Jake’s Redemption by Jamie Schulz

In this futuristic world, women are no longer considered the weaker sex, and have come to control society. Yasssss!! They’ve also enslaved all men, and even sell them at Auction as breeders to be used and abused. Dammit ladies, we’re better than this!!! 😦

What’s it About? 

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Chained and enslaved, Jake Nichols is convinced he’ll die alone. In this new order where men are stripped of all power, he endures brutal torture at the hands of his female captor. But when he’s hired out to build a ranch home for an outspoken beauty, his dreams of escape transform into visions of passion.

Monica Avery struggles to fill her heart in a loveless society. With marriage outlawed and romantic partners reduced to pawns, she’s given up hope of finding her soul mate. But watching the rugged rancher hard at work on her shelter awakens deeply buried desires.

As the project comes together, Monica discovers a kindred spirit in the tenderhearted Jake. But despite their growing attraction, he still belongs to a cruel woman who’d rather see him dead than free. Can Monica save Jake, or will their love lead to a tragic tomorrow?

First Impressions

This is definitely a unique world we’ve been thrown into, as it is both futuristic in concept, yet rudimentary in execution. A series of wars and…genetic mutations(?) have resulted in womankind becoming the dominant force in society, with the ability to overpower men with their superior strength that kicks in when threatened. These various wars have depleted the men of this world, and they have since become the slaves and playthings of women. They are objects to be sold at auction, and there seem to be no repercussions or punishment for women who abuse their slaves to the point of death. As a result of these wars, women may have come to the ultimate position of power, but they rule over a land that has seemingly been thrown back in time, with rolling blackouts of electricity, the necessity for horses as a means of transportation, and the fond memory of telephones as a way to communicate with others. It’s a stark juxtaposition of modernity vs. stagnation.

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While the premise of the story was certainly intriguing, I felt like we only scratched the surface of these wars which plagued the entire world. For a series prequel, I would have liked to see more attention focused on the details of these wars, and the fallout which resulted in such a drastic alteration to society as we know it. There were many times throughout the book where I couldn’t help but think, “how did we ever get to this point?!” I almost wonder if a more appropriate use of this prequel would have been to set the story years earlier in the midst of the wars so we could see how everything came together for our women, yet simultaneously fell apart for our men. In a way, I sort of wanted to see a prequel for our prequel!

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From Slave to Partner

Jake is in Hell. He’s the slave of a sadistic, tortuous woman who seems determined to break his will to live. Salvation comes when he is loaned out for a time to a neighboring farm to help with the construction of a ranch house for it’s beautiful owner. Monica is seemingly the opposite of every other woman he’s come across in this world. She treats her slaves with respect, and vows she would never force them to do anything they weren’t comfortable with. The truly heartbreaking feature of this story is that Jake has the hardest time seeing this reprieve for what it is. When he first arrives at Monica’s farm, he’s constantly suspicious of her motives, and wondering when she’ll finally let her true colors shine as a demanding Mistress. He simply can’t trust her, because his hellish owner “tortured all the trust” out of him.

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Although Jake has difficulty trusting Monica in the beginning, he can’t deny his body’s attraction to her, and she too desires him in a way that feels different than all the men who have come before. When Jake rejects her initial advances, she is quick to assume that he’s being overly gruff. However, she eventually realizes that he has suffered immense physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his owner. This torture is deeply embedded in his psyche, to the point where Monica’s intimate touch causes him to experience distressing flashbacks which fully incapacitate him. It is only after many open and honest discussions, not to mention time, that Jake is able to overcome the mental torment of his past abuse and rape that he can learn to enjoy Monica’s affection. The only problem with the fact that Jake and Monica have established a deep emotional connection is that the time is soon approaching when he must go back to the hell he was merely on a break from.

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

Series: Angel Eye Series, prequel. This book definitely pulls you in to the point where you immediately want to pick up the next book.

Final Impressions: In terms of the purpose of a prequel to set the tone and background for the series, I’m not sure it was used to it’s fullest potential, especially when you consider the length. It’s a rather hefty read at 425 pages, and when all was said and done I still felt some confusion about the foundation of this world which has been ravaged by such unconventional wars. The bulk of the story involves Jake and Monica stuck in a cat and mouse game where they seemingly take two steps back for every step forward in their relationship. In addition, there were several key aspects of the plot which were left unfinished so that they can undoubtedly come back into play in the next novel. Ultimately it seemed we were left with more questions than answers, and the flow of the story probably could have benefited from about 50-75 fewer pages.

Smut Level: It takes quite a bit of time before Jake can push his past trauma aside so that he can fully connect with Monica on a physical level. This means that more of the story involved the development of their emotional relationship rather than a physical one.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 425 Pages.

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

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

What’s it About?

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

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

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

First Impressions

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

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Who Are You? Who Am I?

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

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A Desperate Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ancient Souls by Marianne Bissett

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impressions

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

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The A-Team

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

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

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No Ending to True Love

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

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

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Here We Go Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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