Immortal Beginnings by Rebecca Hefner

What’s better than a paranormal romance featuring a virginal male hero who finds his happily ever after with the love of his immortal life? 

What’s it About?

Can a Deamon who has never felt a lover’s touch win the affection of a beautiful but wary Vampyre widow?

Strong and stoic Dragos yearns to build an honest life after the War of the Species ends. Due to his servitude to the Dark Lord Crimeous, he never had the opportunity to experience love or true emotion.

Vampyre widow Raina promised she’d never love another. Yet, she’s taken with her handsome, enigmatic new neighbor and his kindness to her two sons.

When Raina realizes Dragos has never had a lover, she gives in to their mutual passion, never realizing she might also lose her heart to the man who somehow invaded every crevice of her soul…

First Impressions

When I found out one of my absolute favorite authors had written a novella for the Etherya’s Earth series I simply had three words to say: sign…me…up! That, and a lot of incessant squealing and hand flapping in excitement. For those of you who are also a fan of the Etherya’s Earth paranormal series, you won’t want to miss this beautiful short story, Immortal Beginnings. While it doesn’t feature any of the primary characters from the series we’ve come to know and love, you’ll quickly become enamored with the romance between deamon Dragos and vampyre Raina. You’ll have no problem finishing this novella in one sitting, and yet there is so much story to unpack between these two characters. Fangs down, of all the short stories featured in the Etherya’ Earth series so far, this was undoubtedly my favorite. I can only hope we’ll get a glimpse of this couple again in a future full-length novel.

Letting Go of the Past

Yes, this novella does feature a virginal male hero which I was fully on board for, but beyond this amazing trope of a more experienced female lead guiding her man in the ways of pleasure, we were also presented with two complex characters who are trying to find their way in a new world unlike anything they’ve known before. Etherya’s Earth has been plagued by war for centuries, but its inhabitants are finally living in a time of peace, when vampyres, deamons and slayers can coexist rather than fight against each other. This is the setting upon which our novella opens, as deamon Dragos is trying to live a “normal” life away from the world of deamon caves and constant fighting which he’s only known up until this point. As for Raina, she is now a single mother trying to adapt to life following the death of her “bonded” in the final battle against the evil deamon Crimeous. These two unlikely neighbors are able to push aside their troubled pasts to find happiness and pleasure with each other in the present, and the promising hope of something even more permanent going forward.

Upon first reading this novella, I was so worried we’d ultimately discover that Dragos was responsible for killing Raina’s husband in battle, but thankfully we focus instead on what it means for these two to explore a relationship together at this particular point in their lives. For Dragos, he has only known the horrors of war. At one point in the story, Raina offers to bring him salve for a burn on his arm, and he reveals that it is the first time he’s been voluntarily touched by another in all of his centuries on this Earth. The glimpses of vulnerability we witness for this weathered soldier are almost enough to bring a tear to your eye, as you realize that beneath the tough exterior lies a man who simply craves the soft touch of another. He has craved Raina since she first moved in next door, and when she finally offers herself to him, he can’t help but fall hard and fast for this loving woman and caring mother.

For Raina, she initially worries that Dragos will feel more for her than she could ever reciprocate, especially considering she’s the one to touch and physically please him for the first time ever. Even though a letter from her belated husband clearly states he hopes she can move on to find happiness with another during her immortal life, she can’t help but keep a part of herself back from Dragos in a foolhardy attempt to prevent herself from falling for this deamon. Dragos is willing to accept any part of her she’s willing to give, but can Raina acknowledge that there’s room in her heart for both Dragos and her former bonded? Giving her heart to this man doesn’t mean she’s replacing the memory of her husband. She’s allowing herself the opportunity to move on and make new memories that can co-exist with, rather than take over, those of the man she loved before. Again, there’s definitely a lot of emotional baggage to unpack in such a short novella!

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

Series: Etherya’s Earth, book 4.5. I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll repeat it here for posterity: I will read anything and everything this author ever releases.

Final Impressions: Loved it, adored it, consider myself officially smitten. It’s not simply the tale of a male losing his v-card, but also an observation of how two people can put aside their traumatic pasts, and convince themselves they are worthy of love. How it’s possible to open up one’s heart again after having found and lost true love before. We not only fall in love with Dragos and Raina, but also Raina’s two adorable sons, Galen and Ekon. There is so much to love about this novella, and I’m excited to see what else this anthology has in store!

Smut Level: The first time this series presented us with a deamon falling for a vampyre we were privy to the most alpha of males who was well-versed in the ways of pleasure. This time around, Dragos might not have the experience, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a quick study in the ways of pleasure, or dirty talk for that matter. As a former soldier, he is more than capable of following all the sultry orders that Raina has to give in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Reading Goddess Press, LLC. 154 Pages.

Brewer by Skye McNeil

They come from two seemingly different worlds: she a chef and he the member of a small town MC. But one person from each of their pasts will bring them together in a way they never saw coming. 

What’s it About? 

Out for blood and justice, Brewer Stapleton is on the hunt for Macha MC’s traitor, Shovelhead, the man who also murdered his parents. Nothing will keep him from his mission, not even the woman who unexpectedly brings him to his knees.

Raised to fear motorcycle clubs, Delphi Windsor is content running her bistro. When she meets the man who runs Macha’s bar, on a fun night out, their chemistry is instant. But Delphi uncovers a secret. One that brings her closer to Macha MC than she ever thought possible.

With Brewer focused on revenge and Delphi intent on uncovering the truth, it’s unlikely everyone will survive the fallout.

First Impressions

From opening bell it was clear that the connection simmering between bartender biker Brewer Stapleton and hot shot chef Delphi Windsor was going to be electric. It’s a case of lust at first sight, and Brewer knows he wants the gorgeous beauty standing in his bar. Never to back down from what he wants, he doesn’t hesitate to lay the flirtatious banter on thick, and headstrong Delphi has no problem standing up to him to tease and dish it right back before turning him down. From that point on you knew you were in for a delightful game of cat and mouse, and I for one couldn’t wait for the game to begin. Their desire and attraction for each other is intense, but so is Delphi’s hesitancy to get involved with someone in a motorcycle club. She has a complicated history with an ex who was part of a rival club, as well as the fact that her parents tried everything in their power to warn her away from the troublesome MCs before they both unexpectedly passed away. Brewer can recognize that Delphi is an outsider to this world, and tries his best to keep his distance even though everything in his being is calling for him to not only watch over her, but to claim her as his. 

A standout feature of this series so far is that we’re constantly presented with a badass female lead character. In this fourth installment we see that even though Brewer never backs down from being vocal about everything he craves to do with Delphi, ultimately it is her call for when they’ll finally cross that line to stripping off their clothes and going at each other like bunny rabbits. Which they do plenty of, believe you me. Aside from the outspoken ladies, another hallmark feature of this series is the fact we have a plethora of sexy, surly, alpha men who are uber-protective over their women. This is something that can be fairly standard in MC romances, but something I believe the author does a fantastic job of in each book is demonstrating how these men aren’t just going into protector mode because someone else is threatening to take away their possession, and it’s not because they view their women as weak or fragile crystals that can be easily broken. Instead Ms. McNeil paints us a picture of this strong group of men who have fallen so completely head over heels in love that these women have become the most precious and important thing in their entire lives, even stronger than the brotherhood they’ve formed amongst themselves. It’s true Brewer doesn’t want to see any harm come to Delphi herself, but I think the author has created this unbreakable link between the two characters that for him to see her hurt would also cause him an unbearable pain unlike any other he’s experienced before. Her pain would be his pain, and so he’ll do anything to preserve the bond between them. Even if it means possibly giving up on the revenge he’s sought for years to bring his parent’s killer to justice. 

The Betrayer

The identity of Shovelhead as Delphi’s possible father, while simultaneously being the man who gunned down Brewer’s parents definitely threw a curveball into their quickly evolving relationship. Brewer and his sister have both vowed to bring this man to justice, yet Delphi also wants a chance to confront and possibly even get to know the man she never knew was her biological father. Though an interesting form of conflict, it never felt as though it was incorporated as fully into Brewer and Delphi’s story as it should have been to really pose a threat to their connection. After all, Delphi lived her entire life thinking another man was her father, and it wasn’t until this other man lay dying on his deathbed that he admitted the fact someone else could be her real father. Then upon meeting Brewer she quickly learns more about the endless instances of deceit caused to the Macha MC at the hands of Shovelhead, including the murder of Brewer’s parents.

It just seemed surprising that she would still have a desire to build a relationship with this man she’s never met, a man who either abandoned or possibly raped her mother, who she now knows is a criminal and murderer, and that this desire to meet him could cause the downfall of her relationship with Brewer. Especially considering we know that Macha is an MC of integrity, and while every member of the club wants the chance to draw blood from Shovelhead, there’s no question that they would hand him over to the authorities before they’d ever risk killing him. I guess I never fully understood why there was this growing tension between Delphi and Brewer where Shovelhead was concerned. Perhaps if she had already established some kind of relationship with Shovelhead before discovering the true breadth of his crimes, or if Brewer was insisting that justice would result in Shovelhead’s death, the conflict between our two lovebirds would have made a bit more sense.

Beach Read Suspense

This is sort of the ideal beach read in that you get the perfect mix of romance and steam, with a little sprinkling of suspense mixed in as well. Now, I will say that while the dramatic side of the plot was intriguing, it probably could have been amped up another couple notches to really get the juices flowing. After all, this MC has been tracking the duplicitous traitor from their brotherhood for quite some time. He has betrayed and killed their own, including shooting down Brewer’s parents in cold blood, and the time has come for them to put the pedal to the metal and finally end his reign of terror. And yet…I couldn’t help but feel that everything came together almost too easily and uneventfully considering the amount of build-up we’ve been seeing across the series. This is true not only in how the matter of the traitor is concluded, but also during the most climactic scene of the novel wherein Delphi has been kidnapped by a rival MC. We’re basically told that she is rescued, and then the subsequent chapter goes back in time a bit to show how everything came together to rescue her, almost as a way of saying, “Don’t get too nervous, everything works out, remember?” That’s not to say that these scenes aren’t interesting, as they are successful in holding our interest,  but it didn’t really keep me on the edge of my seat like it could have. 

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

Series: Macha MC, book 4. I’ve only read books three and four in this series, and I must say now that I’m done I really want to go back and start from the beginning. While it’s possible to follow along with the characters and events having missed the first two books, I do think I could have had an even deeper appreciation and understanding of this world if I’d read the whole series from start to finish. Definitely something I’d recommend to all of you! 

Final Impressions: I’ll admit I’m not always a fan of MC romances. They can be dark, gritty, and I can’t help but feel that 9 times out of 10 the main characters are just covered in a grimy sheen of sweat…mixed with leather. This series is so different in the most fantabulous of ways. Yes, there are still bikes, leather cuts and standoffs with rival gangs, but the sense of brotherhood which this series evokes is quite beautiful. There’s camaraderie and love shared between these men, and while the club still has a group of sexy “nymphs” at their beck and call for sexy fun times, there’s still an underlying respect of women which doesn’t always seem to permeate the MC world of other romances. The fact this novel ends with the discussion of women finally being let into leadership roles in the club demonstrates the changing tide as new blood steps up to the forefront. Do I think the scenes of conflict could have been heightened a bit to truly amplify the suspense? Sure, but I can also appreciate not wanting to sweat things out too much in anticipation during a beach read, and the scenes depicting Delphi and Brewer’s evolving love affair stole the show anyways. Overall, a fun and entertaining read, a good series, and plenty of descriptive sex scenes to keep you satisfied. 

Smut Level: If flirtatious banter isn’t enough to get you to want to pick up this steamy read, then how about the fact that Delphi and Brewer’s first time together is in a tattoo shop chair? 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Hot Tree Publishing. 274 Pages. 

Until Cobi by Aurora Rose Reynolds

He almost lost her before he even knew her. Now that Cobi has experienced his BOOM, he has no intention of wasting one more second to bring Hadley into his life. 

What’s it About? 

Cobi Mayson knows exactly who Hadley is to him the moment he sees her for the very first time. That doesn’t mean it will be easy for him to convince her to take a chance on him.

Hadley Emerson knows she could fall hard and fast for a guy like Cobi. A man who seems to show up every time she needs him, but she knows better than to just hand over her heart.

Knowing his future with Hadley is on the line, Cobi begins to tie their lives together. As the invisible rope that connects them tightens and things between them heat up, an unknown threat emerges threatening to take away their happily ever after and send them both into darkness.

First Impressions

Another fabulous addition to the Until family series that will make you wish for an insta-love BOOM moment of your very own. Consider yourself warned, if you’re not typically a fan of love at first sight, that is literally the hallmark feature which binds this entire series together. A Mayson family trait that can’t be escaped, ignored, or lessened. And Cobi Mayson is a most glorious example of an alpha male who doesn’t try to avoid that BOOM, he dives in with everything he has, and everything he wants is Hadley Emerson. This is an interesting addition to the Until Him/Her series in that it picks up immediately where the previous novel, Until Harmony, left off in a climactic shoot-out that left Hadley wounded in the hospital following her brave rescue of Cobi’s cousin. I’ve always suggested reading this series in order for the mere pleasure of not wanting to miss out on anything it has to offer, but for this seventh book especially I’d say it’s quite important to read the previous novel beforehand so as to fully understand the events which brought our two love birds together. As you can expect from this author by now, what follows is a delightfully steamy, yet also emotional tale of insta-romance between a male and female lead you love to love. 

The Impact of Trauma

While Cobi and Hadley’s romance was another fabulous addition to what has quickly become one of my favorite go-to series, there were a few areas that could have been tweaked to make this a truly stellar read. Firstly, Hadley’s troubled relationship with her lawbreaking parents is brought up a few times throughout the book, but their presence isn’t incorporated as fully as it should have been to make them feel like a critical component to the plot. Instead they came across as an annoyance that would come back at inopportune times, and even then we wouldn’t see a clear resolution to the blips their appearance would cause. Honestly, I don’t think they would have been missed if they’d been removed completely from the story. 

More importantly though, Until Cobi presents us with an intriguing, yet ultimately incomplete exploration of the aftermath of trauma. At the start of the novel we see how Hadley is struggling to cope following the horrific events of the previous book, wherein she was almost killed alongside Harmony at the hands of a mad-man. She feels the need to keep every light on in her house, has trouble falling asleep, and is often pulled out of sleep due to terrifying nightmares. We see Cobi, as well as Hadley’s closest friends, gather together to provide her support, and they convince her to seek help from a professional. We also get to see another one of my favorite tropes, which is that only when surrounded by the arms of her man can she find peace in sleep. Hadley’s journey back to something resembling normalcy was fully fleshed out in a tasteful and thoughtful way. However! As with any book in this series we eventually see a final climactic scene which puts our female lead in danger, and it was this second instance of a traumatic event which didn’t receive nearly the attention it deserved. 

It is in this aftermath of Cobi once again seeing the love of his life put in danger that we see the tables turned, and he is now the one who jerks awake from nightmares, and fears letting Hadley out of his sight in case danger should find her once again. And then…he gets over it in the span of a few paragraphs. It felt like such a missed opportunity for what could have been an enlightening comparison of Cobi’s path to healing compared to that of Hadley at the start of the book. Instead we get another somewhat unfortunate hallmark of this series, which is an ending that seems far too rushed for its own good. This book clocks in at just 239 pages, which makes it a satisfyingly quick beach read, but I gladly would have faced another 50 pages if it meant we could have observed what happens when an alpha male is brought to his knees by the forced realization that the love of his life could be ripped away at any moment. To see the strong, knight in shining armor crumble at the simple fragility of life. But to then see the strength of his love for this woman bring him back out of the darkness? That’s the full circle story I would have liked to see. 

Series: Until Him/Her, book 7. As always, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this series. 

Final Impressions: By this point in the series I’m starting to see that some other readers are getting “bored” with the repetitive nature of the plot progression. Insta-love, alpha male, lots of sexy fun times, fairly low drama, final climactic scene where female lead is put in danger. Fin. Surprisingly, I still find myself falling in love with every new couple we get the opportunity to meet, as well as the beloved secondary characters that make each novel feel as though you’re coming home to friends you’ve known for years. What some may see as a tired progression, I actually find comforting in the reliability of the series as a whole. I know I’ll be entertained, probably laugh a few times, reach the brink of tears a time or two, and get some deliciously descriptive bedroom/bathroom/kitchen scenes thrown into the mix. What’s not to love? 

Smut Level: Hadley has never been one to luxuriate in a hot bath, but Cobi is more than willing to show her just how fun and steamy a romp in the tub can be. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 239 Pages. 

Until Harmony by Aurora Rose Reynolds

This series is all about that BOOM, and this installment just goes to show that if you try to push the BOOM aside, it will come back full force for the ultimate impact. 

What’s it About? 

Harmony Mayson isn’t the kind of girl to take unnecessary risk, but after meeting Harlen MacCabe, she starts to wonder if maybe she should be. The more time she spends with the wild and free biker, the more she starts to crave the freedom he gives her…. And even more, she starts to crave him. 

Harlen lives his life on his own terms. After losing both his parents at an early age to a robbery gone bad, he knows how precious life is, and he’s determined to get as much out of it as he can. When he runs into the beautiful Harmony and finds out she’s moving to town, he knows it’s time to take his shot. 

She thinks he only wants to be friends, but she couldn’t be more wrong. What Harmony and Harlen don’t know is that their time might be cut short. Revenge is in the air, and someone won’t stop until a debt is settled.

First Impressions

For avid readers of the entire Until series, if you’ve made it this far to the sixth book of Until Her/Until Him, believe me when I say you’re going to love it just as much as all the others which have come before. And if you haven’t read any of these books before…then what the heck is wrong with you?! Get on it already. This book presents us with everything we know and love about the series: a sexy and growl-y alpha male, a strong and tenacious female, lovable side characters (both new and beloved old friends), and of course, the BOOM that brings our two love birds together. What I loved so much about this installment was that Harmony and Harlen sort of try to suppress the immediate connection which has brought them together in the first place. 

Our novel opens with a chance meeting in a hospital parking lot after Harmony secures a job as a nurse there, and while Harlen would like nothing more than to throw her on the back of his bike to go celebrate, they both recognize the hesitation that Harmony feels about throwing all caution to the wind. After all, she’s no risk taker, so the idea of giving into her feelings for this seemingly bad-boy biker causes her to pause, an action that Harlen can see clear as day. While she declines his invitation for a joy ride, no matter how much she might want to say yes, this isn’t the end for our main characters. Harlen respects the boundaries of this initial rejection, but he refuses to let this be the end of their story. Throughout the next few chapters we see Harlen slowly try to reignite a connection with Harmony, but he’s almost too slow for his own good as it results in Harmony thinking he just wants to be friends. The more time they spend together as “buddies”, the more our risk-averse heroine contemplates the ultimate risk of laying all of her feelings out on the table. And once she does? Well, there’s no going back after that BOOM. 

The Happily Ever After

I was personally delighted by the subsequent romance which played out between our two lead characters, especially when we consider that Harmony was sort of the one to initiate it by finally acting on her desires for Harlen with a passionate kiss. Sure, she immediately tries to avoid him afterwards from embarrassment at the thought that maybe he didn’t want to be anything more than friends, but he’s more than willing to come after her to prove otherwise. I guess in a way it was a mutual overtaking of desire. The rest of their story is relatively drama free and even-paced as they easily fall into a relationship with each other. Harmony is willing to stand up to her overprotective father, Nico, to convince him that Harlen is the man of her dreams, just as Harlen won’t back down to convince Nico he’ll do anything to protect his beloved daughter. Harlen does indeed epitomize the characteristics of an alpha male, but I also appreciated that Harmony wasn’t afraid to poke the bear every once in a while. 

He demands a kiss before she leaves for work, or else he’ll have fun punishing her later? Well, she cheekily saunters out the door sans kiss to see just what he has in mind, and my goodness does she enjoy her “punishment”. Nothing like being held up against the wall for some sexy fun times, and yet in their post-passion haze we see Harlen put down his alpha wall to openly acknowledge how he does need that kiss from her every morning to make it through his day until he can see her again. And that’s one of the aspects I love about this series. Our alpha males clearly have a sensitive side to them, and we never doubt that the love they feel for their ladies goes deeper than merely a sexual component. There’s heart beneath it all. 

Series: Until Her/Until Him, book 6. It was so much fun diving back into this world. We get a brief introduction towards the end of this read of who the main characters will be for book 7, and I am more than ready to get started!

Final Impressions: This is the perfect kind of beach read. Funny, sexy, heartfelt, with just a smidge of drama to keep things interesting. The primary focus of the read truly is on the evolving relationship between Harlen and Harmony from their BOOM to friends to lovers, but delicately interwoven throughout the novel is an underlying sense of conflict involving a handsy doctor at Harmony’s work. The author does a fantastic job of simultaneously keeping this drama primarily reserved for the background, yet also slowly elevating it throughout the progression of the novel before it ultimately breaks through for a final, suspenseful climax. Be sure to add this one to your TBR pile. 

Smut Level: Harmony might express a bit of timidity when Harlen first expresses an interest in her, but once they finally end up in each other’s arms all sense of hesitancy is thrown right out of the bedroom. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 239 Pages.

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.