith takes her away from all she’s known, Meren is rightfully pissed, but in a way it also allows her to finally explore what it means to be her own person. As the Shadowraith shows her how a fight against evil is forming in the distance, Meren once again steps up to protect those she loves. Whereas before she played the role of delicate princess to save her sister, she now realizes she’ll need to up her game by becoming a badass in her own right. Wielding her power over sand to create pretty glass flowers has now evolved into forming waves of glass spears in battle. She no longer blindly listens to the orders others bestow upon her, but rather she becomes part of the conversation to try and find a solution in saving their world against a power-hungry evil King. As her distance from the palace grows, Meren more fully transforms from a girl into a woman, and it’s quite the captivating journey.  

Butterflies at First Sight

In perusing a few other reviews of this work online, an unexpectedly common theme is a few readers mentioning they felt that Meren and the Shadowraith fell for each other too quickly, and that it was a love at first sight scenario. I suppose I can’t 100% agree with this assessment. Meren is clearly confused about how she feels towards this stranger. On the one hand, there is a clear presence of animosity following his kidnapping of her, and he has several instances of eye-roll happening at her consistent back-talk. And yet, Meren can clearly see something good within him that slowly causes her to lower her defenses the more time they spend together. If anything, I would say it was a slow burn rather than a situation of love at first sight. Meren certainly feels an attraction at first sight of the Shadowraith’s distinctively dashing profile in the darkened streets of her hometown, and she’s not sure how to act in front of someone who makes the butterflies take flight within her. However, there also appears to be some other kind of connection simmering between them that I think has only just been teased to us in this first novel. There’s something drawing these two together, and it extends beyond simple attraction or even love, but perhaps there is a fantastical element at play here too. I certainly can’t wait to find out more about what it might be. 

This novel also presents us with the formation of a mini unrequited love triangle. The relationship between Meren and her Shadowraith takes front and center, but we also see instances of Meren’s only childhood friend, Cain, wanting to express intimacy with this unknown princess. I will say this was the only feature of the book which reminded me of another series, as it felt very reminiscent of the love triangle present in the Hunger Games series. Similar to how the heroine of that series always viewed her longtime male friend as something of a brother, Meren too has looked to Cain with brotherly affection that is a special kind of love all it’s own. There may have once been a time when the concept of a future with Cain seemed like a great prospect, but it’s only upon meeting the Shadowraith that she realizes how much more there is to feel towards a potential partner. I’m typically not a fan of love triangles, and thankfully this feature wasn’t a primary focus of the novel. However, we definitely see the hostility level growing between Cain and the man of shadows, and I have a feeling this conflict could possibly become a more prominent discussion point for the next book. That being said, these characters certainly have a few more life-and-death priorities to deal with, including a power hungry king with his focus on the crown, so hopefully they choose to focus their energy on resolving those matters first!

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

Series: Dominions, book 1. This is book one in a three part series. I hope for book two the author will either provide us with a thorough recap of the fantastical dynamics we were presented with in this novel, or maybe even a glossary of important terms we can reference to re-acclimate ourselves to this world. 

Final Impressions: Sometimes the first book in a series is so good you can’t wait to get started on book two. Then there are the premier books that are so fantastically amazing you’re almost angry you don’t have the next book in front of you right now! The Liar’s Crown definitely falls within the latter category. This novel sort of ends on a smidge of a cliffhanger, but the epilogue gives enough of a solid stopping point where you don’t literally feel like you’re dangling off a cliff. Instead you’re just eager to see what our characters will get up to next. It’s very important to know going into this read that this is the start of a series, a fact I didn’t remember when I started. Meren and the Shadowraith take up the majority of the plot focus, so I was initially disappointed that we didn’t see more scenes involving her sister or the evil king. Abigail Owen has always succeeded in creating a dubious villain you hate to hate, and I sort of felt like I was missing out in this one. Now that I know there’s two more books to come, and considering how this first one ended I realize the author was simply laying the groundwork for us to dive deeper into this world of characters going forward.

Smut Level: This is a slow burn of tempting glances, slight brushes against each other, a stolen kiss here and there, and a few instances of intense panting. All of these delicious moments of will-they-won’t-they ultimately intensify into one steamy scene that isn’t too explicit in detail, but it provides enough satisfying description for this first kind of intimate moment between our characters. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $7.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Teen Publishing. 448 Pages. 

Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner

What’s better than a paranormal romance featuring a virginal male hero who finds his happily ever after with the love of his immortal life? 

What’s it About?

Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Strong and stoic Dragos yearns to build an honest life after the War of the Species ends. Due to his servitude to the Dark Lord Crimeous, he never had the opportunity to experience love or true emotion.

Vampyre widow Raina promised she’d never love another. Yet, she’s taken with her handsome, enigmatic new neighbor and his kindness to her two sons.

When Raina realizes Dragos has never had a lover, she gives in to their mutual passion, never realizing she might also lose her heart to the man who somehow invaded every crevice of her soul…

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a novella for the Etherya’s Earth series I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. For those of you who are also a fan of the Etherya’s Earth paranormal series, you won’t want to miss this beautiful short story, Immortal Beginnings. While it doesn’t feature any of the primary characters from the series we’ve come to know and love, you’ll quickly become enamored with the romance between deamon Dragos and vampyre Raina. You’ll have no problem finishing this novella in one sitting, and yet there is so much story to unpack between these two characters. Fangs down, of all the short stories featured in the Etherya’ Earth series so far, this was undoubtedly my favorite. I can only hope we’ll get a glimpse of this couple again in a future full-length novel.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, this novella does feature a virginal male hero which I was fully on board for, but beyond this amazing trope of a more experienced female lead guiding her man in the ways of pleasure, we were also presented with two complex characters who are trying to find their way in a new world unlike anything they’ve known before. Etherya’s Earth has been plagued by war for centuries, but its inhabitants are finally living in a time of peace, when vampyres, deamons and slayers can coexist rather than fight against each other. This is the setting upon which our novella opens, as deamon Dragos is trying to live a “normal” life away from the world of deamon caves and constant fighting which he’s only known up until this point. As for Raina, she is now a single mother trying to adapt to life following the death of her “bonded” in the final battle against the evil deamon Crimeous. These two unlikely neighbors are able to push aside their troubled pasts to find happiness and pleasure with each other in the present, and the promising hope of something even more permanent going forward.

Upon first reading this novella, I was so worried we’d ultimately discover that Dragos was responsible for killing Raina’s husband in battle, but thankfully we focus instead on what it means for these two to explore a relationship together at this particular point in their lives. For Dragos, he has only known the horrors of war. At one point in the story, Raina offers to bring him salve for a burn on his arm, and he reveals that it is the first time he’s been voluntarily touched by another in all of his centuries on this Earth. The glimpses of vulnerability we witness for this weathered soldier are almost enough to bring a tear to your eye, as you realize that beneath the tough exterior lies a man who simply craves the soft touch of another. He has craved Raina since she first moved in next door, and when she finally offers herself to him, he can’t help but fall hard and fast for this loving woman and caring mother.

For Raina, she initially worries that Dragos will feel more for her than she could ever reciprocate, especially considering she’s the one to touch and physically please him for the first time ever. Even though a letter from her belated husband clearly states he hopes she can move on to find happiness with another during her immortal life, she can’t help but keep a part of herself back from Dragos in a foolhardy attempt to prevent herself from falling for this deamon. Dragos is willing to accept any part of her she’s willing to give, but can Raina acknowledge that there’s room in her heart for both Dragos and her former bonded? Giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband. She’s allowing herself the opportunity to move on and make new memories that can co-exist with, rather than take over, those of the man she loved before. Again, there’s definitely a lot of emotional baggage to unpack in such a short novella!

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 4.5. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here for posterity: I will read anything and everything this author ever releases.

Final Impressions: Loved it, adored it, consider myself officially smitten. It’s not simply the tale of a male losing his v-card, but also an observation of how two people can put aside their traumatic pasts, and convince themselves they are worthy of love. How it’s possible to open up one’s heart again after having found and lost true love before. We not only fall in love with Dragos and Raina, but also Raina’s two adorable sons, Galen and Ekon. There is so much to love about this novella, and I’m excited to see what else this anthology has in store!

Smut Level: The first time this series presented us with a deamon falling for a vampyre we were privy to the most alpha of males who was well-versed in the ways of pleasure. This time around, Dragos might not have the experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quick study in the ways of pleasure, or dirty talk for that matter. As a former soldier, he is more than capable of following all the sultry orders that Raina has to give in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 154 Pages.

Lost on the Atlantic by Angela Christina Archer

Declan and Siobhan knew that their journey on the Titanic would change their lives forever. They never could have expected that by boarding the Ship of Dreams they were taking a step onto what would soon become their Ship of Nightmares. 

What’s it About? 

The gossip had spread across Ireland. People talked of her speed, size, and how even God couldn’t sink her.

Titanic—the ship that could forever change their lives.

With Ireland on the brink of war, passengers Siobhan and her husband Declan board the luxury steamer headed to America. While her husband dreams of a better life in a new country, she dreams of a life on stage, singing for audiences young and old. Having read the stories from her husband during the three years he helped build the ship, Siobhan is excited to see all the lavishness carved into every inch from the bow to the stern. Unfortunately, their third-class tickets hinder their ability to explore the deepest secrets of the first-class areas.

Determined to experience all the ship has to offer, they steal clothes from the cargo hold and pose as members of the elite, vowing to talk to no one. Their devious plan goes awry, however, as they soon find themselves not only invited to dinners and parties, but they are making friends with the rich and famous interested in helping Siobhan’s dream come true. Can they run the con long enough to make it to New York? Or will their lies catch up with them? And will it matter when the ship is headed toward a fate no one thought possible?

Quick Review

Angela Christina Archer has once again transported us to another time and place, this time from a small rural village in Ireland, to the wooden decks of the illustrious Titanic, and ultimately to the bright lights of New York City. While it’s hard to read this book without immediately comparing it to the 1997 film, or the true events of history itself, I would say that something Ms. Archer has done exceedingly well is provide us with a glimpse beyond the first class cabins and passengers the film and history books often prefer to focus on, and instead lets us walk the hallways of third class. That’s not to say we aren’t also introduced to a few familiar faces from history, including the stalwart and lovable Molly Brown, to the loving Astors, the top-hat wearing Mr. Guggenheim, and even the white-bearded Captain Smith. Beyond these known names though, we get to know the passengers and stories for those who were relegated to remain in the bowels of the ship.

For our lead characters, and so many others who shared the lower decks with them, the Titanic was not merely a pleasure cruise transporting them from one place to another. She was their salvation from poverty and war, bringing them to a land of promise. We see the years of toil and struggle that went into being able to afford just one ticket, rather than simply winning it with a lucky hand of cards during a poker game a la Leonardo DiCaprio. We also witness the immense heartbreak that went into leaving one’s country and family behind. For so many, they knew that they would most likely never be able to afford a return ticket home for a nice “visit”. The process of taking those steps onto the infamous ship was, in essence, a death of their former life which had to be mourned before they could fully celebrate the new adventure upon which they were embarking. To see that so many inevitably left one death behind just to move closer to another more permanent death is a whole other kind of heartbreak unleashed upon us. This book is certainly an emotional journey from start to finish, but for fans of Titanic history I would say it’s worth picking up. 

Series: The Wildflower Women Collection, book 4. I can’t recommend this series enough. Each book is a stand-alone, set in four very distinct periods of history. They are all connected in a way by the presence of a strong female-lead, trying to find a place in the world with the love of her life supporting her through all the obstacles they might face together as a couple. While it’s not necessary to read this series in order, I would say just keep in mind that the third and fourth novels are probably the most emotionally taxing of the bunch. You might want to build up to those!

Final Impressions: My biggest piece of advice when embarking upon this read is to plan it out when you can finish it all in one sitting. We all know the inevitable tragic fate that will befall this ship. However, we’re constantly held in a heightened level of suspense wondering what will happen to not only our beloved lead characters of Siobhan and Declan, but also the family and friends traveling along with them, as well as each and every character they happen to meet along the way. The iceberg is a constant shadow we know is lurking just beyond the horizon, and I have a feeling that if you put it down at any point you might find it hard to pick back up for fear of discovering which characters will survive or perish. In that sense, it’s actually a fairly quick read as I found myself picking up the pace with every page our married couple spends upon this ill-fated ship, desperate to find out if they’ll realize their American dream. I also spent about the last half of the book in tears, so again, aim for one sitting! My only complaint with this book came in the very very end, which felt too rushed. We almost have the opportunity to learn how some specific characters met their fate, but instead we just get a quick listed mention of who lived or died, even though we’re presented with a survivor who could have provided more of a first-hand account of what happened. Other than this rushed ending, it’s an interesting historical read of love and ambition.  

Smut Level: We might see reference to an automobile kept in the cargo hold of the Titanic, but don’t expect any post-coital sweaty hand-print moments in this read. A few kisses here and there, with everything else a fade-to-black. This tale rightfully focuses more attention on the emotional connection between Siobhan and Declan, especially as the sad fate of the Titanic crumbles around them. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 264 Pages. 

Fierce Obsessions by Suzanne Wright

He can’t stand her wisecracks and pomposity. She’s infuriated by his ego and skepticism. Sounds like a match made in mate shifter Heaven! 

What’s it About? 

When raven shifter Riley Porter was given sanctuary by the Phoenix Pack, she let them believe she had left her flock. Reluctant to divulge the secrets of her past, she was still embraced as family. Only Tao Lukas, the protective and passionate Head Enforcer of the pack, was resistant to the enigmatic shifter. Until Riley started to arouse in him something other than suspicion…

Tao doesn’t trust lone shifters, especially ones so guarded – and tempting. But the sexual tension between them is making them both come undone, and vulnerable to more than desire. All Tao wants is for Riley to stay with him and to trust him with the truth of her past…

As Riley’s mysteries come to light, so does a danger that threatens not only her life but the safety of the entire pack. For Tao, keeping Riley safe means keeping her close – forever – as his mate!

First Impressions

It’s been a few years since I last engaged with this series, and soon after starting this sixth book I quickly remembered how freakin’ fantabulous it is! If you’re a fan of shape-shifters, alpha wolf males and sassily resilient female leads, you definitely don’t want to miss out on everything this author and series has to offer. I may not have entered this world for some time now, but it simply took one step before I was thrust back into this close pack of characters with unique personalities and dynamics all their own. Riley and Tao certainly have a chemistry and connection which sets them apart from every couple which has come before, and their witty banter back-and-forth is the most delicious kind of foreplay. It’s expected for alpha male characters in romances like this to be the kings of one-liners, and while Tao can hold his own with the best of them, Riley has a piercing repartee that sets her far and above the rest. 

I relished the fact that this novel presented us with not only a dominant male, but also a dominant female who could dish back everything Tao was serving up. There’s a humor to their exchanges which manages to keep everything light-hearted in the face of some rather pointed remarks, and it’s clear that the more “insults” they hurl at each other, the more likely it becomes that Tao will soon be pushing Riley up against a wall, gripping her raven locks in a passionate embrace. It’s also clear that certain characteristics of their animal forms shine forth in their personalities. Tao is all kinds of growly and surly, but just like his wolf he has a stealthy and protective soft-side that you don’t expect to see upon first meeting. Riley might seem small and unassuming, similar to her inner-Raven, but that doesn’t mean she’s weak. Far from it, she’s a quick-witted trickster who can clearly take care of herself, and will stand up in the face of danger to protect not only herself, but those closest to her. Bringing these two passionate, over-protective and dominant characters together guaranteed that sparks would fly, and my Kindle was near set alight by the chemistry emitting from Riley and Tao. 

Fleeing the Flock

While the connection between main characters, as well as sexy fun times, have always been a strong hallmark of each book in the series so far, one detail which has had a tendency to fall short in previous novels was the dramatic plot point. This conflict would often involve human extremists who would turn to violence in their hatred of shifters, but it was typically pushed aside to simmer in the background for the full-breadth of the novel until one final climactic battle scene. Not terrible, but just not always brought to the forefront in a compelling way. This installment of the series brought not just one, but two gripping dramatic plot points front and center, and wove them together in a way that constantly had you questioning where the next attack would come from. On the one hand, we have a human criminal mob boss who is seeking out the healer of the Phoenix Pack to rehabilitate his dying brother, something which the healer wouldn’t be able to do without resulting in her own death. Let’s just say that the word “no” isn’t one that a somewhat psychotic mafioso likes to hear very often. The other element of drama for our lovebirds involves a tragedy which befell Riley’s raven flock years before, and one she’s been running from ever since. When Riley and Tao go back to her flock for a visit, an unknown enemy from the past tries to finish the job which was started but never completed.

While previous installments presented us with somewhat repetitious problems involving human extremists and lone shifters, this sixth book takes us in a different direction completely. Throughout the read you’re practically guaranteed to suspect almost every member of Riley’s flock of trying to kill her, while also wondering if it’s all just a distraction from the real threat of our treacherous mob boss. When Riley and Tao finally return to Phoenix Pack territory we question if they’re finally leaving the danger of Riley’s past behind, if it might follow them back home, or if they’re just leaving one threat behind to run straight back to another in the form of the mob boss. Perhaps a combo pack! While these two dramatic plot points fed off of each other quite seamlessly in a way that majestically amplified the suspense level, the only hindrance came in their conclusion. One story line is essentially the full focus of the climax, drawn out with constant twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat. The other felt too rushed with how everything came together, clearly with the intention of focusing more attention on that other story line. Not terrible, but not as seamless a conclusion as I was hoping for. 

Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 6. If you’re looking for a steamy paranormal romance series with alpha heroes and powerful female leads, be sure to check out this series. 

Final Impressions: This was a fabulous addition to the series. Riley and Tao played off of each other so well. Their banter is simultaneously cutting, yet tongue-in-cheek. A scintillating flirtation that pulls you in from the very beginning, and won’t let you go until you’ve finished the last page. You’ll be fanning yourself from the steam coming off of this read, but it will also keep you in suspense as danger lurks behind every corner. Our lovebirds aren’t the only ones that will keep you entranced, as familiar faces from previous books return to create a sense of family within this pack of shapeshifters. My only complaint is that one of the story lines was too rushed in its final explanation, but other than that this is an exciting and fiery read that you’ll want to be sure and bring on your next beach vacation! 

Smut Level: Mkay….hot daaaaaang. The novel opens on the morning after a drunken sexcapade between our two lead characters, but don’t be disappointed on missing out on a description of their first time together. There will be a plethora of descriptive sexy fun times throughout the novel to keep you fully satisfied, especially considering we have two dominant and forthright characters that can go head to head. Pun absolutely intended 🙂 There is also one scene involving anal sex, just as an FYI for those of you who are or aren’t into that. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 305 Pages. 

Dominik by Sawyer Bennett

They both assumed that one night together would be enough. But you know what they say happens when you assume! 

What’s it About? 

I built myself up from nothing. A product of the foster care system, I learned early on how to fight hard to get what I want. Whether it was starting my first company in college, earning my first billion, or buying my first professional sports team, I know how to get what I want, when I want it. Until now.

Willow Monahan is fierce, independent, and hot as hell. She also takes great pleasure in shutting down my advances. The younger sister of one of my star players, Willow intrigues me to my very core. And while she may have willingly given me her body, she is hesitant to offer up more. Now I’m on a mission to find out why.

I’ve decided to approach my desire for Willow like I’ve approached much of my life; with persistence, determination, and a whole lot of that Dominik Carlson alpha charm. Buying a hockey expansion team, building the Arizona Vengeance from the ground up, and bringing home a championship may prove to be an easier feat than winning Willow’s heart. But I’ve never been a quitter. Willow Monahan… I’m coming for you.

First Impressions

The romance between Arizona Vengeance billionaire team owner, Dominik Carlson, and the sister of one of his star players, Willow Monahan, has been hinted at several times over the last few books. It’s a passion that has teased and intrigued, as we’re presented with a game of cat and mouse that’s been turned on its head. While we all expect this billionaire alpha to be in hot pursuit of the female lead, it’s unexpectedly titillating to see her try and push him away at every turn to his initial advances. Eventually we see her admit that there’s definitely something simmering between them which can no longer be ignored, but rather than give into any kind of emotional connection she might be feeling towards Dominik, she insists that they only treat themselves to exploring the physical. It might not be what Dominik had in mind, but his libido certainly can’t give up on such a tempting offer. These two are hot and heavy from moment one, and while most of their scenes in the bedroom will leave you fanning yourself, others will make you realize they’re avoiding difficult conversations (and even arguments) with each other by falling into bed. Or on the couch. It’s also the critical scenes which take place outside of the bedroom (with clothes on) that might leave you slightly frustrated. 

The Present and Missing Flaws

Dominik and Willow are unlike any characters which have been presented in the series so far, and their tale of romance is also unique to them in a variety of ways, mainly in that most everything we see is flawed in some form. They both react to various scenarios in ways that will make you want to slap them upside the head a time or two. For example, all the times that Willow continuously ignored Dominik’s attempts to initiate a date beyond the bedroom. Come on girl, give him a chance already! Then there’s the time when Dominik’s alpha-ness extends beyond the bedroom as he insists Willow stop putting herself in dangerous situations to pursue her journalism career. Umm, no no no, not cool dude. Or how about when Dominik chooses to end their relationship completely because Willow turned down his marriage proposal in the heat of the moment following a big win by his hockey team? Even though she begged him to be understanding in her need for just a bit more time to put words to these unbelievable feelings she’s never felt for anyone else? Nope, he throws a mini temper tantrum, puts his house up for sale and refuses to respond to her calls and texts, perhaps as a direct payback to how she treated him at the start of the novel. We haven’t really seen such childish reactions from any other couple in the series, so it kind of threw me for a loop to suddenly be presented with a male lead I wouldn’t characterize as my “ideal book boyfriend”. 

The fact that Willow is so determined to keep her relationship with Dominik reserved to sex rather than forming any kind of emotional attachment means that the bulk of the interactions we’re presented with are physical in nature. I certainly love a good sex scene, and this installment is filled to bursting with some delectable ones, but when you look back on the series as a whole so far you can’t help but feel that something crucial was missing in the progression of Dominik and Willow’s story. They needed to open up to each other more about how past hurt and tragedy influenced who they are today. After all, Dominik lost his parents at a young age, and grew up in foster care. It’s no surprise therefore that he’d seek control in every aspect of his life, or that the bulk of his relationships up to this point have involved him being the one to leave first so as not be left behind once again. As for Willow, she was betrayed years ago by the man she thought was the love of her life, so we can understand her need to construct barriers in the hopes that no man will ever weasel his way back in to break her heart. We as the audience are privy to these difficult pasts through exposition, but it’s never fully discussed by our couple together in an emotional moment of vulnerability. These moments are hallmarks of the previous novels, and the absence of them in this sixth book was felt hard.  

Series: Arizona Vengeance, book 6. I don’t really know what to expect from the next lead of this series, as it’s a player of the Arizona Vengeance we haven’t seen much so far in the series. I’ll still jump in with both feet! 

Final Impressions: Our lead characters are far from perfect, and while they grow in some areas throughout the read, we still see imperfections and room for improvement in others. Was this…frustrating? Sure! Is it probably more realistic than most of the other relationships we’ve been presented with so far in the series? Absolutely. That being said, most of us dive deep in these romances to lose ourselves in another world, and this book kind of reminds you in a not so fun way that not everyone is perfect and some imperfections are left without resolution. Not everything is tied up in a big red bow by the end of this read, including how Willow’s career will fit into their relationship going forward, or if they’ll continue to throw hissy fits whenever the going gets tough. We do get a somewhat far-fetched climatic scene towards the end that is supposed to convince us they both realize the most important thing in the world is their love for each other, and that they can overcome any other obstacle as long as they are together. Let’s just say unfortunately I’m not 100% convinced. 

Smut Level: Oh boy. As with most other features of this novel, the sultry scenes are also not necessarily without fault. Granted, most had me needing to douse myself with a glass of very cold water. Others might leave you feeling a tad uncomfortable, like when Dominik shoves his tie in Willow’s mouth to essentially shut her up before they once again go at it like bunnies. Definitely an “eek” kind of moment. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Big Dog Books, LLC. 322 Pages. 

Until Harmony by Aurora Rose Reynolds

This series is all about that BOOM, and this installment just goes to show that if you try to push the BOOM aside, it will come back full force for the ultimate impact. 

What’s it About? 

Harmony Mayson isn’t the kind of girl to take unnecessary risk, but after meeting Harlen MacCabe, she starts to wonder if maybe she should be. The more time she spends with the wild and free biker, the more she starts to crave the freedom he gives her…. And even more, she starts to crave him. 

Harlen lives his life on his own terms. After losing both his parents at an early age to a robbery gone bad, he knows how precious life is, and he’s determined to get as much out of it as he can. When he runs into the beautiful Harmony and finds out she’s moving to town, he knows it’s time to take his shot. 

She thinks he only wants to be friends, but she couldn’t be more wrong. What Harmony and Harlen don’t know is that their time might be cut short. Revenge is in the air, and someone won’t stop until a debt is settled.

First Impressions

For avid readers of the entire Until series, if you’ve made it this far to the sixth book of Until Her/Until Him, believe me when I say you’re going to love it just as much as all the others which have come before. And if you haven’t read any of these books before…then what the heck is wrong with you?! Get on it already. This book presents us with everything we know and love about the series: a sexy and growl-y alpha male, a strong and tenacious female, lovable side characters (both new and beloved old friends), and of course, the BOOM that brings our two love birds together. What I loved so much about this installment was that Harmony and Harlen sort of try to suppress the immediate connection which has brought them together in the first place. 

Our novel opens with a chance meeting in a hospital parking lot after Harmony secures a job as a nurse there, and while Harlen would like nothing more than to throw her on the back of his bike to go celebrate, they both recognize the hesitation that Harmony feels about throwing all caution to the wind. After all, she’s no risk taker, so the idea of giving into her feelings for this seemingly bad-boy biker causes her to pause, an action that Harlen can see clear as day. While she declines his invitation for a joy ride, no matter how much she might want to say yes, this isn’t the end for our main characters. Harlen respects the boundaries of this initial rejection, but he refuses to let this be the end of their story. Throughout the next few chapters we see Harlen slowly try to reignite a connection with Harmony, but he’s almost too slow for his own good as it results in Harmony thinking he just wants to be friends. The more time they spend together as “buddies”, the more our risk-averse heroine contemplates the ultimate risk of laying all of her feelings out on the table. And once she does? Well, there’s no going back after that BOOM. 

The Happily Ever After

I was personally delighted by the subsequent romance which played out between our two lead characters, especially when we consider that Harmony was sort of the one to initiate it by finally acting on her desires for Harlen with a passionate kiss. Sure, she immediately tries to avoid him afterwards from embarrassment at the thought that maybe he didn’t want to be anything more than friends, but he’s more than willing to come after her to prove otherwise. I guess in a way it was a mutual overtaking of desire. The rest of their story is relatively drama free and even-paced as they easily fall into a relationship with each other. Harmony is willing to stand up to her overprotective father, Nico, to convince him that Harlen is the man of her dreams, just as Harlen won’t back down to convince Nico he’ll do anything to protect his beloved daughter. Harlen does indeed epitomize the characteristics of an alpha male, but I also appreciated that Harmony wasn’t afraid to poke the bear every once in a while. 

He demands a kiss before she leaves for work, or else he’ll have fun punishing her later? Well, she cheekily saunters out the door sans kiss to see just what he has in mind, and my goodness does she enjoy her “punishment”. Nothing like being held up against the wall for some sexy fun times, and yet in their post-passion haze we see Harlen put down his alpha wall to openly acknowledge how he does need that kiss from her every morning to make it through his day until he can see her again. And that’s one of the aspects I love about this series. Our alpha males clearly have a sensitive side to them, and we never doubt that the love they feel for their ladies goes deeper than merely a sexual component. There’s heart beneath it all. 

Series: Until Her/Until Him, book 6. It was so much fun diving back into this world. We get a brief introduction towards the end of this read of who the main characters will be for book 7, and I am more than ready to get started!

Final Impressions: This is the perfect kind of beach read. Funny, sexy, heartfelt, with just a smidge of drama to keep things interesting. The primary focus of the read truly is on the evolving relationship between Harlen and Harmony from their BOOM to friends to lovers, but delicately interwoven throughout the novel is an underlying sense of conflict involving a handsy doctor at Harmony’s work. The author does a fantastic job of simultaneously keeping this drama primarily reserved for the background, yet also slowly elevating it throughout the progression of the novel before it ultimately breaks through for a final, suspenseful climax. Be sure to add this one to your TBR pile. 

Smut Level: Harmony might express a bit of timidity when Harlen first expresses an interest in her, but once they finally end up in each other’s arms all sense of hesitancy is thrown right out of the bedroom. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 239 Pages.

One Shingle to Hang by Deann Smallwood

When Lil looked to the future, all she ever saw was the law. She’s defied family expectations, not to mention societal norms, to open her own law practice. Marriage never seemed to be on the table. But all of that changes when one rugged cowboy with a threat against his life walks in seeking her help. 

What’s it About? 

A woman with too much knowledge was at risk for insanity. Her fragile mind couldn’t handle it. That’s what Lil had been told when she went against convention and became an attorney. The 1800’s had fewer women lawyers than women doctors. Her pride knew no bounds when she hung her shingle—L.M. Wentfield, Attorney At Law.

Drew was a struggling cattle rancher, building a fledgling Hereford empire. He was working toward that goal when he was accused of rustling and faced possible hanging. He needed a lawyer—a good one—a man. Chesterfield had one lawyer—a new one—L.M. Wentfield. He wasn’t prepared for a beautiful blonde with a sharp tongue and fiercely won independence.

Lil had no homemaking abilities. Her love was the law. And if the thoughts of the gray-eyed cowboy, who had the audacity to refuse her legal help, stayed in her mind, she’d push them aside. She had nothing to offer a rancher . Even her wealth wouldn’t be considered an asset to a prideful man. And Drew Jackson was proud. So proud, he knew he couldn’t ask a woman of Lil’s stature to share his life—but he wanted to—from the moment he’d stolen that first kiss.

First Impressions

This is a cute, light-hearted read whose synopsis was unfortunately more enticing than the story itself. I’m always excited to pick up a historical romance that will regal us with a strong female character who is “ahead of her time”. While Lil was certainly a headstrong and quick-witted female lead, I was rather disappointed we didn’t get to see her engage more with the law. After moving to this small mountain town with the goal of opening her own law practice, the most lawyer-ly activity we see her pursue is writing up an ironclad will for her first ever client who deigned to giver her a chance. When it comes to helping Drew, the dashing cattle rancher in need of legal help, Lil almost transforms more into an intelligent private detective than a lawyer.

She even goes so far as to set up a sting operation with the local sheriff to catch Drew’s accuser in a lie. An entertaining scene to be sure, but I was holding out hope for a dramatic courtroom argument where Lil could truly showcase her law prowess. The fact we are never privy to one scene in court throughout the entirety of the novel was the peak of disappointment, not to mention that Drew’s drama is resolved quite early on in the novel. Even though an act of revenge from Drew’s nemesis is hinted at in the beginning, it’s a threat which never comes to fruition. Instead the focus of the novel switches to the budding romance between Drew and Lil, which was certainly an adorable relationship you proceed to root for, but the flow of the story probably could have benefited from bringing the conflict involving Drew’s land and cattle business back full circle. As things stood, that particular story line was left feeling unfinished. 

The High Point

While the story didn’t quite live up to the hype of the synopsis, one area where this novel truly excelled was in the characters. This is a world you want to live in, or at least have the opportunity to visit, merely in the hopes of sitting down to a cookout with our outspoken female lawyer, her devilishly handsome and selfless rancher, the candid yet caring housekeeper and her precocious granddaughter, just to name a few. Even our villains were characters you loved to hate, from the nefarious cowboy who has his sights set on Drew’s ranch, to Lil’s conservative parents who threaten to stand in the way of everything she’s built for herself. I can’t remember the last time I was so inclined to don a pair of gloves, merely so I could rip them off to haughtily slap a fictional character’s face.

Even though the author should be commended for the creation of such distinct and hypnotizing personalities, it was also a little disappointing to see the introduction of some fascinating characters at the start of the novel, only to have them fade away from the story completely by the midway point. I think this can once again be attributed to the flow of the plot, which was too distinctly segmented into Lil setting up shop, Drew seeking her help with his legal troubles, and then the slow evolution of their romantic relationship after his legal conflict is resolved. This meant that when one segment was settled, there wasn’t an attempt to bring back some of the characters and drama from that section into a later one.

Series: Chesterfield Colorado series, book 1. Though a sweet read, I’m not sure I’ll continue on with this series. 

Final Impressions: Greater cohesion for how this story unfolded, as well as further incorporation of Lil’s law knowledge, really could have made this historical romance a standout read. It seemed like an odd choice to suggest that the source of Drew’s legal drama at the beginning would come back to seek revenge against him and Lil, but then abandon that story line completely. The book as a whole is relatively conflict free, so to bring in Lil’s parents as the final source of drama for the book felt random compared to the possibility of fully resolving the outstanding risk of Drew’s nemesis. Lastly, every great legal story, from Philadelphia to My Cousin Vinny has an exciting courtroom scene of opposing counselors, so never giving Lil the chance to prove herself in court seemed like a wasted opportunity for some delightful entertainment. 

Smut Level: The most sensual moment of this read is when Drew and Lil share a jug of lemonade together in a shaded, hidden meadow. Their clothes stay on the whole time, and the biggest step they take is a brush of lips, but there’s something about that lemonade scene, as they contemplate where each other’s lips have just been that will make you giddy with excitement. Who knew? 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle book. Soul Mate Publishing, LLC. 213 Pages.