In Your Corner by Sarah Castille

At one point in this novel Jake is helping Amanda correct her form and technique with push-ups. I gotta say…I don’t think I’ve ever come across a novel which has made this physical activity seem so damn sensual. What with all the grasping, pulling, pushing and rubbing. Oh good God the rubbing.

What’s it About?

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He rules in the ring

Two years ago, Jake and Amanda were going hot and heavy. But when Jake wanted more, Amanda walked away. Jake immersed himself in mixed martial arts, living life on the edge. But that didn’t dull the pain of Amanda’s rejection-until a chance encounter throws them together.

A high-powered lawyer, Amanda was a no-strings-attached kind of girl. But two years after her breakup with Jake, she still hasn’t found anyone who gets her heart pumping the way he did. And then he shows up in her boardroom, hot as sin and needing help…

But can he rule her heart?

Jake is darker, sexier, and impossible to resist. As their chemistry builds, Amanda’s not sure if she can stay in control, or if she’s finally willing to let him claim her body and soul.

First Impressions

Ok ladies and gents, first things first. I think we all need to take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty of this cover art. I mean, my God, he’s like a sculpture! I never quite understood in romance novels when female leads expressed the desire of wanting to lick the tattoos of their male love interest, but after viewing this cover?! Yeah, ok I still don’t get the sentiment. Especially considering how sweaty this guy looks. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth if you ask me. But still! Beautiful man right there.

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Alright, now that that’s outta the way, we can begin! To give you all an idea of where my mind was at when starting this novel, I’d actually like to quote myself from something I wrote in my review of the first book in this series. Ahem, cue throat clearing noise, “If we ever have a future novel featuring Amanda as the female lead I’m gonna have some issues with it.” Lo and behold, who is the main character of book 2? Why Amanda of course! I must say, I really hated this character in the first novel. Here’s another gem of a quote from my last review, “Not gonna lie, this woman is a terrible friend, and quite possibly a terrible person in general.” Needless to say, I wasn’t quite looking forward to this read, but if I were ever to skip a book in a series I’m convinced the world would implode in on itself. Ok, I’m not that psychotic, but you get my point.

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Expectation vs. Reality

Imagine my shock and awe when I started reading this book to discover Amanda really wasn’t that bad. Now, personally I think there are three main components which contributed to the reason she didn’t get on my nerves as much in this book. First, it’s been two years since the end of book one. Who knows, maybe she’s been able to mature in that time. Second, we do finally get to hear things from her point of view, and it definitely puts things in perspective. Growing up Amanda was never one to hear “I love you” very often from her parents, who also held her to impeccably high standards. She’s always been closed off, putting a wall up in her relationships in an attempt to numb herself to the pain of when she would inevitably be dumped. Must have added to the whole “selfish” personality trait which was so persistent in book one. Points one and two considered, I think there is one main overbearing reason though why it was easier to like Amanda in this book compared to book 1.

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Honestly, it was like we were introduced to a completely different character. I feel as though more of the infuriating characteristics of Amanda’s personality were either toned down, or even changed entirely in order for us to like her more as a main character. In looking back on my review of the first book, one of the reasons I disliked her so much was in her treatment of Jake when the two briefly dated. I discussed how she decided to slowly faze him out because he didn’t bend to her every selfish whim, and when he said “to hell with this” he decided to break things off, at which point Amanda immediately jumped into bed with someone else. But then in this book their break up is presented in such a different light, as though she pulled away from Jake because she was afraid of opening up to him. Seems like either their break up was not fully discussed in a coherent way in the first book, and I totally misread the situation, or we’re getting a toned down version of events so that it’s easier to sympathize with Amanda. Sure, I like to believe the version of events we get in this book, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect here.

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Chasing the Climax

Amanda likes sex. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. The connection of two people, where for the briefest of moments she can finally feel loved and desired by someone else. It’s a feeling which comes crashing down in the light of day, and so she continually tries to chase that connection. When her boss discovers her penchant for sex he tries to use it as a way to blackmail her. Either she gets down on her knees to please him, or he’ll reveal her entire dossier of past sexual partners (and it’s a pretty thick dossier) to her parents. Not only that, but he’ll tarnish her reputation all over town by saying that she was the one to proposition him. Rock, meet hard place. Audience, meet a jackass in a position of power who thinks he can manipulate a woman into spreading her legs for him.

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The fact that this form of sexual harassment happens so often in the real world makes us want to stand behind Amanda in any way possible to support her. Also, the fact that Amanda chooses to say no, to walk away with her reputation in tatters but her integrity intact? Well that makes us root for her all the more. After telling her boss to go to hell Amanda makes the brave decision to strike out on her own. To fight back against the man who tried to take advantage of her, and so many others before her. Honestly I think I liked this part of the story a lot more than the romantic aspect! I almost wish these two separate story lines could have been blended together more. It isn’t until the very end when Amanda is about to face her boss again that Jake makes a quick appearance to say that he is in her corner, but it seemed like a missed opportunity for them to discuss it more throughout the rest of the book as something to connect over. Instead they connect over something else.

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S…E…X

No more beating around the bush. Sex is a very important part of Amanda and Jake’s relationship. We discover that it’s the one way for Amanda to finally open about what she’s feeling. It’s important to remember that when our novel opens, Amanda and Jake haven’t seen each other in over two years. This ramps up their sexual desire about tenfold, as they’ve both been denying their sexual connection for quite some time. It makes every glance, every touch, that much more intriguing. But Jake wants so much more from Amanda than just sex. He wants a relationship, and for Amanda to open up to share what she’s thinking, feeling, and what she’s afraid of. Here’s the problem though. These two don’t know how to effectively communicate!

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In the beginning especially, Jake does a pretty poor job of telling Amanda exactly what he wants out of this relationship. They’ll be in the midst of a heavy make-out session when he’ll abruptly stop, say they both need to consider what they really want from this, and then turn around and leave. This makes Amanda mistakenly think he wants nothing from her. And then when Jake does finally communicate that he wants the whole kit and caboodle with her she suddenly pulls away because she doesn’t want to open up. My God girl do you want the guy or no?!?! I had trouble at times following her thought process.

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When she and Jake start to explore a sexual relationship again after two years apart, she seems so desperate to ensure this isn’t just another notch in her bedpost. She wants that high she’s been chasing for so long to finally stick with someone who makes her feel wanted, and Jake appears to be that guy. When he eventually admits he wants the same thing though she puts her walls back up. She can’t give up control. In a way it seems like now she just wants sex from him, and I must say it was kind of uncomfortable at times how she’d ignore Jake’s feelings to get it. At one point Jake was trying to put a stop once again to their sexplorations so that they could talk things over. He’s begging her to stop, to take things slow, saying no over and over again, but she just keeps rubbing up against him until they give in to their desires on the floor of a MMA fight cage. Remember everyone, no means no. However, ironically enough it turns out that having sex is the key to getting Amanda to finally open up and talk about herself! Something about that post-orgasmic sleepy bliss gets her to talk about her feelings. I have an inkling Jake won’t mind too much in the long run using that technique to ultimately have an honest conversation with the woman.

Series: Redemption, book 2. You might not believe it, but I think I may have actually liked this book better than book one. I am also excited to see what comes next in this series, as I genuinely enjoy all of the remaining characters. Nowhere to go but up, right?

Should you read it? So, just like the previous book I can’t say this was my favorite read ever. Jake and Amanda seem like they are caught up in a never-ending circle of getting close and then breaking away into their separate corners for introspection before eventually coming together again. It got tiring and repetitive after a while. That being said, it starts and ends strong, as this is when we see Amanda stand up for herself against her boss, and go after what she wants in a relationship with Jake. It’s just that measly middle section where she starts to doubt anything and everything about her life. Could have been tweaked a bit.

Smut Level: Vibrating panties and a penis piercing. Enough said. She’s also never been spanked before, and Jake is more than happy to introduce her to it.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 302 Pages.

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Being You by S.T. Heller

This novel has convinced me that if I should ever leave city-living behind for the wonders of nature, I 100% need to buy a house by a lake that has a dock. It just seems like all of life’s major discussions and problems can be resolved by the serenity of sitting on a dock next to a peaceful lake.

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What’s it About?

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After years of trials and tribulations, Keegan and Jack are finally living their happily ever after. With their daughter and sons, their parents, and their friends, they are surrounded by love. Like all couples, Keegan and Jack face everyday issues, dealing with raising their children and concentrating on their careers, while remembering to focus on one another. But what happens when outside forces disrupt their happily ever after? Over the course of years, the strength of their bond is challenged by the ever-changing lives of their loved ones and by ghosts from the past that continue to haunt them. And, each time, Keegan and Jack must determine if their love for each other and their relationship can adapt and stand the test of time.

First Impressions

Mkay, so full disclosure: I have not read the first two books in this series. And my God! It sounds like I definitely missed out on a lot!! Personally I found that reading the synopses of the first two novels was a big help to understanding the main dramatic elements from the start of the series. In addition to that, I really appreciated the fact that the author gave us a brief recap of most of the key moments from the previous novels pretty early on in this book. Every time we are introduced to a character we are provided with the back story to how they relate to the main characters, and how their relationships may have evolved over time. That being said, I must admit it was rather difficult to keep all of the complicated relationships straight at times! Also, some of the major plot lines from the previous books were mentioned so nonchalantly there were a few times where I had to pause and ask, “Wait, what happened?!” From a casual mention of brain surgery, to an ex-girlfriend lying about Jack having died in a fire, it definitely seems like I missed out on some craziness in books 1 and 2!

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An Observation on Life

While it’s difficult for me to discuss exactly how this novel compares to the previous two, I can only assume this one was pretty mellow after reading the synopses of those first books. We have no undercover investigators, nor tales of murder to contend with. Instead what we are presented with is more of an observation on life. The book is littered with minor dramatic moments that any of us could encounter in our own lives. From a child needing stitches, to the stresses of work, and even having to put down a beloved pet. At the same time we are privy to the delightful moments of life which can offset those which seem so terrible and scary. Marriages, family vacations, and hanky panky fun times when the kids are asleep 😉

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While this definitely helps us relate to our characters with the everyday joys and problems of life that we too experience, it was also a bit light in terms of an underlying plot. Keegan and Jack do encounter two significant issues which threaten to impact the happy bubble they’ve created for their family. The first controversy doesn’t really come about until the half-way point of the novel, and all in all it is resolved fairly quickly. The second problem is more of a slow build-up to an eventual climactic point of contention. Through it all we question if Keegan and Jack will be able to overcome these dramas, or if outside forces will break the strong link which binds them together. One thing’s for sure, meddling exes definitely seem like a common theme throughout this series! Ultimately we see how Jack and Keegan’s strong commitment to being open and honest with each other provides the underlying stability to their relationship. No doubt this was built upon throughout the previous two novels!

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The Extended Family

The characters in this novel were unbelievably captivating and entertaining. Jack and Keegan especially are the driving force of the story, and I think one of the main reasons I liked them so much was the fact that they were in their late 40s when the novel began. This allows them to bring a crucial amount of maturity to their discussions which can oftentimes be lacking in romance novels featuring couples in their early 20s. They aren’t quick to make assumptions, or if they are they have the ability to talk to each other! Thank goodness we finally have a couple who can communicate!!! So refreshing. The book is told from their alternating points of view, with a few chapters told by their daughter Molly, which was always a unique surprise.

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As for the other characters of the novel, they too are a delight, but holy crap are there a lot of them! Seriously, you need some kind of 3-D diagram in order to keep all these people and relationships in order. We have ex-girlfriends, ex-boyfriends, step siblings, half-siblings, and then just the general friend group. Phew, I’m exhausted! Again, with the first mention of each character we get a snippet of their background and how they relate to our main characters from the first two novels. It was a lot of information to keep track of. I seriously think some kind of extended family tree would have been very helpful, mainly just to maintain who is actually related to whom. I remember at one point Molly mentioned how when she grew up she was gonna marry a boy named Jace, and for a moment I panicked and exclaimed aloud, “But he’s your half-brother!!!” But then…I retraced the various webs of relationships and realized, ok phew, not a blood relative. Proceed!

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

Series: The Dock Series, book 3. While I definitely appreciated the recaps of the events from the previous books, I almost wonder if I had read them beforehand I would find this read almost too repetitive at times. It’s always nice to have a refresher when continuing on in a series, but I could see that in some instances a reader of the whole series might think they know all this already. Personally, I would really enjoy if we get a 4th book that follows their daughter, Molly. Fingers crossed!

Should you read it? I loved the calm of the lakeside scenery, and I honestly think it helped contribute to the levelheadedness of our lead couple. Sure, they have a few hiccups along the way, but for the most part their communication skills are a thing to be admired. The novel is mainly an observation of how Keegan and Jack get on with their everyday lives, whether that includes the good, the bad, or the ugly. I do wish we had been introduced to more of a concrete story line earlier on in the book, but in the same vein it also made the book more of a refreshing lesson in how moments of happiness are bound to come after those that might seem hopeless or overwhelming.

Smut Level: Overall a fairly clean read, but it still has some spicy scenes! Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Key to success? Back rub massages in a bubble bath.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 304 Pages.

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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.

Winds of Time by Lilly Gayle

A vicious tornado whisks our heroine through the winds of time to unexpectedly drop her back in 1872. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! Or at least…not in modern day Texas anymore.

What’s it About?

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The past is her future, the future, her past, but can she save an innocent man’s life before history repeats itself? As long as Selena Tillman dreams of her ancestor, Mary, who disappeared without a trace in 1872, she’ll never find peace. As long as she dreams of the half-Native American army scout accused of killing Mary, she’ll never find love. Hoping to end the dreams and learn the truth, Selena goes to Texas where Mary and the scout died and sees more than ghosts. She sees a tornado kill Mary in real time before it jumps to the twenty-first century to pull Selena into its vortex and send her back to the nineteenth century. Selena believes she’s fated to prove Dylan’s innocence and save his life, but Dylan isn’t just the man of her dreams; he’s her destiny.

Fed up with the army, bigotry, and women—especially white women, Captain Dylan Casey dedicates himself to solving the mystery of Mary’s disappearance, proving his innocence, and trying to stop a war between the whites and the Indians. Then Mary’s cousin shows up, claiming a tornado killed Mary. Dylan doesn’t trust Selena, but she’s his only ally in Canyon Creek. Yet despite their common goal, growing mutual attraction, and a Comanche shaman’s prophecy of a white woman who will change his destiny and foretell the fate of the Indian Nation, Dylan refuses to take a chance on another spoiled, white woman—until fate changes his mind.

First Impressions

Yes, we are dealing with a time travel historical romance here. But more than that we are exploring some inherently deep-rooted and devastatingly tragic instances of racism in late nineteenth-century Texas. The supposed superiority of the white man over the “savage” Indian, and the downfall of the great Indian Nation at the greed of the white man. What I love about any Lilly Gayle historical romance is that we always learn about a unique chapter of history, and in most cases they are lessons which I never really had the opportunity to study fully in school. In each instance my interest is spurned to learn more! You can tell a lot of time and effort was spent researching this topic in an attempt to give an accurate portrayal of what it would have been like for a “half-breed” to live at this moment in history, not to mention the obstacles involved by falling in love with a white woman. After finishing this read I must say I’m inspired to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, especially considering it’s just a 15 minute drive from my apartment!

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Traveling the Winds of Time

One of my favorite aspects of any time travel story is discovering the rules of time travel which the author has chosen for their world. Will it be like Outlander, in which the events of the past are firmly set in stone? In these works we usually find the attempts of our characters to change certain events will instead directly cement the circumstances of history. Or will we maybe see something along the lines of Back to the Future where practically everything you do has a direct impact and influence on changing the outcomes of the future? In this novel we see an interesting blend of both.

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After being dropped in 1872 by a wayward tornado, Selena seems stuck in the past with no possibility of traveling back to her own time. She knows the history surrounding the fate of Dylan Casey, who stands accused of murdering her ancestor Mary. However, she’s just seen that the same tornado which carried her through time is responsible for Mary’s death, not Dylan. Can Selena possibly alter the events of history to prevent Dylan’s own murder which she has seen play out in visions since she was 10? Is Dylan fated to die, or is it Selena’s destiny to save his life? You simply never know what the rules of time travel might be in any given romance.

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An Argumentative Romance

Race is an extremely important discussion in this novel, especially in how it relates to Selena and Dylan exploring a romantic relationship. Living in a small Texas town, Dylan experiences hateful glances and racial slurs practically every day. He’s had friends and lovers desert him upon discovery of his mixed heritage. He once thought Mary (Selena’s ancestor) was the woman for him, but in the end the fact he was a “half-breed” proved to be reason enough for her to give up on them. When Selena drops into town she’s unlike any other woman Dylan has ever met. She has no hesitancy about exploring a physical relationship with Dylan, which is something he simply can’t wrap his head around. Why would a white woman risk her reputation pursuing a half-breed like him?

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All in all I’d have to say that my one complaint with this book is how much of Selena and Dylan’s time together is spent arguing. I feel like Selena had a closer connection to Dylan because of the visions she’d experienced of him throughout her life rather than from their interactions with each other. The fact that Dylan is a scout for the army also means that he and Selena spend pretty long periods of time apart from each other. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect between the feelings garnered from Selena’s visions to her actual interactions with the man.

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Selena has literally been dreaming of this man forever, and when she finally has the opportunity to meet him in person he’s…well…a bit surly. She continuously reiterates the fact that his race is of no consequence to her. Selena’s actions also speak towards her dedication, especially when she gives up the luxurious comforts of his parent’s house to instead make a home for them in Dylan’s small ranch house. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to convince Dylan that she’s serious when she says his Indian heritage doesn’t bother her. He insists she could never love a “dirty savage” such as him.

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Gull Harbor by Kathryn Knight

This small coastal town harbors a deadly secret that one woman is determined to uncover. In order to do so she’ll need the help of a beloved local, her ex-boyfriend…and a ghost. Nobody ever said being a medium was easy!

What’s it About?

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When Claire Linden’s job sends her to the sleepy town of Gull Harbor, she never expects to encounter her ex-boyfriend. As a medium, the prospect of tackling a haunted house is less daunting than seeing Max Baron again. Throughout their passionate college relationship, he promised to love her forever. Then, without explanation, he abandoned her on graduation day.

Max never intended to break Claire’s heart–a cruel ultimatum forced him to disappear from her life. While he’s shocked to find her in Gull Harbor, he isn’t surprised by the bitter resentment she feels for him…or the fiery attraction that remains between them. Claire is determined to rid her temporary home of its aggressive ghost, but Max soon realizes she’s facing a danger beyond the paranormal. When Claire risks everything to help a desperate spirit, Max must race to save her–before another tragedy tears them apart forever.

First Impressions

This novel blends together a second chance romance with a supernatural murder mystery. Claire has traveled to Gull Harbor to rid a beautiful home of the spirit of a young woman who met a tragic fate within the house at the hands of a drug dealer. As if that wasn’t a trying enough itinerary, Claire quickly discovers that this quaint town also contains her ex-boyfriend, Max, who deserted her years before with no explanation. Upon first reading, you immediately assume that in addition to dealing with the awkward end to their relationship, Max and Claire must also butt heads over her supposed supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits. However, something which I found to be rather refreshing when it came to this novel is the fact that we don’t really encounter any characters who doubt Claire’s ghostly abilities. We never come across a scene where Claire must desperately try to convince someone of her morbid gift, and I must say I absolutely loved this feature. From the beloved coffee shop owner, to the devastatingly handsome Max, and eventually even the murderer of our sad ghost, it really doesn’t take much for all of them to believe in her abilities. These characters have enough drama to deal with, we don’t need to add on another element of questioning doubt to the story.

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A Meddling Father

From the opening scene of the book, we are presented with two separate mysteries. The first revolves around the complicated history between Max and Claire. The two were inseparable towards the end of their collegiate careers, and yet for some inexplicable reason Max left her just when their lives together were about to start. What reason could Max possibly have for leaving town without a word, and will Claire ever be able to forgive him when the truth is eventually revealed? Only time will tell. The fact that Max can serenade the lass with a soothing voice, avid guitar skills, and a healthy sexual appetite…well let’s just say I’m confident the two will work it out.

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We quickly discover that Claire’s father played a meddling role in ridding her life of Max all those years ago. There’s also an additional interesting ultra-side story involving Claire’s mother who has been stuck in a coma for years. While interesting, I couldn’t help but feel as though this drama revolving around her mother didn’t really fit in with the rest of the story. On the one hand I do wish we’d learned more about the dynamic between Claire and her father, but at the same time I feel like any more attention on this side story would have made the novel as a whole feel more disjointed. As it stands it’s sort of a weird limbo of not knowing enough, wanting to learn more, yet also wanting to get back to our ghostly haunting.

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A Tale of Woe

The second mystery of our novel is significantly more tragic, in that it deals with our mournful ghost with unfinished business. We discover the heartbreaking tale of a young woman named Maria who fled Mexico in the attempt to earn money which she could send to her family back home. Rather than find a land of opportunity, she is quickly used, abused, and pays the ultimate price with her life. The reality of the scenario is difficult to deal with at times, and yet I must say some of the best and most heartbreaking scenes of the entire novel deal with Maria sharing with Claire the experiences which led up to her death. The hopelessness, the fear, and even the moment when her spirit floats away to stare down at her lifeless body. But who was responsible for Maria’s death?

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Maria’s murderer is a sleazy drug dealer who once inhabited the home that Claire is now investigating. I must say, it seemed like a rather strange place for a drug dealer to be based. A cozy house in a small harbor town? It just seemed like he would have risked drawing unwanted attention to his nefarious activities seeing as he’s living in a quaint town where everybody knows everybody. Sure, access to the coast would be convenient when getting a drug delivery, or even the delivery of a young woman who unknowingly got caught up in human trafficking. At the same time though, it seems like the last thing he’d want is to possibly have a nosy neighbor coming by to deliver a pie.

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He Is Here!

This novel starts off particularly strong with the immediate tension between Max and Claire meeting again after so many years apart, especially considering their awkward end. Plus, you have the supernatural element on top of this where Claire is trying to connect with Maria so she can move on to a better place. While they encounter some communication difficulties at the beginning, eventually Claire discovers that Maria is lamenting the details of her death in Spanish. Once this language barrier is discovered the two ladies reach an understanding in that Claire is just trying to help Maria find peace. However, this is also the moment when the momentum of the story starts to slow down a bit.

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You’d think that once they figure out how to communicate, the truth surrounding Maria’s death would come to light fairly quickly. Instead we end up waiting around a bit for the final showdown of when Maria’s killer inevitably returns to town to try and shut up Claire’s snooping. A rather frustrating feature of the story is when the drug dealer sneaks into the house, and is momentarily scared away by Maria’s ghost. Maria proceeds to tell Claire just once in Spanish that “he is here”, and of course it had to be at a point when Claire wasn’t really paying attention. Maria then switches focus to urging Claire to find the location of her buried body, and the whole time you’re sort of yelling at Maria to re-warn Claire that the bad man is back in town.

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

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? In hindsight I think I almost would have preferred if Max and Claire didn’t know each other upon meeting in Gull Harbor. While I did enjoy certain aspects of their history, it did open up additional side stories involving Claire’s mother and father that weren’t really fully explored. If Max was just a sexy bartender in town who helped Claire get to the bottom of the ghostly mystery haunting this old house, I think it could have lessened some of those moments where the romance and supernatural aspects seemed disjointed. That being said, I found Maria’s story to be really interesting, and while I wish Maria had been more forceful in warning Claire of the reappearance of her murderer, it did result in an exciting and worthwhile climax to the novel.

Smut Level: Max and Claire usually get intimate at his place…or even in his office! Can’t blame them for wanting to avoid a ghostly audience!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.82. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 270 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.