Larken by Suzanne G. Rogers

The miracle orphan finds love. After years of being alone it’s so nice to see that something has finally gone right.
What’s it About?
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The sole survivor of a train accident, young Larken Burke is dubbed the Miracle Orphan. Four years later, however, her life is far from fortunate. Because of her emotional and physical scars, she believes she’s un-marriageable. With little hope for the future, she agrees to wed a gentleman she’s never met. Unfortunately, his aloof manner proves difficult to take.

Marked by romantic tragedy and the loss of his brother, Brandon King has forsworn marriage. Obliged to take in a ward, he advertises for a mail-order bride to raise the boy. Since the union is to be a marriage in name only, his criteria are youthful age, a certain level of intellect, good breeding, and that the girl shouldn’t be so ill-favored she would embarrass him in society. To his dismay, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Will it take a miracle for Mr. and Mrs. King to fall in love, or is their marriage another accident waiting to happen?

First Impressions 
I have read many a mail order bride romance novel, and honestly after about two or three they get kind of repetitive. However I must say this one was quite unique in that we aren’t dealing with a young woman who gets sent out West to fall in love with a lonely cowboy. Instead this novel is set in the Regency period of jolly ole England. Larken has been brought into the family of Brandon King to act as a sort of governess for his ward. The fact that he places an ad in a newspaper in order to find such a woman to marry and become his wife, sight unseen, makes this romance a bit different than your typical Lord falling in love with a governess tale.
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Why would a woman as young and beautiful as Larken agree to enter into such a bizarre arrangement? Easy, she has no choice. Her parents died years before in a tragic train accident in which Larken was the sole survivor, making her the “miracle orphan”. She was eventually adopted by a cold, unloving family. Larken is now of age to be married off, and her stepfather takes the first offer he finds. This novel definitely draws you in with its sad beginning, but eventually we see a beautiful romance develop, not to mention the importance placed on family. Just when it seems that everything is going wrong for Larken, she eventually finds a happily ever after she never thought was possible. 
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The New Wife and the Ward 
Hands down my favorite aspect of this novel is the fact that it didn’t really start off as a romance. Instead we see the focus placed more on Larken developing a relationship with Myles, Brandon’s young Ward. He too is an orphan, and is afraid to suddenly be in a new home surrounded by people he doesn’t know. This is where Larken is able to offer her own personal perspective, and connect with Myles when it seems no one else can. She too has been left alone in the world, and is just looking for someone she can talk to. Neither will find this in the cold-mannered Brandon King. He practically ignored Larken at their wedding, refusing to look or speak with her. Hell, they didn’t even consummate the damn thing. Needless to say her opinion of him was quite negative at the outset.
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As for his relationship with Myles, we aren’t given too much information at the beginning. We just know that Brandon knew Myles’ mother, and felt obligated to pick up the young lad over in America before returning back with him to his estate in the English countryside. Brandon said only a handful of words to the young orphan on the return journey, and therefore Myles also doesn’t have the best opinion of his new caretaker. He is also wary of Larken in the beginning, insistent that she would never be able to replace his mother. But this is where Larken admits she has no such objective. She is just looking for a friend. This is also where we get to see Larken’s rather carefree and whimsical nature. She had to invent imaginary friends in order to survive the harsh realities of being orphaned in such a tragic manner. She has no hesitancy whatsoever in introducing these silly characters with their own personalities to Myles.
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Eventually their laughter draws the attention of the brusque Brandon King. While both are understandably wary of letting him into their tight-knit circle in the beginning, they eventually are able to open up with each other and become a family. All of them have lost loved ones, and while they understand the others could never replace those that they’ve lost, they are able to overcome the tragedies of their pasts the more time they spend together. All of this takes place within the first half or so of the novel, so you can see why it was definitely my favorite part. Once this ragtag bunch of characters find happiness with each other, things start to get a bit…interesting.
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While there were definitely some interesting plot twists towards the end of the novel that I did not see coming, I must admit that the second half wasn’t as enjoyable as what came before it. I did find one particular plot twist revolving the death of Brandon’s brother, Theo, rather interesting. Brandon blames himself for his brother’s tragic death years before, and we see that it actually relates to Myles’ mother. His brother’s death not only impacted his surly manner, but also his outlook on life and love.
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Both Larken and Myles are able to help Brandon overcome the tragedy of his brother’s death, but with this certain plot twist in the second half it sort of throws everything we thought we knew for a loop. While certain aspects of this twist weren’t necessarily my favorite, or particularly realistic, I really did enjoy that it connects back to how our novel began with the terrible train accident involving Larken and her parents. It was neat to see that almost every aspect of the novel introduced in the beginning comes back full circle by the end. Even the most seemingly erroneous of details actually had a purpose, and nothing is left unresolved.
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However, while the twist involving Brandon’s brother may not have been my absolute favorite, the dramatic plot point that was saved for the very end of the novel was by far my least favorite aspect of the book. It was just too over-the-top, and actually involves Larken being kidnapped by an unhappy group of theater actors dressed as pirates. So…yeah. It was too theatrical for my taste, and took away a sense of realism to the story which had been so strong up to that point. Both the pain and love which all of these characters felt was something that we could all understand. And then suddenly we have this group of outsiders dressed as pirates to throw a wrench in the whole thing. I definitely understand the need for drama, but let’s tone things down just a smidge. 
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Series: Graceling Hall, book 1. Overall I really did enjoy the characters and the story presented in this novel. I will definitely be continuing on with book 2.
Should you read it? This is a short, quick read. It highlights the importance of family, and to keep trudging on when life seems to be at its lowest point. You never know, there might just be a break in the clouds up ahead. The ending was definitely a bit too over-the-top, but I loved the familial dynamic between Brandon, Myles and Larken, not to mention the developing romance between our male and female lead.
Smut Level: Two short kisses, and an implied love scene at the very end. Clean read, no graphic details, and very sweet. Not the steamiest of historical romances. 
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Idunn Court Publishing. 176 Pages.
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Easy by Tammara Webber

Well ladies and gents, I didn’t think it was possible, but I may have just come across a new adult romance that reflects college life in a somewhat realistic light! The good and the bad. I’m talking midterms, doing laundry in the dorms, and having study time interfere with dating. Sadly, even rape. And yet in the midst of all this we still manage to uncover an incredible romance.

What’s it About? 

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Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart. Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth – and find the unexpected power of  love. A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl’s struggle to regain the trust she’s lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy.

First Impressions

When this novel opened I immediately had a gut reaction that we’d be dealing with one of those typical college romances that you could guess the progression of from start to finish. We open with a beautiful lead who is leaving a Halloween costume frat party because she spotted her newly ex-boyfriend dancing hot and heavy with some sorority floozy. Alright, let’s just have her run into the dashing lad who will sweep her off her feet already, am I right? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within this opening scene we are immediately confronted with the oftentimes dark, harsh reality of what can happen at college. Sexual harassment and rape. Thankfully in this particular scenario the rapist was unable to follow through with his despicable actions, as we do have a knight in shining armor come along and beat the ever loving shit out of him.

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Little did I know that this moment would come to represent the constant emotional battle I’d experience as a reader for the rest of the book. On the one hand, turmoil and heartache that will make you hold your breath in anticipation, want to read through your fingers in suspense, and feel disgust on behalf of our characters. But then on the other you have an overwhelmingly positive sense of empowerment, true love, friendship, and sisterhood. It seems like a constant back and forth of highs and lows that will keep you on your toes, as well as have you turning the page to discover what comes next. This is also one of those books where I’d find myself thinking about it constantly throughout the day. I always say the sign of a good book is one that keeps your wheels turning even if you’ve put it down!

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Blaming the Victim

While the budding romance between Lucas and Jacqueline is obviously an important focus of the novel, the other primary feature is the shocking reality of rape on college campus. Our characters manage to confront and sometimes successfully squander practically every single stereotype and assumption that can be raised when it comes to rape on campus. She was dressed proactively. She walked out to her car alone. He normally seemed so nice. If she wasn’t a virgin, and she went up to his room, what else did she expect? And behind it all the most common, disgusting phrase that can be said when something like this happens: she was just asking for it.

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I’m not gonna lie, there were many parts of this novel which were hard to read, and my nostrils definitely flared a time or two as I listened to this on my walk to work. I may have also shook my head back and forth in disgust as you hear all the different ways someone can defend the actions of a rapist while blaming the victim. However, as these misconceptions are brought out into the open, there are a select few important characters, Lucas especially, who raise the most critical thing to remember when it comes to the women and men who survive these ordeals: it wasn’t your fault.

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Coming Together to Rise Above

Yes, there are many difficult scenes and confessions related to rape and attempted rape in this novel. But at the same time, it’s an empowering read where we see the strength of our survivors, and the love of their supporters is truly inspiring. There is one scene in particular that I think deserves mention. In it we see a female pledge confess the sad details of her rape by a frat brother to the other members of her sorority. This scene especially shows how almost every member of her sorority blames our victim, and it’s so tragic to think that these excuses are constantly used to silence survivors.

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Just when you think all hope is lost, and this criminal will walk free, the sorority president gives an impassioned speech that damn near brought me to tears. “You know what looks bad? A bunch of women who don’t support each other when a guy pulls some shit like this. I’m sick of it. Less than an hour ago, I told D.J. where he could stick his goddamned fraternal reputation…And you’re worried about who’ll look bad if they tell? Screw that…Are we sisters or not?” In addition to the words of support by some of our characters, we also see the highlighted importance of self defense. Again, it provides a sense of empowerment to our female characters by showing that with some proper training it can be possible to ward off an attacker, even if they seem bigger and stronger. After reading this book I am seriously interested in looking up a local self defense class.

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A New Romance

Lucas turns out to be Jacqueline’s savior in more ways than one. Not only does he rescue her that fateful night from a would-be attacker, but he helps her move on from her recent breakup. At the outset, Jacqueline only views him as a bad boy rebound, but as they spend more time together she learns that he has a secret sensitive side. He may also be the only person to ever see the true her. The scenes in which Jacqueline allows Lucas to sketch her prove to be particularly insightful. Not to mention hot as hell! That being said, he never pushes her to do anything before she’s ready.

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For the most part I really did enjoy the romantic relationship between Lucas and Jacqueline, but that’s not to say it wasn’t without some issues. First and foremost, while Jacqueline knows Lucas as her protector, it turns out he’s also her economics TA. Of course, he chooses to keep this other identity a secret from her, and because he uses his given name of Landon in all his TA related emails to her, she doesn’t find out until rather late in the game that her protector and her TA are one and the same. Now, I must say this little detail is strikingly evident from the very first email exchange, so I couldn’t help but throw a few eye rolls Jacqueline’s way at her naivety.

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My biggest issue though would have to be with Jacqueline’s curiosity revolving around Lucas’s past. Something tragic has obviously happened to him, but he chooses to remain close-lipped about the details. After all that these two have been through, from her attack, to him taking things slowly with her, to finally discovering that he’s her TA, you’d think she could have just been a bit more patient with him. After all, they’ve only been kind of dating for a few weeks. Maybe he’s not ready to reveal all of the troubling emotional heartache he’s been through in his youth. But that doesn’t stop Jacqueline from looking into discovering the truth on her own by sidestepping Lucas entirely, and doing a little internet search to uncover all the gruesome details of his mother’s death. I mean, come on girl don’t you know that curiosity killed the cat? You really want it to kill this damn near perfect relationship you have with Lucas???

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Series: Contours of the Heart, book 1. I’ll keep reading this series, though I must say I am slightly concerned with the premise of the next book as we just see a continuation of Lucas and Jacqueline’s story. They’ve been through enough at this point, can’t we just let them have their happily every after? What other drama could they possibly encounter?

Should you read it? I was particularly enthralled with the writing of this novel, as we are presented with a story that makes us feel as though we are there with the characters experiencing everything firsthand. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine either. There’s a trying road that Lucas and Jacqueline must traverse, but with each other they discover a love that neither thought was possible. Sure, they make a few mistakes along the way, but we all do silly things when young and in love.

Smut Level: These two have some hot and heavy make out scenes which are pretty detailed. However, they don’t take things too far until pretty late in the book, and I was surprised that we really didn’t get much of any detail for the big event. Some nice over the clothes stuff though for a good portion of the novel.

Get it on Amazon:Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 338 Pages.

Captured Memories by Katherine McIntyre

A second chance at love. Can Liv and Zane overcome their troubled pasts to find love with each other, or will it be too heavy a burden to bear?

What’s it About?

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After the incident that caused Liv Morozov to drop out of college, years later she’s still trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s managed to carve out a career for herself as a photographer, but when it comes to guys? Her issues send them running for the hills, every damn time. Zane Parata has declared himself off-limits for relationships. Between trying to maintain sobriety and the long hours he works as a chef, no one wants to deal with his brand of damage, and he wouldn’t want to burden them in the first place.

When Liv shows up at Cupid’s Café, she never expected to find Zane, her brother’s former best friend who had vanished one day and never returned. The sparks that surged when they were both teens rekindle stronger than ever, and all too fast, Liv and Zane entangle in each other’s lives, breaking their own rules. Except with both struggling with the demons from their past, the love that’s begun to grow is one lapse away from shattering the two of them beyond repair.

First Impressions

I feel like there is one quote from this novel which perfectly encapsulate the power of the love story being told: “I’m never going to be an easy choice.” Here’s why this sentiment, and the tale love presented to us in this book is absolute perfection. Their love is intense, it’s raw, and most importantly, it…is…real. This story shows us how life is full of unexpected challenges, and to be quite frank, it can be an absolute bitch at times. However, while these external forces can sometimes test the relationship of our lead couple, they never break it. This isn’t one of those romance novels where a simple misunderstanding causes an unnecessary amount of drama, and results in our lovers spending time apart. Oh no. These characters fight for each other, and hold the other up if they’re ever at risk of falling down.

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These two have also been through hell and back. They are scarred lead characters who have experienced emotional and physical turmoil in their pasts. But they don’t just love each other in spite of these troubled pasts, they love who the other person is because of how these experiences have shaped them into who they are today. “I’m never going to be an easy choice” shows that their lives might be complicated, they might be thrown a couple of curve balls along the way, but in the end they will always choose the other. I’ve got all the goosebumps here people!

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An Unbreakable Bond

I think the reason I enjoyed this tale of love between Liv and Zane so much is that the novel primarily just focuses on them. Sure, we are introduced to a few supplemental characters along the way, but for the most part we are encapsulated in a little Liv/Zane bubble that you never want to see burst. They are aware pretty early on in the book when they meet again after so many years that a LOT has happened during that time apart. Liv was raped in college, which impacts the physical relationship these two start up pretty quickly. Zane is a recovering alcoholic who still feels the constant pull of the bottle.

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While some would run away from getting romantically involved with another person with such deep-rooted issues, these two refuse to be scared off. Zane does remain convinced for a large portion of the novel that it’s just a matter of time before Liv realizes how messed up he truly is and hightails it out of there, but he’s going to embrace every possible moment he can between now and when that day might come. In addition, he vows to take things at her own pace, refusing to rush her into a physical relationship before she’s ready.

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A Tough Road Ahead

I also loved that this novel demonstrates how past experiences such as theirs won’t simply be forgotten and magically healed forever by the power of love. Even after they build up to the point where Liv is ready to have sex with Zane, she asks him to realize that there might be a moment down the road where she could be triggered to flinch or push away from his touch.

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At the same time, Zane’s reality is that while he might attend AA meetings multiple times a week, and go for long periods of time without drinking, there will be times where the allure of the alcohol could force him to take a step back from socializing. And they both get it!! They understand when others won’t. They realize that life can be a constant struggle for some people, but they’re there to help and support each other. LOOOVE!

A Step Away From Perfection

At this point I think you can tell I really enjoyed this novel, and while I think the love story described is damn near perfection, I must admit there were a few flaws. The first I consider to be the main flaw, and the one I found to be the most perplexing. The impetus for Live and Zane to reconnect after so many years is that they both receive a cryptic invitation to visit Cupid’s Café where, “an admirer looks forward to meeting you”. Zane is humorously intrigued, and decides why the hell not? Liv is convinced she’s being taunted by her former rapist, and goes to confront him. When they both show up and their eyes lock through the crowded café the rest, as they say, is history.

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But that my friends is the flaw. The rest is history. Who the hell sent them these letters?!?! We never find out. There’s no clue or suggestion if it’s one of their friends, a matchmaking café proprietor, or just the cosmos being all funky. I was absolutely shocked that our lead characters never even bother to discuss it with each other. Now, I will say that this is the third book in this Cupid’s Café series, so maybe the one sending invitations is presented in a previous novel? Maybe it will finally be a big reveal when the series comes to a close? I don’t know but give me something!!!!

Waiting for No One

The one other flaw was relatively minor all things considered, and in the end sort of turned into a positive. Our novel opens with Liv on a date from hell, which abruptly ends when she hears the trill of her date’s phone and it immediately reminds her of the night she was raped. When she returns home to find a mystery envelope inviting her to meet someone from her past she’s immediately convinced it can be only one man, her rapist. Her reason for going was decidedly to finally find justice after so many years. Instead, she finds Zane waiting for her.

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Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting for the inevitable scene where Liv and Zane would be confronted with this man from her past. So imagine my surprise when it never comes! No glimpse from across the street, or even a more intense confrontation, nothing! Now, in hindsight I’m actually happy we were never presented with a threatening scene between Liv and her rapist. I think that scenario, combined with Zane confronting his own struggle with alcoholism, would have made the whole plot seem too artificially orchestrated. I guess I just would have preferred that it wasn’t implied at the outset that it could have been a possibility. I sort of felt like I was anticipating something I had no need to worry about for the whole book!

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

Series: Cupid’s Café, book 3. I kind of want to go back and read the first few novels from this series to see if I missed out on our mystery letter writer inviting our lovebirds to Cupid’s Café.

Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read that shows you just how powerful, yet difficult love can be. While I definitely loved both of these characters, I personally found Liv to be truly inspirational. She survived a trying ordeal, and was brave enough to share what happened with Zane even though she thought it would put distance between them. Then when Zane experiences a relapse with his alcoholism she chooses to stand by him and refuses to give up even when Zane tries to convince her that she’d be better off without him. It’s such a refreshing contrast to your typical romance novel drama.

Smut Level: Liv and Zane recognize that after all these years their bodies still crave each other, though this sparked attraction is put slightly on hold after Liv experiences a trigger from her rape. But Zane sticks by her side and is willing to take things slow. Just because it’s slow, don’t think it isn’t delectable!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.03 Kindle Price. After Glows Publishing. 200 Pages.

 

Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold by Demelza Carlton

A tale as old as time. With a few updates here and there of course!!

What’s it About? 33627778

Once upon a time…The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance. Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

First Impressions

My initial first impression for this novel? Gorgeous cover, and yaaaaay short chapters! After about 1/4 of the way in though? Cover is still gorgeous, but shit, more short chapters. I discovered I’m unbelievably picky when it comes to chapter length. Sometimes short chapters are the perfect break for when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew, or pasta to boil. Not to mention a great way to kill time during commercial breaks. The fact that before tackling this book I had just come off a novel where the chapters were crazy long, well I was just in Heaven. However, it really didn’t take long for the frustration to start seeping in. In all seriousness, I would say the average length of time it took to finish reading a chapter in this book was just under 2 minutes. While this was an excellent way to introduce our characters and provide a brief back-story to our enchanted curse, it became a clear problem in later chapters where key scenes were rushed. This made the book itself feel almost stunted since you had so many short chapters at work which could flip-flop so easily between story lines, as well as switch point of views between our Beast and Beauty.

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An Enchanting Beauty

Personally I just love adaptations of classic fairy tales. It’s so fun to see which elements the author will keep the same, and how they’ll bring their own unique twist to the story. For this version, perhaps the biggest change involves our beauty. Her actual name is Zuleika; a far cry from Belle, and she’s not just the peasant daughter of a poor inventor. Oh no. She’s the enchantress who sets the curse upon our beastly prince. Gotta say, I totally loved this twist! From the classic tale the enchantress feature was always a bit of a mystery, and her motivations were kind of muddled. But in this we see how Zuleika is threatened by an evil king to put a curse on an object intended for his sworn enemy. Enter mirror.

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To save her life and that of her family, Zuleika puts a curse on the mirror not knowing it will eventually end up in the hands of our prince. Upon using it for the first time he transforms into the Beast, while the servants and citizens of his kingdom become invisible. A unique change to a dancing clock and candlestick! When Zuleika magically appears in Prince Vardan’s kingdom after an accident he finds her indescribably beautiful, and because she refuses to reveal her true identity he resorts to calling her Lady Belle. And of course, it wouldn’t be Beauty and Beast without a ball featuring our beautiful enchantress in a gorgeous gown of yellow silk.

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A Kind-Hearted Beast

Although I really enjoyed some of the variations to our classic tale, there were some I wasn’t a huge fan of, or at least had trouble understanding. When Zuleika first curses the mirror, she says that whoever uses it will transform into whatever they truly are on the inside. Therefore, when our prince first uses it he becomes this hairy beast with tusks. Not exactly the picture of a guy you’d wanna introduce to the folks. But here’s the strange part. When Zuleika arrives in the prince’s kingdom and speaks with his subjects, they all say how he’s always been a kind-hearted and just ruler. Soooo shouldn’t he have like, turned into a puppy or something?

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In all the descriptions of his character, he was never revealed to be cruel, vain, or beast-like in any way. So why the beast form?! In my opinion, it was the one main flaw to the story. The other thing I found hard to believe was it took soooooo long before Zuleika realized she was the enchantress who cast the spell over the prince and his city. It just seemed strange that she wouldn’t have even been able to sense her own power within the magic blanketing the city. Hell, at one point she does sense it, but just brushes it aside. Come on now, you have all that magic, listen to it once in a while!

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Series: Romance a Medieval Fairytale, book 1. Zuleika seems like the key that will unlock all the other novels in this series. During her travels throughout the novel we overhear her encounters with magical slippers, and even a trouble-making witch she banished to a lamp in a hidden cave. Sounds a tad familiar, no?

Should you read it? A fun and fantastical retelling of a beauty who falls for a beast. Spotting all the classic elements within the new changes was like a fun scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, I think the short chapter format of the novel impeded the depth of the writing, and made the story seem stunted. Overall an interesting start to the series, but there’s some definite room for improvement going forward.

Smut Level: Only at the very end of the novel do we get one beautiful love scene. It didn’t hurt that some witches had previously cast a spell on the prince’s…saber…to always please his woman in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE! Lost Plot Press. 248 Pages.

The Home Court Advantage by N.M. Silber

Nothing quite spices up a courtroom like sex between opposing counsels in the jury holding room!

What’s it About? 

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Gabrielle and Braden have fallen in love and face a bright future together if they can just survive all of the crazy people they encounter, like anonymous napkin droppers, UFO enthusiasts, crooked businessmen, nude drunk drivers, and a woman who tries to break into jail. When the gavel falls will the verdict be happily ever after? Come join the fun as the sexiest couple in the Philadelphia Criminal Court System shares more witty banter and red hot lovin’ with a dash of mystery thrown in. The story that began with The Law of Attraction concludes with lots of love and laughter in The Home Court Advantage.

First Impressions

I remember not only being pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the first book in this series, but also my surprise that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. After all, we’re mainly dealing with a romantic comedy here, what could we possibly have to continue story-wise in a whole other full-length novel? Turns out…not much of anything. I gotta say, all in all while this second book did provide me with a fair number of chuckles, it was pretty much entirely unnecessary. The resolution to the story line from book one could have easily been answered in just one more chapter at the end of the first book. Instead what we have are just a series of over-the-top shenanigans and sensually detailed sex scenes that prolong us from finding out what sadly isn’t even a very exciting conclusion to the question of who was sending our heroine cryptic messages.

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A Not-So-Unique Sequel

I’ll admit I do still love the characters presented in this novel, and I’m beyond excited to see some of the other characters highlighted with their own stories in books going forward. As for this novel, it’s basically just a continuation of what we saw in book one. The end of the previous novel ended with us questioning who could have possibly sent Gabrielle these messages considering her top three suspects were all cleared, and this book opens pretty much right after the end of that first book.

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Unfortunately that main mystery story is pushed to the background almost immediately to instead focus on our lead couple going through their usual courtroom antics and sexual dalliances. Some of these courtroom scenes were fun, short chapters to intersperse the other things going on in the book, but there was one unbelievably long chapter with various cases one after the other that just seemed out of place. In need of some editing for sure.

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As for the sexual dalliances, holy shit definitely turned up the dial in this one! Not gonna lie, some were borderline porn, especially considering in one scene the characters kept saying it would be a great thing to write Playboy about. The scene in question had the lead characters wandering into the jury sequester room to “let off some steam”, and another case with judge and lawyers started up as they tried to…finish. While comedic, it was a bit much, almost like trying too hard to be funny and sexy.

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From Notes to Stalking

Then we get to the drama of the story that comes back form book one. In the first Gabrielle was receiving notes from an anonymous someone who was warning her to stay away from Braden. Things are slightly ratcheted up in this one as she starts to see and sense someone following her. Thankfully she chooses to share these sightings with Braden, and the two remain relatively calm about the whole thing for the entirety of the novel. Their cool-headedness actually made it kind of a boring read. They just never seemed too worried about it.

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In the previous book Gabrielle employed the help of her friends to try and figure out who was writing these secret messages to her. In this sequel she asks for their help yet again, but just like with the sex scenes things are heightened up to the Nth degree in this book to the point where they are just over the top sitcom level shenanigans. Again, trying too hard, and ultimately unnecessary. Let’s just say a UFO enthusiast group gets involved.

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Series: Lawyers in Love, book 2. Although I wasn’t a fan of this second book I’m definitely continuing with the series. The next novels focus on the friends of our lead couple finding their own true loves, and I’m beyond excited.

Should you read it? As a whole, this book wasn’t needed. There were funny parts and sexy parts, but plot-wise it should have all been resolved at the end of book one. I did enjoy the development of the friends group we’ve got going, and we were able to see the introduction of how some of these friends will pair off into something more going forward.

Smut Level: Daaaaaaamn. These two are freakin’ saucy, and they certainly up their dirty talk level. Made me blush a time or ten, and that isn’t always easy to do.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Mendelssohn Levy Publishing. 232 Pages.

 

 

The Look of Love by Bella Andre

This book explores the idea of love at first sight with two strangers unexpectedly thrown together one cold and rainy night.

What’s it About? 

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Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he’s home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is–until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love–and protect–her, but will she let him?

Chloe vows never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Only, with every loving look Chase gives her–and every sinfully sweet caress–as the attraction between them sparks and sizzles, she can’t help but wonder if she’s met the only exception. And although Chase didn’t realize his life was going to change forever in an instant, amazingly, he isn’t the least bit interested in fighting that change. Instead, he’s gearing up for a different fight altogether…for Chloe’s heart.

First Impressions

How soon is too soon to fall in love? Is there a rule book which dictates how long a couple must wait before not only deciding they love each other, but that they want to spend the rest of their lives together? In this book, we see a couple who seemingly fall hard for each other with just one look. The look of loooooove. Now, do I believe in love at first sight? I’ll never say never, but it’s kind of hard to wrap my head around. Especially considering the couple in this book declare their feelings of love for each other within just four days of knowing each other. Honestly, I think the only thing I’ve ever knowingly loved that quickly was a food item, which probably involved chocolate in some way. However, I must say, even though I may not personally wholeheartedly believe in the concept of love at first sight, this book does a damn fine job of presenting it in a shockingly reasonable way.

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What’s Important in Life? 

Whenever I read a whirlwind romance like this I always find myself asking the same questions. How could you decide to spend the rest of your life with a man not knowing what side of the bed he sleeps on? If he prefers Coke or Pepsi? If he can put up with you re-watching Friends or Gilmore Girls for the 15th time and have the ability to reserve judgement?! You know…the important things in life. However, what this novel does so well is it manages to show our lead characters what is truly important to the other, and that is what makes them fall in love so quickly. Yes, there is an obvious physical attraction, but it really goes beyond that.

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He comes upon her stranded on the side of the road with a bruise on the side of her face. In four days time he’s willing to protect her, yet also admit that she’s more than capable of taking care of herself with her own personal strength and determination of spirit. They both have creative passions, and are supportive of the other doing whatever is needed to make those passions grow, helping whenever possible along the way. His dedication to his large family is especially noteworthy, not to mention the fact he captures the real her behind his camera lens. Again, for such a short timeframe, you can see how they got to know who the other person truly was without superfluous details getting in the way. It’s the basic foundation of their relationship, and everything else is just the whipped cream on top.

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The Benefit of a Player

There was one aspect of their relationship that brought them together which I did find kind of funny. Not necessarily bad, but just something I thought was worth mentioning. Chase is a man of no commitment and one-night stands. He’s had countless women come in and out of his bed, but when he sets his sights on Chloe he knows almost immediately that there’s something different about her. This is one of the things that makes him pursue her so relentlessly without giving up.

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And on the flip side, it is because Chase has never had a long term relationship that Chloe knows she can believe him when he says things are different with her, and when he says he loves her it’s definitely true since he’s never uttered those words before. It’s almost like he’s being…rewarded(?) for being a womanizer! I couldn’t help but wonder if his romantic past had been different, if he’d had let’s say just two serious long term monogamous relationships in his adult life, would she have taken his declarations of love less seriously? Would she have even stuck around for four whole days to see if what they had was real? Again, just an interesting little side note.

Series: San Francisco Sullivans, book 1. For sure continuing with this seris. There’s a whole ton of Sullivan siblings in this family, and I can’t wait to meet them all!

Should you read it? A sexy, quick read with an interesting take on love at first sight. Does this book 100% convince me it’s possible? Nah, not really. I still couldn’t help but feel they got together waaaay to fast. I mean, come on, four days??? But that being said it did do a pretty damn good job of demonstrating the plausibility of love in a single look. The side story involving Chloe’s ex-husband was definitely intriguing, though I also felt it was pushed aside too long until the dramatic climactic ending. Would have liked a bit more incorporation on that front.

Smut Level: This book is all about exploring sexual fantasies, and all that Chloe has been missing out in since ending her relationship with her abusive ex-husband. We have a wet and wild bathtub moment, as well as a nighttime balcony sexcapade that’ll have you opening a window to cool off.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 384 Pages.

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What Books Have You Reread?

For those of you who know me, or who have requested that I review one of your novels, you undoubtedly know that I always bemoan how my “to-be-read” list is pretty out of control. Personally, I blame BookBub, since it literally sends me an email every single day where I can select some free reads to add to my Kindle with just the push of a button. Soooo tempting.

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As of right now, I have hundreds of books on my TBR list, so I’m not really in the position to reread any of my favorite books. I’ve also never really been one to read books more than once. The way I see it, there’s countless novels out there just waiting to be read, so why would I want to waste time reading something I’ve already read?

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That being said, there are some of those few select novels that I’ve been known to read more than once, and I thought it’d be fun to share them all with you! Now, keep in mind that I’m not including children’s books, because frankly I can’t even remember how many times I’ve reread One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, or Green Eggs and Ham.

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So let’s start off with the cream of the crop, the novel that I have undoubtedly read more than any other, Pride and Prejudice. I know, I’m such a romance novel fan cliché. Oh well! All in all, I’ve read this little beauty four times, which in the grand scheme of things really isn’t that much. However, when you also consider the number of times I’ve watched the 6 hour Colin Firth version of the movie? Well, I mean let’s face it that’s pretty much like rereading it. I first read this book back when I was a teenager, as my brother’s girlfriend at the time turned me onto it with said Colin Firth movie. The first time I read it again was of course for high school English class. It was kind of humorous that in a class of about 25 students, almost every single female in the class loved it, whereas literally every single male in the class thought it was boring. Couldn’t help but draw a comparison to You’ve Got Mail with that one.

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As if reading this book twice in English wasn’t enough, later on in life I decided it’d be fun to try it out in both French and Chinese. If you ever try and read a book in a language other than your mother tongue, I’m of the mind that it’s great to try one where you’re already pretty familiar with the story line so it’s easier to follow along.

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That brings me to the second book I’ve read more than once: the Hunger Games. Now, keep in mind that while I’ve read the entire trilogy, I’ve only reread book one. I first read the trilogy while I was in China for graduate school, and finished all three in the span of a week. So, after returning to the US upon graduation I figured a fun way to keep up with my Chinese would be to tackle the first Hunger Games book in Chinese. It was kind of funny how useful the revolutionary vocabulary from my Chinese History class was. Hands down though, the best part was the phonetic pronunciation of the names in Mandarin. Katniss roughly became “Kah-tuh-ni-suh”. Loved it.

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And finally, another one of my favorite books of all time, Crocodile on the Sandbank. I’ve only read this book twice, but it has everything I love in a novel. Looking back, it was actually probably the first “series” I ever read. It dealt with archaeologists in 1920s Egypt, had some romance, mystery, comedy and suspense. Man, now that I think about it I kind of want to pick that one up again. I think rereading it the first time around only took one day. Maybe….maybe I have some extra time to fit that one in?

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Well, there you have it. This is my list of the only full length novels I’ve ever read more than once. I know, not that abundant of a list, but what can I say? I’m busy!! And now how about y’all? What books out there have you read more than once? Feel free to share in the comment section below!