Seventeen Days by Linda Griffin

What do you do when the man you’ve just started developing a romantic connection with is suspected of a grisly murder? Do you cut your losses, or do you stand by your man?

What’s it About? 

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Divorcee Jenna Scott moves to a quiet California fishing village during the first Gulf War to make a new life in a house inherited from her grandfather. Her next-door neighbor recommends widowed handyman Rick Alvarez to fix her leaky roof. Jenna is intimidated by his good looks and annoyed by his self-assurance, but disarmed by his affection for his young son. She is still hurting from her ex-husband’s betrayal and resists the attraction between them.

Rick has lived in the village for only three years and is still an outsider, friendly but not sharing his past with anyone. When an attractive vacationer is murdered, local gossip says he is the killer, and rumors spread about his wife’s death as well. Jenna is determined not to believe the gossip, but will she ever be able to trust Rick with her wounded heart?

First Impressions

Surprisingly, the main focus of this novel wasn’t so much about the murder which happened in this sleepy coastal town, but rather the fallout of it. While we see the closeness that can develop between neighbors in a small town, we are also witness to the darker side of town gossip that can overtake a community shocked by tragedy. It was definitely an interesting focus highlighting the prejudice which can be placed towards the supposed “outsiders” in such a close knit community. While it was a fascinating and rather sad glimpse at the dangers of wildfire rumors, I do wish we had focused a bit more on the mystery of the murder. I was expecting it to be more front and center, but instead it’s sort of pushed to the side as an unfortunate incident that we’ll figure out the solution to just when it happens to come about. It’s not like Jenna and Rick team up to find the actual killer in order to clear his name or anything. They just kind of sit by as observers to the drama which unfolds around them.

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17 Days of Love and War

The Seventeen Days title of this romance was certainly clever, as it not only tracks the burgeoning romance between Rick and Jenna, but also tracks the first few tumultuous days of the Gulf War. At the start of every chapter we get a count to what day of the war it is, as well as a brief news announcement to how the war is progressing. Now, I must say I was slightly confused as to why the novel was set during that particular time period. It didn’t really play a big enough of a role to truly feel relevant, which made it come across as a rather unnecessary detail. It’s not like either of our lead characters had a military connection, or really any of the characters in the book for that matter. One character expressed an interest in joining up, but again it simply wasn’t a big enough part of the story to really tie everything together. It’s just this event that’s referenced as going on in the background of their lives.

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I realize this is going to sound slightly weird in hindsight considering the title was in reference to two different things, but you kind of forget about it as the novel progresses. Only at the very end when Jenna makes a reference to it having been 17 days since she first met Rick was I like, ohhhhh, riiiiight. A different approach which could have been an interesting twist would have been to have a 17 day countdown rather than counting up. It would have helped build suspense in reference to the murder story line especially, wondering what might happen when we get to that final day countdown of day 0. And then once it was all over we could have a final chapter entitled day 1, which could symbolize the true beginning of Rick and Jenna starting out on an official relationship with each other once the drama of the novel had concluded. Just a thought!

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Missed Connection

When all was said and done I feel like we missed a bit of an emotional connection with our lead characters. Rick always remains a bit of a quiet, surly dude who only shows minor glimpses of sensitivity when interacting with his son, and some romantic sentiments towards the end with Jenna. I mean, it’s kind of understandable he’d be in a sour mood with his entire town suspecting him of multiple murders and everything. However, the conversations where Rick and Jenna get to know each other are almost too reminiscent of an interview with rapid fire questions where they want to know as many details about each other in as short amount of time as possible. A few more scenes shining a light on the softer, emotional side of Rick’s personality would have been great.

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As for Jenna, she was also a bit of a strange duck. Half the time I couldn’t tell if she wanted to go off on a tirade against Rick for having the gall to show up to work on her house when she wasn’t ready for him, or if she wanted to push him up against a wall to ravish him. It was a weird back and forth that continues throughout the story where she’ll ask a very point blank question as though she’s accusing him of something, but then brush it off with a kiss. And then the most bizarre aspect of all is when she does decide to take the next step in their relationship. To quote Rick, “You didn’t like me at all until you thought I killed her.” Seems kind of…bizarre, no? However the more I thought about it the more I read into what I’m hoping is a more romantic way of looking at the situation.

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Since meeting Rick, Jenna hasn’t really known what to make of him, but he’s constantly on her mind. And then the unthinkable happens, a gruesome murder in their small town, and Rick is the primary suspect among the town gossips. This is when Jenna is forced to decide whether or not she can place her trust in this man she barely knows. She has no reason to trust him, especially considering everyone around her is convinced of his guilt. And yet, her gut is telling her he’s someone she can trust. I can see the romance there. Right? The only hiccup here is that even after they sleep together it seems like she does still contemplate whether or not he’s guilty. Hmmm, maybe the threat of danger is something she finds titillating?

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I think Rick’s son, Danny, was my favorite character of the book, and I wish he’d been featured a bit more prominently. Overall I think we may have had one too many story lines going on here. From the burgeoning romance between Jenna and Rick, to the murder of a visiting tourist, to the Gulf War starting. We needed to either drop the war aspect and have the murder featured more prominently to build suspense, or we should have had more of a military focus on the war, with soldiers going off to war or something. Lastly, a few more revealing emotional moments between our lead characters could have helped us warm up to their characters earlier on.

Smut Level: Rick and Jenna go for a few roles in the bedroom, but the scenes are pretty clean.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 132 Pages.

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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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The Artisan Heart by Dean Mayes

Dr. Hayden Lushcombe is a dedicated pediatrician, a loving (albeit preoccupied) husband, and he certainly knows how to handle his wood! For…woodworking…that is. Sorry, was that not clear?

What’s it About?

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Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette. When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own. As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.

First Impression

For the first few chapters, it was kind of hard to connect with the story as we witness the disintegration of a marriage. It makes it difficult to want to pick it up and read when you know the inevitable split is just around the corner! In the end though, it was definitely a necessary introduction, as all of the seemingly inconspicuous details of the beginning come back full circle in the end. The story truly comes alive though once Hayden travels to his childhood country home in Walhalla. It might be a small town, but it’s brimming with personality and memories from Hayden’s past, both good and tragic. It’s the one place he can escape to, and ultimately he is re-enveloped in its charm.

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While the town of Walhalla was charming, it’s residents were a pure delight. This is one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody, which also means that it doesn’t take long before they all know Hayden’s business. But rather than sit back and judge, or gossip away in the shadows (which can be common of small town novels), instead we see an incredibly supportive group of townsfolk. I wouldn’t necessarily say they pity him, but rather they are saddened that something traumatic has impacted one of their own. Especially considering they all know about the sad fate which befell his parents, whom they all knew and loved.

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Mothers and Fathers

Apart from the romantic aspect of the novel, we see that parental relationships are another key feature of the story. Hayden had always been close with his mother, but when he couldn’t make it home in time to say goodbye before she died of cancer, it ultimately strained his relationship with his father. Just three years later his father died of a broken heart. Hayden has been able to push aside the tragic details of his parent’s deaths by hiding away in Adelaide with his wife. However, upon his return to Walhalla he discovers he must inevitably confront the past, and try to remedy his relationship with his father even though he’s passed away. It’s a sad, yet touching exploration of the last few years between a father and son. Hayden doesn’t come to the eventual realization on his own though that his father loved him until the end. Isabelle and the other townsfolk help him realize it as well.

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The other unique parental interactions we’re presented with in this book revolve around Isabelle and her daughter Genevieve. Whenever we have a romance where one of the lead characters has a kid, I get slightly nervous since the tendency is often to push them to the background. What I loved about this read though was that Genevieve was incorporated perfectly front and center. She’s an adorably curious child who manages to stay upbeat in spite of being deaf. Her mother was her savior, as they escaped from an abusive situation with Isabelle’s husband. They fled to the small town of Walhalla where they were greeted with open arms by the townsfolk who have become their family. When Hayden rolls into town he is wary at first of the headstrong lass playing with stuffed bears in his tool shed, but he eventually takes her under his wing. The fact his own mother was deaf means he is well versed in Auslan, and doesn’t shy away from actually speaking with Genevieve. In a way he becomes a pseudo father figure, which draws him and Isabelle together even more.

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Full Circle

What’s clearly evident in this read is that every detail serves a purpose to the story, and we’re presented with an extremely well thought-out sequence of events. We start with the end of a marriage, then see Hayden become reacquainted with his home town, followed by a romance with Isabelle, a suspenseful encounter with her ex-husband Mitchell, and finally the drama with his wife comes back full circle. There’s a little bit of everything! When the shady characters of Isabelle and Hayden’s pasts come to town, we question if these outside forces will succeed in breaking apart this new family we’ve come to love.

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I will say the culmination of events at the end was slightly predictable, but I appreciated that the suspense was drawn out over a few intense chapters rather than having a quick, two-page glimpse of drama at the end. What’s truly commendable though is that we once again see this community rally together to safeguard one of their own. Rather than it feeling contrived or cheesy, their instinct to protect felt completely natural. As an adult I’ve always striven to live in a big city with a lot of people, but this was definitely the idyllic representation of a small town I’d love to live in!

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

Series: A fantastic stand-alone!

Final Impression: The novel had a bit of a rocky start as Hayden’s relationship with his wife Bernadette slowly dissolved before ending in a fiery crash and burn situation. Once he escapes to his hometown though this is when the novel truly comes alive and becomes something special. It’s a great read, with a perfect combination of romance, suspense, and starting life over after hitting rock bottom. We see this for both Hayden and Isabelle, and what makes them such strong and lovable characters was their ability to bounce back and rise up in the face of adversity. They’re admirable individuals, but as a family unit with Isabelle’s daughter, Genevieve, they are unbreakable. A great beach read for sure once you push through the somewhat depressing start.

Smut Level: The great thing about a supportive small town? Babysitters at the ready who are willing to keep Genevieve over for a sleepover so that Hayden and Isabelle can have some more intimate time together. Nothing too graphic, but we do get the delectable detail of Isabelle drawing Hayden’s boxers down with her toe. That’s talent right there.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Central Avenue Publishing. 384 Pages.

 

Another Five Minutes by Destiny Booze

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

What’s it About?

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Loving him is easy.

Fearing him is necessary.

Trusting him could be a deadly mistake.

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

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

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

First Impression

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

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Suffering through the Panic

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

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

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

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Nowhere to Turn

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

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

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What…Happened?!?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hard by Eve Jagger

Cassie will do anything she can to make sure she doesn’t lose her home to pay off her brother’s debts. Even if it means she has to spend every day working for an intimidating, sexy bastard.

What’s it About?

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Strong. Arrogant. Hard. Ryder Cole is the King of Atlanta’s nightlife — and the one man who can erase my past. I’m running from secrets that could destroy me and there’s no room in my life for someone like him: too damn cocky, and sexy as hell. I should keep my distance, but smart goes out the window the minute he looks my way. And when he puts his hands on me…? A girl could forget her own name. But what happens when the past catches up with me, and all the things I’m hiding from tear our lives apart again? I can’t keep running forever, and Ryder always wins. He’s not the kind of guy to let me go gently, Ryder will give it to me hard.

First Impression

Cassie has just moved back to the United States after leaving an abusive relationship behind in England. She’s looking to escape from the drama in her life, but instead she walks into even more drama than what she was expecting. She’s fast asleep one night when she’s jerked awake by a devilishly handsome and muscled man named Ryder who is looking for her brother, Jamie. As well as the $10,000 Jamie owes him. When Cassie discovers her brother put their house up as collateral, she finds she has no choice but to start working off her brother’s debt by managing the account books for Ryder’s business. Her goal in working for this man is to untangle both herself and her brother from Ryder, but as Cassie spends more time in his world she finds herself ensnared by his passionate stare and sexual magnetism.

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All in all, I kind of wish Cassie and Ryder had met differently. Not necessarily in regards to her brother owing Ryder a debt. That part was definitely an interesting impetus for them coming together! I just wish their first meeting hadn’t involved Ryder and his thugs kicking her door in one night looking for Jamie and his 10k. Even if Ryder did mistakenly assume he was walking in on Jamie that night instead of Cassie. I guess I found it a bit hard to believe that after being shaken awake in the middle of the night by a muscle bulging, tatted stranger, she’d be able to fall for him so quickly. I feel like I’d be shaking from shock for the better part of a year after such a rude awakening. But I treasure my sleep, so anyone who interrupts it immediately rises to the top of my enemy list. Has anyone seen my list by the way?

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She Gives as Good as She Gets

I absolutely loved the verbal chess match which plays out between these two. You never know who will put forward the most sass, and have the foresight to checkmate with just the right hint of sexual innuendo. Sometimes there is no clear winner. Ryder isn’t afraid to take what he wants when it comes to Cassie, which I understand sounds a bit…forceful, but believe me when I say Cassie is fully prepared, and desires to take everything Ryder is putting out there. What I love even more than the delightful physical element to their relationship though is when we get to see a softer side to Ryder’s character. He initially comes across as such a hard-ass bastard. The title of the book and series alone says it all!

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We are presented with this muscled, tatted, badass who is all intimidating businessman on the outside, but there’s more to this man. There’s a scene where Ryder explains to Cassie how he first got into fighting, and we discover that in spite of his tough exterior, at the heart of this man is someone who is willing to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves. He looks out for others, and cares deeply for the people in his life. It was probably my favorite scene in the whole book. While Ryder lets his shield down a bit by letting Cassie take a glimpse into his past, unfortunately we see that Cassie isn’t necessarily as forthcoming with her own past.

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Keeping Secrets, or Withholding Details

Cassie chooses to keep the abusive aspect of her previous relationship from Ryder. Let’s face it, we all know that just means it will eventually come to light anyway, and Ryder will undoubtedly be very pissed that she kept it from him. And sure enough, it happens. Now, this ultimate reveal evoked some interesting reactions for me. Normally when we come across something like this in a romance novel, I get frustrated with the lead character for keeping such a large secret from their love interest. However, in this instance I can’t say I really fault Cassie for not revealing this aspect of her life to Ryder. She just met this man. Their relationship up to this point has been primarily physical, and they haven’t really defined their relationship. It’s definitely implied they’re exclusive, but they haven’t even been out on a date yet.

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Ok, yes, ideally she would have told Ryder she was still married. But this past with her ex, Sebastian, was one that was both mentally and physically abusive. I think even Cassie is trying to sort it all out for herself. She’s taken such a big risk by leaving Sebastian behind in England, only to arrive back home to find her brother owes a massive debt. Cassie is not even at the point where she’s admitted the truth of this broken relationship to her own family, let alone to some dude she just met that she’s sleeping with. So, in this regard, I get why she didn’t divulge the details to Ryder. Yes, he opened up about his past, how he defended a helpless classmate from the hands of a bully, as well as the deatils about his cheating ex. But in my opinion it’s a bit different than the emotional torment which Cassie has been suffering with for the last two years all by herself.

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Sebastian Comes To Town

That…being…said. Once the truth of her marriage does come to light, and we are presented with a scene where Ryder, Sebastian and Cassie are all in a mini face-off circle, I do kind of judge Cassie for not shouting out the truth of the matter at the top of her lungs. When Sebastian introduces himself to Ryder as Cassie’s husband, and that she’ll be going back with him to England, I don’t understand why she didn’t interject, “um, f*ck that! This dick hole beat me, and I’m not going anywhere with him.” Instead, she tries to persuade Ryder to leave him be, and insists that Sebastian is just leaving. Come on girl, stand up for yourself!

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I am happy to say though that my frustration didn’t last too long. Rather than let Ryder sulk, Cassie doesn’t hesitate in going after him. She still kind of tries to keep the darker  details of their relationship a secret, but eventually Ryder gets the truth out of her. Even better though is that when we build-up to the eventual final climactic finish where Cassie needs to confront Sebastian, my girl does not disappoint! We have an exciting finish where we finally see Cassie stand up to her abusive ex. The theme of giving back as good as she gets comes to light in her final confrontation with him too.

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Series: Sexy Bastard, book 1. I loved the introduction of all of Ryder’s business partners, as well as the female friends in their lives. I’m excited to see what comes next, as each character really has a personality all their own.

Final Impression: There was actually more depth and plot to this story than I was expecting. The details of Cassie’s past with Sebastian were dark and full of turmoil, but also added an element of suspense and anticipation to the plot. In addition, I enjoyed the scenes where we were able to see Ryder be more vulnerable with Cassie, and open up about his own past. Unfortunately I also feel that the story didn’t 100% come full circle for me in regards to Cassie’s brother, Jamie, and the debt he owed to Ryder. I would have liked to see more scenes between Cassie and Jamie especially, but for the majority of the novel Jamie is really reserved to the background. When he does finally reemerge, it’s to quickly hand over a bag of cash paying off his debt. Seeing as this debt was the impetus for the whole book, I felt that it’s resolution was thrown together a bit too quickly.

Smut Level: Holy crap. I can’t remember the last time I read a romance novel where a male lead was so eager to get his head between a woman’s legs.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Eve Jagger Books. 260 Pages.

Hurricane Crimes by Chrys Fey

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

What’s it About?

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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A Bathtub Fit for Two

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

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Beth, Donovan, and Sabrina

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Deep Well of Love and Murder by Brenda Whiteside

A burly Argentinian rancher with a penchant for cooking and intimate tea ceremonies? Oh yeah, I’ll take me one of those. Looks like this one’s in Flagstaff. Give me a moment whilst I research flight costs, please and thank you.

What’s it About?

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After an abusive childhood and a bad marriage, Laura Katz finally finds a home, stability…and possibly love. But her blissful refuge as nanny on the Meadowlark Ranch, miles from Flagstaff, shatters when her ex is released from prison, determined to reclaim her.

Randy Silva, the ranch’s foreman, has dreams of his own ranch, but a nasty land grab is underway.While the battle escalates, Laura steals his heart, but dangerous outsiders and a criminal ex-husband stand in their way. Randy’s in a perilous fight for his land and the woman he wants by his side.

Stakes are high, as the attacks on Randy and his ranch draw blood. While the vengeful ex-husband stalks Laura, a mob-backed land developer teams with a desperate gambler. Randy can’t be sure where the next attack will come from–or who will be caught in the crossfire.

First Impressions

Hands down this has been my favorite book in the series so far. It’s so cleverly crafted where it really does keep you guessing who our mystery vandal could be. There are three obvious suspects, but you constantly question who might be the ultimate perpetrator. It definitely kept me guessing, which is hard to do, and you’ll wonder if maybe it’ll end up being some unassuming fourth person who will end up being a complete shock. The possibilities are truly endless when we’re dealing with so many smarmy people in such a small town. These top three suspects are obviously people with selfish intentions, but you wonder which one has the stomach to do some of these more dastardly deeds.

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A Villainous Reveal

In my opinion this is where the book was extra clever. We do discover the identity of our perpetrator about half-way through the book. When this came to light, I was immediately a bit let down thinking, well darn! There goes all the mystery and intrigue. As it turns out, I couldn’t be more wrong! I feel like if anything this is when the novel really hits its stride and ramps up the intensity level, especially when our lovable characters are unknowingly in the presence of such a ne’er do well. Another aspect I admired with this read is that the author never tried to rush a scene, specifically when it would come to a suspenseful scene at the end involving our villain and Laura.

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These scenes would always start you off on the edge, and then build and build in intensity, and you can tell our villain’s rage increases in these moments as well. Just when you think the scene will switch to something more mellow, or there will be a break in intensity, it ends up lasting a bit longer than you think it will. In these moments you really find yourself wondering, my goodness how far is this going to go? Will there actually be a happy ending for everyone where justice ultimately prevails? At times it can even bring you to the edge of your own comfort level where you may start to squirm in anticipation, but in a way I feel this almost puts us in the shoes of our lead character. We wonder what fate might befall them in that moment. Well written for sure!

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The Rancher and the Nanny

As for the romance aspect, overall I liked it. Can’t say I fell head over heels with it, but it was definitely good. I appreciated the fact that Randy and Laura’s relationship wasn’t solely about sex, even if it sort of starts out that way. They have both set their sights on each other, and Laura in particular is pretty brazen about wanting to start a physical relationship. However, they are both able to open up with each other about important aspects of their lives which they’d never revealed to another person before.

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For Randy, he shares his desire to start a horse camp for young children on his property, and also opens up about his wife’s death years before. Laura on the other hand delves into the details of her sad childhood and upbringing, as well as the abuse suffered at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. The one aspect of their relationship that I didn’t particularly care for was when Laura would try to push Randy away. In the beginning, I could definitely understand why she would want to keep things more casual. Her past relationship with her ex-husband didn’t exactly end well, and he’s been stalking her recently. It’s clear why she might not trust her choices in men. But when this theme comes back around again at the end, it was a smidge frustrating, especially considering all the ways Randy has demonstrated his love for her through both his words and actions.

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

Series: Love and Murder, book 5. Best book in the series so far! Some characters from the previous novels are referenced, but I don’t really feel as though it’s mandatory you read all of the previous books before trying out this one.

Should you read it? For those of you who like a little mystery and suspense thrown in with your romance, I get the feeling you’ll enjoy this one. Prepare to second-guess yourself every time you think you have the villain figured out. You’ll be on the edge of your seat by the end. Again, overall I did enjoy the romance aspect, specifically their emotional connection, but I feel like Laura’s multiple attempts to push Randy away seemed a bit unnecessary.

Smut Level: Apparently Randy needs to write a how-to book when it comes to shower sex. Immediate best-seller for sure.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 257 Pages.