Watermark by Marti Ziegler

A journey down the Mississippi River is fraught with perils: alligators, pirates, and a debonair flatboat captain with his sight set on revenge. Sign me up!

What’s it About?

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Whom could you trust if you were stranded fifteen hundred miles from home? Misfortune has plagued Juno Brock for months. Recently widowed, a chance encounter with a dangerous criminal in St. Louis exposes her to information that can see her branded. Or worse, hanged. When a pirate attack on the Mississippi River maroons her in the wilds of Michigan Territory, she has but one choice: use her wits to secure passage on a boat traveling downriver and reunite with her family fifteen hundred miles away.

An arrogant mistake in his youth has set flatboat pilot Malcolm Moreau on a forked path of redemption and revenge. His successful livelihood transporting goods to New Orleans revolves around cargo, not passengers, but Juno’s recent encounter with his longtime enemy makes her the exception. A bargain is struck: safe passage to Natchez, Mississippi, in exchange for the information she unwittingly discovered.

What follows is a month-long journey where mistrust and resentment unfolds into an unexpected friendship filled with secret confidences and before long, attraction. Sometimes dangerous, often humorous, their voyage down America’s most infamous river and the outlandish characters they meet along the way will ultimately inspire a destination neither expected: love.

First Impressions

This is only the second Marti Ziegler book I’ve ever read, but I think it’s fair to say that one of my favorite things about her work is seeing the characters evolve. I’m now convinced she is an absolute master at creating a rough male lead who you can’t help but love. At first introduction, Malcolm is kind of a jerk. He is hell bent on revenge, and is more than willing to just leave Juno on the side of the Mississippi River to fend for herself. But then we slowly start to unravel his story, and see what can almost be described as a charmingly boyish side to this rough man. I found myself smitten within a matter of pages even though you also kind of get the urge to slap him a few times throughout the book.

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There’s a similar unraveling to Juno’s character as well. When the novel beings she sort of seems like a momma’s girl, always clinging to her family’s side. Someone who is afraid to be out on their own. Very quickly though we discover that this strong woman knows how to survive. She’s clever, stubborn in only the best of ways, and just a downright fun heroine to read. All in all, I’m always mesmerized by the lead characters Ziegler introduces me to in her work.

A Motley Crew

It’s not just the main characters who are an absolute delight in this river tale. We literally have a whole crew of Malcolm’s boat mates to provide us with thorough entertainment. From his hard-lined cook, to a few flirtatious scallywags, you never want this trip down the Mississippi to end. That brings us to the setting, which is basically another character in and of itself. ‘Tis a journey filled with a plethora of perils, some of which were mentioned above. Alligators, exploding riverboats, pirates and religious zealots.

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This motley crew is constantly facing challenges as they make their way to return Juno to her family, and for Malcolm to finally achieve revenge against his sworn enemy who was the most devious of villains. I do sort of wish we had seen more of this enemy rather than just a few scenes at the very beginning and end of the book. He is described at length throughout from Malcolm’s point of view, so we do learn about their complicated history. That being said, I think it would have been more interesting and suspenseful to have more scenes between the two in person.

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From Nuisance to Lover

What I particularly enjoyed about this novel, aside from learning the historical aspect of 19th century riverboat life, was seeing the evolution of Juno and Malcolm’s relationship. At the start they are both severely annoyed by each other, and see the other as a deterrent and nuisance to reaching their final goal. However, they quickly realize they must rely on each other in their journey.

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Slowly, Juno and Malcolm start to open up and trust each other. This is perfectly reflected in their nightly pastime where Malcolm reads to Juno, who doesn’t know how to read for herself. She’s still fascinated by the written word, and though she initially kind of harasses Malcolm into reading for her, it soon becomes their nightly thing. Malcolm begrudgingly puts up with it every night, but then when he eventually buys her a small pocket reader to teach her to read? Girl, I damn near had tears in my eyes it was so beautiful.

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Let’s Rock the Boat

For a historical romance these two have some sizzling hot sex scenes! And in some pretty unique locations on top of everything. They tussle about in a small bed on a flatboat, against a tree trunk, and even on the floor of a cave. For those last two, they definitely aren’t the most comfortable of locales, but that’s what I positively loved about it all. Juno acknowledges right away that a bed probably would have been more convenient.

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She has twigs in her hair, a few scrapes and bruises, but when you’re overcome by passion? You do it wherever you can apparently. When the two realize their time together is soon coming to an end their lovemaking becomes even more desperate and passionate. However, they still manage to keep things grounded. For example, at one point they also have a drunkenly frank conversation about how they can’t have sex because she’s on her courses. It provides a comforting sense of realism and domesticity to their relationship that I just loved.

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

Series: Stand-alone. Can’t wait to see what comes next from this author!

Should you read it? Well, I’m a fan! I love that with each Ziegler novel I get to learn about a different period of history, and in a new unique setting. All the characters also have such great chemistry together. I could see how some might not particularly warm to the somewhat schoolyard antics of Malcolm and Juno’s relationship at the start, but just stick with it to see it develop! I do wish we had seen more of the villain, who was so creepily written you just want to see a bit more from him. Overall though, a fun historical read.

Smut Level: These two get busy in some unique locations, and I loved how they both commented soon after that it might not have been the most comfortable experience. There was one sex scene that seemed somewhat ill-timed following a near death experience, but I guess that simply increases the passion level!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 351 Pages.

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Outlander Returns!

If you’re an Outlander fan like me, then you undoubtedly jumped for joy, and maybe even cried a little bit when the fantabulous Season 3 premiered on Starz last week.

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And what a premier it was! Honestly, I think it might have been Sam Heughan’s best performance to date, and the dude pretty much just laid on his back throughout the entirety of the show. But my God did he do it well.

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I’m also so unbelievably grateful that they’ve found a way to incorporate more of Frank’s character into the TV show. Let’s face it, prominent scenes featuring Frank in the later books within the series are almost non-existent, so I really do enjoy seeing how they’re able to creatively incorporate his character into the show. I mean, the onscreen chemistry between Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe is absolute perfection. I completely understand why they’d want to keep him around for as long as possible!

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An amazing start to the series for sure. And yes, I was ugly crying for a large portion of the show. When I told my sister and mom they were like, “Oh, you cried? Which part?” Ummm, the barn scene? Are you kidding me??? Gosh, even thinking about it now….give me a moment.

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Unfortunately I also found out another Outlander detail last Sunday that almost brought tears to my eyes, and not in a good way. About a year ago, I finally finished what I thought was the last main book in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. Not gonna lie you guys, I was not a fan of the last few books of this series. Starting with about book 5, each novel was a massive tome of about 1000 pages or more, and there was so much needless historical detail that had little to do with the plot I couldn’t help but be bored. But I trudged through it and finally finished them all…OR SO I THOUGHT!

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Lo and behold, last Sunday I discover that Diana Gabaldon is writing a ninth book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. Whyyyyyy?????

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Look, book 8 ended on a fine note, can’t we just leave the damn bees where they are and call it a day? I’m sure this is a dream come true for a lot of Outlander fans who can’t wait to read more about Jamie and Claire. And most of them probably already knew this ninth book was a thing, and I’m just laughingly late to the party. I just keep thinking about how this signals another 5 months or so of my life reading about daily life and hygiene in the 18th century. And why do I think this book will be a continuation of the boredom I experienced in books 5-8? Well, let’s see what Diana Gabaldon herself has to say about the upcoming release, shall we?

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“My books are huge”. “2-3 years…to write and research and publish”. I love the dedication to the craft, but what if the books were…less huge? Please?

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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m gonna read this book when it releases. I’ve come this far, I’m not gonna back down now. I’ll try and go in with an open mind, but it’s going to be hard considering how much of the last few books I just skimmed through because I wanted to get to the actual story already. Here’s to hoping that book 9 will be just as good as this Season 3 premier was! Or that the TV show will still be up and running, and just as fantabulous as ever by the time book 9 actually releases!!

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Tattered Love by Lola Stark

“Then I went and followed him out to the car like some kind of…Some kind of girl! I was starting to dislike myself. Something needed to change. Soon.” Well…that’s kind of disheartening.

What’s it About?

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When ex-Special Ops bad-ass Mace walks into Needle’s Kiss tattoo parlour, he never expected to find the girl who would turn his life upside down. Hard as nails Scarlett has been unlucky in love: she’s been burnt, chewed up and spat out. Reluctant to have another relationship, can she keep her wits about her when hot-as-sin Mace walks into her tattoo parlor? Or will he break her down and leave his mark within her ink? What starts out as a little fun, turns into something so much more. Can Scarlett look beyond Mace’s devastating past or will his demons come back to haunt them both?

First Impressions

Scarlett is our main female lead in this novel, and she is supposed to be this tough-as-nails, badass tattoo artist. She doesn’t take any sh*t from anybody. I’m also 100% convinced she has no idea what she wants in life. Case in point: her relationship with Mace. Ok, sidenote real quick, Mace? Mace?! I can honestly say I’ve never met a “Mace” in my entire life. Ok, sidenote over. So Scarlett is initially drawn to Mace because he is the ultimate manly-man alpha male. He doesn’t ask her on a first date, but instead basically orders her on one. And she openly admits she likes his take-charge alpha attitude. To each her own, no judgement.

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But then when they actually do go out he has the nerve, nay the audacity!, to go get her a drink without asking her what she wants. Never mind the fact it actually is the type of beer she would have ordered because, you know, he’s been watching her (creep factor of 10), but she was damn near ready to get up and leave at that move alone. Scarlett my dear, I hate to tell you this, but when it comes to alphas you can’t simply date “some” of an alpha. They are alpha in all things, whether it’s telling you he’ll pick you up on Friday, whispering dirty talk in your ear, or getting you a drink. You want an alpha? You’re gonna get one.

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Getting all Good Will Hunting Up in Here

When it comes to this novel, “It’s not your fault” is the clear, prevalent theme. I’ll admit, I did like Mace’s character significantly more than Scarlett’s. He has heart, passion, and unfortunately the tendency to blame himself for every possible bump in the road he’s every encountered in life. From getting his former girlfriend knocked up, to the dissolution of their relationship, and the most significant of which is the fact he blames himself for the tragic death of his daughter (none of which were actually his wrongdoing). One of the saddest story accounts I’ve ever listened to! I was practically crying on my walk to work. I seriously need to rethink my tendency to listen to audio books in public.

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Communication is Key

That being said, Mace isn’t exactly Mr. Goody Two Shoes perfect either. As a matter of fact, there were times where I found both characters to be a tad…childish? This novel features one of the most ridiculous jump to conclusions I’ve ever heard. Towards the mid-way point of the novel, Mace has already told Scarlett about his crappy and exploitative ex-girlfriend, as well as how his daughter died years before. Then he mentions how he’s going out of town for a few days.

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Lo and behold Scarlett comes across him having dinner with said sadistic ex-girlfriend, and she immediately jumps the gun thinking he’s cheating on her. In her mind, there is no other explanation, and she won’t even bother to hear what Mace has to say. When he finally does get the chance to explain the situation away, Mace gets pissed at Scarlett when she asks why he couldn’t have been honest with her. He proceeds to turn things around on Scarlett saying she hasn’t exactly been forthcoming about her own past, so why should he have to share everything with her. Uggggh, seriously? Not ok you guys. When did this turn into an episode of Jerry Springer?!?

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Love is Girly

To harken back to the quote at the top of this post, one of the things I didn’t particularly like about Scarlett was that she didn’t really seem to like herself when she was with Mace. Sure, she enjoyed the sexy fun times they had together, and cheese and monkeys were there a lot of them. However, she’s always been tough, and when she’s with Mace she finds herself sort of bending to his will with his alpha tendencies. In spite of this, Scarlett loves him.

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At one point she even says it’s sickening how much she loves him. The reason it’s so sickening? Because it makes her act like such a girl. Sooo…being in love with someone is girly? Wanting to spend time with someone is girly? Now, I get the sentiment that is trying to be conveyed here: she’s a badass and she’s suddenly experiencing moments of intimacy with someone else. I just didn’t really enjoy how it almost paints the concept of being in love as a negative thing. Almost like, love?, pff, who needs it? That’s just for squares. Aaaaaand, cue eye roll.

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Bette Midler in the Making

As I mentioned earlier, I listened to this as an audio book. I always enjoy when romance novels present us with the dual points of view of both the male and female leads. I will say the male narrator did a fabulous job, especially when relating his sad tale of how his daughter passed. As for the female narrator, she could come off a bit too obnoxious at times. Seeing as how Scarlett is already a rather hot headed character, this additional feature of a somewhat obnoxious voice bordered a fine line of annoyance. This line was even crossed at times, especially whenever Scarlett lamented over acting too “girly”, and the word was said with what can only be described as pure disgust. Also, no joke, this narrator sounded surprisingly similar to Bette Midler. Although I love her to pieces (Hocus Pocus anyone?), it was almost too mature of a voice for a character who is supposed to be a 26 year old tattoo artist.

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Series: Needle’s Kiss, book 1. There’s an interesting side story with Scarlett’s best friend who is the feature of book 2. I might consider it.

Should you read it? Personally, I prefer romance novels where our two leads truly bring out the best in each other as they fall in love. I…can’t really say that happens in this novel. Eventually they are able to open up and communicate, but they are also wont to point fingers and place blame when they’re in a snippy mood. At times I really did enjoy how Scarlett refused to take any sh*t from anyone, but there were also quite a number of times where she wasn’t my favorite character to follow. Considering she’s the female lead? Somewhat problematic.

Smut Level: Scarlett and Mace do it in practically every classic sex locale: alleyway, hood of a car, shower, kitchen table…tattoo chair? Meh, why not?!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 293 Pages.

Happy Birthday to Me Indeed!

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last week or so, but birthday celebrations, work time madness, and apartment redesign means I’ve had less time than usual to sit down with my Kindle.

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And speaking of Kindle!!!! A couple of months ago I asked you all for some input regarding what kind of new e-reader I should consider to replace my 2nd generation Kindle. I’m happy to announce that after weighing all my options and reviewing your suggestions, I finally came to a decision. Exactly eight years to the day after receiving my first ever Kindle for my birthday, I was thrilled to open my second one for my b-day last week: Kindle Paperwhite baby!!

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Look how pretty!! I’d like to introduce you all to the new extension of me. You guys, this thing is tiny and freakin’ amazing. It should be called Kindle Paper-lightweight if you know what I mean. Look at it compared to my last one!

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Seriously, this thing is life changing, merely in the fact my purse will no longer feel like it weighs 20 pounds. I can’t tell you how many times in the last week I’ve picked up my purse on the way out the door to work and had a mini panic attack thinking I’ve forgotten something important from my bag.

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In the brief amount of time I’ve had to play with my new baby I’ve quickly discovered some key differences from my previous brick of a Kindle, aside from the weightlessness of it. First, the fact a light is built into the actual Kindle, rather than having to rely on an external case or light source is an A++ bonus feature. It’s also so incredibly nice you can adjust the light based on your preferences. My former light came in two settings, off and bright as f*ck. This one has a delightful spectrum.

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Second, I think the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make is in regards to turning the page. Not gonna lie, I kind of miss the fact that I could turn the page using buttons on either side of my last Kindle, and with this new one you have to be sure to hit the right side of the screen. It kind of makes reading whilst brushing my teeth a tad more difficult, but I have a feeling with time it will become second nature. And yes, I realize that is about as first world of a problem as you can possibly have.

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Lastly, this Kindle is FAST! And I LOOOVE it!! No longer do I have to go make a cup of tea and wait forever just to load some new books into a collection. Instantaneous satisfaction. I also love that with the case you simply have to close it to put it to sleep, and then open it to wake it back up. Simplicity. Well, now that I have a beautiful new device to indulge my reading addiction, I should be back to finishing books and writing reviews in no time. Stay tuned!

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Savage Urges by Suzanne Wright

When you find a woman who knows how to interpret your grunts, well that’s a woman worth keeping. Even if she is a lone wolf.

What’s it About? 

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She’s a lone wolf with a cause. As a volunteer at a shelter for lone shifters—the same one that rescued her—Makenna Wray has dedicated her life to finding homes for its residents. And when she discovers that a teen in her care is related to Ryan Conner, the broody, handsome-as-sin enforcer of the Phoenix Pack, she’s eager to help connect the two. She just wasn’t prepared to feel a connection of her own.

Lone wolves are loners for a reason—and most of them bad. Or so Ryan assumes until he meets the mysterious Makenna. Quirky and sensual, she seems to enjoy riling him, especially when she refuses to discuss her past. Although there is no mating bond, he’s sure she’s the one. All he has to do is be patient and wait. But when another pack’s sinister Alpha comes sniffing around, threatening Makenna and her shelter, this enforcer is ready to let his wolf off the leash.

First Impressions

What I always find so unique about this series is how in each book our main couple often discovers they are mates in different ways. It’s never the same big reveal on repeat every time, which can sometimes happen when dealing with a series of this length. In this novel, what makes it all the more interesting is that close-mouthed Ryan is the one who first discovers they are destined to be together, and he has to try and convince the seemingly carefree Makenna of their mating link. Such a complex role reversal that we haven’t really seen before.

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Although she feels an undeniable chemistry with Ryan, Makenna is hesitant to acknowledge they are mates in case it isn’t actually true. As the story progresses, we uncover that her hesitations aren’t just related to her bond with Ryan, but with the Phoenix Pack as a whole. Makenna has been a lone wolf since she was a little girl, and fears that by joining a pack it means they might eventually abandon her. We haven’t really been introduced to any lone wolf characters in this series before, but their stories draw you in where you just want to learn more. Combine that with a somewhat eccentric female lead and a male whose literal job is to protect his pack? You can’t help but be entertained.

A Threat to Loners

The suspenseful story line in this book was definitely a standout within the series. Makenna works at a shelter for loners who are on the run, and their safety is being threatened by an alpha wolf who wants to claim the shelter for his own. The shelter itself provides us with a slew of new and lovable characters. However, we can see that it isn’t the only dramatic point in the novel, although it is sort of the center point from which all the drama unfolds.

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We have Ryan’s nephew who is on the run from a hurtful pack who wants him back under any means necessary, and it simply wouldn’t be a Phoenix Pack novel without a few human extremists running around demanding blood. Again, all of these issues involve the shelter in some way, which simultaneously heightens the suspense, and threatens the existence of the shelter as it is attacked form multiple enemies. Ryan comes to help the shelter, but so does his entire pack. It makes Makenna question if the lone wolf lifestyle is really for her anymore.

A Continuing Theme

As is often the case with the novels in this series, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed with how the drama progressed. There’s always a spurt of introduction to it at the very beginning, and it all comes together for a climactic end, but it’s pretty absent from the middle section of the novel. However, this in no way means the middle part isn’t interesting. Far from it!

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Seeing Makenna try to make the tough-as-nails Ryan loosen up, and him trying to convince her of their mating link was thoroughly entertaining. It’s just a shame that the dramatic elements are always pushed to the back burner. That being said, I will admit that this novel probably does some of the best work in the series of trying to weave those suspenseful points into as much of the story as possible. While not perfect, it’s definitely an improvement from the last few Phoenix Pack stories.

Series: The Phoenix Pack, book 5. I can’t wait to see what comes next in this series as a wolf shifter falls for a raven. Inter-species y’all!!

Should you read it? I really do enjoy this series, and this novel was superior to some of the others which came before it. The characters are relatable and lovable, even if they are wolves. That’s something else about this series which is utterly fascinating. So many of the social scenarios concerning rival factions, prejudices, and outsiders can be drawn to issues which we see in our own society today. Who knew you’d be able to see such stark parallels in a paranormal series about wolves?!?!

Smut Level: This book will make you drool like a wolf with how hot and steamy it can get.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Montlake Romance. 318 Pages.

Kaleb by Nicole Edwards

Rumors abound about the seven Walker brothers. They may be gentlemen, but they are far from saints. Good God and there’s seven of them?! Heaven help their mother.

What’s it About? 

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Zoey Stranford might’ve had a crush on the sexy boy next door since middle school, but she’s a woman now, and that crush has turned into a full blown case of lust. So why is it that at twenty nine, her libido decides to ramp into high gear and the only thing she can focus on is the intensely sexy, scorching hot boy next door who is definitely not a boy anymore? The only problem is that Zoey and Kaleb have been best friends for as long as she can remember. Not to mention, Kaleb and his brothers are working on buying Stranford land to build a new resort, and she’s more than a little hesitant about his intentions.

Kaleb Walker has had his eye on Zoey for close to twenty years, but never before has he considered taking their friendship to the next level, no matter how many fantasies he’s had about her over the years. That doesn’t explain why Kaleb is hell bent on having her – in as many ways as possible.

Kaleb finds himself in a precarious situation. His brothers have nominated him to pursue Zoey’s father about purchasing the land needed to get their new resort off the ground. Finding out that Carl Stranford is on the brink of foreclosure and Zoey might just lose her house and the land, Kaleb now has to convince her to put aside her pride and let him help her. It doesn’t take long before the flames start burning bright and hot, and the two of them burn up the nights and the days as they explore each other’s forbidden fantasies. But can their friendship survive a business transaction or the new friends with benefits clause? Or will they realize that they’ve been overlooking something much deeper that’s been right in front of them all along?

First Impressions

Kaleb and Zoey have been neighbors for years, and he’s been lusting after her since they were just a couple of horny teenagers. The synopsis tries to imply that it’s only because he’s trying to convince Zoey to sell her family’s land that they suddenly get closer in the physical sense. However, that’s not really true. If anything it seems like after being friends for so long they’ve had enough with putting things off, and kind of fall right into being romantically involved. There’s really no awkwardness at trying to navigate a physical relationship. They simply get down and dirty with it, including their flirtatiousness. And hell, why not add another guy into the mix as well?!

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Secrets and Sensuality

Zoey admits to Kaleb pretty early on in their newfound relationship that it’s been a fantasy of hers to be the filling of a Walker brother sandwich. Seeing as the Walker brothers are known about town for sharing their women at the same time, Zoey’s biggest conundrum is what other Walker brother she’d want to have a threesome with. Not gonna lie, I did find it rather strange that considering how long Zoey has been lusting after Kaleb she’d be willing to toy with the idea of allowing another one in there. Meh, what do I know about the emotional or physical logistics of a threesome. I’ve always said it seems like too many limbs jumbled together!

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As for Kaleb, he’s been waiting for so long to take Zoey to bed, and has even been dreaming about sharing Zoey with one of his brothers for a long time. Talk about being close with family to an uncomfortable degree! Kaleb mistakenly assumes that Zoey will have an innocent vanilla approach to sex, but when he discovers her secret desires he’s almost afraid of pushing her too far with his own desires. However, it doesn’t take long before he overcomes those insecurities, and brings their dreams of a threesome to a reality. Rather than sharing her with a blood relative though, Kaleb decides to bring his best friend to the party. Kaleb is excited to bring Zoey to the ultimate pleasure, yet experiences an unexpected mixture of possessiveness and lust when his best friend strokes Zoey’s thigh. Now that he finally has Zoey, will he be able to share her with someone else? Um, yeah. Multiple times.

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Threesomes and Land Purchases

I’ve read a few erotic novels featuring threesomes before, and this one definitely took a unique approach to the horizontal conga line. I feel like normally when it comes to threesomes we either see a couple experimenting with it once as a way to mix things up in the bedroom, or you have three people who all fall in love with each other and decide to become romantically involved forever and ever. In this novel however, there were a surprising number of threesome scenes involving Zoey, Kaleb, and his best friend Gage. Zoey clearly understands that Gage is only there for the pleasure aspect, and her true feelings of lovey doveyness are for Kaleb alone. She’s just intrigued with the idea of exploring her sexuality after the disastrous end to her marriage, and apparently that involves more than one foray into the world of threesomes.

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The other aspect of the novel which surprised me was that there’s really no attention focused on this club that Kaleb and his brothers are opening. The majority of the story involving the club deals with the land purchase from Zoey’s father. I guess I just assumed this club would be constructed and fully opened by the end of the novel, but that’s not the case. Looks like this might drag out to encompass the other novels in the series as well. I do feel the club’s concept deserved more attention and discussion, especially when Zoey discovers they are planning to open a sex club. Seems like it’d be a main topic of conversations, but nooooope. Moving along.

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Series: Alluring Indulgence, book 1. I won’t rush to read the next book in this series, but I won’t delete it from my TBR list just yet.

Should you read it? This novel was definitely more about sex than story. It’s mainly just about Zoey exploring her sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, that’s good and all, but it simply doesn’t make for a very engaging read. There isn’t much drama at all involving our multitude of characters, including all the Walker brothers, and when there was drama it seemed pretty unnecessary. Overall, a lack of really any kind of depth to the story.

Smut Level: With a threesome here, and a threesome there. Here a threesome, there a threesome, everywhere a threesome.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Pocket Star Publishing. 342 Pages.

A Train Through Time by Bess McBride

One of my favorite features of time travel romances is the moment when our hero or heroine discovers they’re not in Kansas anymore. Most simply go with the flow and adapt. Others have that brief moment of denial before eventual acceptance. In this novel, Ellie has a minor freak out, and continually insists she’s dreaming rather than acknowledging the harsh truth. Probably the most realistic scenario of the three!

What’s it About? 

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College teacher Ellie Standish thinks she’s on a sleek modern train heading to a conference on women’s studies in Seattle, but she awakens from a night’s doze to find herself on a bizarre historical train full of late Victorian era reenactors who refuse to come out of character. When the leader of the group—handsome, green-eyed Robert Chamberlain—finally convinces her the date is indeed 1901, a skeptical Ellie rejects any eccentric theories of time travel and presumes she is smack dab in the middle of a very interesting historical dream. She turns the directorial reins of her dream over to the smitten and willing Robert, only to realize that dreams cannot last forever. Someday, she must wake up to reality, though Ellie no longer has any idea what reality is. She only knows that Robert must play an important part in her future. But how can he…if he’s only a figment of her imagination or worse yet…a man who belongs to an era long past?

First Impressions

I really loved the start of this novel. Ellie is adamant she hasn’t traveled through time, instead thinking she’s woken up surrounded by a strange troupe of Victorian era reenacters. When she eventually realizes that theory holds no weight she moves on to the idea that she must be dreaming, and sticks with it for pretty much the rest of the novel. Rather than our heroine admitting the truth that she’s traveled through time, Robert is actually the one who puts it together first, and tries to convince her of it. It felt like such a unique departure from most time travel romances, where our traveler is usually the one who must come up with the most compelling argument to convince others that they are from a different time. Normally those in the past are the skeptical ones, and I just really loved how this novel chooses to take that trope and flip it on its head.

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A Dreamy Man

Robert could have easily had this strange woman committed for acting so bizarrely, but instead he chooses to play along with Ellie’s delusion that she’s simply dreaming. It was actually a humorous way to show how smitten Robert was with her from the very beginning. He becomes convinced that Ellie was meant to travel through time to find him, and for them to be together. Now he just has to convince her that it’s true. At first Ellie is determined to “wake up” from this crazy dream. However, as she spends more time with the dashing Robert her fondness for him also grows, and she starts to hope that this wonderful dream will continue.

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Shockingly, at one point in the novel when Ellie falls asleep she does actually wake up from this dream in her own time for the briefest of moments before waking up again back in the Victorian era. She then becomes determined to stay away from Robert before they fall too hard for each other, or else risk crushing his heart once she does leave this time for good. This is definitely a unique time travel twist in that although the train sort of acted as the device of her travel, it was more the act of falling asleep that was the impetus for it. This makes her presence in the past all the more suspenseful, as you never know when she might wake up again in her own time. Is she truly destined to remain with Robert forever in the past? Or is she just visiting for a brief moment in time?

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The Standout

The characters in this novel are everything. From Robert’s snarky grandmother, who I couldn’t help but compare to Trix from Gilmore Girls, to his delightfully chipper sister. Even the supplemental characters who don’t have that much impact on the overall story are so much fun, and you can’t help but become enthralled in this world. The development of some characters was also fascinating. We are introduced to one woman at the beginning of the novel who is set up to be someone who will become a thorn in Ellie’s side, potentially ruining her happily ever after with Robert. Instead, we surprisingly see how this woman comes to becomes one of Ellie’s best friends, who is so unbelievably kind and sincere. So delightful, and it definitely keeps you on your toes!

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Corsets and Hairdos

I can’t think of a better juxtaposition than having a Women’s Studies professor being thrust back in time to the turn of the century. The land of corsets, elaborate hairdos, and always having to lean on a man’s arm. At the start of this novel I was thoroughly entertained with how Ellie expressed her horror at having to squeeze herself into a corset, and jumped for joy at how she wasn’t afraid to talk with Robert about how different her life is in the future as a modern woman.

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Some of my favorite scenes though were when Ellie would have a heart-to-heart with a woman from the past, and discover how they see such fashions of the time as freeing compared to what they were years before. We can see how one can criticize the past when compared with their current life, but at the time also see how illuminating it can be to compare those circumstance with those that came before. It really helps to put everything in perspective, and give the professor a lesson as well.

From Outspoken Woman to a Lady of the Times

My one main criticism of this novel is how Ellie’s character evolves, or devolves, throughout the book. She eventually comes to fit in almost too much with the times. What I loved so much at the outset was how Ellie stood out compared to those around her, and that she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself as a woman. As she spends more time in the past however, we see how she starts to internalize more of her opinions, and almost becomes complacent in her interactions with Robert. I still love Robert as a lead character, but when she avoids making eye contact with him, becomes tongue-tied in his presence, or runs away from her feelings for him she almost seems like a turn of the century woman who needs a fainting couch. Or maybe some smelling salts to help her with the vapors! I wanted her to remain a headstrong female from start to finish, but instead at one point she’s almost like a blushing wall flower.

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Series: Train Through Time, book 1. I got this one for free on Bookbub, and I immediately went and bought the 2nd book in the series.

Should you read it? A fun, quick, simple read that is entertaining throughout. I will say it does drag at one minor point when Ellie tries to distance herself from Robert, but it all comes together for one exciting finish! I do wish Ellie’s character had remained outspoken and spunky throughout, but overall I really enjoyed this one. It does take some unique approaches to the traditional time travel romance genre that made it fun and interesting.

Smut Level: Ellie and Robert have one rather passionate kissing scene, and he is really quite the flirtatious debonair leading lad. Nothing scandalous takes place, even though Ellie does admit she’s no virgin.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 200 Pages.