A Shimmer of Heat by Christy Shields

This relationship might start off as a ruse, but it doesn’t take long before our lead characters feel the underlying heat of a connection between them.

What’s it About? 

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When a beautiful young widow catches the attention of a vicious Denver drug lord, her only hope is the tough owner of Resolution Security. Alessia Lowell has no idea what kind of trouble she is getting into when she agrees to a simple dinner. Matt Heynes has no desire to get involved with anyone, let alone a widow with three teenage daughters, but when he sees Alessia on a date with a major Denver drug player, he knows he has to intervene before her life, and that of her daughters, is torn apart.

When Matt insists on acting as a decoy, he hadn’t expected it to be so hard to keep their fake relationship…well…fake. Alessia Lowell is everything he hadn’t wanted in a woman and fighting his growing attraction to her is proving to be the one challenge he can’t overcome. Stefan Dawes might have moved from Alessia, but that doesn’t mean he has gotten over Matt’s role in losing her and it is only a matter of time before he takes his revenge on Matt. But no one expects him to strike where he does…

First Impression

The premise of this novel is 100% spot on. There’s nothing quite like a middle-aged widow finally deciding to get back out there in the dating world, and finding out that one of her initial dates is a key player in the Denver drug scene. And I thought I had some bad first date experiences! Thankfully, Alessia has an ally in her corner. Matt, head of Resolution Security, and a handsome hunk all in his own right. The idea is simple, Alessia and Matt will pretend to be interested in each other, go out on a few dates, and send a clear message to Mr. drug lord that Alessia isn’t interested. However, it doesn’t take long before Alessia and Matt are no longer pretending, and their passion for each other comes to the forefront.

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The drama with this drug lord was especially intriguing and suspenseful at the start of the novel, particularly when we realize the mere presence of Matt won’t be enough to deter this mad man. Matt and Alessia are going to have to up their game, and get a little touchy feely with each other. Then there’s the heart-stopping moment when this criminal chooses to go after Matt’s loved ones as a form of retaliation. It certainly pushes Matt to enter caveman protection mode, and undergo any means necessary to ensure that those closest to him, including Alessia, will forever be safe from this unrelenting foe. Matt isn’t going into battle alone though, and has some backup to help him with his plan. The bad-ass ex-military hotties who make up his security team. Gotta love when a group of sexy alpha males decide they’re not going to put up with anymore bull sh*t from Mr. drug lord.

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A Diverse Cast of Characters

We have an unbelievably unique and lovable group of characters in this novel. The fact that both Matt and Alessia have been married before, and have teenage daughters means that they’re not the usually 20-somethings we see featured in a romance novel. Beyond this though, we see characters representative of different countries, races, and even those with physical imperfections. I’ve certainly come across romantic suspense novels before which feature private security firms full of hunky ex-military men, and more often than not it seems like each member of the team is a muscled clone of the man standing next to him. You can’t help but appreciate the diversity we see represented here, as well as the natural camaraderie which connects them all. None of it seemed forced.

Some get more focus than others, but all are delightfully entertaining, and you can tell that each has their own story to tell. Within this rag-tag group of men you can easily tell that each has his own distinct personality, and hopefully we’ll see a subsequent book for every one of them. We get an introduction of some potential love interests for a few of the characters in this first book, and I must say I am particularly intrigued by Chess, who seems to be Matt’s right-hand man, and a dead ringer for Idriss Elba based on his physical characteristics and sexy-as-hell British accent. There also seems to be an implied infatuation between Chess and one of Matt’s sisters, so if that happens to be the focus of a future novel I am 100% going to be reading it.

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A Widow on the Dating Scene

Matt is the first man that Alessia has been with since the death of her husband. Her attraction and feelings for Matt are clearly evident, but I wish we could have delved deeper into the dichotomy between her previous relationship with her husband and her current dalliance with Matt. It’s merely brushed upon ever so briefly that her feelings for Matt are so much stronger than they ever were for the husband with whom she was simply going through the motions of life, marriage and parenthood. I think we could have explored her mindset over this realization more closely, as well as the influence it might have on her daughters for them to realize she might love Matt more than she loved their father. Instead it’s sort of brushed to the side to focus on another unexpected relationship which was burgeoning on the sidelines of this story.

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From Matt and Alessia to Al and Liv

Towards the middle of the novel things take an unexpected turn when we switch focus to one of Matt’s team members, Al, and his growing infatuation with their new office administrator, Liv, who has a dark and secretive past of her own. This was undoubtedly a fascinating story in it’s own right, but it made it feel as though we were dealing with two separate story lines, essentially two separate books which were rolled into one. It diverts attention away from our primary couple, and at one point they’re absent for a large portion of the story as we witness the complicated start of a friendship between Al and Liv.

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Alessia especially sort of takes a back seat to the plot at this point in the story. Instead we see the focus switch to this secondary relationship, as well as take a closer look at Matt’s relationship with his family and his team of compatriots. In addition, towards the latter half of the novel the drama with the drug lord is resolved rather quickly, almost effortlessly in a way, and then brushed aside to the point where I almost forgot that it was the impetus for our love birds coming together in the first place. While I was intrigued to find out more about this back and forth struggle between Al and Liv, it certainly attributed to a sense of an uneven balance of focus to the overall plot. Also, their story ended on a cliffhanger, which really made me question why we had such a focus on it if we weren’t going to get a cohesive resolution to it.

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

Series: Resolution Security, book 1. I’ll continue with this series for sure! Hopefully going forward we’ll have each book revolve around one specific couple rather than trying to weave two or more tales together into one. I understand how the goal here was to peak our interest into the lives of each of our characters, but sometimes less can be more.

Final Impression: This is definitely a tale of romantic suspense, but it’s also one of family. Not only in regards to our primary couple’s relationship with their daughters, but also Matt’s security teammates who have truly become brothers throughout the years. Yes, the story could have been balanced slightly differently with more of a focus on Alessia and Matt, and just a hint at the complicated relationship between Al and Liv. Instead it seemed like we had two books rolled into one, with neither story receiving the full attention they deserved. I’m still in love with all of these characters though, and can’t wait to see what’s in store for all of them in the future!

Smut Level: We might be dealing with some mature characters, but my goodness do they know how to get down and naughtyyyy! These two certainly haven’t lost their sexual libido over the years.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 433 Pages.

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Forgotten Hearts by Sloan Archer

Geez, yet another western romance novel that is making me consider a vacation to a cattle ranch in Montana! Not gonna lie, I’m sort of considering the possibility of building it into a work trip of mine next fall. We’ll just have to see if it all comes together!

What’s it About? 

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In the summer of 1991, young love blossomed between Cash Axton and Vanessa Paul in the vast field of forget-me-nots that separated their family homes in small town Dunblair Ridge, Montana. The two became inseparable best friends, and ten-year-old Cash made a vow to Vanessa that he intended to one day carry out: I’m going to marry you. But with autumn came an unforeseen tragedy, resulting in an event that would tear the two apart and divide them by thousands of miles.

As adults, Cash and Vanessa are living separate lives until fate steps in and brings them back to Dunblair Ridge. Cash, haunted by the events he’d witnessed overseas as a photojournalist, comes home to heal and take over the family’s failing ranch. Vanessa, a workaholic financial planner who suddenly finds herself jobless and single, leaves New York City for Montana to claim the farmhouse she inherited.

Vanessa intends to stay in Dunblair Ridge just long enough to fix up her property and sell it, but then she reunites with Cash and a flood of memories comes rushing back. While the two cannot deny their mutual attraction, they struggle to ignore the ticking clock that counts down the days until Vanessa returns to New York. Will Cash’s vow go unbroken?

First Impressions

Vanessa is having a bit of a rough day. It starts off with her being fired from her job under the accusation of embezzlement, which she didn’t actually commit. As if that wasn’t bad enough, when she runs home to what she assumes will be the comforting arms of her boyfriend, she finds him engaged in some naked loofah washing with a young coffee barista. And for the cherry on top of this hot fudge sundae of mayhem, said barista is pregnant, and is engaged to Vanessa’s now ex-boyfriend. Goodness gracious! I need to remember the next time I experience frustration because Trader Joe’s is out of arugula that things can always get worse. Much, much worse.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

The misfortunes don’t stop there for our young heroine. Her good for nothing mother certainly puts the “itch” in “bitch”, and has been misusing funds which Vanessa’s been sending her for rent. She then discovers that the only relative to ever show her love and affection one summer back when she was 10 has recently died. Her mother never told her of her Aunt Jeanie’s death, and Vanessa has inherited her entire estate in the small Montana town of Dunblair Ridge. Throughout all of these crippling misfortunes I kept asking myself one question…is she ever going to actually meet the sexy cowboy who is now living across the ranch field from her? This is a romance novel after all, yes?

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While the series of unfortunate events at the start of the novel definitely help set the scene for Vanessa’s desperation to move from New York City to Montana, I couldn’t help but feel that it went on for a tad too long. It’s not until over 1/3 of the novel is over that Vanessa and Cash actually have a conversation with each other as adults. The prologue of the novel presents us with the briefest of flashbacks from when the two were 10 years old, and Cash vowed that one day he would marry the young lass who became such a close friend over those summer months before her menacing mother whisked her away. The novel definitely could have benefited from a shortened summary of the downfall to Vanessa’s seemingly perfect New York City life, so that we could have more moments involving Cash and Vanessa rekindling their friendship from years before, and seeing it evolve into something even more.

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A Lost Friendship

Another area where I wish the story had focused a bit more attention was on that summer Vanessa and Cash spent together so many years ago. The initial flashback at the start of the novel is really the only time we see an interaction between Vanessa and Cash as children. Later on we get more information about how Vanessa and her mother ended up staying in Montana all those years ago, how her mother abandoned her to live with her Aunt Jeanie, and how Vanessa and her aunt became remarkably close during those few months together before her cruel mother came to collect her again. Seriously, this mom makes the evil stepmother from Cinderella look like Mother Goose in comparison.

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The scene which describes the crushing moment when Vanessa is literally ripped from the arms of her Aunt was so disturbingly heartbreaking you almost need to take a moment to collect yourself. While I definitely appreciated this glimpse into Vanessa’s past connection to her aunt, the missing component was really her connection with Cash during that time. We get a brief mention of how the two were constantly playing together, but we don’t even see a recap of how it was that the two first met. I feel like if we’d had just one or two additional scenes highlighting their friendship as children, it would have made their eventual meeting again 20 years later so much more special and meaningful.

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Even though I would have liked to see more of a window into Vanessa and Cash’s time together as children, as well as had their meeting occur earlier on in the book, I must say I really did appreciate the moment the two did finally reconnect. The reason I enjoyed this moment so much is because the two had no initial memory of each other from when they were children. I feel like most authors in a similar situation would have had this heartwarming moment where they both glimpse each other again, and all the memories come flooding back right away. Nope, not here! You can’t help but appreciate the reality of the situation, where neither can immediately recall why there’s a sense of familiarity to the hottie staring back at them. Let’s face it, I know I certainly wouldn’t be able to remember many of the details of someone I only knew for about 3 months when I was 10 years old! Eventually they both remember the time they spent together, but it comes about in such a natural way you can’t help but love it.

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Coming Back Full Circle

It’s kind of funny, at the start of the novel I kept asking myself if the two leads of this romance were ever actually going to meet, and by the end I was continually wondering whether we would ever see a resolution to some of the misfortunes presented at the start of the novel. It may seem like Vanessa is doomed to never clear her name from the embezzling accusation which ended her financial advising career, but eventually this story line does come back to the forefront. What followed was definitely an interesting progression of events. At first you experience a kind of frustration at Vanessa’s consideration to leave Cash and Montana behind, even though they’ve both come to hold a prominent place of importance in her life. However, you also have to appreciate that she’s not willing to turn her back on her career in order to be with a man. If she had, I think it would have seemed like a break in character from the determined woman we’ve come to know throughout the book. Instead we see a true internal struggle between what Vanessa thought she always wanted, and what she now realizes she wants.

One aspect that didn’t totally come full circle for me was in regards to Vanessa’s familial struggles. After Vanessa’s mother pulled her away from her loving aunt all those years ago, the two lost touch immediately. Her mother cut off all contact between the two, including throwing away any letters Vanessa tried to write her aunt, and sending back any letters her aunt tried to send Vanessa’s way. When Vanessa shows up in Montana, an old friend of her aunt’s presents her with a stack of the letters which Jeanie tried to send Vanessa all those years ago. The emotions are still too raw for Vanessa to confront these letters right away, so she hides them away in a box underneath her bed. I kept hoping throughout the novel that at some point we would get a glimpse into the love these letters undoubtedly contained, but unfortunately we never hear mention of the letters again at the end of the book.

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Something else which sort of fades to the background is Vanessa’s cold-hearted mother. I kept worrying that one day we’d see her show up on Vanessa’s doorstep in Montana begging for money, or perhaps throwing a wrench into her developing relationship with Cash. However, I was surprised to find that after Vanessa vowed that she was through once and for all with her mother, this vow holds true throughout the rest of the book. Ultimately, I must say I admired Vanessa for finally having the strength to distance herself from such an unloving and unwelcome burden in her life. Again, surprised it never came back into the story, but all in all pretty pleased that this was the case.

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*An ARC of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Dunblair Hearts, book 1. I definitely want to continue with this series. We’re introduced to a slew of beloved townsfolk, and I’m interested to see if some of Vanessa’s newfound friends will find love of their own in a future novel.

Final Impression: This is a story of one woman’s determination in the face of adversity. She might be tempted to give up at times, and even have an emotional breakdown or two (who doesn’t?), but when all is said and done she’s a woman with a plan that she intends to stick to. I would actually say this is more a story of Vanessa breaking free and moving on from her previously hectic life in New York City rather than classifying it as a romance, per se. Something which contributed to this feeling of the romance taking a back seat in the plot is the fact that it took quite a long time before Vanessa and Cash reconnected after so many years apart. In addition, a number of the scenes which involve them developing their relationship from acquaintances to friends to lovers are described more in summary rather than in detail. I almost feel like I got to know them more as individuals rather than as a couple.

Smut Level: A clean read from start to finish. Definitely have some flirtations between Vanessa and Cash, as well as one eventual love scene, but it’s passed over without any erotic detail.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 233 Pages.

Catching London by MV Ellis

There’s getting caught red-handed, and then there’s getting caught completely nude by your employer in his shower.

What’s it About? 

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He’s not looking to change his bad boy ways.

Arlo Jones is a bad boy billionaire rock star with the world at his feet. He lives the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle to the max, and believes in working hard and playing harder. He’s a man who always gets what he wants, especially when it comes to women. Until he meets London.

She’s a damaged dancer not looking to fall.

All London Llwellyn wants is to rebuild her life following the tragic car accident that robbed her of her fiancé, and ended her career as a professional ballet dancer. She’s working two jobs to scrape together the cash to set up her own studio, and reinvent herself as a photographer. The last thing she wants is to get involved. Arlo promises to always be there to catch her, but can London trust him enough to let herself fall?

First Impressions

My goodness are we presented with one hell of a meet cute! Nothing quite like our rock star lead, Arlo, catching London naked in his shower in her attempt to rid herself of a slew of spiders she encountered while cleaning his house. Arlo is the embodiment of an alpha male. He’s used to getting what he wants, and he wants London. At times he does cross the line of being too alpha. There was one scene in particular in which Arlo has publicly poured his heart out to London, and she doesn’t necessarily reciprocate in the way he was hoping for. He’s understandably upset, especially considering he’s never voiced such feelings of love for someone else before, and it results in him throwing a chair against a mirror in anger. While his frustration is clearly evident, it was almost too violent of a scene for my liking. That being said, London also manages to bring out the softer side in this rock star with such a tough exterior.

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Let’s Get Physical

Sex is an important part of their relationship, whether it’s present in bringing them together, or absent entirely. Upon first meeting, there’s an obvious physical connection. They both want each other…badly. However, London is determined to distance herself from this man who has completely overwhelmed her. She hasn’t considered intimacy with anyone since the death of her fiancé, so her sudden feelings of lust and passion for Arlo are entirely overwhelming. She tries to leave him in the dust, but what Arlo wants, Arlo gets. He does everything he can to bring London back into his life, and it’s not long before their chemistry reaches a boiling point. They both admit the best strategy is to give into their passion, and just do the deed already.

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But we all know these two are more than a simple one and done. I mean, does that seriously ever work? After they have a taste for each other, they find it difficult to separate. However, once Arlo proposes that London shadow him to photograph his band’s tour, London insists they need to draw a line in the sand that can’t be crossed. No sex between them on tour. As a matter of fact, she writes it into her contract before taking on the job. Again, we all know this no-sex clause isn’t going to last, but I must say I really appreciated when it was in place. It allows them to focus on a relationship that extends beyond the physical. They actually have a chance to get to know each other, and share some deep and intimate details of their pasts with each other.

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An Expression of Love Through Art

At the start of their physical relationship, neither Arlo nor London are too keen to voice their true feelings for the other. It’s a source of vulnerability for them both. These two are artists who find it easier to proclaim love utilizing their own respective art forms. For Arlo, it’s through song. While we can’t hear the melody, we can see the poetry of his words on the page, and his love for London is more than evident. When it comes to London, she is much more hesitant to give into her feelings of love for Arlo. At first it’s definitely a source of frustration for us as the reader. He demonstrates in multiple ways that he’s serious and wants to commit to just her, even declaring his love in a public forum. And yet, she can’t admit to him even though she can admit to herself that she’s come to love this alpha rock star.

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But then in a moment of clarity, London heart-breakingly admits her fear of loving Arlo in case things don’t eventually work out between them. She’s already lost one love of her life when her fiancé, Danny, tragically died. The thought of losing Arlo is another loss she’s not sure she could survive. It was an admission that gave us a window into London’s hesitancy to move on with someone else in her life. After shadowing Arlo on tour to produce a coffee table book of behind-the-scenes photos, London’s photography is what ultimately highlights her true love for Arlo. The only problem with this is that unlike a song where we can at least view the words, we don’t get enough of a description of her photography to allow us as the reader to truly appreciate her love for him. We see mention from multiple people that her photos clearly demonstrate her love for him, but more detail about what these photos entailed could have let us feel her love more clearly like we could through Arlo’s song.

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A Trapeze Routine and Keeping Distance

Arlo may have started out in this read as a bit of a man-whore who would sleep with any woman on two legs, but in my opinion there were two moments which truly highlighted his love for London that went beyond their sexual relationship. During one of their first chats, London admits that while her focus growing up was constantly on ballet, her true desire as a youngster was to become a trapeze artist. This initially seemed like such a throwaway comment, and I’ll admit even I let this little detail slip from my mind. Yet, in the midst of the craziness of Arlo’s world tour, he manages to set aside time for the two of them in Paris to meet with an actual trapeze artist to teach them both a routine to perform with each other. He literally made one of her childhood dreams come true, and it was such a sweet and vulnerable moment that first made me realize Arlo isn’t just sticking around London for the sex. He truly cares about her, and wasn’t afraid to set aside his bad boy image to fly around on trapeze with the woman he’s come to love.

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The second moment that demonstrates Arlo’s softer side came about at the end of their world tour together. It’s been an intense ride, and both Arlo and London know they’re in love with the other. We hope, as does Arlo, that the end of this tour can signal the start to an actual relationship between them. Unfortunately, the opposite happens. London feels that she and Arlo have been so close during this tour that she ultimately needs some space from him so she can focus on herself, and discover where this relationship can go. When she admits this to our alpha rock star, I was convinced it was either going to be the end of the two of them, or Arlo would ignore her request entirely to convince her they belong together. Imagine my utter shock when Arlo actually agrees to give her the space she asks for. He acknowledges that his instinct is to never let her go, but realizes that if he pushes too hard he could push her right out of his life. He might not be happy about it, but he places his faith in the connection between him and London, praying that eventually she’ll realize they’re meant to be together. The fact Arlo could put aside his inner alpha tendencies demonstrated that his character had truly grown and matured throughout the novel.

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

Series: Heartless Few, book 1. I’m excited to see what’s in store next for Arlo and London, as well as some of the other characters we’re introduced to in this preliminary novel.

Final Impression: There’s an interesting give and take with these characters. In the beginning you can’t decide if you wanna slap Arlo, or push him up against a wall for ravishing. Eventually you see him open up with London, and admit feelings he’s never had for anyone else before. While London is clearly struggling with her feelings for a man other than her deceased fiancé, at times her acts of distancing herself and her emotions from Arlo are somewhat selfish. At the start it’s definitely an understandable defense mechanism where she’s trying to protect herself from hurt, but once Arlo’s true feelings are evident, you feel a sense of sadness that his attempts to wear his heart on his sleeve are brushed aside so abruptly by London. Two imperfect characters for sure, but you’ll definitely root for them to be together.

Smut Level: Arlo is every inch the dirty talking, pushy, alpha rock star you could ever hope for. We get a plethora of delectably delicious erotic scenes, and these two have the act of multiple orgasms down to an art form!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 387 Pages.

Upon Your Return by Marie Lavender

This historical read presents us with a strong start, a suspenseful conclusion, and an exciting meet cute involving the rescue of a damsel in distress through a vicious sword fight.

What’s it About? 

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Fara Bellamont has been back in society for a year after leaving Cluny Abbey, where her uncle sent her long ago. When he chooses a suitor for her for marriage, she fears that she will be forced to marry a stranger and live a miserable life. But, Fara finds herself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime when unforeseen circumstances cause her to place her trust in a strange man for protection. His intervention not only saves her, but puts her in an even more compromising position.

Grant Hill, a trading captain, is enchanted by the young heiress not only because of her beauty, but because she is hardly conventional. Underneath her ladylike exterior lies a tigress. Grant cannot help but offer his protection as she is in need and he is far from immune from her charms. Fara just never bargained on the passion that she feels for Grant Hill. As events unfold, she must decide whether her desires and the dictates of her heart should trump the rules of society in this exciting tale.

First Impression

After the untimely death of her parents, Fara was placed under the guardianship of her unloving uncle when she was just a young girl. Every choice in life was not hers to make, which is also the case when her uncle arranges for her to marry a complete stranger. After their surprise engagement is announced, Fara finds herself lured to the harbor by this fiancé she barely knows. At night. Alone. Mkay, not the smartest way to highlight the prowess of our lead character. During this escapade she is happened upon by two men hired to confront and most likely rape her. Alas, a handsome and roguish boat captain comes to her rescue. Seriously, that’s a strong start with an incredible meeting between our lead characters! You can’t wait to see the love story develop between these two, for Grant to rescue her from her cold-hearted uncle, and perhaps whisk her away to travel the world. Unfortunately that doesn’t exactly happen.

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The Quarreling of Lovers

Fara and Grant definitely have passion, but surprisingly they spend the bulk of their time together bickering. I think at times it was supposed to come across as a cute kind of arguing that’s more like foreplay than anything else, but I can’t say it was executed to its full potential. Most of the time they spent arguing I remember feeling confused, and having a tough time following what exactly they were getting so heated over. A main source of malice between them for example, is that neither can fully admit their true feelings to the other. It’s like they want to convince each other it’s just passion and desire between them without love, but then they get upset if such an implication is made. A repeated back and forth of feeling hot and then cold. One such argument occurs after Fara and Grant have given into their physical attraction and had sex. Definitely a big no-no in 19th century French society for an unmarried lady to engage in. Now they have to figure out what to do in terms of their relationship seeing as her uncle especially wouldn’t condone a marriage between them.

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Grant offers to marry her, but Fara declines saying she doesn’t want to marry when it’s not for love…even though she realizes she’s falling in love with him. Kind of a contradiction there! Fara’s life to this point has been filled with tragedy from the death of her parents, followed by living with her uncaring and harsh uncle. It’s almost like she doesn’t think she’s worthy of love or happiness. True, Grant doesn’t come right out and say he loves her, but he calls her “his woman”, constantly comes around to protect her, gets her out of her engagement to the man her uncle set her up with, will often mention how enamored he is of her, and when he’s forced to leave town he asks that she wait for him. He was so clearly trying to demonstrate through his actions how he felt about her. Yet when he repeatedly said that he only wanted her, she internally convinced herself that he was so careful to not say he loved her that it must mean he doesn’t actually care.

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Strength in Sickness

One of the most powerful moments of the novel was when Grant fell ill, and recovery seemed unlikely. His crew members sought out Fara in the hopes that her mere presence would help him find the strength to live. It was in this moment that both characters let fall all the walls they’d been building up in an attempt to deny their feelings for each other. We see Fara’s strength, fortitude and determination to stay by Grant’s side no matter what. As for Grant…he was kind of out of it because of the fever, so he couldn’t technically voice his gratitude in such a hallucinatory state. However, it was during this illness that we saw Grant call out for just one person in the whole world to be by his side, and that was Fara.

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Unfortunately the moment is slightly ruined when Grant awakens after a full recovery. For some reason Fara tries to conceal how worried she actually was during his illness, which of course causes him to get testy because he then assumes she doesn’t care about him at all (couldn’t be further from the truth of course). This immediate reflection of coldness after all her dedication in seeing him through his fever resulted in her becoming incensed at the fact he wasn’t more grateful. Such a vicious circle between these two! You really scream internally that they’ll simply admit how much they both love each other.

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Unanswered Questions

The end of this novel presents us with an interesting bout of suspense when someone from Fara’s past comes back to threaten her happiness with Grant. Overall we see that Fara has encountered numerous obstacles in her life, and Grant is a strong presence who tries to stick by her side whenever possible. That being said, some important questions of the novel were left unanswered, or at least not fully explored. For example, we never really get a full explanation as to why Fara’s fiancé set her up at the start of the novel, which served as the entire impetus for Fara and Grant coming together. It’s sort of implied her ex-fiancé had a gambling problem, but we never see him come to justice for setting her up to be possibly kidnapped and raped.

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As I mentioned earlier, Grant is forced to leave town for a lengthy period of time towards the middle of the novel, which results in him being absent for a good chunk of the story. Years in fact. We really only receive the briefest of explanations as to why he was called away in the first place, as well as what happened to him during his years apart from Fara. While his absence allows Fara to grow as an independent woman, it also means Grant’s character remains more of a mystery to us. We don’t get to know him as well as I would have liked, and his years away from Fara felt like a missed opportunity to delve deeper into his past and personality.

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

Series: Heiress in Love, book 1.

Final Impression: You can’t help but admire Fara’s strength and tenacity in the face of hardship. However, at times I felt she was also quick to push Grant away, or find a reason to close herself off from him. A few moments of bickering would have been ok between them, but it’s so prevalent during the majority of their interactions that it came across as feeling slightly overdone. In addition, Grant’s absence in the second half of the novel made it more of a challenge to connect with his character. Definitely an exciting start and conclusion, but a few tweaks here and there in the middle could have helped us emotionally connect more with our leads.

Smut Level: This is pretty steamy for a historical read! Nothing too dirty or erotic, but there’s a heap of passion in there for sure. Fara and Grant aren’t afraid to roll around on the floor if they need to.

Seasonal Giveaway: Click Here to check out a giveaway on the author’s blog. There are almost 200 prizes from 42 different authors!! This giveaway lasts until Thursday, December 20 at midnight Eastern.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Summer Solstice Publishing. 329 Pages.

Connected by Kim Karr

Well…isn’t this a depressing start to a novel?!

What’s it About?

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What if a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ could happen twice? Suffering from a past full of tragedy, Dahlia London’s soul has been left completely shattered. Happily ever after is a far cry from reality in her world. But, when she is reconnected with her past, the bonds that form are irrefutable.

When River Wilde, lead singer of The Wilde Ones, comes back into Dahlia’s life, the intensity that fires their relationship combined with underlying feelings that have never died lead her to believe she has met her soulmate. Struggling with confusion as old connections fade and new ones begin, Dahlia’s grief begins to lift–but guilt remains. River wants to be the one to mend all that is torn within her. But with a past that is never really gone, can their future survive?

First Impressions

We start things off with a touching memory involving Dahlia going to a concert with her father, but then we find out in the next scene that her parents both died soon afterwards in a plane crash. Flash-forward a couple years and Dahlia is dating a guy named Ben, but has an unexpectedly passionate eye-connection and quick convo with a mysterious musician in a bar. I figured we’d proceed with a love triangle college romance. Not always my favorite, but I can deal. Well, hold your horses because we’re not done with the tragic set-up of the novel quite yet. We flash forward another 5 years to find that Dahlia and Ben are engaged, and while on the way to a party they’re approached by a gunman who shoots and kills Ben in cold blood. Good God can I get a shot of tequila or something before I attempt to read another chapter here?!

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Another Flash Forward

The first part of this novel focuses on Dahlia overcoming the death of so many loved ones before she happens to reconnect with River, the handsome musician she locked eyes with when she was back in college. After so many years apart, not to mention the multiple tragedies which she has encountered, when she reconnects with River she’s surprised there is still the same spark of connection, lust, and desire. Something which surprised me though during this reunion with River was how often Ben came back into her mind. True, this is the first man she’s thought about in a physical sense since the death of her fiancé. However, I guess I just figured that seeing as she’s been mourning him so deeply for so long, that maybe her time with River would cause the memory of her fiancé to slip ever so slightly from her mind. If anything, we see that the opposite happens.

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Instead of having River replace the memory of her dead fiancé, if anything she thinks about him more than she ever has in recent months. Their conversations are full of fun and laughter, yet they constantly make her think back on happy memories or connections with Ben. While I may not have been expecting this reaction, I must say I loved how realistic it felt. Ben was such an important figure in her lift since she was 5 years old, and I think it would have been so simple for the author to have River’s very presence push the tragedy of Ben to the sidelines. But instead we see the reality of someone moving on from tragedy, and the inner conflict Dahlia feels as she spends more time with River. Inevitably she starts to compare the two, and feels guilty as she contemplates whether or not Ben ever made her feel the way River does. Ultimately she’s able to start having happy memories again with someone new, but for a good portion of the book it’s almost as though the ghost of Ben is there as the third wheel in her re-connection with River.

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Quick Switch

The majority of the book is told from Dahlia’s point of view, from her tumultuous experience with grief, to her growing love for River, and even her arguments with River’s brother. I need to take a moment to say my God the disagreement and animosity between River’s brother and Dahlia was so unbelievably contrived and arbitrary with misplaced blame it was pretty ridiculous. Listening to it on my walks to work I’m sure other people probably thought I was having a seizure from all the eyebrow scrunches and crazy looks I was putting out there. Anyway, I digress.

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Even though Dahlia is our main storyteller for about 3/4 of the novel, I was surprised at a point of view switch so late in the game. At first I thought, well this will be a total waste to have waited so long to suddenly hear things from River’s viewpoint. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong! It was actually rather fascinating to see that underneath River’s seductive and confident exterior lies vulnerability and doubt over whether or not Dahlia will ever love him as much as she loved Ben. Sure, she says she loves him, but is he actually just an emotional rebound? He loves her so much, but is worried that he’ll constantly have to battle Ben’s ghost for her affections. In this instance, it was an unexpected yet surprisingly useful POV switch.

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Multiple Meanings

Mkay, the title. Connected. As the novel progresses it wants you to think that the connection that’s being referred to deals with the emotional link between Dahlia and River. And yes, I realize I just referred to the book as a free thinking entity. Their connection over music is especially strong, and this is definitely one of those books where an accompanying playlist would be particularly helpful to figure out who the heck they’re talking about. However, once River’s point of view takes over the narration we realize that there’s a different kind of connection going on, and it’s one related to all of our characters being connected in a way we never thought possible! Except it was actually slightly predictable 🙂 But!! The freakin’ epilogue leaves us with a holy shit Batman surprise that will knock your socks off. Ok, so I kiiiind of predicted this surprise too, but to have it confirmed was definitely a slap in the face, and it ends the book on a rather huge and intense climax.

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Series: Connections, book 1. Honestly, I’m kind of hesitant to proceed with this series, mainly because the cliffhanger ending implies that book two is gonna be one hell of a heartbreaking continuation that will involve some really difficult and depressing decisions on the part of Dahlia. Good luck girlfriend. I do not envy you this decision.

Final Impression: We have an unbelievably emotional and depressing start, and kind of a mind f*ck of an ending, with a middle section that kind of dragged a bit with all of Dahlia and River’s lovey dovey ooey gooeyness love connection. That’s one roller coaster of a sandwich cookie right there. Definitely double stuffed. In my opinion though we definitely could have used less filling.

Smut Level: The emotional connection between Dahlia and River isn’t the only thing that’s off the charts between them. River has been waiting to unleash his sexual prowess on Dahlia for years, and he’s not holding back this time around.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 370 Pages.

Setting Sail!

December has finally arrived, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for another family cruise vacation! We are setting sail this week for the beautiful sunshine of the Caribbean. See ya later 40 degree weather! Can’t say I’ll miss you at all.

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I’ve got my Kindle full of romantic beach reads, and I can’t begin to express how much I’m looking forward to getting my tan-on whilst reading the day away. Sure, the endless buffets of delicious food and desserts are also pretty awesome, but I’m most excited about getting away from the stresses of life. Nothing quite like getting off the grid, and telling work that you will literally be unreachable for a whole glorious week in international waters.

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From Costa Maya to Cozumel, not to mention the delicious rum of Belize, here’s to a week of fun, sunshine, and time with family. I imagine I’ll have finished quite a few books by the time the week is out. See you all in a week!

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My African Craving by Audrey Flynn

Erica has gone from hailing cabs and dodging traffic in New York City to dodging fires and poachers in the African safari. Not sure I’d be up to the task honestly!

What’s it About?

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When Erica Knight arrives in Lebombo Game Reserve for her first African safari she has no idea that her life is about to be changed forever. As an executive for a mining company she believes that negotiating the mining rights for the Lebombo Reserve will be a slam-dunk, but she didn’t count on locking horns with the reserve’s enigmatic owner, Jean-Luc de Graaf.

In the heart of a wild African landscape full of beauty and danger, Erica and Jean-Luc both stubborn and passionate find themselves on opposite sides of an escalating conflict. With the Reserve threatened by vicious poachers and runaway fires, they are thrown together unable to contain the scorching attraction between them.

Far away from the rat race of New York Erica feels the stirring of a different drum, ancient and irresistible. But surrendering to the wild would mean she would have to submit to the powerful attraction to Jean-Luc and she isn’t ready to give up control just yet…

First Impression

Full disclosure here folks. The concept of going on an African safari has never really been very high up on my bucket list. I tried to think of why that is, and honestly it was kind of difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. I love animals, and ever since watching the Lion King as a kid my adoration for lions, giraffes, and most other African safari mammals was cemented. Maybe it’s because deep down I like to think of myself as a city girl through and through, so a real-life safari seems a bit too hot and sweaty for my tastes? However, this short novel does a rather fantastic job of demonstrating the almost transcendental experience an African safari can be for some people. I think the fact that our heroine is also a city girl (and one who loves Cabernet Sauvignon on top of it!) made it easier for me to connect with her appreciation for this beautiful landscape brimming with life. The scenes where we see Erica stare straight into the black depths of these big cats’ eyes provides us with just a small glimpse at how special and ethereal that connection with nature is. Maybe I’ll have to move an African safari just a bit higher up on my bucket list after all 😉

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Business or Pleasure?

Erica’s purpose in traveling to Africa isn’t solely to go on safari. She’s actually there in an attempt to establish a mining venture in the heart of this magical Game Reserve. This brings her up close and personal with the dedicated owner, Jean-Luc. These two are seemingly enemies on opposite sides of the table. He insists that eco-tourism and maintaining the beauty of this landscape will bring more stability to the region than a big mining company ever could. Not to mention his insistence that preserving the Reserve is crucial to ensuring the safety of the animals. She on the other hand won’t give up on the argument that big business means lots of money and success for the people of the land. There is one crucial feature though which connects these two, even if it seems like it divides them on the surface.

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Erica and Jean-Luc are fighters. They fight for what they believe in. They fight to protect those they care about. She grew up in the city, while he grew up in the plains of Africa. She worked two jobs to support her family and herself through college. He came from wealth and a family of privilege. So different on the outside, but they’ve both been taught to take care of themselves. Jean-Luc’s father was supportive, yet always taught him to work hard, and that in the bush you have to take care of yourself. You won’t always have someone to come to your rescue. As for Erica, her father abandoned her mother, sister and herself when she was young. While she didn’t have the constant support of a father-figure, his departure was perhaps the greatest life lesson she’d ever received. She learned to take care of her family through her own hard work and dedication. She couldn’t wait around hoping he’d come back. This inner determination makes it hard for either Erica or Jean-Luc to back down on what they’re fighting for, but they both recognize and appreciate that fight in the other.

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Moments of Silence

This novel certainly packs a punch in just 138 short pages. We have the arguments over the mining establishment, the constant threat of poachers to the tranquility of the Reserve, not to mention an approaching bush fire that might just destroy the entire region. And in the midst of it all there’s a budding romance between these supposed enemies. There’s a lot going on, but each subplot really does play an important role to the overall story. The drama involving the mines establishes the initial animosity and distrust between our two lead characters, but the hazards of hunters and flames demonstrate a crucial softer-side to both Erica and Jean-Luc.

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Ironically enough, the most exciting moments for me were not the ones involving a dramatic retreat from a bush fire, or a showdown with poachers. No, instead it was the few scenes where we find Erica and Jean-Luc finding a moment of peace and alone time together. It’s almost like the whole world stands still, and they’re able to connect in their own solitary bubble, even if they both know that they only have limited moments together before that tranquility is interrupted. Whether it be a quiet picnic next to a secluded lake, or a passionate embrace in the shower, Erica and Jean-Luc can find a few precious moments where they don’t just put their differences aside, but their differences practically disappear completely. Hands down, my favorite scenes of the book.

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

Series: Stand-alone. I’d really love to see a continuation where different characters might find their own serenity and romance in the midst of the Lebombo Reserve.

Final Impression: There’s definitely a lot going on in this short novel, and while you can’t really remove any subplot without the overall story feeling slightly broken, I do think adding just a few more chapters could have provided us with more depth to these side dramas. I did sort of guess one part of the big final reveal in regards to the poachers, but honestly I was expecting more sabotage than what we got. Ultimately I’m happy my inkling was incorrect as it would have been pretty heartbreaking, but the actual climax was still slightly predictable. I did enjoy seeing Erica and Jean-Luc find their few moments of tenderness and solitude in the midst of all the difficulties they’re dealing with in life. They’ve both put up walls in an attempt to protect themselves from the hurt of Erica’s eventual return to the US, but as they get through these dangers together their walls start to fall down, and in the end they’re left with each other.

Smut Level: These two slowly explore each other in a shower. But not just any shower. An outdoor shower!!! Definitely upping the details of this sexcapade locale.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Inkspell Publishing LLC. 138 Pages.

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