Undeceived: Pride & Prejudice in the Spy Game by Karen M. Cox

When you’re reading Price and Prejudice and think to yourself, “this book is good and all, but you know what would make it even better? Some Cold War-era espionage”. Well then, this retelling of the classic British romance just might be right up your alley!

What’s it About? 

“…if I endeavor to undeceive people as to the rest of his conduct, who will believe me?” (Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 40)

Elizabeth Bennet, a rookie counterintelligence officer, lands an intriguing first assignment – investigating the CIA’s legendary William Darcy, who is suspected of being a double agent. Darcy’s charmed existence seems at an end as he fights for his career and struggles against his love for the young woman he doesn’t know is watching his every move. Elizabeth’s confidence dissolves as nothing is like she planned – and the more she discovers about Darcy, the more she finds herself in an ever-tightening web of danger.

Unexpected twists abound in this suspenseful Cold War-era romance inspired by Jane Austen’s classic tale.

Quick Review

Similar to a modern version of a classic fairy tale, I’ll dive right into a Pride and Prejudice retelling as soon as I can get my hands on it! That being said, I would probably categorize this version as “loosely inspired” by the story we all know and love, rather than a retelling of it per se. There were certain inspirations from the original that were unmistakable, from the cantankerous dolts of Wickham and Collins, to the unrequited initial declaration of love by our prideful Darcy, and finally the animosity turned affection of our leading lady Elizabeth. In certain scenes we even see how sticking so close to the original source material in this updated tale of espionage essentially resulted in some unfortunate spoilers of the spy game at play.

After all, when you have the lecherous character of Wickham insisting that Darcy must be a double agent, it’s not too difficult to gauge that his insistence and motives would be less than honorable. On the whole though, there were some hallmark traits of the 1800s classic which were noticeably absent, to the point where you almost question why there needed to be a link to Pride and Prejudice at all. Gone were the familial dynamics involving Elizabeth’s many sisters and hilariously embarrassing mother, while other crucial supporting characters were oftentimes relegated to secondary side plots that barely received mention. I almost think this story would have benefited more if it didn’t try to put a Pride and Prejudice label on it, but rather stood on its own two feet as an enemies-to-lovers romance set in the confusing world of Cold-War spy craft.    

Series: Stand-Alone. 

Final Impressions: It took some time before the plot really pulled me in to the point where I had a vested interest in seeing how everything would play out. A large part of this had to do with the fact that while we see Elizabeth and Darcy engage in a few different spy missions, we’re never really privy to the details or end-goal of each mission. We just know that Darcy is the leading spy of the day, and Elizabeth serves as his translator. We never really learn what they’re after, or hoping to achieve, with each mission. Linking this spy novel to Pride and Prejudice meant that we were constantly dealing with this odd juxtaposition of not being surprised when certain plot points were revealed, but then also being surprised to see some character development twists that were a shocking departure from the original. Again, this read may have had more of an impact if it were a stand-alone book that didn’t try to affiliate itself with P&P. 

Smut Level: This was one departure from the original that I was all on board for! While Elizabeth and Darcy initially tip-toe around their attraction for each other, once their mutual adoration becomes known they have no reservations about physically exploring their desires. And on a hot and sweaty Caribbean island no less!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Adalia Street Press. 334 Pages. 

Celestial Desire by Abbie Zanders

This is the kind of contemporary romance novel that makes me ponder if I should start a bucket list, just so a hunky and caring man can come along to help me cross each item off my list. 

What’s it About? 

Dance with reckless abandon.

Pet a snake.

Get a tattoo.

Have wild, hot sex with a gorgeous stranger.

Recently divorced from her abusive ex, Celeste Harrison is creating a new life for herself, and hot ex-Marine Zane Fagan is perfect for crossing at least one item off her bucket list.

Celeste isn’t Zane’s usual type, but there’s something about her that keeps him coming back for more. In addition to being sweet and incredibly sexy, she’s smart, funny, and when he’s with her, the demons that haunt him are quiet.

It’s all fun and games until her ex tracks her down, and Zane is forced to make a decision that will change both of their lives forever.

First Impressions

As readers of my blog here will undoubtedly know by now, I read a ton of romance novels. And yet, I must say I think this particular short read presented me with something I’ve never come across before in Romancelandia, which would be that Chapter 1 begins mid meet-cute. In fact, it’s almost the tail-end of the meet cute, with the first few sentences involving our male lead, Zane, asking out the intriguing female lead, Celeste, pool-side. I was so thrown by being dropped right into the thick of one of the most crucial features of any romance novel, that by the end of the first chapter I actually flipped back to the very beginning of this e-book in my Kindle to ensure I didn’t miss a crucial prologue. Alas, that was not to be the case, and this isn’t the last time that the author chooses to skim or skip over other important moments. The next prominent occurrence was during Zane and Celeste’s first sexual foray. Their flirtations and foreplay are described in vivid detail, but when they finally come together in the literal sense we get a “fade-to-the-next-morning” approach. 

Normally I wouldn’t have much issue with glossing over the good stuff, but what made this so confusing was the fact that practically every other sex scene in the book is elaborately described from start to finish. As a result, it made the lack of full detail in their first interaction that much more noticeable and disappointing considering the potential emotion such a scene could have contained to further connect the characters, and link us to them too. Finally, there’s another instance towards the end of the book following an action-packed scene that takes place at a hospital, and apparently there is an intense conversation between Zane and Celeste about the future of their relationship, but we aren’t witness to it firsthand at all. We don’t know what exactly was discussed, or even that the exchange occurred until several chapters later. Looking back at these critical romance novel moments (the meet-cute, the first sex scene, the confession), the fact we lost out on any emotional depth which could have been gleamed from those conversations and physical connections was quite unfortunate. 

The Past Comes Back with a Vengeance

While I can’t agree with all of the literary mechanics employed throughout this read, something it did do very well was shine a light on the horrors of domestic abuse, and the constant fear with which its survivors face. Celeste has been trying to distance herself from her ex-husband ever since he was locked away in prison for beating her. Even though she has a restraining order against him, she knows that he’ll come after her as soon as he’s released, and it’s something that Zane starts to fear more with every day he spends with this enchanting woman. While several of the details surrounding her ex’s release were hard to believe, we too are overcome by fear with what this man represents, and we can only keep our fingers crossed that Zane can protect her when this blast from her past comes knocking. Everything builds to an exciting confrontation scene that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think this is the ultimate endeavor which would solidify Zane and Celeste’s connection, it just might prove to be the breaking point of their relationship. 

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: Overall this contemporary romance felt rather disjointed. From the glossing over of critical emotional scenes, to alternating between almost rom-com level bucket list resolutions to intense descriptions of Zane and Celeste’s tragic pasts, we were missing cohesion to the read as a whole. Clocking in at just 184 pages this book definitely could have benefited from those scenes being more fleshed out, and there was plenty of room to make it a reality. This was unfortunate as I really did enjoy the personalities of our lead characters, and the foundation was here for something truly special. 

Smut Level: Even though their first sexual encounter was a fade-to-black moment, there’s plenty of other descriptive scenes to keep you (and our lead characters 😉 ) coming back for more. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 184 Pages

Rubble by Skye McNeil

Sexy fun times with an alpha male biker on top of a bakery display? This might be a new fantasy I didn’t realize I needed! 

What’s it About? 

She’s sworn off relationships. He has no desire to fall at all. They can only fight their attraction for so long.

Jupiter Quinn is on the run from an abusive relationship. Finding shelter in Macha MC, her goal is to keep her head down until the divorce is finalized. What Jupiter doesn’t expect is to fall for the club’s toughest man who also happens to be a former MMA fighter.

Rubble Hardy is Macha’s sergeant at arms and enforcer for the club. He doesn’t date. Never has and never will. Women are trouble and he’s not about to let down his guard. But when Jupiter Quinn walks through the club doors, his heart shifts, and the powerful desire to protect her only outweighs his feelings.

When Jupiter’s past collides with her newfound future, she’s forced to either flee or face the danger.

Can Rubble keep her safe, or will they tap out?

First Impressions

I hadn’t read the first two novels in this series before taking a peek at this third book, so I wasn’t quite sure what cast of characters or motley motorcycle crew we might be dealing with here. However, it quickly became apparent that this is the kind of MC you love to love. They might appear tough and rough on the outside, but it doesn’t take long for their moral principles to shine through. From a deeply admirable respect for their women, to a sincere devotion to community service and protection, it’s no surprise that when Jupiter finds herself on the run from her psychotically controlling ex she feels nothing but comfort and safety within the walls of this Colorado club.

I did reach a point fairly early on with this read where past events and characters were referenced from the first two books in the series, so I decided to read over the synopses of those novels to get a quick overview of what drama befell the club before this third installment. This is a tactic I highly recommend if you find yourself in a similar position, as it really helped close a few gaps so I could confidently proceed with the rest of the story. Every once in a while we see a reference to a previous betrayal by one of the club’s brothers, and while I did feel slightly out of the loop with that particular story line, overall it wasn’t difficult to piece together the overall picture, and I was left with Jupiter and Rubble’s tale of romance, suspense, super sensual sexy fun times, and even some baking thrown in as well! Talk about a tried and true recipe to win me over!

Homemade peppermint mocha cookies and cheesecake cookie bites!

When the Past Catches Up with You

Pretty much from the moment Jupiter walks into the compound of the Macha motorcycle club, there is a mutual fascination and infatuation between her and the MC Sergeant at Arms, Rubble. He might be hesitant to allow another woman with a troubled history to once again infiltrate their walls, especially considering all the hassle (not to mention bullets) the ladies from the first two books brought into their close knit community. However, one look at Jupiter’s soft and bashful demeanor, and his alpha male need to protect comes surging to the forefront. When he learns the details of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex, who is encroaching closer upon her exact location every day, Rubble can’t help but see red at the prospect of anyone harming this woman who has come to mean so much to him in such a short amount of time.

I absolutely love me an alpha male protector, but also appreciated that this read simultaneously focuses on the growth of Jupiter as she finds the strength and courage within herself to finally stand up and face her past head on. It’s not entirely a tale of damsel in distress, though at one point it was kind of headed that way with Rubble assembling his Macha brothers as knights in shining armor to ride in and save the day by confronting Jupiter’s ex on their own. In the end though we see that it was because of her evolving relationship with Rubble that Jupiter was able to finally find something she wanted to fight for. His strength became her strength, and she ultimately decided that her love for Rubble and this newfound family was something she wasn’t afraid to stand up for.

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

Series: Macha MC, book 3. If this book is anything to go by I’d say this is a passion-filled and suspenseful series that is worth giving a try! If you don’t start from the beginning, just be sure to read the synopses of any previous books so you’re all caught up before cracking this one open.

Final Impressions: This was an entertaining romance with a good blend of different themes. We have a woman on the run, a tough motorcycle club that is guided by their fealty to the community and respect for their women. The build of drama with Jupiter’s approaching ex was a slow burn that lent itself well to the progression of the plot, even if the sexual chemistry between Jupiter and Rubble was more of a blasting inferno than a slow burn. Throw in some baked goods, a dramatic shootout and a toothachingly sweet ending and you’ve got yourself a keeper. There’s nothing better than when bad-ass bikers have a soft side amidst their uber protective ways.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaang. There’s enough explosive chemistry between these two to melt the iciest of snow-capped mountains. It might be the middle of winter, but you’ll need some ice water to cool yourself off with this read!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 257 Pages. 

My Only One by Charlotte O’Shay

When Esme literally stumbles back into Shane’s life after years apart, he realizes two things: he can protect her from the danger that is after her, and he finally has the chance to admit how important she’s always been to him.

What’s it About?

Esme:
We grew up in side-by-side New York City tenements. Shane was my first friend, my first crush, and when he enlisted, my unforgettable heartbreak. When fate brings us back together after ten years, I’m in a world of danger. But I’m not a kid anymore and I know what I want. Shane and I have a second chance at forever and there’s no way I’ll lose him again.

Shane:
Brilliant, beautiful, bound for success, Esme was the girl next door and a temptation I had to resist. I was too old for her, but I couldn’t forget her. When we meet again after ten long years, she’s caught in the crosshairs of a deadly drug kingpin. But I wear a badge now. Nothing will stop me from protecting the woman who claimed me—heart and soul—so long ago. I’ll keep Esme safe or die trying.

Time’s running out for Esme to pay her father’s debt to the cartel.

First Impressions

Our novel beings with us being dropped smack dab in the middle of the drama, as Esme runs through the city streets to escape the clutches of an evil drug lord to whom her father has promised her in order to pay off his crippling debts. While she was initially open to the idea of marrying a stranger to help her family, it only took a moment of being in this man’s presence to realize he had no intention of marrying her, and he merely viewed her as a possession he could acquire and play with whenever he felt like it. It’s as she’s running through the dark city streets, feet and knees cracked and bleeding from her ordeal, that she re-encounters the one man she never expected to see again in her life, and the one man who has always represented safety. Shane and Esme were close childhood friends who always desired more, but when tragedy struck both of their respective families, they completely lost touch until this moment of reconnection. Shane is now a law enforcement officer, and when he hears of Esme’s predicament he vows to protect the one woman who got away. As they lay low in his apartment, all of the distance which the last few years of separation have created melts away, and both are aware this unfortunate incident has led them to find each other again.

Tons to Unravel

First things first with this read: love the premise. However, there was a loooot of back story for us to catch up on, and I feel we received an information overload that was a bit scattered in it’s delivery. To open on Esme running through the streets and having to pause to learn about not only who she’s running from, but then pause longer to get the history of her mother’s illness which drove her father to seek funds from a drug kingpin, and then transition to her running into Shane, and then having to learn their whole backstory…it just felt like I was being pulled into too many directions right from the get-go. With this book currently at a mere 111 pages, I almost think it could have benefitted from an additional 50-100 pages to clearly lay out the characters and their connection to each other.

I certainly appreciated diving right into the drama, but I wonder if a better flow would have been gained for example if we had opened on Esme getting ready for her meeting with the stranger her father has promised her to, and then she could slowly start to realize something is wrong with the situation before ultimately dashing off into the night. It would have allowed for a slow, delectable build of tension at the beginning, which would have mirrored itself beautifully with the formidable dramatic sequence we are presented with at the conclusion of the story.

Like a Movie

The absolute standout feature of this read was the final sequence as Esme is convinced to wear a wire in an eventual sting operation with our evil drug lord. The author does a phenomenal job of teasing out the drama, and slowly building up our anxiety level as we see a seemingly well-laid plan gradually deteriorate before our very eyes. The fact Shane can only listen in from the background and frantically try to catch up with and rescue the love of his life from the clutches of a mad man amped up the feeling of you about to fall off the edge of your seat. Another feature of this climactic scene that I absolutely adored was how it was practically Scorsese-esque in how it played out in one long, drawn-out sequence with almost no moment for a break to catch our breath. The near perfection of this dramatic build is another reason I wish we could have seen something similar in parallel at the front-end of our read, as it would have created such a marvelous balance to the read as a whole.

*A copy of this read was provided for an honest reivew*

Series: Fortunato Family, book 1. Shane comes from a large family who we have the good fortune to meet at one point in the story, and I’m certainly intrigued to see how the stories of his siblings will play out in future novels.

Final Impressions: Overall this was an exciting read, primarily due to the thrilling concluding scene. The opening felt a bit scattered which left me feeling like I had to re-read certain sections to clearly understand how all of the pieces and characters of the story fit together. Something else I would have appreciated was some more explanation as to how Esme and Shane so completely lost touch with each other considering how closely integrated she was into his family’s life. While they were both clearly going through their own struggles in life, they also seemed to be deeply invested in each other, so falling out of touch so abruptly was rather confusing. I was given an ARC of this read, so there were a few typos in the copy I received.

Smut Level: Esme may have been a virgin at the start of the novel when she and Shane reconnected, but that doesn’t mean she’s shy about sex. She knows what she wants (him), and she goes for it!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Evelyn P. McCabe Publisher. 111 Pages.

The Traitor by Abigail Owen

This is the story we’ve all been waiting for! We finally get to explore Rune Abaddon up close and personal, and lemme tell ya, you won’t be disappointed!

What’s it About?

Decades ago, rogue dragon shifter Rune Abaddon took a stand against the decaying, corrupt systems governing their people. He now uses his bad-ass reputation to protect the innocent as it all comes crashing down. But he’s pushed the limits one too many times. His hideout is destroyed, his few allies are scattered and hiding, and the Alliance has placed a dead-or-alive bounty on his head, making him the most wanted dragon in the western hemisphere.

And then the most enticing woman he’s ever met barges into his mountain, demanding an audience.

Hadyn Reece’s future was ripped away long ago. The man fated to be her mate was murdered alongside her parents before Hadyn was old enough to be turned, leaving her to be raised and trained by her dead mate’s parents in the dragon shifter world. Now, the Alliance has come for the only family she has left. It’s a good thing she was raised by dragons, because the only one who can help her save them is a traitor she’d be smart to fear.

Especially when his dragon decides she’s theirs.

First Impressions

I’m in no way exaggerating when I say I have been waiting for Rune’s story with bated breath ever since we were first introduced to his character in book one of this dragon series. After five books in this Fire’s Edge series, and three books in the equally stellar Inferno Rising companion series, the wait is finally over. I’ll never forget seeing when Rune was officially announced on my Twitter feed as the protagonist of this sixth book, and literally squealing in delight upon the reveal, followed closely by a little shimmy dance of delight. This rogue dragon has lingered in the backdrop throughout most of the series, but has slowly been emerging from the background as a key player in this war of dragons. He was initially presented to us as a traitor to his fellow Huracan team of dragon enforcers, an enemy of the high king, stealing female dragon mates from their potential partners. However, as the series progressed it was revealed that this supposed traitor wasn’t stealing mates, he was saving them.

Saving them from certain death at the hands of greedy rulers who cared more about taking mates for themselves rather than finding their true mates. I mean, can you think of a more delicious hero than a rough and gruff dragon with a hidden soft spot, willing to risk having himself labeled as a traitor in order to do what is right? Pardon me whilst I swoon! If I had one mild critique of this part of the story, it’s that I wish we had dug just a bit deeper to hear more from Rune directly what that moment was like years before when he realized that in order to save these helpless women he would need to take measures that would result in his dragon brothers looking upon him with disdain rather than trust. We do get a few moments where Hadyn acknowledges she can’t imagine how devastating that must have been for Rune, or we get a brief glimpse of sadness from this strong man, but it still felt like we only scratched the surface of where we could have gone.

The Rules are Changing

The thing I love most about this series is that it still has the ability to surprise, shock and awe. Each book does have the tendency to follow a standard trajectory of a surly dragon who meets a woman that kicks off his protective alpha tendencies, followed by some sexy fun times, and concluding with an epic battle between our protagonists and enemy dragon forces. However, there are always a multitude of twists and turns mixed in which manage to throw everything you thought you knew about this amazing world completely out the window. This tracks with the progression of the series as a whole, as our characters are starting to realize that the rules of their species and existence are in a state of change.

What once had clearly designated lines of black and white have now blurred into varying shades of gray that will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what unexpected development might occur next. This series also has the uncanny ability to tug at the heartstrings, and while most of the books have brought tears to my eyes at some point in the plot, this particular read had the distinction of making me reach for the tissues twice! What can I say? The emotional connection that this author manages to create between our featured couples always latches on hard to your heart, and when something tries to tear them apart we can’t help but feel that heartache ourselves. It is far and above more impactful than the delectable physical connection we also see established between our leads.

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

Series: Fire’s Edge, book 6. Gimme more…gimme everything.

Final Impressions: I wanted it, it was given, it met and even exceeded my expectations. Rune and Hadyn are definitely a standout couple of the series, as both weren’t afraid to lay all their cards out on the table in front of the other. Whether it was admitting how frustrated the other person made them, how much they craved each other, or ultimately how completely devoted they were to each other. Hadyn especially was one of my favorite heroines of the series so far, as she never cowered in the intimidating presence of her surly dragon shifter, and wasn’t afraid to push him to help her when it mattered most. Putting the romantic part of the storyline to the side, the climactic battle scene at the end was so fast-paced and action-packed that I had to force myself to stop trying to skim ahead to the bottom of the page to see what would happen. Always a good sign of a great suspenseful moment in my opinion!

Smut Level: There is a scene on a boat…quickly followed by a scene in the back of a demon’s taxi cab that will leave you looking for a spray bottle of water to cool yourself off.

Get it on Amazon: Click here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Entangled: Amara.

Gray’s Promise by Anni Fife

Zoey and Gray have tried to put their tragic past behind them, but they both realize that their only hope for moving on is to confront their past together.

What’s it About?

Zoey Morgan seems to have it all as a successful surgeon in Boston. However, perfection lies only on the surface. Plagued by nightmares and amnesia from a tragedy that ripped her family from her fourteen years ago, she finds the courage to reach out to the only man who can make her feel safe. She’s buried the memory of their love, but her heart—and her body—responds to the ex-marine in ways that are all too familiar.

Grayson “Gray” Walker’s heart shattered when Zoey chose another man over him. Since then, he’s built an impenetrable wall around his emotions. But from the moment she implodes back into his life, her vulnerability breaches his defenses. His skills as an elite member of the King Security team cannot shield him from the devastation of learning he might have left Zoey high and dry when she needed him most. Now, Gray must navigate the tripwire of helping her heal while protecting himself from being hurt again. As the embers of their potent love reignite, an old threat awakens, leading to greater danger than ever before.

First Impressions

I made the somewhat regrettable decision to start this book about 30 minutes before my designated bedtime, and I really need to get in the habit of avoiding this tactic unless I know with absolute certainty that I have a light-hearted comedy at hand. While I knew this was going to be more of a suspenseful read, I wasn’t prepared for our book to open on a hospital scene in the aftermath of Gray discovering the love of his life has been raped, her family brutally murdered, and if that wasn’t cruel enough, she’s wearing an engagement ring given to her by his brother. If that’s not a gut-wrenching way to start a book right before you go to sleep, then I don’t know what is!

Moving on From Tragedy

I must say, I did find it a little hard to believe that Gray would have left Zoey behind after facing such an epic tragedy, especially seeing as her mind wouldn’t allow her to remember the details of that tragic evening when everything changed. Even if she was suddenly and unexpectedly engaged to his brother, their love was so strong simply a day before that to pick up and leave seemed rather odd. However, if anything it demonstrated that in the immediate aftermath of inexplicable horror, sometimes we’re not always thinking clearly. After a few years, Gray does make the attempt on repeated occasions to try and connect with Zoey once again, but her inability to confront what really happened that night to her and her family means that she ultimately pushes him away until he refuses to try anymore.

It was fascinating to see that both of these characters mistakenly assumed that by turning their back on the past would they then be able to move forward into the future. However, one day Zoey comes to the realization that only by forcing herself to try and remember who attacked her family would she be able to bring justice to their memory, and truly be able to move on. She just needs the presence of one man by her side to do this, the one man who always made her feel safe, the one man who seemingly no longer wants anything to do with her. The wounds she encountered that night weren’t just physical, but rather they also had a deep-rooted mental impact. After so many years removed from their family homes, it’s only by looking back at everything with a fresh perspective that Zoey and Gray are able to realize that what they were both led to believe about that night only raises more questions than answers.

A Somewhat Expected Conclusion

For about the first two chapters of this book I had one primary suspect in my mind as the perpetrator of the heinous crimes committed against Zoey and her family. After some slight tweaking, I had a new theory that I held throughout the remainder of the book, and lo and behold it ended up being right. While it provided for some interesting dynamics between various characters, I also couldn’t help but feel that it was almost a bit too obvious of a realization. It might make sense that some characters were too close to the action for them to be able to acknowledge the truth, but surely it would have been obvious to the local police or other investigators throughout the years? Although the “who dunnit” aspect of the mystery was fairly obvious, it didn’t lessen the intensity level as we see Zoey and Gray slowly start to put together the pieces of the puzzle. This ultimately led to an exciting climactic conclusion that brings everything back full circle to the tragic scene upon which our novel opened.

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

Series: A King Security Novel, book 2. I really do love the members of this security team.

Final Impressions: It was interesting to see Zoey and Gray learn how to trust each other again before they could take the next step of confronting their past together. Nevertheless, because the mystery had a somewhat obvious conclusion, it almost made the journey to get there feel a bit tediously drawn out. The many years of distance from the events of that evening helped create this delicious tension between Gray and Zoey that they were forced to address, but I almost wonder if it would have made more sense if the novel had taken place just a few months, or at most a few years afterwards. As it stood, it was kind of hard to believe the perpetrator could have gotten away with it for as long as they did, especially considering the only thing attributing to their freedom this whole time was the fact Zoey’s mind wouldn’t let her remember the events of that night.

Smut Level: Hot daaaaaamn! Even though Zoey and Gray don’t have intercourse until almost the very last scene of the novel, that doesn’t mean they don’t explore all manner of delicious dirty deeds before then. And these scenes are not only detailed, but lengthy, so you have plenty of time to enjoy them in their entirey.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 408 Pages.

Hunter by Eden Summers

Sarah is determined to bring justice to those that the law can’t, or won’t touch. But when the chance arrives to seek vengeance on the man who murdered her family, she realizes she might not be able to do it alone.

What’s it About?

A seductively thrilling game of cat and mouse destined to leave you breathless.

I’ve been running for ten years – fleeing my past and clawing my way toward an inescapable act of vengeance.

Until he walks into my life, sure and strong and full of secrets.

He dilutes my thirst for retribution with his touch. He obliterates my need for solitude with his kiss. But it’s his hidden agenda that makes the hair on the back of my neck prickle.

He wants something. Something that doesn’t revolve around sweaty skin and tangled silk sheets like he’d have me believe.

I have to stop falling for him, otherwise the last ten years will all be for nothing. I need to keep running, keep fighting for vengeance, even though I know he will track me down.

But trying to escape him is just another problem. Because now I crave the hunt.

First Impressions

The premise and opening sequence of this novel had everything going for it. After all, how many times do we wish the slimeballs of the world could finally pay for their crimes? The fact it was a solitary woman ensuring that nobody could escape the long arm of justice, and that someone was always looking out for those less fortunate made it all the more satisfying. It was almost reminiscent in a way of Promising Young Woman, where we encounter an independently strong and feisty female lead who isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right following a tragic event in her own past. Her dalliance with the mysterious and alpha Hunter upon first meeting at a local bar was all the more delicious. After this opening sequence though, things started to get a bit more muddled.

Can Someone Tell Me…What’s Happening?

So here is what I do know when it comes to Emma/Steph/Sarah’s back story which led her to the vigilante path she’s now on today. Her entire family was killed about 10 years ago at the hands of an ex-boyfriend who she’s been trying to locate ever since, and she’s only now starting to get hot on his trail. As to why exactly her family was the subject of such horror, how this man got away with it, and how he’s succeeded in disappearing all this time? Hell if I know. It’s kind of surprising when we consider that this was the impetus for Sarah’s life trajectory up until this point in the novel, how little actual clarifying information we receive regarding the event itself. I kept thinking we were being intentionally left in the dark so that we might ultimately get some kind of passionate reveal between our two main characters, but alas that never happened.

This wasn’t the only back-story that was painstakingly avoided throughout the entirety of the book. We also get very little to no history on our male lead, Hunter. We know that he is involved with some kind of criminal enterprise as a hit-man, but as to how he got involved in this line of work, as well as his dynamic with our lead villain who might not actually be a villain is also a total mystery. What we do know is that Hunter’s work and Sarah’s search for her family’s killer causes these two to cross paths. Once they get a taste of each other, Sarah feels the need to run away from the unexpected desire this man has awoken within her, whereas Hunter is more than willing to give chase to the woman he doesn’t want to let go.

Series: Hunting Her, book 1. Even though this first book didn’t leave me fully satisfied, I’m not at the point of giving up entirely seeing as book 2 focuses on a secondary character who brought plenty of personality to this read.

Final Impressions: Overall I think this book left me with more questions than answers. It certainly had good bones, but needed to be more fully fleshed out so that we could clearly understand the forces bringing all of our characters together.

Smut Level: A large part of this book is a game of cat-and-mouse with Hunter in pursuit of Sarah in her attempt to get him off her trail. The few moments where they do come together though are positively sinful.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 268 Pages.

The Wages of Sin by Kate A. Knight

Amy has been determined to locate her parents’ killer and uncover the reason for their murders for over a decade. When Todd Birch comes on the scene, he threatens to distract her in ways she never thought possible.

What’s it About?

Amy Koehler knows deception better than anyone. Half her life is a secret and the other half is a lie.
The only truth she knows is her love for one man.
Todd Birch is everything she ever wanted and doesn’t deserve.

When there are no more secrets…
Todd must decide whether Amy is worth fighting for.
Broken beyond anything he ever imagined, Amy tests the limits of his love. He puts everything on the line to save her – his career, his honor, his life.
But even that may not be enough.

When all that’s left is the truth… and there’s nowhere left to hide…
There isn’t anything Amy won’t sacrifice to avenge her father.
She knows she is no better than the people she hunts… merchants of death, beasts without a soul.
But Amy will tear their world apart, even if it means destroying the man she loves.

The story must end…
Because the wrongs of her past can never be righted.
She must kill the ones who wronged her. They will pay for their sins with blood.

It is only a sacred truth… that the Wages of Sin is death.

First Impressions

From Jamaica to the Dominican Republic, to Paris and the outskirts of Washington, DC, the entire series has been building to this moment. Books one and two in this series may have followed the same characters, but the plots of the books were so distinct that you couldn’t help but question how the two were supposed to link together in any meaningful way. Well, enter book three where all the different pieces are joined together to form one haphazard and troubling puzzle. We have Amy’s confrontation with the man who will lead her to her father’s killer, her work bringing a terrorist to justice, her complicated relationship with Anne, and finally her tumultuously passionate yet argumentative relationship with her husband, Todd Birch. There was certainly a lot going on…too much going on in my opinion, to the point where it felt like no one story line received the depth and attention it deserved. Finally, all of the progress from book two of Amy learning to trust Todd seemingly evaporated between the last page of that novel and the first page of this one without any explanation.

A Confusing Marriage

Throughout all the mystery and espionage of the last two books there has been one element that has remained constant throughout the series, and that was Amy and Todd. They’ve been linked and drawn to each other since day one, and Todd is really the only man Amy has ever deigned to love. The main dilemma for us as the readers though is that neither character can be considered “likeable”. With each additional novel I found it near impossible to root for them to succeed as a couple, and questioned at times if the series would conclude with them riding off into the sunset together, or killing each other. Either option was certainly plausible. Amy herself would constantly waffle between an internal dialogue of pure infatuation for the man, to be quickly replaced by one of suspicion, fear and pure animosity. They were both abusive to each other mentally and physically, and seemed like they were using each other for ulterior purposes. Again, it was a challenge to root for either of them.

The Big Reveal

If we had to toss out one plot line that seemed quite unnecessary, it would have to be Amy’s work case to get to a known terrorist. This story line resulted in her seeking out the terrorist’s son to uncover personal information to convince the other son to reveal where their father was hiding. It was just…too many lines removed from the main drama of the novel, and the only way it really impacted any of the story was that it brought Amy to Paris where a man who knew about the man who ordered the death of her parents was located. As you can see, there’s a lot to keep track of here.

When we finally get to the big penultimate reveal of who was responsible for the death of Amy’s parents I only had one reaction, “Well…duh!” I couldn’t be sure if this was supposed to be a huge, shocking twist, but honestly it was something that seemed fairly evident since book one. While I could understand and sympathize with Amy’s quest for vengeance, I couldn’t stand behind some of her methods towards discovery, such as killing most of the associates involved in her plotting to ensure nothing could be linked back to her. There was so much senseless killing involved that you question if Amy is supposed to be our heroine, our villain, or perhaps a little bit of both.

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 3. Honestly I was happy to see this series come to an end.

Final Impressions: Overall, it was difficult to connect with, or even like, a single character in this series, let alone our main character. Too much was happening, the pacing was off, and it was difficult to tell if our lead couple loved or loathed each other. The ending was rather predictable, anticlimactic and rushed, and there were significant grammatical errors littered throughout. It definitely had the potential to be an intriguing tale of espionage, but there were too many elements that needed reworking.

Smut Level: Like Amy and Todd’s emotional relationship, their physical relationship was rather problematic as well. At times it was full of steam and passion. Other times left bruises and other physical pains. Even when the two fought and screamed at each other, they always maintained an intense desire for each other. Talk about whiplash!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Khaton Press. 400 Pages.

The Sins of the Flesh by Kate A. Knight

The Sins of the Flesh by Kate A. Knight

In this second installment of the Sins Trilogy, we find Amy finally starting to open up about her troubled past to her husband Todd. These moments of confession are even more disturbing than we could have anticipated.

What’s it About?

Amy Koehler is among the best the Intelligence community has to offer… exactly as her father intended her to be. Today, she is the closest anyone has ever come to solving the mystery of her parents’ assassination. It doesn’t hurt either that she has recruited Todd Birch as her cover. He’s a charismatic diplomat whose smile could charm the panties off a saint, and Amy is counting on just those winning ways to secure her place at the top, where her parents’ murderers are hiding.

Falling for her mark could be the worst thing Amy has ever done, which is a tall order, because she has done some really bad things in her life. But that shouldn’t be a problem… right? If anyone can fix this – falling in love with a man who doesn’t love her in return – Amy can! After all, killing has always come easier than feeling, and that’s just what she’ll do when her attraction to her husband gets out of hand. Stop feeling. Kill all that lies between them. And find her parents’ murderers so she can kill them too.

First Impressions

There are a few unfortunate aspects of the first novel in this series which also managed to show up in this second book. Firstly, there are some distracting grammatical issues which can remove you from the action or intensity of a given scene. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s poignantly challenging to connect with, or even like, either of our main protagonists. The very nature of their secretive government work means they are closed off from each other, as well as from us as the audience. Amy has been building internal walls to emotionally distance herself from others ever since the death of her parents when she was a teenager. Todd seems determined to break down her walls, and teach her how to open up to and trust in someone else again. However, just because Todd is able to insert his way into her life doesn’t mean we are afforded the same luxury. We’re never really given the chance to sympathize or emotionally connect with her, primarily because she herself is unable to emotionally express herself in so many scenes. She basically gives off a robotic aura in her interactions with others, as well as within her own internal musings.

A Small Window Opens

Up until this point, the main thing we know about Amy’s past is that her parents were murdered when she was younger, and she has been devoted to uncovering the identity of their killer ever since that tragic night. This second novel provides us with more of a window into who Amy has become as an adult, mainly because Todd demands it of her. We discover that her desire for hard and excessively rough sex links back to a disturbingly violent event which occurred when she was a teenager. Following the death of her parents Amy closed herself off from everyone and didn’t feel anything anymore. However, she admits to Todd that when she was raped by a family friend the experience caused her to “wake up” and feel something for the first time since they died. Even if it made her feel anger, disgust, and humiliated, she was grateful to feel anything after living in a fog for so long. Following this experience she continually craved extremely fierce and dominant sex that might leave her with bruises, or cause her to pass out, since it would once again make her “feel” something. So yeah…I’d classify it as a dark read that I wasn’t prepared for.

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

Series: The Sins Trilogy, book 2.

Final Impressions: In a way, this whole book kind of felt like a distraction. We barely make any progress on Amy finding out who killed her parents, and the character of Anne that we met in book 1 was almost entirely absent. We see Amy focused on this other case that doesn’t really have anything to do with the big picture. The best part of the novel was the finale, as we finally see Amy trust Todd, seeing as she spent such a large portion of this book pushing him away. They even fight together during a final mission and it was an exciting glimpse of how much more entertaining they can be when they’re fighting for the same goal.

Smut Level: The sex scenes were too disturbing for me seeing how rough Amy likes it, including erotic asphyxiation, while Todd would prefer to take things more gently. Learning the background of why she enjoys it so much made it even harder to read.

Click Here: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Khaton Press. 341 Pages.

Whiteout by Adriana Anders

Is there anything sexier than the idea of “mating” your sleeping bag to your partner’s in order to share body heat during a snow storm in the coldest place on Earth? Anything to notch up the temperature a few degrees!

What’s it About?

With a storm coming and a killer on the loose, every step could be their last…

Angel Smith is finally ready to leave Antarctica for a second chance at life. But on what was meant to be her last day, the remote research station she’s been calling home is attacked. Hunted and scared, she and irritatingly gorgeous glaciologist Ford Cooper barely make it out with their lives…only to realize that in a place this remote, there’s nowhere left to run.

Isolated with no power, no way to contact the outside world, and a madman on their heels, Angel and Ford must trust their instincts and fight to survive in the most inhospitable—and beautiful—place on earth. But what starts as a partnership born of necessity quickly turns into an urgent connection that burns bright and hot. They both know there’s little chance of making it out alive, and yet they are determined to weather the coming storm—no matter the cost.

First Impressions

This is one of those reads where I think the synopsis may have been more exciting than the actual progression of events. After all, when we get beyond the initial suspense of murder which forces our protagonists, Angel and Ford, to traverse to another station in the midst of an Antarctic winter, the reality of their situation is primarily…a lot of endless walking. Each chapter of the novel opens with a countdown of the remaining miles they need to trek before making it to safety, as well as a count of their dwindling food supplies. Essentially though what we have is a very long walk from point A to point B, with a hope that the bad guys doing flyovers in an attempt to locate them (and the deadly virus cannisters they’re carrying) won’t be able to spot our couple as needles in a haystack of endless white.

A Bit of Romance

In the midst of this very long walk to safety, Ford and Angel start to feel the stirrings of romance developing between them. Ford has always been socially awkward and distant from others at the base, but he’s always felt an underlying tingle around Angel. Now that the two of them have set out on their life-threatening journey, Ford can no longer escape her presence like he could back at the base, and their connection continues to grow ever stronger. Too bad their surroundings limit them to engaging in some over-the-clothes make out and rubbing sessions. After all, fully disrobing to indulge in their ultimate desire could legitimately result in some rather serious frostbite damage to one of Ford’s most important appendages.

Series: Survival Instincts, book 1. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with this series. It just didn’t grab me.

Final Impressions: I feel like we never fully understand the motives behind our villain pulling all the puppet strings behind the scenes. We know she experienced tragedy with the death of her children and grandchildren due to a school shooting (maybe?), but it’s unclear how that equates to wanting to unleash a deadly virus, and then vaccine, to the world. Also, while we get an exciting final confrontation between our characters and some secondary villains, we never get one involving our main antagonist. It leaves everything feeling somewhat unfinished to undoubtedly resolve in a future novel. Overall, an interesting concept, but with the execution you kind of understand how the premise would lack in action for a while.

Smut Level: The threat of frostbite in some very important places means Angel and Ford can’t immediately give into their desires. But once they find an abandoned service station to keep them warm amidst the frigid cold? All bets (and clothes) are off!!

Get in on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 514. Pages.