Up Too Close by Andrea K. Stein & Sawyer Stone

“A life without adventure. Or a life with too much adventure?” Which would you choose?

What’s it About?

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CeCe Ahlstrom, massage therapist to the rich and famous, is done with men. Her last rich boyfriend tried to kill her on an ill-fated cruise through the Grenadines. Now she’s determined to get on with her life but can’t find the funds to get to her next spa gig in Portugal. Then along comes notorious womanizer Captain René Baudoin. He’s hell on the hearts of women, he can handle any storm at sea, yet he might have met his match in a leaky old boat. He needs a first mate crazy enough to help crew the wreck known as the Tourbillon across the Atlantic. Destiny draws CeCe and René together, but things are not what they seem. He struggles with a family secret that could destroy his future and CeCe will have to face a truth not even she knows yet. Out on the open sea, René and CeCe soon find themselves…UP TOO CLOSE.

First Impression

CeCe and René are determined to cross the Atlantic without any sexual funny business popping up between them. In order to entertain the idea of such an undertaking, René has to constantly remind himself to view CeCe as though she were a six-foot-four hairy Turk. Yeah…we’ll see how long that little mental trick works out 🙂 One of the seemingly principal features of René’s personality is that he is a hell of a flirtatious Frenchman. It’s an aspect that was strikingly clear in the first book, and we see it carry over into this second book as well. His attempts to reign in his flirtatiousness when in CeCe’s presence sometimes proves too difficult to maintain.

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However, as CeCe and René develop a more deep and meaningful relationship on their trek throughout the Caribbean we see that René’s flirtatious personality almost disappears entirely. Not gonna lie, I was kind of torn with how I felt about this! I’m not saying I wanted him to flirt with others, but the cute sexual suggestions that he and CeCe would throw back and forth at each other during the start of their journey were really the cornerstone to the comedic aspect of the novel. It’s nice that René matures to realize how important CeCe is to him, and that he no longer has the desire to be the playboy French captain he’s developed a reputation for. I just wish there had been a continuation of his flirty side so that it didn’t feel as though we lost a fun part of what made René, well, René!

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A Dog Named “Dog”

Before CeCe and René get too far along in their journey we see them pick up another unexpected passenger, and that would be René’s grandmother’s Portuguese water dog named Chienne. Aka dog. Aka…bitch. While I would identify myself as a cat person, even I would be the first to admit that this dog is freakin’ adorable. Hands down, the standout feature of the book for me. Chienne forms the final piece of this mismatched family in the middle of the ocean. The fact that the dog hates René, yet loves CeCe makes the dynamics between all three characters all the more fun. Of course by the end of the book we see Chienne open up to René, and it just breaks your heart a bit. In a good way though!

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The Supplemental Joys of Life

One of the key features of the first book that I absolutely loved was all of the delightful secondary characters. However, it seemed like this element was sort of missing in this novel. Sure, we get an introduction to Rene’s grandmother towards the beginning, and CeCe’s family towards the end, but throughout the majority of the novel we just see this rag tag group of three sailors out on the open ocean. Yes, I’m including Chienne in that sailor count! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Chienne, and could probably just read a book about all of his canine adventures, but I think seeing a few more supporting characters throughout the middle of the book could have helped balance out the fun of the novel.

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We do get another peek of one of the more elusive and crazy characters from book one, which is Devin Manning. He’s funding this little expedition to Portugal, and is the most intriguing of wannabe James Bond spy characters. Unfortunately we didn’t see as much of him in this novel as I would have liked. The few glimpses we caught of him in book one seemed appropriate, but I felt like as we move along in this series it would be fun to learn just a bit more about him and his background. Instead, he’s probably even more of a mystery now than he was in book one. Hopefully in book three we’ll finally discover some kind of method to his madness. Although I could also see him being a continuous mystery character who pops up whenever he feels like it.

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An Unexpected Journey

It was kind of tricky to track how far along our couple was in their journey. True, we are provided with the longitude and latitude of their location at the start of every chapter, but maybe a map image would have helped a bit more to visualize their progress…or lack thereof. There was such build-up to this strenuous journey, and yet the bulk of the novel seemed to involve CeCe and René traipsing throughout the Caribbean. Then all of a sudden they’re in Portugal. With the turn of every page I kept wondering, ok, when are we gonna start the crossing to Portugal? Once we got to the half-way point I actually became convinced that we’d never get there. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold we finally get to the last few chapters and we’re basically transported there in the span of a chapter or two. Is it really that quick? Do I need to take a week off work for a fabulous sailing adventure across the Atlantic? Yeaaaaah…no. Let’s face it, a storm at sea is basically a guarantee.

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Unbalanced

There are some humorous features to this novel which will definitely make you chuckle aloud. CeCe’s crazy family reunion in the city of Horta is sort of the climactic event for silliness. We even get a confrontational argument between CeCe and René in the midst of the reunion wherein they both have microphones to confess some of their biggest secrets in a crowded room full of CeCe’s friends and family. Kind of a cheesy scene, and ultimately I wish that more of these silly comedic elements could have been spread out more evenly across the breadth of the book. They’re all sort of reserved towards the end, which lends an unbalanced feeling to the book.

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We are introduced to René’s outspoken grandmother near the start of the book, and then we get a mad glimpse of CeCe’s crazy family at the end. The heart and soul of the book involves René and CeCe connecting both physically and emotionally alone in the middle of the ocean. The fact that their moments of romance are book-ended by some rather over-the-top, almost cartoonish characters means that you go through a bit of whiplash in regards to what tone is being set for the novel. I felt like either the other supplemental characters should have been toned down ever so slightly, or maybe we needed one or two additional comedic scenes towards the middle of the book to help with the overall flow of the story.

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

Series: Love Overboard, book 2. Just one more book left in this series, and I’m curious to see how it will come together.

Final Impression: Overall I’d have to say I probably enjoyed the first book in the series a bit more than this one. We saw a more well-rounded arch to the story line, and it was a funny read without being too silly. I definitely found myself chuckling with this read, but by the end it sort of crossed the line into being too silly. The premise and set up for this sequel was definitely still a hoot, and the moments where René and CeCe could truly escape from the pressures of their reality by spending alone time together in their romantic bubble on the sea were rather special. Chienne’s boisterous personality might just be the best feature of the series so far.

Smut Level: Sex on a deck in the middle of the ocean. Nothing around but the ocean breeze, lap of water against the hull, and what must be a ton of blisters in the ass. CeCe and René also somehow manage to 69 whilst on this boat. Is it just me, or does that seem like a rather dizzying activity. Probably opens a portal to the Bermuda Triangle or something.

Get it on AmazonClick Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Muirgen Publishing, LLC. 235 Pages.

Rogue Dragon Rising: Part One by T.J. Shaw

Let’s kick off the new release extravaganza in style! Shifters and herbivores and a sexy-ass dragon, oh my! This novel is jam-packed with fantastical characters, and its cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more.

What’s it About?

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Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her.

Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy.

As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?

First Impressions

I’m definitely intrigued by this world! It literally pulls you in from the opening scene. But at the same time I can’t help but feel a little bit lost in it. There’s a lot going on! We have shifters, one-souls, sheep, dragons, herbivores, predators, half-breeds, Trinity moon, auctions, Eldians, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things here. Oh, healers! That’s another one. Rogues! Panthers! Gahhh, fantasy character overload! I thiiiiiiink I understand what most of it means, but I would have appreciated a few extra pages focusing on the unique features of this world so I could confidently understand how all the players fit together. Something that you don’t need a guide map to understand though is the electric magnetism bringing Amari and Jaxon together. At times they don’t even need to exchange words. All of their desire and fascination can be expressed solely in their eyes. It’s some pretty heady stuff at times, and it’ll keep you turning the pages for more.

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Who Are You? Who Am I?

In addition to all the fantastical elements at work here, there’s another unique added plot element of Amari having lost her memory. This takes place right at the very start of the book, so we as the audience are just as lost as she is in regards to who she is, or where she comes from. We’ve all encountered romances with this feature, but what makes it even more intriguing in this instance is that she can’t remember what her designation is. Herbivore? Predator? Who knows?!? Definitely not her! When she finds herself being sold at auction she unwittingly declares that she’s a sheep. This is something that Jaxon insists he and his dragon would never be attracted to, but he also can’t deny the intense desire he feels that is constantly pulling him towards Amari. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that she’s not really a sheep, but something else entirely.

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A Desperate Search

Interspersed with Amari’s desperate attempts to remember who she is, we also get a few scenes here and there providing us with glimpses of her family desperately trying to find her. We quickly discover through these side scenes that Amari isn’t a simple, helpless sheep. Far from it. She’s a drakaina. A dragon. Aka, something Jaxon and his dragon had pretty much given up hope of ever finding. It certainly explains to us as the reader why Amari isn’t afraid to look Jaxon in the eye, and even to challenge him at times. She’s his equal, and quite obviously his mate, even if neither of them realize it yet.

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Something I didn’t fully understand though, either through these side scenes with Amari’s family, or the main focus on Amari herself, was in regards to her visions. At the very start of the book when one of the trackers reaches for Amari to kidnap her, she seems to get a vision of how he’ll die. However, this unique ability is never really mentioned again. Why doesn’t it happen when she touches Jaxon? Is it because she’s lost her memory and can’t access this part of her mind? Again, this is another area where I wish we could have seen a bit more explanation, but I have a feeling I’m probably just too impatient at this point, and need to wait to see what book 2 will have in store!

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

Series: Outside the Veil, book 1. This book ends on a mini cliffhanger. Not the kind that will make you angry, but it leaves you on a point of lustful suspense. I don’t see how you can’t be seduced to find out what comes next.

Final Impression: I was quickly enchanted with this world, but I can’t help but feel as though I was dropped into the middle of it with an old compass to guide me instead of the fancy GPS I’m used to. I can see how more detail and explanation is forthcoming in the future books, especially in regards to Amari’s transition into her dragon form. Not to mention all the drama which might come with that, as her family seems to have kept her in the dark about some of this. That being said, I think a few more pages of set-up introducing some of the particularities of this world would have helped 🙂

Smut Level: We get a lot of smoldering, intense looks. A big build-up at the end as Jaxon pushes her up against a rock with his arms on either side of her. Running his lips along her neck. Pushing his hips into hers. Looks into her eyes to ask for a kiss. We’ll just have to read book 2 to figure out what other sexy good times might be in store!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Forgotten Dreams Publishing, LLC. 105 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: Within the Skin by Zara West. Multicultural Suspense.

Another Five Minutes by Destiny Booze

Do you know how many times this book almost made me late for work because I couldn’t put it down?! Ok…only once. I started it one night before bed and finished it the next night at about 2:00am, but you get my point!

What’s it About?

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Loving him is easy.

Fearing him is necessary.

Trusting him could be a deadly mistake.

Born deaf and living with an anxiety disorder, Brooke Hartley manages life in five-minute intervals. It’s all she can do to get out of bed each morning. She’s hidden inside her sister’s apartment for over a year. Everything changes when Brooke’s sister goes missing. Her fragile world crashes. She is desperate to find her, and she’ll need help.

Haunted by a past he needs to forget, Scott Derrico keeps to himself until his gallery manager, Autumn Hartley, suddenly disappears. He is forced out of his isolation to help a woman that needs him with a terrifying intensity. Scott tries to deny his attraction to Brooke. He doesn’t want to get emotionally involved but he craves her like nothing else. And, for her, he is a dark and sexy diversion to overcome her fear.

With a genuinely flawed and relatable heroine and a mysterious and protective hero, you won’t want this love story to end. You’ll beg…for another five minutes…

First Impression

This book quite literally pulls you in from the opening bell, and doesn’t let you go until you cross the finish line. This is the perfect definition of a beach read, because it’s one you’ll want to finish in one sitting when you have nowhere else to be. There’s a continual sense of anticipation and suspense throughout the majority of the book which is highlighted by the fact that almost every chapter ends on a mini cliffhanger. Normally this technique gets on my nerves, but I must say it was executed quite well with this one. Our characters are so intriguing that just when you think you’ll be able to take a break at the end of the chapter, you’ll find yourself being pulled into the next one.

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Suffering through the Panic

Another aspect which heightens the intensity level of the book is Brooke’s own anxiety. This is a troubled, deaf woman who has survived both physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her brother throughout her entire childhood. The prologue provides us with a minor glimpse at what she suffered, and I must say just these first few pages were difficult to get through. Imagining Brooke having to endure such torture for years with no reprieve is truly heartbreaking. Because of this abuse she suffers from extreme anxiety as an adult, including debilitating panic attacks, constantly needing her back to be at a wall to minimize the likelihood of surprise, and an intense fear of ever leaving the apartment she shares with her sister, Autumn. Her twin has been her one solace and companion in life, and when Autumn mysteriously disappears one day without a trace, we are right there with Brooke as her entire world spins out of control.

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One feature of the novel that I wish had been incorporated a bit more fully was the “five minute” element. The concept of getting through one day is often too overwhelming for Brooke to take in all at once. Instead, she tries to just get through the next five minutes. When Autumn goes missing, the number of times that Brooke has to calm herself down through just another five minutes increases about tenfold. It was definitely an interesting concept, but I just wish there was a way that we as the audience could have felt the pressure of those five minute countdowns even more. Definitely easier said than done, and I still haven’t completely determined how I would have liked to see it play out.

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If it were a movie, I can definitely see a countdown timer in my head, almost like 24. In written form it’s a bit more difficult, but maybe when one of those panic attacks happened we could have started out a chapter with a “five minute” heading at the top. Two pages later we get “four minutes”, and so on and so on until we end the chapter with what’s happening in that final minute. Instead it seemed like we were presented with a rushed 5 minutes in just a few paragraphs. Overall, a really fascinating concept that was executed well, but if it had been pushed just a bit more I think it really could have been something super special and unique.

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Nowhere to Turn

We have this woman who is deaf and suddenly alone in the world, her sister nowhere to be found. Brooke finds there is only one man she can turn to, and that’s Scott, Autumn’s boss. Scott has a troubled past of his own, and lives every day feeling guilty and unable to escape from the tragedies of his past. But when Autumn first introduces him to her sister, Brooke, there is suddenly a light and beauty in his life that he hasn’t seen in years. He’s aware of her anxieties in life, but when Autumn goes missing he becomes her protector, and one of the only people willing to take the time to figure out what she’s saying. The police assume she’s overreacting, or that Autumn simply needed a break from being the caregiver for such a seemingly helpless sister. But Scott recognizes the severity of the situation in this case, and will do anything he can to bring Autumn back safe, and try to keep Brooke calm in the meantime.

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What surprised me here is that the emotional bond between these characters never seemed rushed or ill-timed, even though we’re searching for a missing person here. It felt real, natural, and all encompassing. Neither character can quite explain it or understand it. Brooke herself refuses to believe someone like Scott could ever have true feelings for a “freak” like her. And yet, you can see how naturally comfortable and at peace these two characters are with one another. Brooke finds her anxiety lessen when she’s with Scott, and even being in his apartment surrounds her with a sense of calm. As for Scott, spending more time with Brooke makes him consider leaving the ghosts of his past behind him. It was really quite touching.

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What…Happened?!?!

The mystery component of this novel was very clever. Autumn’s disappearance happens so suddenly and so early on in the book that we as the audience have no possible guess as to what might have happened. Could she have really left her sister behind, fed up with looking after her? Or did something more sinister happen. We uncover the clues right along with Brooke and Scott, and throughout the whole book I was surprised to find I had very little guesses as to what might have happened. The lack of predictability was quite refreshing. As the novel progresses the anticipation continues to increase until the ultimate climactic final act when everything finally comes together.

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I won’t give anything away, but I will say it goes in a surprising direction that I definitely didn’t see coming. Unfortunately, I can’t say it totally came together in a cohesive manner for me. To put this in a way that I think my readers will appreciate, the foreplay was significantly more enjoyable and entertaining than the climax 😉 That’s not to say I didn’t find the ultimate big reveal to be interesting, but rather I think there could have been a few more pages to fully explain why everything played out the way it did. It seemed as though some questions weren’t fully answered as to the why, what, who, how does this all connect exactly?

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

Series: I know this novel is designed as a stand-alone, but my goodness I would absolutely love to see a sequel. I have zero clue what the story concept would be, but I was just so drawn in by Brooke and Scott that I want to see more from them.

Final Impression: This novel reminded me of a jigsaw puzzle. I had an absolute blast piecing it all together, and while I wasn’t sure what the final image would be, you simply can’t walk away until it’s complete. While there may have been a missing piece or two when all was said and done, in the end you can’t help but feel as though you finished something that was unique, and one-of-a kind. Mkay, that’s about all I can get out of my puzzle metaphor there. While the mystery of Autumn’s disappearance is the catalyst for the plot, I found that what kept me turning the pages one after the other was Brooke and Scott. Their connection was electrifying, and you keep your fingers crossed that they’ll be able to make it through this drama together.

Smut Level: Brooke doesn’t believe that she’s good enough, or enticing enough, for a man like Scott. He’ll do anything he can to demonstrate that she has become an ultimate shining light in his life. We don’t get an inordinate amount of detail to their love scenes, which I think was appropriate considering all the other stuff going on in their lives right now.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 187 Pages.

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Ancient Souls by Marianne Bissett

“I can’t imagine the world without my tub. A hot bath can heal any mademoiselle’s soul.” I seriously think I need to get these words embroidered into my bath towel. Truer words were never spoken.

What’s it About?

40795668Death is only temporary and then you’re reborn, sending out a call to other souls linked through past friendship, love—and betrayal. When WWII nurse Cora Tate discovers she can remember past lives, she is thrust into a world she never knew existed but lived through more times than she could count. Although the memories of her many pasts have not yet returned, she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old conflict with a clear line dividing those who seek power and those who seek to give it. With her superior fighting skills and instincts for battle resurfacing, Cora agrees to fight, joining ancient warriors who could never blend in and a petite female sniper you could never see coming.

With battle after battle, Cora’s memories begin to flood back–though some not soon enough. Their leader, British Captain Alastair Scott, doesn’t hide his feelings for her, barely reigning in his passions in his attempt to give her space to remember. But as Cora’s mind begins to open further revealing her love for Alastair and the never ending war in which they fight, memories of another soul emerge from a far away past where lovers turned into enemies and enemies became lovers. With her destiny held in the balance, Cora must reconcile who she once was with who she was always meant to be to finally end the war.

First Impressions

Cora is just trying to make it through each day as a nurse in the midst of WWII. Little does she know, she’s actually a key player in a war that has been raging for centuries, and that she herself has been fighting throughout countless lifetimes. The details of this war are…complicated, so I’m gonna do my best to summarize it. Cora is part of a group of men and women known as guises, who “have the ability to recall skills and knowledge from their previous lives, making them superior to others in this world.” Cora is part of the good group of guises, who believe that mankind is inherently good. But then there are the Vigilare, led by their uber evil leader, Vitus. These are the bad guys who think that war is simply an inherent part of human nature, and their sole purpose throughout the centuries is to remind humans of the hate and darkness lying within them. It’s your classic tale of good vs. evil; the angels and the devils on the shoulders of humanity. Cora is apparently the key to it all, but there’s one major problem. She’s only just learning that she’s a guise, and can’t remember the details, or fighting prowess, from any of her previous lives.

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The A-Team

In order to remember how to fight, Cora’s fellow guise comrades determine she needs to be placed in a situation where she has no choice but to channel her skills. Essentially, she is walking into battle unarmed, yet at the same time she has all the necessary training needed to succeed. If only she can remember it. It almost seemed like a baby bird learning to fly. Approaching the ledge, needing to jump, and hoping that eventually the flapping of wings will save you. We can sense her trepidation, and I must say it was a cleverly suspenseful way to help us as the audience connect with Cora’s character. We might not be a guise, but we can all imagine the fear which would envelop us if we were placed in a similar situation. To be thrown into the middle of a battlefield and basically told, don’t worry, it’ll all come back to you. The hell you say?!

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We initially question why her teammates wouldn’t just tell Cora about her past lives and their mutual connection to her, so that her fighting skills and other memories could come back to her faster. Well let’s face it, that would simply be too easy. However, it’s also a key feature that separates them from the enemy. They don’t want her memories to be tampered by their view of how events transpired, and instead believe it’s better for it to all come back naturally to her. Honestly, I think the camaraderie of the team was my favorite aspect of the novel. Their countless lifetimes together have strengthened their sense of loyalty, and they’re constantly looking out for each other. Also, you can’t help but love how each character’s distinct personality comes together to form a cohesive team.

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No Ending to True Love

In my opinion the one down-side to the strategy of leaving Cora to come by her memories naturally was that it sort of impacted our ability to really understand the depth of Alastair and Cora’s emotional connection. The link of the team is undoubtedly strong, but I was left wanting more in terms of our lead couple’s romantic pulse. These two have a love that extends across multiple lifetimes, but because Alastair tries to keep away from Cora in the beginning so she can realize their love on her own, it thereby creates a sense of distance between them. While it’s true that Alastair has immense difficulty in staying away, and often loses his control to stroke her hand, nuzzle her neck, or devour her mouth, when all was said and done I wished we had been able to connect with them more as a couple rather than comrades.

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Instead there was more of a focus on dealing with the undoubtedly important matters of war at hand, and develop their strategy against the ultimate enemy, Vitus. Totally understandable, and I have a feeling we’ll uncover even more of their connection in the next book. I just wanted to see a bit more of them discussing what brought them together all those lifetimes ago, and how it’s managed to persist for so many lifetimes thereafter. When it comes to these two, “true love never has a happy ending, because there is no ending to true love.” They mention throughout the story that there’s a line which draws them together, how their pulses are linked, but I guess as the reader I had some trouble feeling this line.

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Here We Go Again

This war against the Vigilare is literally never ending. Death does not mean an end to the controversy, but rather the person will be reborn to continue the fight in their next lifetime. A unique aspect to this endless cycle of war is that it’s not always the same battle on repeat. In one lifetime the Vigilare leaders might be annihilated, only to have them prevail in the next one. Cora may succeed in bringing about peace for humankind, or the Vigilare might find and kill her before she has a chance to remember anything from her previous lives. It definitely makes for a suspenseful read, as the possibility for failure is very real.

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My one question though is aren’t they tired of this never ending struggle? Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. If either side should succeed, it’s a short-lived success. Once they die it just starts all over again. Sooo…what’s the point of it anymore? I mean seriously, after so many centuries of fighting can’t they just be like, ok, you take the Caribbean, we’ll take the south of France, in 100 years we’ll switch. Byeeee, have a fun century. Let the humans do whatever the heck they want. I have a feeling this book has just demonstrated to me that I’m far too lazy to ever become an evil overlord. Thank goodness.

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

Series: Historical Fantasy Romance, book 1. This book definitely ends on an “oh snap” moment that will make you want to find out what might come next. I’m definitely intrigued!

Final Impression: The overall balance of the novel was slightly off for me. There’s an exciting start as Cora realizes all is not as it seems in this world, and I loved the introduction to her rag-tag team of guises. The middle portion did drag a little bit as they venture around war-torn Europe going from mission to mission. It all culminates with a suspenseful and action-packed finish, albeit one that felt slightly rushed. I wish it had come a few chapters earlier in the book, especially the eventual face-to-face confrontation with Vitus. There were so many repercussions of this meeting, and because it happened so late in the book those following details were kind of glossed over in order to pull the reader into the next novel.

Smut Level: Alastair does all he can to keep his distance from Cora, who is still trying to discover how she fits into this world of guises. However, after centuries of falling in love over and over again, the man only has so much willpower 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 298 Pages.

Hurricane Crimes by Chrys Fey

This story of murder in the midst of a deadly hurricane certainly packs a punch. And in just 43 pages!!

What’s it About?

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After her car breaks down, Beth Kennedy is forced to stay in Florida, the target of Hurricane Sabrina. She stocks up supplies, boards up windows, and hunkers down to wait out the storm, but her plan unravels when she witnesses a car accident. Risking her life, she braves the winds to save the driver. Just when she believes they are safe, she finds out the man she saved could possibly be more dangerous than the severe weather.

Donovan Goldwyn only wanted to hide from the police, but the hurricane shoved his car into a tree. Now he’s trapped with a beautiful woman while the evidence that can prove his innocence to a brutal crime is out there for anyone to find. As Hurricane Sabrina wreaks havoc, Beth has no other choice but to trust Donovan to stay alive. But will she survive, or will she become another hurricane crime?

First Impressions

I started this book before leaving for work one morning, thinking it’d be a somewhat low stakes novella to start and leave without finishing. Lemme say, bad idea! I read just 10 minutes of this before walking out the door, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day long. I seriously considered whipping my Kindle out during my lunch break to finish the rest of it all up in one sitting. Unfortunately that would have left my coworker to just watch me eat and read at the same time, and may have been slightly awkward. No talking allowed!!

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I was completely shocked at how much story the author was able to pack in here in just under 50 pages. Overall it was an absolute perfect blend of romance, suspense, and mother nature trying to knock down the front door. It’s not just a story of two strangers waiting out a storm together. We have the added drama of Donovan being framed for his brother’s murder, and it becomes a fascinating tale of trust. Beth has no reason to believe this stranger when he declares his innocence, but when she sees the desperation shining through his sultry violet eyes? Who could say no to that?

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A Bathtub Fit for Two

Although it was short in length, I never felt like any part of the story was rushed, or that any key plot points were left out. Did Beth and Donovan become intimate rather quickly considering the time frame? Sure, but hell, you can’t blame ’em! It’s an intense situation, and quite possibly their last moments alive as a deadly hurricane passes over them. And seriously, the dude has violet eyes. I say go for it! The only question I have is what the hell kind of bathtub did this woman have in her house where it could not only fit two people, but they had a bit of extra room to remove their jeans for some sweet, sweet, lovin’? (Note: as someone with a ridiculously shallow and narrow tub, this is just pure jealousy).

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Beth, Donovan, and Sabrina

The key players in this little novella are Beth and Donovan. However, through the brilliant use of metaphors, Hurricane Sabrina becomes a third main character in her own right. The descriptions or her rapid approach and violent wrath can practically be characterized as poetic. My favorite scene would have to be at the beginning when Beth struggles to make it to Donovan’s car which has crashed into a tree outside her house as the hurricane ravages on. You’re transported into the moment with Beth. You can feel the wind and rain lashing upon your face, feel the gravel digging into your hands as you crawl along the ground. Feel the tightening in your stomach from fear wondering if you’ll ever make it to this man before the storm carries you both away. For all of you authors out there wondering how to craft the perfect novella, I say use this as your template. Honestly, I really don’t have any criticisms! A rarity indeed 😉

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

Series: Disaster Crimes, book 1. I officially want to read this whole series.

Should you read it? Yes! It’s less than 50 pages, you’ve got nothing to lose. Normally with novellas I make the comment that I wish it were a full-length novel. Is that the case here? Kind of. I loved the characters, the story, the drama of the storm and our murderous side plot. A full-length novel would have just given me more to enjoy. What can I say, I’m greedy at times 🙂 However!! I can honestly say that having a full-length novel was in no way a necessity. It’s perfectly wonderful as a novella, and I didn’t feel for one second that I was missing out on anything. Who needs extra fluff when you can just get to the meat of the story? Maybe instead of having a longer version I’ll just have to give it a second read!

Smut Level: We get some sexy kisses, but no details for the act itself. Considering the short length, probably a wise decision to use every bit of limited space towards the plot rather than the naked times. Never thought I’d say that!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 43 Pages.

Playing for Love by Ashlie Knapp

There’s nothing quite better than a fine-looking man who likes to give foot rubs and quote The Sandlot. I’ll have me s’more of that. And yes, I would like s’more even though I haven’t had any yet. For those of you who don’t see the connection here, for the love of God stop reading this and go watch the fabulous classic that is The Sandlot already!!

What’s it About?

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When Cassie Randall spun a globe several years ago and her finger landed on Oklahoma, she didn’t know what to expect. A native Alaskan, all Cassie had known her whole life was snow and ice…and fear. Running to a state thousands of miles away was her only way to survive. And it worked. Now, with new friends and teaching degree only one semester away, Cassie feels like she has the life she’s always waited for. When Jamal Jenkins, the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, walks into her life, Cassie isn’t impressed. In fact, she doesn’t even know who he is.

Jamal Jenkins is the consummate NBA player – cocky, confident and casual. That’s the media’s portrayal of him, at least. In reality, Jamal is nothing but an everyday guy trying to make a living for his family doing what he loves – playing basketball. When he is paired with Cassie to walk down the aisle at their mutual friends’ wedding, he isn’t excited to spend time with a woman people describe as a bookworm. After meeting her, however, he can’t get enough of the Alaskan beauty who knows nothing about sports or the fact he is a household name.

Cassie is running from her past. Jamal is trying to solidify his family’s future. What happens when their paths collide is anyone’s guess. Genuine, warm and funny, Playing for Love is a story about finding family, hope and new beginnings when it’s least expected.

First Impressions

On paper, it seems like Jamal and Cassie are polar opposites. She’s an introverted bookworm who couldn’t play a sport to save her life. Jamal on the other hand is a sociable, sarcastic and cocky professional basketball player, not to mention a single father. They seemingly couldn’t have less in common. But when they are paired to walk down the aisle together as part of their best friends’ bridal party, well…that’s practically a guarantee for these two to end up in the sack! Jamal is immediately smitten with the doe-eyed beauty he likes to call Bambi, but Cassie tries her hardest to keep the handsome sportsman at bay. After their first passionate kiss though, any attempt to have a platonic relationship with the man is thrown out the window. He’s a loving father, he’s funny, sensual, and apparently he bears a striking resemblance to Jackson Avery on Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously you guys I lost track of the number of times this comparison was made, and I now feel contractually obligated to show at least one photo of the man!

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Ok here’s another one.

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Aaaaaand just one more for good measure.

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Mkay, I think we’re all good now.

A Cut Above the Rest

There is one character in this novel who, without a doubt, steals the show above any other and that would be Jamal’s daughter JJ. She’s such a firecracker with a quick wit and sassy repartee. Even I want to hang out with this kid! And believe me, after years and years of babysitting I will say children can get on my nerves, so the fact I want to willingly hang out with this one is saying an awful lot. Personally I really appreciated that the author chose to feature JJ front and center rather then constantly try to hide her away at a friend’s house so Jamal and Cassie could have some alone time. This seems to be a convenient technique (aka the easy way out) employed by authors who don’t know how to effectively incorporate a child into a story line. JJ also proved a crucial figure for Jamal and Cassie to bond over, and helped to thaw Cassie’s initial hesitancy to spend more time with Jamal. Their open love and affection for JJ helps define their own love for each other, and is an essential element for their relationship to succeed.

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A Complicated Past

Throughout the novel we are presented with hints to Cassie’s tumultuous past, including references to darkness and bruises. As it turns out, Cassie had an extremely abusive and alcoholic father who was the sheriff of their small Alaska town, where nobody believed the claims that she or her mother made against him. Eventually this resulted in the death of her mother, and Cassie inheriting one million dollars. She knew this money would be an obsession for her father, so she chose to flee to Oklahoma in an attempt to leave her past behind. We quickly see how this complicated past has impacted her personal life. She never brought boys around when living with her father, and after she fled she was so focused on school and studying she never really had a relationship. This means she is still a virgin when good ole Jackson Avery, I mean, Jamal Jenkins comes around.

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One aspect of their relationship which I found particularly interesting was that, all things considered, Cassie was very quick to trust Jamal. You’d think that with the strained and abusive relationship with her father she’d have difficulty trusting men, but with Jamal that is never really a huge issue. Sure it may have been a slight cause for concern in the beginning, but after spending some time with him it is never something which comes between them later on. Instead her eventual inner debate over whether or not to end things with him results from the fact that she doesn’t want to bring her complicated drama and baggage into Jamal or JJ’s lives. She’s convinced that eventually something will happen that will cause her to leave them, and the last thing she wants is to abandon them just like JJ’s mother did. She tries to save their feelings and her own by keeping her distance from them at the start. Well…not if Jamal will have anything to say about it.

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Something I wasn’t a huge fan of was how Cassie’s complicated past eventually comes back to mess with her present. I must say it was a rather predictable ending, and we have to wait around so long for it to come about. Then when it does, it’s resolved so quickly! The climax hits at the 91% mark and is finished up by 92%. What comes after the drama though is a delectably sweet conclusion which highlights how important Jamal and Cassie are to each other, and as a family unit with JJ. A lot of thought and care went into the ending. And of course, there’s one last final dig at Cassie’s inability to play sports.

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

Series: Playing Series, book 2. We do get to see some scenes with the couple from the first novel. My God though the fact that the woman from the first novel is named Callie and this one is named Cassie, and they’re best friends who are often featured in the same scene? I’d say it wasn’t until the halfway point that I could definitively distinguish their names.

Should you read it? I did enjoy the fact that Jamal’s daughter played a prominent role in this book, and wasn’t just brushed aside to focus on all the lovey doveyness going on between him and Cassie. The dude is a single dad, his daughter comes with the territory!  That being said, the story is a bit light in the drama department. I feel like there was a slightly missed opportunity to incorporate more depth and suspense surrounding her father. I wish it had been more of a continual discussion throughout the book rather than providing a quick climax at the end. Also, it would have been great to see more focus describing Jamal’s life at 17 when he was left to raise a baby all on his own after his girlfriend abandoned them. We could have seen some more emotional drama on multiple fronts here.

Smut Level: Pretty clean read. A few smooches here and there, but nothing scandalous.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 274 Pages.

Here and Then After by D.M. Porters

Beth has been given a second chance at life, and in the process she also has a chance at love. It might be the truest love she’s ever experienced. In this lifetime…or her last one.

What’s it About?

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Retired tax accountant, Elizabeth Edwards is devastated when she discovers her husband of 41 years, has been unfaithful most of their married life. What’s worse, she discovers this after he passes away when deep, punishing secrets are revealed. She is left to struggle with the deception and the fact that her life has been a lie. Broken, tortured and alone, Beth decides to leave her life behind and start over with what little time she had left.

With a keen eye for antiques and her love of history, Beth embarks on a journey to England that will change everything for her, even time. She visits the countryside to explore its grand manors and estates. Then, the directions to a ‘hidden gem’ are disclosed to her, and she is inexplicably drawn to this estate – Taylor Manor.

Faced with her own sudden death, Beth is given a second chance to live. This time, however, it is in the body of a beautiful young woman living her own hell 200 years in the past. In a twist of fate, the haven she is sent to is Taylor Manor, where she is to work as a maid. There she meets the brooding Lord Samuel Taylor, who has lived through his own pain and suffering. Can Beth start over and learn to live in this new and dangerous world while resisting her growing attraction to handsome Lord Taylor? Can he allow himself to love while battling his own demons? Love truly has no boundaries, not even time.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a very unique and interesting twist to your typical time travel romance. Rather than simply traveling through time (seriously, who hasn’t in this day and age?), Beth has actually died in the year 2017 from a heart attack. As she’s traveling towards the white light of the beyond, she encounters a young woman named Sarah who is also moving along that same light. Beth then proceeds to inhabit Sarah’s body back in the early 1800’s. This added an interesting dimension to the whole time travel theme in that Beth doesn’t just have to adapt to living in a new time period, but she also deals with a flood of memories from this young woman’s sad and short-lived life. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a time travel romance such as this, and I must say I loved this twist. Instead of constantly wondering whether or not Beth will be able to return to her own time, because let’s face it that ship has sailed, we get an alternate drama of her having to cope with the events and tragedies that Sarah tried to escape from through suicide. We quickly learn that this woman was abused and raped at the hands of her drunken father, and while Beth is able to hide out in the countryside estate, Taylor Manor, we all know it’s just a matter of time before this abusive father comes to find her.

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A New Life

Beth doesn’t lament too long on the fact that she’s leaving her old life behind for good. After all, she was in her 60’s at the time of her death, and suffering from obvious heart problems. She now gets to inhabit the body of a beautiful 20-year-old, and the aches and pains of old age are no more. Beyond that though, she had also just learned that her recently deceased husband of 41 years was quite the philanderer, and even had a daughter she never knew existed. After learning of this betrayal, Beth decided to finally set out and live life for herself by exploring the beautiful country estates of England. She visits a rather hidden estate known as Taylor Manor, and feels an immediate connection to the house before keeling over dead from a heart attack. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in the 1800’s, and learns that to escape the clutches of Sarah’s lunatic father she will be hidden away as a housemaid in none other than Taylor Manor.

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Now, most people who find themselves in this type of situation would probably be freaking the eff out. However, you have to admire Beth’s tenacity and ability to look at this entire situation as a second chance at life. Sure, Sarah’s life was fraught with issues, but Beth still chooses to make the most of every day. The fact that she gets to spend her time in a beautiful manor house surrounded by glorious antiques is simply an added bonus! And sure, the devilishly handsome master of the house with whom she has an undeniable sexual chemistry isn’t half-bad either. However, I do feel that there was one missed opportunity here for some added fun. In her former life, Beth was a wealthy older woman who had worked a desk job as a successful accountant. Now she is suddenly a housemaid in the 1800’s doing dishes, cleaning, etc? I just wish we could have been privy to a few more scenes which focused on the difficulty of adjusting to this new life. I get that by waking up 40 years younger she probably has a bit more pep in her step, but it seems like she would have had a few issues here and there with having to put some elbow grease into her daily work.

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Life in the Manor

Of all the manors in England to end up in after traveling through time, Beth definitely lucked out being placed in Taylor Manor. The various characters of the house are such a delight, and you can’t help but fall in love with them. From the motherly love of the head-housekeeper, to the joyous affability of the cook, and especially the rambunctious innocence of the young stable boy. As soon as Beth steps foot into this house you can’t wait to get to know them all, and just like Beth you too will be swept up into the warmth of this friendly bunch of people. And then of course we get to the master of the house, Samuel. He’s a bit of a surly fellow. Kind of closed-off and grumbly, although he has a definite soft spot for his employees.

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We learn that his parents died in a tragic carriage accident when he was just a boy. The fact he witnessed the entire ordeal adds to the overall tragedy of the event, and obviously contributed to his seemingly outward lack of empathy as an adult. But at the first sight of Beth he is obviously smitten, and also surprisingly intrigued by her adept knowledge of math and balancing his ledgers. Beth is also surprised to feel such desire for a man again. I will admit at times I was prone to a slight giggle-fest when they eventually acted upon their desires for each other. What can I say? I couldn’t help but remind myself that in essence we have a woman in her 60’s getting down and dirty with a handsome English Lord in his 20’s. Sure, her body might be young, but this woman has lived, and she brings all of her experience to the table. Let’s just say she has a few tricks up her sleeve to bring this man to his knees. Well…she gets down on hers anyway!

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The Big Reveal

Alright, so the time has come which we know is inevitable in any time travel romance. The moment when our lead character admits to her love interest the fact that she isn’t from this time. Samuel has suspected pretty much from day one that Beth was hiding something about herself, but he never dreamed in a million years what she would come to admit. Now, typically when this reveal happens, a very common response is for the opposite party to think our time traveler is crazy. I definitely get it. But here was the one aspect of this novel that I wasn’t toooooo fond of. Normally when the person thinks the time traveler is crazy, they immediately start to treat them like delicate glass, and vow to get them the help they so desperately need. Well…we don’t get that here.

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Instead, after Beth admits she’s lived a life in the future, Samuel not only declares she must be mad, but practically insists that she get the hell outta his house as soon as possible. Dude, I understand it’s a tough thing to understand, but don’t throw the poor woman out on the street! Let’s assume for a moment that he does actually believe she is legitimately insane. Beth has already admitted to him that she (or at least the woman she’s occupying) tried to commit suicide after being abused and raped at the hands of her father. Why wouldn’t Samuel just think she’s going through some kind of post-traumatic meltdown, and somehow tried to create an alternate life as a way to cope with this trauma? While he quickly comes to regret his decision to kick her out of his house, and immediately runs after her to bring her back, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at his initial reaction to her admission. I expected more from you Samuel!

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

Series: Taylor series, book 1. I have definitely fallen in love with this family, and this manor. Can’t wait to see what comes next in book 2!

Should you read it? I will say it does take some time for our story to build up to Beth’s eventual death and travel through time. Quite a bit of time is spent on Beth interacting with her husband’s illegitimate daughter that I’m not 100% convinced was entirely necessary. Unless of course that story line comes back into play in a future novel? Who knows! That being said, once Beth makes the jump through time I was hooked. You have the drama and intrigue of her adjusting to life in the 1800s, falling in love with Samuel, and eventually dealing with the suspense of the abusive father. I figured we’d end with a happily ever after, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see how everything connects back to the future. The novel definitely comes full circle in a delightfully clever way, and I for one am excited to see what other inventive twists and turns we might encounter in a second book.

Smut Level: For a historical romance this book will definitely have you blushing. Sure, we get the typical mentions of trembling and bursting forth into ecstasy, but there are also a few more details in there to please our modern sensibilities.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 237 Pages.

The Milanese Stars by Pamela Q. Fernandes

It would appear that Vita and her co-conspirators may have just gotten away with the jewel heist of the century. But when a sexy investigator comes to town, Vita realizes she might not escape from Milan so easily with the jewels intact…or her heart for that matter.

What’s it About?

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The heist of the decade and yet, no one would have guessed… it was her. The Milanese stars are missing from the famous Buccatino boutique. When American insurance investigator, Samuel Keane is called in to liaise with the polizia, he finds the whole heist odd. Not only are the Milanese stars, a set of five pink diamonds, not listed in the inventory of stolen items, worse, none of the surrounding owners or passersby witnessed a thing.

Samuel is anxious to solve the case and partners with local café owner, Vita, who has a very good vantage point to watch Buccatino. Vita herself has quite the interest in Samuel. He’s a decent man, not to mention delicious, and he’s smart. But the last thing she wants is to be caught. After all, Vita has planned the heist for years. Five to be exact. The only thing she didn’t plan is falling in love with the young American.

As Samuel digs further into the history of the stars, he discovers Vita’s friends and her physically challenged sister are all connected to them. He learns of Vita’s past and the loneliness she’s resigned herself to in an effort to protect herself from loss. Samuel also learns Don Giovanni, proprietor of Buccatino, is no ordinary man. He’s a local Mafioso and will stop at nothing till he gets the stars. The more Samuel investigates, the more dangers he and Vita face. Can he solve the case and what will happen with Vita? What will he do when we learns the heist of the decade isn’t about stealing pink diamonds… it’s about settling the score.

First Impressions

Vita can’t deny the desire simmering between her and Samuel. There’s just one problem. He’s only in town for a short time to investigate a jewel heist worth millions. And Vita just happens to be the thief responsible. Okay…so that might be more than just one problem now that I think about it. One of the best parts of this novel is Vita’s inner turmoil of whether or not to pursue anything with Samuel. Why would she possibly risk inviting a wolf in sheep’s clothing into her life and home? He is investigating the heist after all, and she’s directly responsible for it. But considering the heat passing between them, to push him off would be even more suspicious than inviting him in. She doesn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to herself, and ironically enough the best way to do that is to go on a few dates with the man. At the same time she’s helping to coordinate the sale of the stolen jewels and plotting her own escape from the city. Who would have thought she’d have time to fall in love with all that drama going on?

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The Heist

So, first things first. Honestly I feel the synopsis gives away a bit too much of the plot. I think I almost would have preferred if we didn’t know going in that Vita was involved in the heist. It could have been such an interesting twist to uncover maybe a few chapters in. After all, Vita has such a sweet and inviting personality, I don’t think I would have suspected her right away. Samuel obviously doesn’t! In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity to have some fun with the audience, and keep us all on our toes!

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As for the heist itself, I must say it was a good one. I don’t want to give away all the details, although again the synopsis does hint at some things. Even though we know immediately that Vita was responsible for the heist, you do sort of question throughout the novel the backstory involved to carrying out such a crime. You also can’t help but wonder if Vita and her co-conspirators will get away with it all. About halfway through the book you can start piecing all of the links and ties together, but it isn’t until the very end that we get one final explanation of the why, how, who, and what now? When all of these pieces ultimately come together you can’t help but smirk and think, “Well I’ll be damned!”.

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Sisterly Love

While everything does eventually come together full circle in the end, I do feel that we missed out along the way with some key details which really could have made this story a home-run. Firstly, Vita’s relationship with her sister, Tecla. This is one aspect of the novel that I just wish would have had more focus. Their dynamic is a major influencing factor to so many of Vita’s decisions, but I wanted more development regarding Tecla’s side of the story.

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Throughout the book we understand Vita’s driving force behind this heist was directly linked with wanting to take care of her sister, and yet at times you can sense some bitterness emanating from Tecla regarding how Vita treats her. Is it because Tecla doesn’t want to feel like a cripple who must be fawned over? Is it because she wants Vita to not miss out on all that life has to offer? Honestly, I’m not really sure, and I wish we could have had a few more scenes which just centered on sister and sister.

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The Don

Another important feature of the novel that was somewhat glossed over was the character of the Don. He’s the proprietor of the boutique from which the jewels were stolen, and a well-known mafioso. Understandably so, he’s a presence which sort of lurks in the shadows; a villain not to be trifled with or confronted. And yet, I guess I was surprised to find that Vita and her co-thieves don’t seem as wary of him as they probably should? While they all plan to leave town shortly after selling off the jewels, they don’t seem to discuss much of a plan regarding ensuring that this criminal Don never finds them again.

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Let’s face it, the fact that they all plan to leave town at basically the same time guarantees he’ll know they’re responsible, but they never really discuss going into hiding, changing their names, appearance, etc. Heck, even Vita’s plan is to flee to the town of Fusine. Sure, it’s gorgeous, not to mention a 5 hour drive from Milan, but it’s still in Italy for crying out loud! There may not be any direct evidence linking Vita to the heist, but the Don also seems like the type of guy who doesn’t bother with silly things like the law, or proof. He seems like the type of guy who would put a bullet in you if he suspected you of making him look the fool, and then ask questions later.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? The base of the story is all here, and it’s one with great bones. That being said, I think it also could have used with a bit more description, and some embellishment here and there to give us a fully robust story. It’s a quick read, but almost too quick if you know what I mean. The details of the heist were awesome, and it’s great when you have a book that can have you rooting for a bunch of jewel thieves to succeed. The relationships of the story also could have been expanded upon more, including the sisterly dynamic between Vita and Tecla, as well as the romance between Samuel and Vita. I will say though, be prepared to want to book a flight to Italy pretty much as soon as you finish this one!

Smut Level: No hanky panky here. But at least we are warned straight off from the get-go that we won’t have any sex scenes. Honestly, I prefer that situation to being relentlessly teased throughout the whole thing wondering if we’ll have more. We do get some passionate kissing scenes, but nothing to make you blush too hard.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. TouchPoint Press. 152 Pages.

The Beast of Aubyn Hall by Alex L. Michaels

A slightly quirky and accident prone bookworm? Check. A sexy as hell and overly confident alpha male? Check! You can definitely understand why this book would be part of the Bookworms & Alphas series!

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The man they call the beast, sworn off love, meets the bookish beauty who thinks that love exists only in books. When Bronte Beltran finds out that her next assignment is cataloging the famous Aubyn Hall library, she’s ecstatic. But when she finds out they call the owner the Beast of Aubyn Hall, not so much. A week in a dusty library should be right up her alley. But a wrong word at the wrong time and she might just find out what exactly is beastly about the Beast of Aubyn Hall.

First Impressions

Holy crap this book is the epitome of sexual tension build-up. Practically from the moment that Bronte crosses the threshold into Aubyn Hall, and hears the dark and foreboding voice of Caine, aka our Beast, you can practically feel the air get thick with desire. That being said, prepare yourself to be teased, as we don’t get a full and final…climax to this desire until the very final moments of the book. You’ll want to scream out loud, “Just ravish each other already!”

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In a way, it sort of follows the same story arch of the first novel, where we were also presented with some delayed gratification. Whereas book one presents us with a plethora of being pushed up against a wall and being whipped around for an intense close-up discussion, in this novel we get the added glory of Caine continually coming up behind Bronte in the heat of an argument. Sexy whispers in her ear, not to mention that a particularly part of his anatomy is usually…digging into her bum. I will say, although we are being teased right along with the characters, this makes for a very quick read because you just keep reading on and on so you can get to the moment when they consummate this thing.

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Sexy as Hell, buuuuuuut…

This book is sexy as all get out, but at the same time I also found the dynamic between Caine and Bronte to be somewhat worrisome. It’s clear that Caine is set and determined to have Bronte in his bed, and while she is obviously affected by his sexy whispers and passionate stares, she expends quite a bit of effort to convince both herself and him that she’s not receptive to his sexual ministrations. He’s also quick to boss her around, and while sometimes it relates to the fact that she’s working for him, in his home, cataloging his library, it also crosses the line of professionalism. Below is one quote which I found to be particularly concerning:

In fact, I don’t think he ever approached me in a kind or respectful manner. He just kept sneaking around me, provoking me, making me feel uncomfortable and sometimes he plainly insulted me. He also made me feel foolish, confused, insecure and sometimes plain afraid. But he also excited me enormously, that much I was able to admit to myself.

I mean, goodness gracious if it weren’t for that last sentence I’d be screaming at the woman to get the hell outta that house! At the same time though, whether she’s sexually excited by this man or not, I feel like the fact he sometimes made her feel “plain afraid”, can’t really be a good thing??? The last thing we want is to have an alpha male who borders the line into jackass. Although, I guess we were warned right in the title that we’re dealing with a beast here 🙂

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However, based on how the novel progresses it becomes clear that Bronte is definitely attracted to this man, and she just doesn’t want to admit it to herself, so it results in Bronte continually running away from her feelings for this man. One of my favorite quotes from the book is said by another woman who has her sights set on Caine, and during one confrontation with Bronte she declares, “and you want him to get you whether you’re willing to admit this to yourself or not”. Such an intelligent statement that can carry over into so many romance novels. I guess I just wish there weren’t those moments thrown in where Bronte admits she doesn’t feel respected by Caine. It kind of throws a damper on the sexual fire that is spreading throughout the rest of the book.

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A Library in Disarray

Bronte and her team have been brought to Aubyn Hall in order to get Caine’s library in order for eventual public view. Maybe I’m just too much of a book nerd, but I sort of wish more time had been spent talking about the details involved with this work. I mean, what exactly goes into cataloging a library? Apparently a lot of heavy lifting, but what else? Alphabetizing? Writing down all the titles? Making sure there’s a designated romance section? This sort of ties in as well to my wish that Bronte and Caine had connected a bit more over their shared love of books. They both admit to the fact that they’re book lovers, but maybe having just one or two additional moments where they connect over books in the library might have transformed their relationship beyond just the obvious sexual connection.

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A Beast with a Set Mind

Apparently Caine has a motto in life when it comes to Bronte, and that would be “I have set my mind on you.” This is his answer for everything when it comes to why he is constantly pursuing Bronte, and why he refuses to give up on her. No matter how many times she says no. Bronte is totally stumped when it comes to Caine’s pursuit, since she can’t understand why someone as gorgeous and rich as him would pursue a bookworm such as her.

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This brings us to the inevitable confrontation and blow-up between Caine and Bronte. Just when they are starting to make some progress and headway to starting a relationship, it is revealed that Caine asked for Bronte specifically when it came to the work on his library. Apparently he had seen her once before, and this provoked his mind to be set on her. Honestly, I had a bit of trouble understanding why this was seen as such an offense to Bronte. She is immediately pissed, and explains that it was a way of Caine using his money to try and exert his control into her life.

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Which, ok, I can see is kind of weird. He could have just been a normal person, walked into the library where she was working and ask her out for a cup of coffee. But then we wouldn’t have a book, would we? 🙂 I guess her reaction seemed just a bit over-the-top considering this ploy to get her in his house was essentially his version of a pick-up line. My favorite comment on this entire situation comes from Bronte’s friend who states, “…boo hoo. So what? Maybe it wasn’t the smoothest type of seduction, but it wasn’t the worst either.” Amen sister!

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

Series: Bookworms & Alphas, book 2. You really don’t need to read the first book in this series to follow the plot of this one. The female lead from book 1 does get a mention towards the end of the novel, but there’s no plot carry over, so you should be all set! I’d love to see future books in this series focus on some of the supplemental characters from this book, as they are an absolute hoot!

Should you read it? This is sort of a different take on your classic Beauty and the Beast tale, in that our beast is actually gorgeous. He’s more beastly in manner, not to mention a beast in the bedroom. When it comes to building sexual tension this book has perfected it to a damn near science, but I wish we would have seen a bit more connection between the characters over their love of books. It’s sort of the only time we see a soothing to his beastly manner, and I just wanted more of it. I also wasn’t a huge fan of their dispute over why Bronte was brought to Aubyn Hall to begin with. While it provided conflict to the plot, I couldn’t really understand why she was soooo offended at the thought of being brought there because he’d seen her before.

Smut Level: Caine just loves to make a happy hour of Bronte, in that he has the tendency to pour his alcoholic beverages over her before lapping it up. While we have to wait quite a long time before they officially have sex, we get a delightful amount of dirty talk and teasing before then.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 153 Pages.

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Love Comes in the Mourning by Erin Bevan

A big city girl in a small Georgia town. When house renovations are involved, you just know fun mayhem is bound to happen.

What’s it About?

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Recently divorced and down on her luck, Lesley DeLoach is determined to make a new life for herself. When she inherits her great aunt’s estate, Rosalyn Manor, her future seems to be heading in the right direction—until she sees the home’s crumbling skeleton.

Widower John Hambrice is barely keeping his construction company afloat and his children fed, so when he’s offered a job restoring the Rosalyn Manor he can’t turn it down. But the big city client with the high falutin lifestyle reminds him too much of the last time he was burned by big money.

As the summer temperatures rise, so does their attraction. He learns there’s more to the city girl than he expected, while she learns the country boy’s gruff exterior hides a heart of gold. But each has lost so much in love already…is the chance of another broken heart worth the risk?

First Impressions

My goodness ladies and gents if I have one piece of advice for you, it’s be sure to have the tissues ready before you attempt this one. Little did I know that by reading the short prologue I’d be going on an emotional roller coaster that would basically have me ugly crying by the time I got to the first chapter. This is what I get for thinking I can just nonchalantly start a new novel 15 minutes before bedtime. We open on a hospital room where John is saying his final goodbyes to his wife as she dies from cancer.

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My God, the waterworks are coming again just thinking about this scene! Definitely a sad start, but believe me when I say this book actually has some funny shenanigans thrown in as well! Those begin a year later when Lesley moves to town following her divorce, and starts renovations on the old mansion she inherited from her Aunt Myrtle. And just who do you think is selected as the contractor for this huge project? Why John of course! It’s a tale of second chances at love and starting over, even if you didn’t think you’re ready for it.

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Moving On

Lesley has moved to Georgia in an attempt to start her life over for herself. To live independently for the first time in her life following the separation from her cheating ass-hat of an ex-husband. People think she’s crazy for putting so much time and money into the decrepit old house her Aunt Myrtle left her, but she sees this potential to run her own B&B as a way to take back control in her life. She seemingly doesn’t have time for love, but upon her first consultation meeting with John it’s undeniable that something is pulling them together. Should she take a chance on this man so soon after the end of her marriage?

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As for John, he too is contemplating this immediate attraction he has towards Lesley. Not only is the woman a complete and total klutz, but John has already found and lost the love of his life to a terrible sickness. He also has his two children to think about. Getting involved with a big city girl who might give up on these crazy renovations before the week is out isn’t something he can take a chance on. Or is it? The more time these two spend together fixing up her aunt’s house, the more difficulty John has at staying away. But is he betraying the memory of his wife by essentially moving on with someone else? To quote his own inner turmoil, “…thinking about Sandra and Lesley in the same thought just seemed wrong. Completely wrong. Like he disrespected both women without even trying”. This poor man! Can I have the chance to give him a hug please?

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The Renovations From Hell

Although this novel has a decidedly sad prologue, I was surprised at the abundant amount of humor we get injected into the story line as well. Lesley is far from a HGTV star, and seemingly trips over everything. That being said, this woman has dedication, and she’s no quitter. John quickly recognizes the fight in her, and he becomes determined as well to help her through this renovation.

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A large portion of the novel is spent focusing on John and Lesley within the confines of the house, working and sweating away on getting the house in tip-top shape. However, every once in a while we also get to see the various personalities of the locals, and they added just as much hilarity to the story as the bickering between John and Lesley. Heck, they even hold town hall meetings à la Gilmore Girls. What’s not to love here? And although the novel starts off with Lesley as an outsider to this small little corner of the world, with time we see how they start to adopt her as one of their own. It’s pretty touching to see this whole town rally together to support someone they once saw as an outsider.

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An Unexpected Romance

They tried to fight it as much as possible, but we all knew that eventually John and Lesley would end up in bed together. And it’s so delightful when they do. However, something I wasn’t expecting is that this novel also presents us with a little historical romance as well. Soon after arriving in the house, Lesley locates some journal entries from when her Aunt Myrtle was a teenager which recount a passionate romance she had with a poor artist who was traveling through town. I must say the author did an amazing job at weaving together these two romances; one contemporary and one historical. We see that there are corresponding themes between the romances, such as learning to take a risk in life, as well as opening up and taking a chance on a stranger.

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Unfortunately, things are a bit more depressing when it comes to the aunt’s story, mainly because we know from the get-go that she won’t get her happily ever after, no matter how much we cross our fingers in the hopes that she will. When the story opens we are told that Aunt Myrtle lived her life as a recluse, never marrying or having any children. In addition, as Lesley researches more about this artist Myrtle fell in love with, she mentions early on that he only became famous after his untimely death. Sooooo…we all know this won’t end well! That being said, having these brief journal entries interspersed throughout the novel still created a sense of anticipation in that you wondered how it would all come together, even though in a way we knew how it was going to end.

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The Warm and…Depressies?

Although I really really enjoyed this unique inclusion of a historical romantic story line, I must say I wasn’t thrilled with the timing of how it all ended. Essentially, the novel ends with a happily ever after between John and Lesley, and then in the epilogue we read one last sad journal entry which ultimately closes the book on our historical romance. It’s quite a jarring juxtaposition to see that while John and Lesley took a chance on finding new love after their first loves ended, Aunt Myrtle took no such chance. She chose to live out the rest of her life with just the memory of this one great love.

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I almost wish these journal entries had provided us with the conclusion to aunt Myrtle’s story at maybe the halfway or 3/4 point in the novel. Instead, our book closes on both an incredible high and rather depressing low. Get the tissues out again folks! I found myself thinking about this ending a few days after finishing the book, as you’re sort of caught in an emotional limbo. You want to celebrate the fact that John and Lesley found happiness with each other, but at the same time you’re stuck thinking about poor Aunt Myrtle and her artist. Instead of ending the book with the warm and fuzzies, it sort of felt like the warm and…depressies.

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

Series: A beautiful stand-alone.

Should you read it? This book will have you experiencing almost every range of the emotional spectrum. From a devastatingly sad start, to a quirky and funny middle, and a romantic finish at the end. While slightly predictable, there’s moments of suspense and the exploration of faith. It’s a great read if you’re debating between a contemporary or historical romance, as you sort of get both mixed in together! My one piece of advice would be to start this book when you have enough time to get a few chapters into it so that you can get beyond the initial sadness of the death of John’s wife. It’s an emotionally heartbreaking start, but you’ll soon find yourself smiling at the sexy flirtations between John and Lesley. Trust me!

Smut Level: When a hurricane is blowing into town you just know what that means. Sex in the rain!!! Or at least, sex starting in the rain before stumbling indoors. And we get some delightful moments of being pushed up against a wall of course. Classic!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 300 Pages.